Could 3-D Graphics Software Help Linguists Preserve Endangered Languages?


by Wynne Parry

When a linguist sets out to study how a language describes spatial relationships between objects, he or she typically offers a speaker of that language pictures showing, for example, a drawing of a cup on a table or a coat hanging from a hook. 

A group of researchers hope 3-D computer graphics can improve this system, making it possible for a linguist to edit the images or change viewpoints on the fly, and perhaps even generate scenes using the language being studied. 

“There is no program right now to allow you to create dynamic pictures,”says Morgan Ulinski, a Columbia University doctoral student, of software currently available to linguists. She is hoping to fill this gap using WordsEye, a system that generates 3-D graphics based on written sentences. 

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