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Revision as of 22:07, 27 January 2017 by Tjones5 (talk | contribs) (Keyboard Image)

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For typing Warlpiri, I suggest using a standard English keyboard (see below for my reasoning). However, I've also developed a Warlpiri Transcription keyboard that includes phonemes used in Warlpiri: [1]. See "Instructions for Installation" below.

Background Information

  • Christopher Horsethief has created a series Warlpiri keyboard available for iOS devices. [2]
    • All three keyboards include punctuation and numbers [3]
    • One keyboard includes lower case characters, a second includes upper case characters, and a third includes the phonetic equivalents.
    • Strength: all characters of the alphabet are available
    • Weakness: the layout would not be intuitive for Warlpiri speakers who are used to Australian (English) keyboards. Horsethief's layout separates vowels from consonants, and then simply presents them in (almost) alphabetical order. It does not seem to take into account the English keyboard format that Warlpiri speakers are most likely used to using, nor does it seem that it would increase typing speed by putting common letters near the center or common groupings of letters near each other.
  • I have not been able to find a built-in Warlpiri keyboard on linux, Windows, Macs, or iOS devices.


  • All vowels and consonants in Warlpiri can be typed using a standard English keyboard. About half of Warlpiri's letters have a direct correspondence to a letter in English. For example, p [p] is typed the same way in both languages. All other Warlpiri letters are combinations of letters that exist in English. For example rd [ɽ] is typed by a simple combination of the English r and d.
  • Overall, Warlpiri uses 24 vowels and consonants, which means that it would be possible to replace the unused English keys with Warlpiri letters not used in English. However, it seems most logical to just have Warlpiri speakers type letter combinations on a standard English keyboard, as described above. Warlpiri speakers in Australia are most likely also English speakers, and if they have have typing experience, then it seems likely that their experience would be with typing in English and using standard English keyboards. Therefore, I think it would be much simpler for these speakers to use an English keyboard, instead of a keyboard like Horsethief's, which would be unfamiliar -- the time to get used to a completely unfamilar layout would not be worth the saved time from just touching multiple keys to get the desired Walpiri letters. In addition, Light Warlpiri is a combination of Warlpiri and English that is often used by young Warlpiri speakers, who are most likely to be using keyboards. Therefore, the ease of switching between English and Warlpiri would be enhanced by just using an English keyboard to type Warlpiri (or Light Warlpiri).
  • To type phonemes used in IPA, one can use the Warlpiri Transcription keyboard. Many Warlpiri phonemes exist as letters on a standard English keyboard. However, for the phonemes that don't correspond in this way, I needed to devise an intuitive way to type Warlpiri phonemes. For retroflex and nasal consonants (most of which have 2 characters to represent them), typing the 3rd level key followed by the second character in the consonant yields the target phoneme. Other phonemes represented by a letter that exists in English use the according key. The consonant not covered by these cases is the palatal nasal ly [ʎ], which can be typed by holding the 3rd level key and then typing k, which is next to l and in the direction of y on the English keyboard, so I'm hoping that users will find this relatively intuitive. Finally, the Warlpiri vowels in IPA are represented by a letter that exists in English already or can be appended to by the vowel-lengthening diacritic, which is a 3rd level key on the semi-colon key.

Instructions for installation

  1. Download the wbp file listed in my keyboard repo on github. You can click on the file, and the click raw, and save that, or you can simply use a terminal by typing something like wget https://github.swarthmore.edu/tjones5/ling073-wbp-keyboard/blob/master/wbp.
  2. Put the wbp file in /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols. E.g. sudo cp wbp /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/
  3. Add a layout entry in the /usr/share/X11/xkb/rules/evdev.xml file for the layout. To do this, edit that file with your favourite text editor (again, you'll probably need sudo), and search for the end of the layoutList section by searching for </layoutList> in the file. Copy a simple layout block from above that line, paste it in as a new layout block (between the last </layout> and </layoutList>and modify it for this layout. You can use something like this:
            <description>Tessa's Warlpiri Transcription Layout</description>
  4. Save the file, exit the editor, and restart cinnamon. The quickest way to do this is to run cinnamon --replace on the command line.
  5. Go back to your keyboard layout settings, and you should be able to find the layout under "Tessa's Warlpiri Transcription Layout" in the list.

Licensing information

MIT License: see github repo for details

Copyright (c) [2017] [Tessa Jones]

In summary, a user can do anything with this code, as long as the user provides attribution back to me and doesn't hold me liable.