Gamification of rapid word collection


We can use creative interactive methods to engage speakers in language documentation and the development of language materials. Friendly competition keeps speakers involved in what could otherwise be a dull task of listing words. New participants seek out the opportunity to be involved in the future as participants when positive engagement attitudes are developed. To this end, we applied principles of gamification (Hamari et al. 2014) to the Rapid Word collection phase of the Dictionary Development Program (DDP) (Shore & van den Berg 2006; Moe 2004).

We present the outcomes of applying gamification to the DDP in an effort to collect and verify words in a narrow set of semantic domains for the Mòòré language [mos]. Mòòré is widely spoken, underdocumented Gur language primarily spoken in Burkina Faso. Data was collected by native speakers of Mòòré on a university campus.

The basic procedure for the game is as follows:
In round 1, two teams of 3-4 speakers compete with each other in attempt to accumulate more words than the other team in each semantic domain as it is presented. Each team appoints a scribe equipped with paper and pen who records words in the existing Mòòré orthography; other team members participate verbally. Points accrue for words that are collected that are distinct from the other team, i.e. unique words will score points. In round 2, the teams exchange sets of words and must use the words compiled by the other team in round 1 to make sentences in the language that exemplify the meaning of the word. Round 2 verifies the words and offers some idea that shared meaning exists between the speakers on the two competing teams.

We present a methodology involving multiple speakers that appears to be effective and efficient, compared to elicitation of terms with one speaker in the same time frame. At the same time, we show the possibility of collecting discourse data as participants negotiate amongst themselves key definitions and example sentences. In post-game interviews with participants, we also asked speakers about their reactions to the task, and the likelihood of them participating again, though it remains to be seen if they will participate again.

27 Feb, 2015 00:31 — 00:32
February 26-March 1, 2015, at the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu


Van den Berg & Shore (2006)
& (). A New Mass Elicitation Technique: The Dictionary Development Program. SIL International. Retrieved from
Moe (2011)
(). Compiling Dictionaries Using Semantic Domains. Lexikos, 13.
Hamari, Koivisto & Sarsa (2014)
, & (). Does Gamification Work? – A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on Gamification. IEEE.
Subject Languages:
Rebecca Paterson
Rebecca Paterson

My research interests include field linguistics, grammatical description, and translation.

Amos Teo
Amos Teo
Linguist & Data Analyst

I am a linguist, language nerd, and data analyst. I have worked with African and South East Asian languages.

Timbwaoga Aimé Judicaël Ouermi
Timbwaoga Aimé Judicaël Ouermi
Language Speaker & Computer Scientist

My research interests include Computational Science, High Performance Computation and Scientific Visualization.