Playing texts and media—EOPAS again

While I obviously like EOPAS as a model for corpus presentation (see the earlier blog post about it here), I found a renewed enthusiasm for it today as I was checking the meaning of a word in a text I was translating from South Efate. The word lunak does not appear in any of my notes nor in the dictionary, but appears a few times in a story told by the late Kalsarap Namaf. I wrote to Joel Kalpram, who is from Erakor village and speaks the language, and asked him if he knew the word.

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What flows from ngaka-rna : how naming books spread a Dieri word

Coining a new name from a word taken from an Australian language often has complex implications, even if the naming agency is oblivious to them. When the name is for a place, a suburb or a street or a park, the official approval involves the relevant local government body. Two writers went into some of the issues a few years ago:

  • Tony Birch (2010 [1992]) sees the application of indigenous names to ‘houses, streets, suburbs and whole cities’ as ‘an exercise in cultural appropriation’. He draws a distinction between the restoration of indigenous placenames (such as Gariwerd ~ Grampians in western Victoria), and the fresh application to the built environment of a word imported from some Australian language.
  • Sam Furphy (2002) earlier discussed the role of what he dubbed ‘naming books’: popular twentieth century booklets of lists of ‘Aboriginal words’ such as Endacott (1923), Thorpe (1927), Kenyon (1930), Cooper (1952), which, for all the expressed good intentions of their compilers, have contributed to a homogenised perception of Australian languages: ‘The earliest popular naming books … make virtually no reference to the variety of languages spoken by the indigenous people of Australia, such that an uninformed reader could be forgiven for believing that there was only one Aboriginal language.’ (Furphy 2002:62) ‘Naming books simplify and romanticise Aboriginal words and remove them from their cultural and linguistic context.’ (Furphy 2002:68)

I’ve recently come upon an example which illustrates a combination of both concerns: one where official placenaming has drawn on the notorious naming booklets. Continue reading ‘What flows from ngaka-rna : how naming books spread a Dieri word’ »

Hurry again – Groote Eylandt linguist position

JOB VACANCY
Linguist

Anindilyakwa Services Aboriginal Corporation (ASAC) is located on Groote Eylandt, situated on the western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, is a newly established entity with the core objective to relive the poverty, improve the well-being, and promote the community development of the Anindilyakwa people.
The Linguistics Centre is currently responsible for effectively promoting and fostering Anindilyakwa language and culture through the provision of services for the benefit of indigenous communities of the Groote Archipelago.

Reporting to the Cultural Centres Project Manager, this project position is responsible for assessing the current linguistics operations and advising on the strategic direction of the Linguistics Centre into the future, in collaboration with the Cultural Centres, and to provide a strategic plan and further operational plan, detailing the future of linguistics within the Groote Archipelago. This is a great opportunity to work in a vibrant and complex linguistic and cultural environment.
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Hurry! Job as linguist in Barkly and Alice regions of Northern Territory – deadline extended to Monday 16 June

Short-term job – forwarded by Susan Moore – for more information contact her; tel: (08) 89511662 e: susan.moore@nt.gov.au

Northern Territory Department of Education
Job Title: Senior Language Resource Officer
Designation: Senior Professional 1
Work Unit: School Education South
Position Number: 19164
Responsible To: Manager Learning and Performance

Primary Objective
Support the delivery of vernacular and English language programs in the context of Indigenous Languages and Cultures Programs and Indigenous education as appropriate to the region.
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Crowd Sourcing: LIP discussion

Lauren Gawne recaps last week’s Linguistics in the Pub, a monthly informal gathering of linguists in Melbourne to discuss topical areas in our field.

The topic of crowd sourcing is one that relates to many industries, and almost all participants in this month’s LIP have had some experience of crowd-sourced projects from the perspective of being part of the crowd. In this discussion though, we looked at the topic of crowd-sourcing specifically within the domain of endangered language documentation. This topic has two related, but distinct, facets. The first is the sourcing of funding from the crowd and the second is the sourcing of labour. We discussed both topics, and the benefits and down-sides we saw arising from each.

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Language documentation index

The map below is built on information produced by a group of linguists working in Vanuatu. It is a sample documentation index that provides a visualisation of what is known about each language. Note that this is not a language vitality index of the kind outlined in Harmon and Loh (2010). Leaving aside thorny questions of what constitutes a language and language name (see Good and Cysouw 2013) and choosing to use a given set of language names (that is not limited to ISO-639-3), this exercise produced a map of the languages of Vanuatu, with each language assigned an index number on a 21 point scale assigning 1-5 points for each of four categories: Grammar; Lexicon; Texts; Media corpus. The icons are colour-coded (white = 0; red = 1-5; purple = 6-10; yellow = 11-15; green =16-20). 54 languages in this list have a zero rating, indicating that virtually nothing is known about those languages.

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Somali phone dictionary

On June 13th we Arnold Zable will launch a Somali-English Dictionary app for both Android and iOS platforms, using the successful Ma! Iwaidja dictionary model. Opening screen of the Somali dictionary appThis is the product of a collaboration between the School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Melbourne and Burji Arts, a Melbourne-based Somali arts and cultural organisation. The app contains some 26,000 Somali words and English equivalents with audio for selected items, so users can hear words or phrases. This app will have the capability of accepting input from users who can contribute items and suggest alternate pronunciations.

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Garbled voices: restoring Aboriginal words and meanings in historical sources

All who can make it to Canberra are welcome to attend our workshop next week.

Garbled voices from the archives: A workshop on restoring Aboriginal words and meanings in historical sources.

Date and time: 9am-4pm, 15-16 April 2014 Lunch provided (There is no obligation to attend all sessions)
Location: Room W3.03, Level 3, Baldessin Precinct Building (110), The Australian National University

How do we make sense of Aboriginal words recorded in early sources when the language cannot be identified? What if the language is known, but no speakers remain?

Our workshop seeks to bring together scholars who routinely work with old sources on Australia’s indigenous cultures, from Aboriginal people investigating their heritage, to linguists, archivists, anthropologists and historians. The standing challenge of working with historical documents is that individual scribes applied their own personal spelling conventions, and may not have heard the sounds accurately to begin with. As a result, many of the most important ethnographic, linguistic and historical materials are accessible only to specialist scholars who have knowledge of Aboriginal sound systems and long experience working with archival sources.

Over two days, the workshop will hear presentations from a range of practitioners who will describe informative case studies and offer practical interpretive techniques. Plenty of time is given for discussion between each session. Feel free to bring your own archival conundrums for analysis by the group.

No registration is required but please RSVP to Piers Kelly (Piers.Kelly @ anu.edu.au) for catering purposes.

More details here: http://slll.anu.edu.au/news-events/events/garbled-voices-archives-restoring-aboriginal-words-and-meanings-historical

A copy of the workshop program can be downloaded here.

PARADISEC stats for 2014

It has been quite some time since our last update on the contents of the PARADISEC archive. Since our report on this blog two years ago, we have added 88 collections bringing the total to 265 collections. There are now 9,836 items and 60,516 digitised recordings, images and videos in the archive, which is now 7.35 TB in size. The archive now includes over 4000 hours of audio.

Some of the collections that have recently been archived include Lamont Lindstrom’s Kwamera recordings from Vanuatu, Malcolm Ross’ Papua New Guinea recordings, Roger Blench’s Niger-Congo recordings, Renée Lambert-Brétière’s  Kwoma and Tok Pisin recordings (PNG) and Don Daniels’ materials from Madang Province of PNG. A collection of particular interest is Ted Schwartz’s tapes, dating from the 1950s when he did fieldwork on Manus Island with Margaret Mead.

We have also had our catalogue improved by users providing feedback, allowing us to correct names of participants, and generally enriching information about some of our older material that otherwise has little metadata.

In Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, we are working on getting a few new collections into the archive including Margaret Jolly’s Vanuatu tapes, Lynne McDonald’s Western Solomons recordings and some new manuscript pages from Arthur Capell’s Fiji collection, which are currently being imaged and will be added to PARADISEC’s already extensive collection of Capell images.

Open access and intimate fieldwork

A report on the Linguistics in the Pub discussion Tuesday 11th March, Prince Alfred Hotel, Grattan St, Melbourne.

This Linguistics in the Pub discussion brought together fieldworkers who do research in Indigenous Australia, Africa, South Asia, Papua New Guinea and Nepal, as well as a computational linguist who has developed software to automate language documentation. The linguists were not all Australian, in fact we were lucky to have four participants who identify as European who are living in Australia, temporarily or permanently. The linguists’ experience in language documentation ranged from between 6-30 years and between them had deposited in the digital archives: DoBeS, Paradisec and ELAR. The timeliness of this discussion is demonstrated by David Nathan’s very recent ELAC post on the same topic.
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