The continuous advances in Language Technology (LT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) create new opportunities to support the free flow of information across languages and borders and to build the economic and cultural cornerstone for the European Digital Single Market. According to the EU Charter (Article 22) and the Treaty on the European Union (Art. 3 (3) TEU), all 24 official EU languages share an equal status and are supported on the same level. Nonetheless, tools and resources for minority languages such as Maltese are often scarce or even non-existent, which leads to a steadily increasing LT gap between well-resourced languages and smaller languages. In the worst case, this can lead to the digital extinction of minority languages.
According to the document “Malta, The Ultimate AI Launchpad, A Strategy and Vision for Artificial Intelligence in Malta 2030” published in 2019, the level of technological support for Maltese is extremely low when compared to other European languages. As a consequence, English has become the “default language choice across most technological devices in Malta, because there are more resources available and they are easier to use1.
Starting on 1 January 2021, the HORIZON 2020 project “LT-Bridge” aims to counteract on this development: With a focus on the Maltese research community, the project goal of LT Bridge is to integrate the AI Department and the Institute of Computational Linguistics of the University of Malta (UM) into the European research community in the area of AI-based language technologies. More explicitly, the project aims to strengthen the UM’s research and innovation capacities as well as its reputation in the scientific community and to create a European-level Centre of Excellence, which is capable of narrowing or even closing the technology gap for Maltese.
The project is coordinated by the University of Malta and supported by two leading European research organisations, i.e., the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the ADAPT Centre of Dublin City University (DCU). More information about the project is available here: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/952194/de.
1Source: Malta, The Ultimate AI Launchpad, A Strategy and Vision for Artificial Intelligence in Malta 2030, published in October 2019 (https://malta.ai/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Malta_The_Ultimate_AI_Launchpad_vFinal.pdf, p. 48)