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IBM Gives Voice to the Stories and Lives of Alaskans


LitSite Alaska Applies IBM Speech Technology to the Ancient Oral Tradition of Storytelling, Helping Preserve Native Alaskan Language and Culture

ARMONK, NY and ANCHORAGE, AK .- LitSite Alaska ( -- an interactive Web site with a wealth of information, insights and stories about the history, diversity, culture and traditions of Alaskans -- is bringing native language and stories to life using IBM (NYSE: IBM) cutting-edge speech technology. Over 1,000 pages of text have been enhanced with audio files, using IBM WebSphere Voice Server text-to-speech software. These audio files even include uncommon pronunciations of Alaskan native names and words such as KwaashKiKwaan, Tlingit, and Inupiaq.

LitSite Alaska (, a project of the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Alaska Literary Consortium, funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rasmuson Foundation, is working to “teach” the software proper pronunciation. One of the challenges of using text-to-speech software is the uncommon pronunciations of Alaska Native names and words. The oral tradition, an integral part of the lives of Alaska Natives, is essential to learning and to passing on cultural knowledge and life skills. Taking advantage of IBM WebSphere Voice Server’s flexibility and easy to use tools to create custom pronunciations is helping to preserve Alaska Native words and making them available to the world on the Web.

“LitSite Alaska uses narrative to inspire learning and community building,” said Ronald Spatz, professor and Dean of the University Honors College at the University of Alaska Anchorage. “We bring people together through storytelling and are using IBM’s technology to give voice to hundreds of stories about Alaska and the lives of Alaskans contained within our vast and growing archive.”

“If we had to record all of the stories ourselves, the process would be too costly and time consuming,” said Spatz. “But with WebSphere Voice Server, we can convert a page of text quickly and efficiently. For a not-for-profit site, the savings in time and resources are enormous. LitSite Alaska is leveraging IBM’s technology to produce more audio content than its small staff of freelancers and contract workers could do on its own.”

“Alaskan storytelling is an art form and LitSite is playing a critical role in continuing the tradition of preserving Alaskan culture,” said Kareem Yusuf, IBM Director of Product Management, WebSphere Software. “As a leader in speech technology, IBM is pleased to be playing a role in bringing Alaskan tradition to life on the Web through vocalizing traditional stories and native language.”

LitSite Alaska features narratives illustrating many aspects of life in Alaska from past to present. It also features a tele-health resource, Narrative and Healing, focusing on the therapeutic properties of writing and storytelling, and providing examples of how people of all ages face life’s challenges by telling their stories. As an on-line learning tool, LitSite Alaska showcases a living archive of lesson plans used in Alaskan classrooms and an extensive collection of peer work by Alaskan students.


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