MyAsli will be a large state-of-the-art phonological model of spoken indigenous languages in Malaysia. The potential impacts on society, economy and nation are as follows:
1. MyAsli will showcase a varying degree of variability, with 216 speakers from 18 different languages (later, this model will be expanded to include more age groups including children and more ways of speaking). This huge spoken data will impact the indigenous society in terms of representation, integration and eventually preservation of their indigenous languages into larger multicultural societies in Malaysia.
2. MyAsli will be highly collaborative and widely applicable, with project partners invited from the full range of speech science research areas (e.g., acoustic phonetics, computational linguistics, speech engineering and speech pathology). The potential collaborations with various industries in speech science will definitely impact the economy in Malaysia in which potential speech applications can be developed and commercialised for practical use (such as talking dictionaries for non-indigenous communities).
3. MyAsli will establish an extensible system of identical recording equipment spread across Malaysia, with a central storage, access and annotation system, from which the spoken data will be freely available for research purposes. This comprehensive system will encourage more researchers to use it for various research undertakings in speech-related areas, such as speech pathology. Findings from this research will impact the nation at large as indigenous languages are eventually integrated and preserved in the Malaysian society.
Protecting the rights of indigenous people is part of a foundation in ensuring societal harmony and happiness. Yet, as is the case for many indigenous communities around the globe, the indigenous population in Malaysia has yet to fully enjoy their rights, particularly with regard to their languages that are mostly in danger. This has prompted a need for the revival of language rights for indigenous communities and for the integration and preservation of their languages in Malaysia. The current project aims at integrating and preserving the indigenous languages in Malaysia by developing a phonological model which will be coined as MyAsli. Speech data from 216 speakers will be collected representatively from 18 indigenous languages in Peninsular Malaysia, which will reflect indigenous variation in the country. In all recording sessions, Standard Speech Collection Protocol (SSCP) will be employed, in which speech is recorded via various tasks such as Digits, Isolated Words, Read Sentences, Interview, Spontaneous Narrative, Map Task Activities and Speech-in-Noise. A centralised language data storage system will be developed in order to provide shared access to the speech database and the collective annotation associated with every recording. A comprehensive phonological model, called MyAsli, will be developed. MyAsli is essential to describe the linguistic variation of indigenous languages in Malaysia over geographical areas, social background and speech style. Once established, MyAsli will be the first indigenous phonological model in the country that can meet the demands of modern speech science. It will provide a significant boost to speech research in Malaysia now and well into the future. More importantly, MyAsli will integrate the indigenous languages into the mainstream linguistic landscape in Malaysia. As there is a close link between national self-perception and how speakers use language, MyAsli will be a profound cultural resource for all Malaysians.
MyAsli will be a national treasure that will provide a permanent record of indigenous languages in Malaysia, support speech science research and development, and help develop Malaysian speech technology applications, from hearing aids and Cochlear Implants improvements, to computer aids for learning-impaired children. MyAsli will provide a phonological model that contains a large indigenous speech, and will be the only indigenous corpus of audio-visual speech in the public domain designed to cater to various clients with a variety of interests. More critically, the potential applications involving indigenous languages in mainstream industries will have an impact on language policies in Malaysia, integrating minor languages with major ones and thus leading to a more balanced and harmonious society.
There are several objectives of the current project:
1. To identify the factors of broken transmission between younger and older generations in using endangered indigenous languages in Malaysia.
2. To identify the age of fluent users of endangered indigenous languages in Malaysia.
3. To examine the extent to which efforts have been undertaken by relevant authorities in Malaysia to integrate and preserve endangered indigenous languages.
4. To identify the key phonological characteristics of endangered indigenous languages in Malaysia.
5. To develop the key phonological characteristics of endangered indigenous languages in Malaysia into a phonological model called MyAsli.
The project’s logo resembles a digital image of Tempok, the headgear that is usually worn on the head by most Orang Asli communities in Malaysia. Tempok is usually used in ritual ceremonies such as ‘Sewang’ for healing purposes. The ceremonies are usually conducted by Tok Batin, the headman of the community.
There are many versions of Tempok from various Orang Asli groups in Malaysia, each of them showcases their own uniqueness. The one portrayed in this logo is made from mengkuang leaves and woven by the Temuan community. We hope the healing spirit of Tempok will safeguard our efforts in building comprehensive speech corpora that will become a national treasure for all Malaysians, called MyAsli.
MyAsli /’maɪ jʌsliː/ is the official name of the current project. The prefix ‘My-’ specifies the research context of Malaysia, while the suffix ‘-Asli’ highlights the attachment with the Orang Asli (Malay for ‘Original People’). Led by Universiti Utara Malaysia, it aims at integrating and preserving 18 Orang Asli languages in Peninsular Malaysia. A comprehensive digital repository called MyAsli will provide rich cultural resources for all Malaysians beyond language.
The placement of Tempok above the MyAsli lettermark in the logo not only signifies the close relationship between the project and the indigenous Orang Asli communities, but also the project’s core values in upholding the true reflection of the indigenous variation in Malaysia.
The yellow colour represents the team’s optimism and loyalty in language preservation efforts, while green denotes growth in indigenous languages research into the mainstream linguistic landscape in Malaysia.