SLTU’16 will feature a number of distinguished keynote speakers:

Steven Bird
University of Melbourne, Australia /
University of California Berkeley, USA

Thanks to the spread of mobile broadband, we can expect that speakers of all of the world's languages will have access to social media by the end of the present decade. Social mobile technologies are giving birth to new online communities that span ancestral homelands and urban diasporas, and present opportunities and threats for the world's linguistic diversity. As a case in point, there is an ongoing contest for recognition in the symbolic public space represented by mobile apps, where the citizenship of ethnic minorities is not established. Apps for indigenous language dictionaries sit in the app store alongside apps in which indigenous people have the status of animals to be hunted and killed. Meanwhile, the world's cultural and linguistic diversity continues to fade away, and with it, people's sense of belonging to their place and their community, and their sense of safety and wellbeing in the digital era. In this presentation, I will report on new methods to reconnect indigenous and immigrant communities across generations, language, and distance, promising widespread participation in the grand challenge of documenting the world's small languages. The most scalable form of documentation for the 95% of languages that are effectively unwritten is phrase-aligned audio recordings, and I will report on new work on alignment using recurrent neural networks, which aims to support the production of bilingual materials for language revitalisation and linguistic research.

Steven Bird

Biography:Steven Bird is researching new methods for documenting and revitalising the thousands of small languages still spoken in the world today. His career began with a BSc and MSc in computer science at Melbourne University, followed by a PhD in computational linguistics from Edinburgh University, completed in 1990. Since then he has worked at the Universities of Edinburgh, Pennsylvania, Melbourne, and Berkeley, and conducted fieldwork in Australia, West Africa, Melanesia, Amazonia, and Central Asia. He is co-author of a popular textbook in computational linguistics, and recently developed a new computer science curriculum for secondary students which has been adopted in Australian schools. The Aikuma app developed with his students took out the grand prize in the Open Source Software World Challenge.

Stavros Tsakalidis

Never before has been such a systematic effort to collect and transcribe large amounts of speech from a broad set of under-resourced languages. During the past three years of the Babel Program we encountered twenty-four languages with a variety of phonotactic, phonological, tonal, morphological, and syntactic characteristics. In this talk I will present the challenges we faced, the advanced speech recognition techniques we developed, and the lessons we learned while working with languages such as Amharic, Assamese, Cebuano, Dholo, Guarani, Igbo, Kurmanji, and Tok Pisin. I will also describe our work towards understanding the reasons for differences in speech recognition performance across languages and predicting the performance for a new language.

Stavros Tsakalidis

Biography: Dr. Tsakalidis, a Lead Scientist at BBN Technologies, received the B.A. Degree from the Technical University of Crete (TUC), in 1998, the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Johns Hopkins University, in 2005, all in electrical engineering. His expertise includes areas such as discriminative training, speaker adaptation, acoustic modeling with low resources, and keyword spotting. He is currently the Principal Investigator on the IARPA Babel Program, which focuses on developing Keyword Spotting technology that can be rapidly applied to any human language. In early 2015, he led a global multi-team effort for the IARPA ASPIRE Challenge that aimed to develop approaches to mitigate the effects of noisy and reverberant acoustic environments. In 2011, he led the research in the spoken content analysis component for event detection in videos for the IARPA ALADDIN program. From 2007 to 2010, he was the key contributor in the development of BBN’s speech-to-speech translation system for the DARPA TRANSTAC program. At JHU, he developed discriminative training procedures that employed linear transforms for feature normalization. At TUC, he designed a novel acoustic model for SRI's DECIPHER system combining subvector quantization and mixtures of discrete distributions.

Ming Kuok Lim
UNESCO, Indonesia

Linguistic diversity is an integral part of cultural diversity. It has the capacity to reconcile the emotions, ideas and values of people from diverse cultural, social, economic and professional backgrounds. It is a key contributor to dialogue, tolerance and peace. Language also plays a part in the construction and expression of individual and collective identity, being an intangible but invaluable resource which is hard to acquire but, once acquired, easy and rewarding to share. For these reasons it is a cause for serious concern that over 50% of some 6700 languages spoken today are in danger of disappearing. Many other languages will disappear in the near future and some will lose their influence and relevance at global, national and local levels. This threat should be seen in a context where, in any case, only a very small proportion (5%) of the world's languages are present on the Internet. As part of UNESCO's effort to safeguard endangered and under-resourced languages, the Organization published the first edition of the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing in 1996. Currently, the online version of the Atlas includes data on 2467 endangered languages and provides essential information on their status along with references to key resources.

Ming Kuok Lim

Biography: Dr Ming-Kuok LIM is the Advisor for Communication and Information for UNESCO Office in Jakarta. He has been involved in the global campaign to strengthen and raise awareness on freedom of expression, press freedom, safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. Dr. Lim is part of them team at UNESCO which supports capacity building for journalists, advises on media policy, and expanding journalism curricula to reflect the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He works with various partners to encourage youth to develop mobile apps as well as promoting the use of indigenous languages on the Internet. He holds a PhD in Mass Communications from Penn State University (United States). He was a Fulbright Scholar as well a recipient of the Japanese Monbukagakusho Scholarship.