Project launch—Allo

Project launch—Allo

Posted by CRS Staff on March 1, 2020 for the Allo project

The CRS is proud to announce the launch of its second project: Allo. Alloαlpha lets you browse dictionary entries and definitions for dead ancient languages. This project will hopefully accomplish a few research objectives. First, we hope to understand the role that language has in forming, changing, and interacting with human consciousness. Second, by taking a structured data approach, we hope to quantitatively analyze the similarities and differences between some of the world's oldest languages. Third, we hope to provide a modern and user-friendly means by which casual readers can dip into dead ancient languages. Our first language will be Latin, and probably followed by ancient Greek, classical Sumerian, Sanskrit, and then others.

Project page Try Allo

Goal and social purpose

Allo's goal is to provide a modern and user-friendly digital dictionary experience for dead ancient languages. Dictionaries are incredibly complicated technical products with lots of moving parts, much like the languages they serve. Because of this, we spent almost a year planning and experimenting with different methods, despite announcing the project in April 2020. This launch will hopefully be a good starting point for the long road that is ahead of us.

The social purpose of Allo is to make studying ancient languages more inclusive. For that reason, our dictionary entries are designed for two target audiences: novices and experts. The prima facie experience will provide enough information for someone not studying the language. This includes audio files for pronunciations, English equivalents, or cognates (if applicable), simple definitions, and an easy to use read grammar. Nevertheless, more sophisticated resources have been added for readers with a background in ancient languages. For example, we integrated word frequency sources based on quantitative linguistic data sets, graduate level reference sources, and many more features. Our hope is that the more technical features will be out of sight for casual readers, but noticeable for experts.

Classical Latin: our first live (dead) language

After intense internal debate, we decided to feature Latin as the first language in our ancient language project. Latin was chosen because there seem to be many supplemental resources; that is, we believed that Latin would be the easiest dictionary to build on the basis of available reference models. There are many other great Latin to English dictionaries, and we hope to be up to par with those in the coming years. Hereafter, we plan to prioritize ancient Greek, classical Sumerian, and Sanskrit.

Finally, thanks to our cooperation with the OMNIKA project, we are able to integrate a high level of textual resources to all language entries. We hope that these integrations will reduce the time that readers spend trying to locate original reference materials.