Wordnet is a lexicon database of any language and their relationships to each other. The first Wordnet was an English wordnet developed at Princeton University in the United States [3]. Soon afterwards, many countries around the globe followed suit in developing Wordnet for their languages. It was until 2006 that South Africa created the first African Wordnet [2] for South African local languages by the University of South Africa and the South African Center for Digital Language Resources, Pretoria. Codename African Wordnet (Afwn), a multilingual Wodnet consisting of several South African native languages such as isiZulu, isiXhosa, Setswana, Sesotho sa Leboa, Tshivenḓa, Sesotho, isiNdebele, Siswati & Xitsonga.. Though this was a great stride and a good milestone for Africans, more needs to be done by other African countries to achieve a truly African Multilingual Wordnet language consiting of different african langauges mapped into a single language entity that interlink to other foreign languages.

Though dictionaries have been around for quite some time and it is the de-facto lexicon resource in learning a language especially Swahili, its use is usually limited to humans as it was designed for humans use and not computers. Wordnet was therefore created to solve this problem and with the rapid technological advancement, more advanced tools are needed for Swahili language to help Swahili not only in research but also in industrial need such as understanding customer feedback especially with rise of big data and AI.

Swahili Language has been gaining global interest and even became the African language to be accorded a language day by the UN on the 7th of July every year and has been noted as an identity to Africans and also as a language of choice. In recent years the number of speakers keeps growing and in 2022 Uganda adopted Swahili as its official language and lexicon resources are fundamental to help in its growth. Swahili is among the first African languages to have language technology including:

  1. spell checker.

  2. machine translation (Swahili to English).
  3. part of speech tag,

  4. a language learning software.

  5. a text corpus.

If our desire is to own Swahili not only in verbal communication but also in print and media, in research and development and finally as a link to our own cultural heritage and languages, then there is a need of centralized database that contains lexical and semantic relation which will be responsible for capturing and storing swahili words while maintaining Swahili Morphological richness that will not only help in research but also in bulding other tools and lexical database of other local African languages.

To have a comprehensive on wordnet and why we need swahili wordnet… read more on why swahili wordnet?