Creating a keyboard layout for Votic language

Keeleleek NGO

Free solution to enhance language usage

Votic language is a Baltic-Finnic language closely related to Estonian, spoken in Russia’s Leningrad oblast by fewer than 50 persons. However, Votic is an object of interest for linguists and language activists alike.

Modern computers and smart phones can display the ortographies of almost all the world’s languages but still many, if not most of indigenous language’s computer users lack a comfortable way to input these characters into the computer or smart phone. To be able to comfortably write texts the user needs a keyboard. There exists a simple way to create keyboard layouts with the Giella infrastructure that creates downloadable installers for each device. For this a simple text file is needed, which reflects all the characters of the keyboard in the same visual order as they appear on the physical keyboard. This file can initially be populated with the characters from a known keyboard layout (Finnish, American, Russian, etc.) and corresponding characters simply be changed according the needs and orthography of the target language. The friendly Giella staff can help you through the whole process.

Votic keyboard layout developed with the help of Giellatekno technology.

Simple yet effective way to stimulate language use online.

How the Votic language keyboard layout was done? During the annual Votic summer school Ämmesse Vunukkassaa organized in Luuditsa (Лужицы) in 2018 the class was handed a printout of an empty keyboard. The class was asked to fill in the blank keys with Votic characters and create the Votic keyboard of their dreams, one that would allow them comfortably write Votic texts with a computer or smart phone. And no pressure — let’s try first and if we find out something can be changed, then let’s just change it and try again. Based on the ideas gotten from the class, a Votic keyboard layout was created with the Giella infrastructure and is available for all computers, smart phones and tablets.

Two keyboard layouts developed for the Votic language

Two keyboards were made to support comfortable writing in Votic for two user groups, one for those who are used to type on a Russian keyboard and one for those that are used to type on an American keyboard. The two keyboard layouts have all the non-Votic characters placed in the same place as the Russian or American keyboard. The keyboards are installable on all computers, smartphones and tablets. The included characters on the keyboard make it possible to write according to any of three common Votic ortographies and new versions of the keyboard can easily be released when feedback is gotten from the Votic community.

Creating a keyword for an endangered indigenous language is a really easy and effective way to encourage language usage online.

Kristian Kankainen