Legal Māori Resource Hub

One of my “day jobs” is providing lexicographical software development for a number of dictionaries around the place.  One project using my Freelex software that’s recently been launched is the Legal Māori Resource Hub, by Māmari Stephens at the Victoria University Law department.

Māmari recently gave a talk about the lexicon, corpus, and resource hub at the National Digital Forum conference this year.

I’m really happy to have been involved in providing the underlying system on which this is built.

The Online Dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language

The Online Dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) went live today at

This online dictionary is the culmination of over twenty years of work, and I’m proud to say that I’ve been involved since the beginning.

The dictionary is an extensive resource for people who use or want to learn NZSL. Videos accompany line drawings and text to describe the signs. The site can be used as a monolingual dictionary (search for signs by their features, eg handshape, location etc) or a bilingual dictionary (search for signs by their corresponding English words). Explanations of NZSL grammar and usage as well as tutorial material appear in both NZSL and English.

One of the coolest features of the dictionary is the large corpus of usage examples that was collected for use in the dictionary. Each example sentence appears as a video, with glosses for each sign in the sentence along with an English translation of the sentence. Clicking on a gloss will take you to the entry for that particular sign. A tremendous amount of analysis work by the team went into collecting, videoing and glossing the usage examples. Aside from making using the dictionary useful for learning how signs are used in context and exploring unfamiliar signs in detail, I have no doubt that this linked corpus will form an indispensable resource for future linguistic analysis. built a really lovely front-end (Rails) for my back-end Freelex (Perl / Catalyst / Postgres) system.

This work is a taonga which will be loved and habitually used by many people over the coming years.

Rave reviews for Freelex / Mātāpuna lexicography system

Some things just take time – especially recognition.

My Free and Open Source Freelex / Mātāpuna Dictionary Writing System was just reviewed by Oumar Bah in Language Documentation and Conservation. (Download the PDF of the article).

Bah writes:

It is a DWS much like Toolbox, iLex or TshwaneLex, but uninke the others, it is entirely web-based.  This means that its interface can be opened with any usual browser, which is a huge advantage if we consider that most users are now familiar with the Internet.  Furthermore, its network feature makes it well-suited for collaborative dictionary projects, either in a Local Area Network or on the Internet …

Matapuna is a dictionary tool I warmly recommend, especially for collaborative small or medium scale projects with little funding…

Te Reo Pūtaiao – Tohunga Rorohiko

Te Reo Pūtaiao: A Māori Language Dictionary of Science came out earlier this month.  It was compiled using the Freelex / Mātāpuna open source dictionary writing system that I wrote.

Te Reo Pūtaiao is an encyclopedic dictionary; nearly all of the info is in Te Reo Māori, and each entry contains an equivalent English gloss and a definition.  Most entries also have information on the derivation of the term, an detailed explanation often including diagrams, and related terms.  The dictionary covers the lexicon used in teaching the New Zealand Science Curriculum through year 11.

It’s simply brilliant.  It’s funny that I never realised how brilliant it was until actually seeing the finished product.  Working through the database and user interface design, I never really saw the big picture.  But opening up the book caused an “aha moment” for me.  This dictionary has huge potential to make science accessible to Māori kids through Te Reo and tikanga Māori.  If this book is responsible for helping Aotearoa produce even one great scientist, it would have been totally worth the effort.

Kia ora to Ian Christiansen and Shirley Mullaney for having the vision to produce this, and the Ministry of Education for funding it.

I’m listed in the credits as the “Tohunga Rorohiko”, or “Computer Shaman”; this is the second dictionary for which I’ve had this honour. I feel humbled to have the opportunity to work with such experienced  and learned teams on these lexicography projects which will have lasting impact on Te Reo Māori.