Every hill got a story oral history just out

Every hill got a story: we grew up in country w51TVk4uaX0L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_as launched this afternoon at Alice Springs Telegraph Station. A companion multimedia site is hosted by SBS Books. The substantial volume is sold by SBS Books and is also available on Kindle.

The volume by ‘men and women of central Australia and the Central Land Council’ is compiled and edited by Marg Bowman, carrying on from the late Jane Hodson, long term anchor of the CLC media section.

USB sticks

some of the USB memory sticks with contributer’s audio

It comprises stories from 127 Aboriginal people of the CLC region (southern half of the Northern Territory), each of whom has a portrait and bio, filling the last twenty pages.

There’s a rich selection of striking photographs from a wide range of archives. Most of the stories were told in the speaker’s own language and are published here in good English translation; the credits of the numerous interviewers, transcribers and translators span three pages (x–xii), followed by a three page introduction to ‘Aboriginal languages and kinship’ by Jenny Green. Around half of the 127 story tellers attended the launch and the CLC Chair Francis Kelly Jupurrula presented each with not only a copy of the book but also a USB memory stick containing the audio file of their original interview.





David Ross (CLC Director)

David Ross (CLC Director) explains the importance of the volume (© Jenny Green)

Marg Bowman, Violet Petyarre, Jenny Green holding book

Marg Bowman, Violet Petyarr, Jenny Green




launch crowd

Gwen Brown Napurrula addressing the launch at Alice Springs Telegraph Station

Introducing LIPIL: Linguistics in the Pub in London

Linguistics in the Pub (LIP) expands beyond Australia, with Linguistics in the Pub in London (LIPIL). Our first LIPIL will be:

Fieldwork in multilingual communities (Guest participant Dr. Ruth Singer)

Date:             Monday 7th September 2015
Time:             6:00 – 8:00 pm
Venue:           Upstairs room, The Lamb (94 Lambs Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 3LZ)
Food and drinks available at the venue.

Contact Lauren Gawne with any questions: lg21@soas.ac.uk
You can receive future LIPIL announcements by signing up to the RNLD mailing list: http://www.rnld.org/node/5

UPDATE: We now have a LIPIL Facebook page for updates, and you can RSVP

LIPIL is an occasional gathering of language activists and linguists in London and serveThe-Lamb-pub-in-Lambs-Con-010s as an informal forum for the discussion of languages, linguistics and related issues. We plan to meet roughly once a month and discuss a particular theme or issue that is of interest to the group. It builds on the LIP concept which originally began in Melbourne, Australia and has spread to other places in that country, and now to the UK. LIPIL is coordinated by Lauren Gawne (SOAS, University of London) and is open to everyone who is interested. We’re currently looking for people who might be interested in helping to organise LIPIL, or write summaries of each of the events for the Endangered Languages and Cultures blog.

Our first LIPIL is the evening before the conference African Multilingualism: Motivations, modalities, movement and meaning. In keeping with the conference themes we’ll be discussing language documentation in multilingual societies. We will discuss the different ways that multilingualism may be present in communities small and large, urban and rural. We will also discuss the practical implications for fieldworking linguists and communities, for projects with a range of aims including language documentation projects, sociolinguistic description and experimental linguistics. We will be joined by Dr. Ruth Singer (The University of Melbourne) who works with small but highly multilingual community in north-west Arnhem Land in Australia. Ruth has also run the Melbourne LIP for several years, and will be participating in the African Multilingualism conference.

Orana : how did naming books welcome a Polynesian word as Australian?

Many of us who remember the 1960s in Australia know the chorus ‘Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day’ (listen via iTunes, track 13) in one of the popular Australianised seasonal songs of the period. The lyricist, ABC staff writer John Wheeler (fl. 1940–70, with composer William Garnet ‘Billy’ James 1892–1977), likely found the word Orana in one of the notorious naming booklets: Orana ‘welcome’ has been listed in many of them as an Aboriginal word of NSW, beginning with Thorpe (1921:5) (and see table below). Update: ‘Carol of the birds’ was in the first set of Five Australian Christmas carols, released for Christmas 1948 (Catholic Weekly 23 Dec 1948, page 2, Magazine Section), which implies Wheeler’s source was one of the Thorpe or Tyrrell booklets published before WWII.

In the 1970s Orana got another boost in New South Wales, from official naming: Continue reading ‘Orana : how did naming books welcome a Polynesian word as Australian?’ »

PARADISEC activity update

It has been a busy time for Paradisec over the last couple of months.  We now have more than 5,100 hours of recorded material in the catalog and in 2 months alone have added 250GB of data, all of it representing digitised versions of analog tapes.

Recent work on the collection of 200 tapes from the Solomon Islands Museum is nearing completion but, as some tapes have required careful conservation work before being playable, the project has taken longer than expected. The collection was in urgent need of digitisation, not only because of the condition of the tapes, but also because little is known about the contents of the tapes. At least some contain material in Ririo – a language that has only a very small number of living speakers. The availability of digital files will allow the Museum to identify the contents of the recordings. We have also just finished digitising Nancy Carter’s 1960s recordings from the Solomon Islands and Bougainville that came to us two years ago. These three inch tapes were initially unplayable and needed special attention. They are now available online.

Continue reading ‘PARADISEC activity update’ »

MLIP recap July 2015: Language in education in multilingual contexts: beyond ‘mother tongue’ education

A recap of last night’s Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub, by Kellen Parker van Dam (La Trobe University).

The topic of MLIP was ‘Language in education in multilingual contexts: beyond ‘mother tongue’ education’ and the discussion was led by Felix Ameka (Leiden University).

Topic and description as posed by Felix Ameka in the original MLIP announcement:

Linguists promote the benefits of “mother-tongue” education, especially in the first years of primary education. Linguistic human rights advocates argue that if a child is not taught in their first language, then the child’s basic linguistic human rights are violated (e.g. Babaci-Wilhite 2014). However the notion of the ‘mother tongue’ is inappropriate in highly multilingual contexts (see e.g. Lüpke and Storch 2013). In these contexts, children can be disadvantaged by ‘mother tongue’ policies in education that favour the use of a single standardised language in education. I will discuss the case of Ewe-speaking children in Sokode, Ghana who use a colloquial Central Ewe variety at home and struggle with the standard Ewe used in the school. I advocate a multi-lectal, multilingual, multi-modal approach to language in education that eschews an opposition between so called exoglossic national languages and local indigenous languages.
Continue reading ‘MLIP recap July 2015: Language in education in multilingual contexts: beyond ‘mother tongue’ education’ »

Songs of the Empty Place

Jimmy Weiner and Don Niles have published Songs of the Empty Place: The Memorial Poetry of the Foi of the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea. This new book contains songs recorded by Weiner between 1979 and 1995 and can be downloaded from ANU E-Press here. All audio was digitised by PARADISEC and is available in the collection JW1. The songs are organised under three main categories: 7 Women’s Sago Songs (Obedobora), 44 Men’s Songs (Sorohabora), and 7 Women’s Songs (Sorohabora) and accompanied by some 40 photographs.
Continue reading ‘Songs of the Empty Place’ »

Tongue twisters in Australian languages

A lively thread has been unwinding over on the RNLD email list recently, in response to a request for examples of Australian tongue twisters.

So many great phrases have come out of the woodwork that it behooves us to set them down here for posterity. Thanks to John Hobson for starting the discussion, and to all those who contributed examples.

It’s interesting that quite a few of these seem to be about drilling the word-initial velar nasal [ŋ-], one of the perenniel challenges for mother-tongue speakers of English but less ‘twisty’ for speakers of Australian Aboriginal languages, or indeed for anyone who lives in the vicinity of these red dots.


Intelyapelyape yepeyepe-kenhe lyepelyepele anepaneme
‘The butterfly is sitting on the sheep’s intestines’

(thanks: Jenny Green) Continue reading ‘Tongue twisters in Australian languages’ »

Translation in language documentation and revitalisation: LIP discussion

Alan Ray recaps June’s Linguistics in the Pub.

The June Melbourne LIP discussed the vexed topic of translation, particularly in the context of endangered languages. The context for the discussion was provided by Evans and Sasse (2007) and Hellwig (2010). Present were linguists from Monash, Melbourne and La Trobe universities.

The first observation, supported by personal experience and the above references, was that the longer a linguist works with a language and its speakers, the greater appreciation there is for the complexities and subtleties of that language. The challenge is how to show that complexity. In a standard three line example of text, gloss and free translation, the last is where idiom and other complexity can be shown. Of course the free translation can also mislead as it does not directly reflect the exact text and there is frequently no transparency as to how the free translation was arrived at. There was support in the group that the process should be more transparent. For example, at times a fourth line should be added before the free translation; a literal translation which most accurately reflected the base text.

There was considerable discussion on the question of context; how to show it and how important it was. Various aspects of context such as discourse information, cultural knowledge, gesture and physical landscape could all be important in establishing meaning.
Continue reading ‘Translation in language documentation and revitalisation: LIP discussion’ »

Literacy in the field: how do the communities we work with use vernacular literacy?: LIP discussion

Harriet Sheppard recaps the May Linguistics in the Pub, a monthly informal gathering of linguists in Melbourne to discuss topical areas in our field.

The May LIP brought together linguists from La Trobe, Monash and the University of Melbourne to discuss vernacular literacy in the communities we work with. The place of vernacular literacy in language documentation programs is a recurring topic that many of us who work with traditionally oral languages come across and must consider as a matter of course throughout our work. As developing an orthography for a language entails a level of standardisation that may not have existed previously for a language, some linguists, such as Ameka (2011), have suggested that we could bypass literacy, replacing written documentation with audiovisual documentation products. However, the reality is that most linguists need to develop our own literacy in the target language in order to conduct research. Frequently communities expect us to produce language resources such as dictionaries and storybooks for the community. In this month’s LIP gathering we discussed how the communities we work with participate in literacy activities in vernacular languages and how outputs of language documentation projects can potentially be better designed for the community. Continue reading ‘Literacy in the field: how do the communities we work with use vernacular literacy?: LIP discussion’ »

Generating word forms

Have you ever wanted to create a list of possible words in a language you are working on? Have you started creating a dictionary but now need to find words that are not yet recorded? This could be the app for you. Word Generator is a free web service that lets you upload a list of words that you know, together with a list of consonants and vowels, like this:

Consonants: b, rd, d, k, g, j, rl, l, lh, ly, m, n, nh, ng, ny, rn, yh, r, rr, n, ng, y, th, w
Vowels: a, aa, i, ii, u, uu

[ … ]

Word Generator will generate a list of possible words based on this information. It has a number of settings you can alter to adjust the degree of probability, the number and the length of words you want to produce. You can then ask speakers to look through the list to help them think of words that are not already in the dictionary, and it could provoke useful discussion about other forms and meanings.

Please try Word Generator and post any feedback here or by email to me.

Word Generator is being written by Andreas Scherbakov as part of a project funded by ARC Future Fellowship FT140100214