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The Basque Language in the digital age (META-NET White Paper)

META-NET is a Network of Excellence (consisting of 60 research centres from 34 countries) dedicated to building the technological foundations of a multilingual European information society.

The META-NET Language White Paper Series “Languages in the European Information Society” reports on the state of each European language with respect to Language Technology and explains the most urgent risks and chances.  The Basque White Paper has been recently published. It has been created as a collaboration between the University of the Basque Country (Aholab and IXA Group), Elhuyar Foundation, the Basque Government’s Department of Language Policy, and the Bayonne Research Institute. Inmaculada Hernáez from Aholab has coordinated the edition of the book.

Inmaculada Hernáez, Eva Navas, Igor Odriozola, Kepa Sarasola, Arantza Diaz de Ilarraza, Igor Leturia, Araceli Diaz de Lezana, Beñat Oihartzabal, Jasone Salaberria  2012
The Basque language in the digital age / Euskara aro digitalean
METANET White Paper Series.
Georg Rehm, Hans Uszkoreit (editors). Springer.


This is a paragraph extracted from the executive summary of the book:

“In the field of language technology, the Basque language shows a number of products, technologies and resources. There are application tools for speech synthesis, speech recognition, spelling correction, and grammar checking. There are also some applications for automatic translation, mainly between Spanish and Basque. […] As this series of white papers demonstrate, there is a dramatic difference between Europe’s member states in terms of both the maturity of the research and in the state of readiness with respect to language solutions. One of the major conclusions is that Basque is one of the EU languages that still needs further research before truly effective language technology solutions are ready for everyday use. At the same time, there are good prospects for achieving an outstanding position in this important technology area. This development of high-quality language technology for Basque is urgent and of utmost importance for the preservation for a minority language as Basque.”

The White Paper Series covers other 29 European Languages: Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Norwegian (bokmål), Norwegian (nynorsk), Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish.

Besides those 30 volumes, META-NET has also created a web page with the Key Results and Cross-Language Comparison. Four tables illustrate the state of technology for the languages discussed. We can see in those tables that although Basque is a lower resourced and European non-official language, its position in three of those tables is better that those of several European official languages. Of course this promising position of Basque is the result of more than twenty years work in language technology for Basque and the consequence of the coordinated collaboration between universities, research centres, industry and institutions. There is still a lot of work to be done in language technology for Basque, but its present situation is not the worst.


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