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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

Arrernte

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.
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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

alardi
arinji
arlibala
[ … ]

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

Elicitation Methods

Jonathan Schlossberg recaps the April Linguistics in the Pub, a monthly informal gathering of linguists in Melbourne to discuss topical areas in our field.

Topic: Elicitation Methods

In 2011, LIP ran a discussion on techniques and activities used in the field by linguists to elicit particular grammatical phenomena, compare cognition across languages or simply record naturalistic talk-in-interaction. What is new today? We would like to follow on the same idea and give the opportunity to present activities which were successful or unsuccessful in the field. Of particular interest would be activities using grammaticality judgments or aimed at analysing semantic functions, such as aspect.

A small but dedicated cohort representing linguists from Melbourne’s three linguistics departments showed up at April’s LIP to discuss elicitation methodologies, moderated by Giordana Santosuosso.

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PARADISEC activity update

PARADISEC continues to grow! In the last year 63 new collections have been added and the archive has grown to 9.04TB with 12,489 items (made up of 73,496 files). We are currently reworking the catalog to make it easier to use.

We have added more items from Stephen Wurm’s (collection SAW4) and Don Laycock’s (DL2) papers.

Added collections include Gavan Breen’s written materials, transcripts and notes of vocabulary and grammar on 49 Australian languages and dialects, mainly from far north Queensland and the central Northern Territory (collections GB01-50). Almost all the languages described are now no longer spoken.
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Where have all the AusE sociolinguists gone?

Harriet Sheppard and Jonathan Schlossberg recap the March Linguistics in the Pub, a monthly informal gathering of linguists in Melbourne to discuss topical areas in our field.

 

Topic: Is the study of Australian languages at the expense of the study of Australian English variation?

Australian linguists are world renowned for their work on the description and documentation of indigenous languages. It is remarkable (to this outsider), given such a febrile research environment, that so little descriptive work seems to be being done on dialects of Australian English compared to the study of English variation in other nations. Can it really be true that Masterchef Australia has more to contribute to the analysis and documentation of Australian English than Australian linguistics does? I’d be interested in hearing from local (socio) linguists whether they think a focus on indigenous languages will necessarily be at the expense of the regional varieties of English in Australia.

 

A large contingent turned out for the March LIP, with representatives from Melbourne, Monash and La Trobe Universities, including many sociolinguists. The discussion was led by special guest Prof Miriam Meyerhoff (Victoria University of Wellington).
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