Posted to the Ethnos Project by on January 22nd, 2012


The research described in this thesis examines indigenous language usage in a digital library environment that has been accessed via the Internet.

By examining discretionary use of the Māori Niupepa and Hawaiian Nūpepa digital libraries this research investigates how indigenous languages were used in these electronic environments in 2005. The results provide encouragement and optimism to people who are striving to retain, revitalise and develop the use of indigenous languages in information technologies. The Transaction Log Analysis (TLA) methods used in this research serve as an example of how web logs can be used to provide significant information about language usage in a bilingual online information system. Combining the TLA with user feedback has provided insights into how and why clients use indigenous languages in their information retrieval activities. These insights in turn, show good practice that is relevant not only to those working with indigenous languages, indigenous peoples or multilingual environments, but to all information technology designers who strive for universal usability.

This thesis begins by describing the importance of using indigenous languages in electronic environments and suggests that digital libraries can provide an environment to support and encourage the use of such languages. TLA is explained in the context of this study and is then used to analyse aspects of te reo Māori usage in the Niupepa digital library environment in 2005. TLA also indicates that te reo Māori was used by international clients and this usage differed to te reo Māori usage by national (Aotearoa) clients. Findings further reveal that the default language setting of the Niupepa digital library had a considerable impact on te reo Māori usage. When the default language was set to te reo Māori not only were there more requests in te reo Māori but there was also a higher usage of te reo Māori in the information retrieval activities. TLA of the Hawaiian Nūpepa digital library indicated that the Hawaiian language was also used in a digital library. These results confirm that indigenous languages were used in digital library environments.

Feedback from clients suggests reasons why indigenous languages were used in this environment. These reasons include the indigenous language content of the digital library, the indigenous language default language setting of the digital library and a stated desire by the clients to use the indigenous language. The key findings raise some interface design issues and support the claim that digital libraries can provide an environment to support the use of indigenous languages.

The Author

From Dr. Keenan’s website: Received a Diploma in Computer Engineering from CIT (Wellington) in 1987. Spent six years working as a hardware engineer for Datacom and Digital. Returned to Waikato and Waikato University. Received a BA through the Te Tohu Paetahi stream (Maori immersion) and in 1996 was awarded an MA having completed a thesis on traditional navigation. Was a tutor and assistant lecturer with the Maori Department and since 1997 has been employed as a lecturer with the Computer Science Department. Completed a PhD in 2007.

For more information about Te Taka Keenan, PhD, please explore these sites:

Dr. Keenan’s personal page
Dr. Keenan’s University of Waikato faculty page
University of Waikato archives at

This dissertation is presented here with kind permission from the author.

© 2007 Te Taka Keegan

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