The Making of an Online Dictionary for Malacca Portuguese Creole (Kristang)
Malacca Portuguese Creole (MPC), or Kristang, is spoken largely by people of Portuguese descent. The largest concentration of MPC speakers is in a village known as the Portuguese Settlement in Malacca in the central part of Peninsular Malaysia. MPC is, as pointed out by Baxter (2012, p. 115), the last vital variety of a group of East and Southeast Asian Creole Portuguese languages. It is categorized as one of the endangered languages in Malaysia according to the UNESCO Atlas of the Worlds Languages in Danger (Moseley 2010). Our project (team members: Stefanie Pillai, Alan Baxter, Nor Aniza Abdullah, Angela Kajita and Soh Wen Yi) aims to develop a multimedia online dictionary with pronunciation samples. In order to do this, a database of MPC phonemes needs to be built,and in order for a computer to generate human-like speech from a text-input, a speech synthesis system needs to be used. For the MPC online dictionary, a speech synthesis system will allow users to experience how each MPC text entry should be pronounced. The development of the system requires use of statistical and probabilistic speech acoustic models to determine the speech unit that best matches given arbitrary elements (words or sentences). In a preliminary analysis, we measured the following parameters(see Daniel 2011): duration, fundamental frequency and energy. The measurements were based on data from 500 sentences produced by a native MPC speaker. The MPC speech parameters were compared with Malay because of the similar phoneme inventory. Our preliminary findings indicate that Malay and MPC phonemes share similar acoustic parameters. The similar phoneme inventory noticed by Hancock (1975) is matched by the acoustic characteristics of Malay and MPC. Nevertheless, in spite of prolonged Malay/MPC contact, there are suprasegmental differences, which warrant further investigation as we analyses further speech samples in the development of the database of MPC sounds for the online dictionary.
For more information on the research, Please contact: ASSOCIATE PROF. DR. STEFANIE SHAMILA PILLAI