The Māori Pronunication Tool
Informed by the MAONZE project
MPAi gives users the choice to model their speech on Rangatahi or Kaumatua
MPAi - The Māori Pronunciation AidPowered by MAONZE
Previous work on MPAi was successfully showcased at the Māori speech technology hui (see there Māori TV segment here). We are very inspired by all the talks and comments at the hui! Look out for this space for more MPAi development! (Picture courtesy of Jeanette...
MPAi 2019 version and the data collected from user trials will be presented at the Māori speech hui organised by members of the Speech Research group at the University of Auckland on the 1st July 2021.
MPAi creators Dr Peter Keegan and Associate Professor Catherine Watson were featured in a newsroom article about their journey with MPAi. (Photo: Peter Gedye) Check it out here: Academics and elders merge skills for unique Māori language tool
The focus of MPAi is to make use of phonetically motivated feedback to improve on te reo Māori vowel production. Previous studies have shown in particular that diphthongs (the vowels that have two sounds like “ai”, “ae”) are difficult for English speakers. As phoneticians, we also know that something called formant frequencies can be used to characterise how vowel sounds and that formants are highly related to movement of the mouth (where our tongues are, whether our lips are rounded etc).
Try it out for yourself! Say “eeee” as in fleece, take note of where your tongue is. And now, try to say “ahhhh” as in hard. Notice your tongue dropping and your mouth opening when you are saying “ahhh” compared to “eeee”. Using a similar idea, we want our users to be aware of how the shape of their mouth can affect how their vowel sounds and in doing so, improve how we pronounce te reo Māori sounds.
The latest version of MPAi (2019) was created by Engineering honours students in collaboration with Dr Danielle Lottridge from the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) lab to make use of effective visual prompts to display information in the hope of raising the awareness between the movement of the mouth and how our vowels sound.
MPAi has been under development for over 10 years with multiple research trials carried out. We have been fortunate enough to be given valuable feedback from te reo Māori medium teachers. One particularly sobering but crucial feedback was given to us: “A lot of trust will be given to the application, so it needs to work well before [it’s] released.” We have kept this quote close to heart.
Due to the potential impact our application can have on te reo Māori revitalization, we want to get our application right the first time. Our ultimate aim is to produce a fun, yet scientifically accurate and effective way of learning te reo Māori.
One major aspect of the MPAi project is the amount of student involvement in the development of the different version and iteractions of the application. We have had a great number of undergraduate students, both for their Honours project as well as summer research scholarships, incorporating their own ideas and different backgrounds into the application.
2019 Stoakes H.. Watson C., Keegan, P., Maclagan M., King, J. Harlow, R. “The Dynamics of Closing Diphthong Trajectories in Te Reo Māori” Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Melbourne, Australia 2019 (pp. 989-993). Canberra, Australia: Australasian Speech Science and Technology Association Inc. ISBN 978-0-646-80069-1
2018 Stoakes H, Watson,C. and Keegan P. “Diphthong Mergers in Te Reo Māori” 17th International Australasian Conference on Speech Science and Technology, : Sydney, Australia Dec 5-7
2017 Watson C.I., Keegan P.J. Maclagan M.A., Harlow, R., and King J. “The motivation and development of MPAi, a Māori Pronunciation Aid”, Proceedings of the 18th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association (Interspeech), Stockholm, August 20-24, 2017
2017 Keegan, P, Watson, C., King, J., Maclagan, M.2, & Harlow, R. “Developing a Māori language pronunciation tool based on user feedback” Puliima National Indigenous Language Technology Forum, Cairns 18-19th October. 2017.
2017 Keegan P.” Ko te Whakawhanaketanga o tētahi Pūmanawa Rorohiko Whakahua i te reo Māori” Te Puna o Te Ki, Dec 7-8 2017.
2016 Keegan. P.J., Watson, C.I., King, J. Maclagan M., Harlow, R. “MPai, a Māori language pronunciation tool for improving the pronunciation of Māori”. New Zealand Association for Research in Education Conference, Wellington, Nov 20th-23rd, 2016.
2016 Keegan. P, Watson, C.I., King, J. Maclagan M., Harlow, R “Trialing a Māori language pronunciation tool based on a Māori speaker database” Association for Language Testing and Assessment of Australia and New Zealand, Auckland, November 17th-19th, 2016.
2016 Keegan P, Watson C, Hoda R, King J, Maclagan M, Harlow R, “Developing a Maori Language Pronunciation Tool Based on a Maori Speaker Database”. The Asia Conference on Language Learning 2016, Kobe, Japan, 29 Apr 2016 – 01 May 2016. 29 Apr 2016.
2016 Keegan P, Watson C, Hoda R, King J, Maclagan M, Harlow R, “Building a Māori Language Pronunciation Tool Based on a Māori Speaker Database” New Ways of Analyzing Variation Asia-Pacific 4, Chiayi, Taiwan, 22 Apr 2016 – 24 Apr 2016.
2015 Keegan P, Watson, C.I., Hoda, R, King, J, Maclagan, M, Harlow, R “The development of a Māori language pronunciation tool for Māori language learners.” The 4th International Conference on Language, Education and Diversity. Auckland, New Zealand: The University of Auckland University.
2012 Keegan, P. J., Watson, C. I., King, J., Maclagan, M., Harlow, R. “The Role of Technology in Measuring Changes in the Pronunciation of Māori over Generations.” in T. Ka’ai, M. O Laoire, N. Ostler, R. Ka’ai-Mahuta, D. Mahuta & T. Smith (Eds.), Language Endangerment in the 21st Century: Globalisation, Technology and New Media, Proceedings of Conference FEL XVI (pp. 65-71). AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand: Te Ipukarea – The National Māori Language Institute, AUT University/Foundation for Endangered Languages.
2009 King, J.,Harlow, R., Watson, C., Keegan,P. Maclagan M. “Changing Pronunciation of the Maori Language: Implications for Revitalization” in Reyhner J, and Lockhead, L (Eds) Indigenous Language Revitalization Encouragement, Guidance & Lessons Learned Northern Arizona University, p 75-86
2009 Watson, C.I. Smith, J., King, J., Maclagan, M., Keegan, P. and Harlow, R. “Vowel mergers in Modern Maori and a speech aid designed to promote vowel distinction” The Australian Language and Speech Conference incorporating OzPhon 2009. Sydney, Dec 3rd-4th. HCSNet Summerfest’09 Conference Handbook p158, ISBN 978-1-74108-205-0.
Current team (2021)
Dr Catherine Watson
Dr Peter Keegan
Dr Danielle Lottridge
Dr Justine Hui
Postdoctoral research fellow
Contact us if you are interested in hearing more:
Associate Professor Catherine Watson: c.watson (at) auckland.ac.nz
Dr Peter Keegan (Waikato-Maniapoto, Ngati Porou): p.keegan (at) auckland.ac.nz