Summary: St. Louisian Michael Schade, a nineteen-year-old entrepreneur and co-founder of Spearhead Development, has teamed up with Dr. Kevin Scannell, of Saint Louis University, to revolutionize computer input and help save endangered languages.
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As of today, about 7,000 languages are spoken in the world. More than 90% of these are expected to disappear before year 2100, leaving a best case of only 700 languages. Language death is an irrevocable loss akin to animal or plant extinction–it is the loss of a repository of culture, tradition, and world view.
St. Louisian Michael Schade, a nineteen-year-old entrepreneur and co-founder of Spearhead Development, has teamed up with Dr. Kevin Scannell, of Saint Louis University, to revolutionize computer input and help save endangered languages.
Due to inadequate keyboards, or clumsy input methods, speakers of hundreds of languages often simply leave out the accents and other special characters when typing, which leads to ambiguities and confusion. We believe strongly that speakers of all languages have the right to type their languages quickly, easily, and correctly.
We are proud to announce the free and open-source Accentuate.us, a new method of input for over 100 languages that uses statistical reasoning so that users can type effortlessly in plain ASCII while ultimately producing accurate text. This allows Vietnamese users, for example, to simply type “Moi nguoi deu co quyen tu do ngon luan va bay to quan diem,” which will be automatically corrected to “Mọi người đều có quyền tự do ngôn luận và bầy tỏ quan điểm” after Accentuation.
To date, we support four clients: Mozilla Firefox, Perl, Python, and Vim, with more to be added shortly.
Mozilla Firefox Available today at http://accentuate.us/get/firefox through Mozilla AMO, the Firefox add-on brings the power of the Accentuate.us service to anywhere on the web: blogs, web mail, social networking, and anywhere else where users input text. Please check out the short demonstration video at http://accentuate.us/help.
Perl and Python The Perl and Python clients available on http://accentuate.us/ are command-line utilities that work either with argument flags or through stdin. This versatility has proven powerful, allowing Accentuate.us to be easily integrated into any program that can operate through such inputs, such as vim.
Vim Provided by Bill Odom, co-founder of vim-geeks and previous President of The Perl Foundation, and available today on http://accentuate.us/, the vim plugin implements user-customizable maps to Accentuate over visual, motions, and ranges. It harnesses the Perl or Python clients, exemplifying just how easy it is to plug in to the Accentuate.us API.
Plans are currently underway for extending the Accentuate.us service, including enhancements to the Firefox add-on and support for all 114 languages. Support is needed especially for African languages, many of which use special characters. There are, for example, over a million words of Lingála on the web: blogs, news articles, Wikipedia entries, etc., but well over 95% of this content is typed in plain ASCII, despite the fact that the standard spelling system makes heavy use of diacritics to mark tone and special “open” vowels such as ɛ and ɔ.
We appreciate any assistance that we receive to improve service and keep it free, including translating the interface, hosting a server, or donating to help us maintain existing servers. Find out how to help at http://accentuate.us/contributing.