More Pacific Manuscripts now available in PARADISEC

Following on from a previous post in July this year – here – we are happy to announce that several more linguistic records from the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau (Pambu) microfilm collection are now available via PARADISEC’s repository.

This is the second batch of records to be made available this year by Pambu and PARADISEC; allowing community members, linguists and other researchers interested in this field free and open access to these fantastic documents.

Screenshot from PAMBU-DOC1042 'Articles, letters and miscellaneous papers' Rev. Lorimer Fison

Screenshot from PAMBU-DOC1042 ‘Articles, letters and miscellaneous papers’
Rev. Lorimer Fison. Courtesy of the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau.

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Introducing the Langtang collection – voices from the recent past

A new collection archived with Paradisec (LAN1) provides documentation of the language of Langtang in Nepal. Langtang’s already small population was heavily affected when the earthquake in April 2015 triggered landslides in the Langtang valley; many of the voices in this collection are of those who died in the landslides. This project demonstrates that good documentation can be done by community members and non-linguists with the support of archivists and data managers.

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Photo taken be Kartok Lama

While the Langtang region is well-known to as a trekking destination in Nepal, almost nothing is known about the people who live there, the language that they speak, and its relationship to other Tibeto-Burman languages. The ethnic Tibetan Langtangpa population have called the valley home for at least 4 centuries and speak a language that shares features with those of their Kyirong neighbours in the north, and Yolmo neighbours in the south. Continue reading ‘Introducing the Langtang collection – voices from the recent past’ »

Working together to bring legacy Pacific language recordings to light

AC1-digitising

This is the story of institutional collaboration at its best.

In 2013 Bill Palmer sent through a list of 78 rpm discs held by the National Library of Australia, summarised in their catalog as follows:

“The collection consists of two albums and 20 single sound discs, word lists, slides and photographs. Records include specimens of native languages of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate; speech of Hagen natives; gospel recordings; and titles in Fijian, Babatana, Owa Raha, Bilua, Marovo, Dobu, Ungarinyin, Hula, Tavara, Motu, Johore Malay, Western Sumatra Malay, Wedau and Police Motu. Brief typescript word lists are included with the Motu, Hula, Tavara, Dobu and Babatana sound discs. There is an English-Owa Rahan vocabluary for the Owa Raha disc.”

We sent a request to the NLA with whom PARADISEC has always had a close working relationship. They agreed in principle and then we had periodic contact about this. In July 2015 we approached the National Film and Sound Archive who have the necessary playback equipment. Further to-ing and fro-ing of emails finally resulted in agreement from the NLA in June 2016.
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Polynesian plant names used on Lord Howe Island

Guest post by Jim Smith (PhD, Macquarie University):

In 2001 the discovery of a colony of Lord Howe Island Stick Insects living on Balls Pyramid, near Lord Howe Island, received international publicity. This species, originally very common on Lord Howe Island, had been thought to be extinct until rockclimbers, in 1964 and 1969, found evidence that it was still surviving on Balls Pyramid. In 2001 the Balls Pyramid colony was observed eating the leaves of a Tea-tree Melaleuca howeana which is endemic to Lord Howe and adjacent islands.

The local name of this Melaleuca species was first published in 1869: “A shrubby Melaleuca, inhabiting rocky exposed situations near the coast on the south-western side… locally called kilmogue, is used as a substitute for tea and said to be a pleasant and exhilarating beverage.” (Hill 1869:7; Moore 1870:9).1 When Maiden recorded the local vernacular names of plants and trees on Lord Howe Island in the 1880s, only two had non-English names. These were the Melaleuca, still known as kilmogue and Elaeodendron curtipendulum, a large tree also found on Norfolk Island and New Caledonia, which was known as tumana (Maiden 1898). The Melaleuca was still known as kilmoke in the 1930s (Nicholls 1938:90). Continue reading ‘Polynesian plant names used on Lord Howe Island’ »


Notes

  1. In Australia and New Zealand species of both Melaleuca and Leptospermum can be referred to as Tea-trees. Leptospermum polygalifolium occurs on Lord Howe Island but does not appear to have been made into ‘tea’ or referred to by the Polynesian name.

Mouldy Mayhem

mouldy tapeRecently the call came to the Sydney office of PARADISEC that a collection of tapes had arrived in Melbourne that needed some cleaning (see the earlier post here). The tapes were from Madang in Papua New Guinea and had been recorded in the 1960s. They contained valuable and rare records of language and music of PNG.

When the tapes arrived they were visibly covered in a white mould and so the PARADISEC audio preservation team moved into action to remediate the tapes ready for digitisation.

Mould is a common form of contamination of magnetic analogue tape that creates problems as the infected tape will not give a clear signal when played back. Even a small speck of dust or mould can cause a gap between the tape and the head resulting in a drop out of sound.
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The challenge that language variation poses to language description – a LIP recap

The July edition of LIP was led by David Gil from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena. The night was well attended with representatives from all the usual suspects: University of Melbourne, Monash, and La Trobe. Attendees this month also came from the University of New England, ANU, as well as from SOAS, London and NTNU, Norway. The evening’s discussion centred on issues related to Malay and Indonesian languages and varieties, but also included discussion of language documentation and description in general. Continue reading ‘The challenge that language variation poses to language description – a LIP recap’ »

Finding what is not there

A major part of PARADISEC’s effort goes in finding and digitising audio tapes that record performance in the many small languages of the world. As discussed in a number of posts on this blog it is becoming urgent that these tapes are digitised while they are still playable. Of the tapes described in this earlier post about tapes from Madang in PNG, some are already so badly damaged by mould that they can’t be played anymore.

In order to find more tapes we run a survey http://www.delaman.org/project-lost-found/, that, unfortunately, has only ever had sixteen responses. We have managed to negotiate with these respondents to digitise five of their collections so far (see also the earlier blogpost ‘Where are the records?‘).

A more focussed way of finding out what recordings there are is by comparing what is published about a language with what primary records are listed as being in an archive. Assuming that someone doing fieldwork and writing a grammar of a language in the past fifty years must have made some recordings then the mission (should we choose to accept it) is to find those recordings.

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Social Media and Language Documentation – a MLIP recap

Jonathon Lum recaps the June Linguistics in the Pub (LIP), a monthly informal gathering of linguists in Melbourne to discuss topical areas in our field.

Despite the cold Melbourne weather, June’s LIP attracted a good number of linguists who came together to discuss the topic ‘Social media and language documentation’, led by Peter Schuelke of the University of Hawaii. Under discussion was the potential for social media to play a role in language documentation, maintenance and revitalization. While social media is a largely untapped resource in these fields, it also presents certain logistical and ethical issues, many of which were considered throughout the discussion.
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Pacific Manuscripts now in PARADISEC

After some discussion between PARADISEC and the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau (PAMBU) we now have access to linguistic records in the PAMBU microfilm collection, either for tagging in the PARADISEC catalog, or as digital versions of the microfilm in the PARADISEC collection.
Kylie Maloney at PAMBU kindly made available a list of items in PAMBU that have linguistic content (about 70 items). I sent this list to linguists interested in this field and got a priority list from them. PAMBU then entered into negotiations with their depositors to allow the microfilms to be digitised and produced as pdf files for distribution via PARADISEC’s repository. Continue reading ‘Pacific Manuscripts now in PARADISEC’ »

Results of the metadata survey

Keeping track of what is recorded in the course of fieldwork is critical, both for your own future work and for longterm archiving. Recordings of dynamic performance (audio or video) are easy to misplace or misidentify and very difficult to locate once you forget what a file was named and what you recorded on a particular day. We ran a survey about how people record their metadata from January 21st to April 25th, 2016 and had 142 responses (see also the earlier blog post here). There were two multiple choice questions each allowing selection of more than one checkbox and the entry of free text responses. I can send the full results of the survey on request. This information will help inform the development of new tools for metadata entry. The responses are summarised below.

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