Posted by: Singh Is King | Thursday, December 6, 2007

Software breaks barrier between two Punjabs

punjabisoftware.gif Chandigarh: New computer software developed by Patiala’s Punjabi University will, for the first time, give Indian and Pakistani Punjabis common access to a huge volume of post-Partition literature that was until now unavailable because of differences in script.

The new software suite developed by Dr Gurpreet Lehal and his students at the Advanced Centre for Technical Development of Punjabi Language, Literature & Culture makes it possible to read Punjabi irrespective of the script — Gurmukhi, Shahmukhi (Arabic), Devnagri or Roman — it may be written in.For instance, it now needs no more than a click of a mouse to transliterate an entire book written in Shahmukhi (Arabic script used to write Punjabi in Pakistan) to Gurmukhi (Punjabi script used in India) or even Devnagri and Roman. Dr Lehal and his colleagues have been able to demonstrate not only the amazing agility of their product but are able to convert texts with a minimum accuracy level of 97 per cent. Written in Unicode, the universal coding scheme for multilingual documents, the new software suite is also capable of converting entire websites, including links from one script to another. Effectively people orally familiar with Punjabi do not need to learn multiple scripts. By knocking down insurmountable script barriers Dr Lehal and his young researchers have literally opened up a whole new world for 10 crore Punjabis across India, Pakistan and the diaspora.

The computer scientist describes a scenario that is happily no longer a dream: “A friend in Pakistan sends me his poem and the fact that I cannot read the Shahmukhi script is not a problem any more. I can now read the piece in Gurmukhi, Devnagri or even Roman.” He is confident that his work will help Punjabis break down long persisting barriers. He said, “Young Punjabis living in the West can now access their heritage contained in Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi which will now be instantly convertible to Roman script.” Set for a formal launch next month, the software suite has already caught the fancy of the Indian and Pakistani business communities, which are together preparing to step up mutual trade and exchanges. “Besides literature and language, the software’s transliteration capability has a huge potential for business communication between Amritsar and Lahore,” said an exporter in Amritsar.

Sponsored jointly by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and Asia Pacific Network Information Centre of Singapore, the software suite took four years and a grant of $30,000 to develop. It is currently available free for testing at Punjabi University’s official website: http://s2g.advancedcentrepunjabi.org.

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