As Malayalam awaits the seemingly elusive status of a ‘classical language,’ the standardisation of its script in order to make it more web-compliant assumes greater significance.

The Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University joined hands with the Kerala State IT Mission to organise a Malayalam computing workshop to hear out the suggestions of various individuals and independent organisations involved in the process. Much work was yet to be done, especially with standardisation, and greater State involvement and synchronisation of the efforts of different departments and agencies was needed, said speakers at the workshop held at the Institute of Management and Governance here on Friday.

The participants also underlined the need to bridge the gap between the researchers and the public for whom these systems were being developed. When the campaign for Free and Open Source Software was growing more vociferous by the day, it was imperative that the language-barrier was removed to make the Internet more accessible.

They said “unilateral changes” would serve no end. “The lack of common policy and licensing rules has created remote islands of language software and it is essential to do away with this fragmentation,” said Satish Babu, Director of the International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS). He stressed that content created using public funds should be made publicly available.

The discussions touched upon the technical aspects of creating the most effective programme that would identify the paraphrases of Malayalam sentences; resolve ambiguities; accept a range of image formats; and also one that was malleable enough to perform applications available only in English. Text-to-speech facility or audio content for the visually challenged, for instance.

Ditty Mathew, an M.Tech. student at the Cochin University of Science and Technology, proposed that statistical measures and semantic similarity could be relied on. She also said that Malayalam Unicode content had to be improved upon.

Rijoy, a representative of the Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment (SPACE), suggested the creation of a central repository for the benefit of research scholars. Inter-disciplinary research had to be given an impetus, he said.

“A peer-reviewed journal for Malayalam computing could be envisaged and this could help coordinate the efforts of various agencies,” he said.

The creation of a language technology centre at the Malayalam university was another proposal floated during the sessions.

A workshop discussed the significance of standardisation of Malayalam script.

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