With current technology, it is possible to make use of digital data processing techniques, such as machine learning, to address long standing scientific questions formulated within the humanistic sciences. These questions include investigating the linguistic interactions of the world, which has led to a rich understanding of many of the world’s languages and their typological relationships. Of course, these questions are vastly complex, as is the linguistic data needed to study typology. With the aid of machine learning, researchers are able to handle large amounts of linguistic data. This makes studying language typology a fruitful opportunity to combine the technological advances of machine learning with the longstanding research questions in the humanities.
Traditionally, technology and the humanities have maintained a separation in both methodology and questions of interest. However, in recent decades, the aforementioned recognition of how they can be useful to one another has come to light. To bring technology and the humanities together has not been a simple task. This issue comes from within the current educational structure where disciplines are not interacting in a meaningful way. Humanities students are often not familiar with the possibilities that current technological advances can offer their research, and vice versa, with technology students not being trained enough within the humanities.
This project’s genesis was an idea to bridge this divide. This project involves teams and specialists from two institutions working together as academic collaborators: the Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati (IITG), India, and the University of Helsinki (UH), Finland. Both groups are conducting research in language prosody and the application of machine learning techniques for typological research. Both are also actively involved in preparing new courses and in supervising Master and PhD students in the domain of digital language typology.