SADiLaR Team: Sesotho sa Leboa

Author: Mieke Hofmeyr

Mr. Dimakatso Mathe is SADiLaR’s Sesotho sa Leboa researcher. When it comes to research he finds the areas of morphology, syntax and language processing tools, to name but a few, very interesting.

When it comes to his current projects he says the following: I am currently working on my PhD study which aims to investigate similarities and differences of some of the dialects found in Sesotho sa Leboa from a morpho-syntactic viewpoint”

Other projects that he is currently working on include a speech data collection project which will result in recording and dissemination of Sesotho sa Leboa dialectal spoken data for research. He is also busy with a collaborative research paper which was presented with SADiLaR colleagues at a conference. This paper offers a detailed overview regarding the current state of Digital Humanities practice in South Africa.

The current situation of Covid-19 and the national lockdown has halted many economical and academic activities, but Mr. Mathe is still planning on working full-steam into the next few months.

“My plans for the next couple of months in terms of research is to finalize all the details of speech data collection project proposal and have it approved internally to ensure that all will be set to go by the time contact with participants would be allowed,” he says.

Furthermore, he will be working on another collaborative paper with SADiLaR colleagues which reflects on issues pertaining orthographic inconsistencies on some of South African official languages and their impact on the training of digital language tools. He will also be evaluating certain part of speech taggers available on SADiLaR repository with the view of improving their accuracy and report the findings through a research paper.

When it comes to the field of Digital Humanities Mr Mathe argues that it introduces a unique way of conducting research in the field of humanities to harness existing knowledge and build on it through innovative way of thinking enabled by technology to address research questions. For instance, research on some of Sesotho sa Leboa dialects have been conducted in the past and the findings are available in a form of publications.

“However, data of the dialects being examined is limited to the questions addressed by those studies, thus restricting reproducibility of research. Through a digitally recorded dialect data which is disseminated via an open source, interested scholars can easily access the data for research without having to worry about time consuming and sometimes costly exercises of embarking on fieldwork.”

He concludes by saying that the digital way of handling research projects offers a wide range of opportunities to come up with new research questions which will eventually enable African scholars in the field of humanities to be counted among the best globally.