Report on the first meeting of the ACO*HUM working group on Computing for Non-European Languages

Vico Equense, October 7-13, 1997

Present at the meeting:

Introduction and organization

N.B. The meeting was a joint meeting with CAMEEL (Computer Applications for Modern Extra-European Languages), and profits from synergy with this project. CAMEEL is an initiative of the Departments of African Languages and Linguistics in several European universities that constituted a former ERASMUS ICP. The project aims at creating and developing a multidisciplinary and transnational curriculum to train students in computer applications to non-European languages.

Koenraad de Smedt gave a background of the ACO*HUM Thematic Network and provided a work plan for the on-going year `97/98.

This year events are the symposium in Granada (in which the working groups will plan their activities for) and the Conference to be held in Bergen in September 1998. At a later stage, the network will publish a Handbook on Studies in Advanced Computing in the Humanities, where NEL will also have its place.

The core of the NEL working group is composed by: J.N. Bell (Bergen), M. Toscano (IT), A. Hurskainen (SF), M. Slodzian / J. Souillot (FR), with members from CAMEEL as welcome extra participants.

The group will ask collegues for a fifth member, preferably from a country not yet represented in the working group and from a non-African study area.

Planning of common curricula and study modules

In the existing MA programs in the field of African and Oriental languages the need is felt for the possibility of more specific training in computer applications to these languages. In order to finally develop methods and techniques for using, evaluating and creating tools regarding these languages, basic training at the undergraduate and a new one at the postgraduate level should be provided. The philosophy is to provide options within the frame of existing MA, Bahons programs, as well as introduce it as an independent novel curriculum. Individual universities may decide to integrate these options as obligatory parts of their programs.

A proposal for study modules has been elaborated by prof. Arvi Hurskainen, from Univ. of Helsinki, ( and is now under discussion. This is relevant for ACO*HUM and will be disseminated through the network. The current action, CDA-CAMEEL, is open to discussion. Comments and propositions to A. Hurkainen are invited before the scheduled Paris meeting (end of January '98).

The study modules (appendix 2) were prepared by A. Hurskainen on the base of Pascal Potron's project. The philosophy and main guidelines of the project are as follows. The study modules are organized on 3 levels:

  1. Level 1- acquisition of prerequisites:
  2. Level 2 - using existing tools and learning the logic of existing tools
  3.  Level 3 - designing and building new tools for specific purposes.


Level 1 - The implementation is starting. Mous, M. Toscano, B. Janssens: preparation of a general course concerning Introduction to African linguistics (level 1). Mous will prepare a course in Lexicography (level 1). Fiedler is responsible of preparing a course in morphology and morphosyntax (level 1). Hurskainen will prepare didactic material for text treatment and information retrieval tecniques (module 11 - level 2). Mann will prepare a course on ICON programming language (module 9 - level 2) Hayward: course in phonetics and phonology and orthography (level 1). (To be checked)

Level 2 - An one-month intensive course is planned in the summer of '99. Location is to be decided (RUL, IUO, or ULB are proposed).

Dissemination about this action should take the form of the preparation of a leaflet (Toscano) and the preparation of a study-guide (Hurskainen, Janssens).


CRIM- INALCO has conducted an analysis on already existing resources (software, teaching courses) on computer application on non-European languages through an especialy designed questionnary. Those interested can request the questionnaire to Jacques Souillot (CRIM -INALCO) e-mail: The results of the questionaire and follow-up investigations will be disseminated through ACO*HUM and will form the basis for a chapter on NEL in a Handbook of Advanced Computing in the Humanities.

Bilateral Activities

Student mobility (OSM) and Teacher mobility (TS) are no longer centralized, but bilateral. It would be useful to keep each other informed about what is going on through ACO*HUM. It is decided that M. Toscano functions as an information centre for keeping track of mobility,


ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) does not require central activities nor cooperation. It is possible to apply for ECTS in order to prepare or to use ECTS in one's institution. Naples applied for it with the aim of preparing its own ECTS guide. The ECTS guide by IUO will include an introduction to the home university and institution, and a description of courses with an indication for the ECTS application.

The former Erasmus guide for CAMEEL, which is presently being revised under the supervision of Felix Ameka, should eventually also include such descriptions and ECTS credits. Forms will be fille in for the relevant courses by the various departments/teachers and sent to Felix Ameka before the end of November, so that they can be included into the new guide. Those departments who have not applied for ECTS (the form has been distributed; it is Part C of the IC application form) are advised to do it so that they can prepare their own ECTS guide, ideally following the same outline as the Napoli one.

IUO will apply for a renewal to prepare the information for website, and adding to it all the information on African Language, Linguistics and Culture at the institutes of our network.

CDI - EEquALL (European Equivalences in African Languages and Linguistics)

The working group is informed of this new project, a draft of which was prepared in Leipzig in April 1997, with subsequent changes. The aim is to provide a description of an ideal curriculum on African Language and Linguistics at an intermediate level and to set up equivalents between the various courses in the institutes. The central coordination is in Napoli, which will secure the dissemination through ACO*HUM. The proposed coordinators for different fields are the following:

The task of the field coordinator is to get a detailed overview of the content of the courses taught at the various institutions. Literature in African Languages are considered to be part of the language courses. The coordinators will have the basic information which has by then been gathered for the ECTS guides, and they will gather information on levels of language competence, components of language competence, etc. as listed in "Draft Proposal 'Harmonizing ...' II.2":

II.2. Expected results

  • Identifying main areas of subjects : languages, linguistics, literature and related areas
  • Identifying minimum levels of competence
  • Identifying components of competence
  • Identifying indicators of performance
  • Set of common criteria establishing equivalencies with regard to quality and quantity of already existing curricula
  • Agreement on ECTS grading system to be used for the evaluation

M. Toscano will prepare a common questionaire (with help of experts of IUO). The coordinators are responsible to gathering info on issues mentioned in the above list. Field coordinators and department coordinators will meet in May 1999 to finalize the curriculum. They should prepare the proposals for the equivalence of courses and for the minimal requirements for the curriculum. The results will be disseminated through ACO*HUM.

ALI-AKAN (African Languages through Internet-Akan)

The working group is informed of this project: IP - Intensive Learning of African Languages through the Internet. The pilot language is Akan. The aim of the project is to set up a course on Akan on the Internet. The course will include a 10-12 days intensive program with all participants. Project results will be evaluated and disseminated through ACO*HUM.

This project was proposed at the Leipzig meeting by T. Bearth from Zürich, Switzerland. Switzerland is not part of Socrates. Bearth has applied for money from Switzerland (28900 ECU) which depends on approval of funding of a similar amount by Socrates-Bruxelles. The activities that Socrates partners will apply money for are the costs of this initial intensive course and the production of an accompanying CD-rom.

The project is viable, well prepared and very interesting and will be useful for ACO*HUM as well. The pilot character of the project; the importance of Akan (for example in several countries, the most requested African language presently); and the link with CAMEEL and ACO*HUM should be made clear in the description of the project.

The application will be done by IUO Napoli but the other participants will have to fill in form D2 (appendix 3) to mention their participation without indicating a requested amount of money. These participating institutions are, apart from Zürich: Berlin, Trondheim, Napoli, INALCO, Helsinki, Leiden and Köln.

The details of the finances to apply for, remain unclear. M. Toscano will clarify with Bearth, before the application deadline of November 15th.

Agenda of meetings and activities

In order to perform and monitor the planned actvities, the following meetings have been scheduled:


List of participants