Research Article

A writing assistant en route to a full computational grammar for Sepedi

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 41, issue 1, 2021 , pages: 12–21
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2021.1902129
Author(s): DJ Prinsloo, South Africa, Daniel Prinsloo, South Africa

Abstract

A detailed user study and observations by lecturers indicate that the correct compilation of sentences in the eight verbal moods as well as for a number of similar grammatically complicated constructions in Sepedi poses a challenge in any text production situation. Feedback from target users indicated that there is a need for a computational writing assistant for the compilation and verification of correct constructions. To address this need, an extended computational sentence builder for verbal moods, adjectives and possessive constructions in Sepedi was designed and built to assist in text production and to serve as a model for other African languages. This article introduces a prototype of such an extended computational sentence builder for verbal moods, adjectives and possessive constructions in Sepedi. The emphasis throughout is on the grammatical complexity of Sepedi and how the Sepedi Helper can assist users to produce correct sentences. In contrast to typical traditional grammars of Sepedi, the tool also provides the required cognitive information through basic clickable help screens. The Sepedi Helper is a dynamic lightweight tool aimed at combining user knowledge with a text production tool, i.e. user-involved, step-by-step production of Sepedi phrases. The emphasis in the design is on simplicity.

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