50 words of Australian languages project

The Research Unit for Indigenous Language is running a project in 2019/2020 to collect and present words in as many Australian Indigenous languages as possible. Please consider contributing to this project.

This project aims to provide resources for schools to teach at least fifty words in their local language.

We are asking for contributions of at least fifty words in as many Australian Indigenous languages as possible. The typed words need to be listed in a spreadsheet, with audio file recordings attached. Full instructions on capturing the details are on this website.

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PARADISEC Mystery Language of the Week

By Jodie Kell

Each week of this year PARADISEC is broadcasting a Mystery Language of the Week. Published on our website through a popular audio platform, as well as through social media, we are asking people for help in identifying languages in our archive by listening to short audio grabs and contributing their knowledge to the descriptive metadata.

2019 is the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL). The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues said that 40% of the estimated 6700 languages spoken around the world were endangered, and most of these are Indigenous languages. This puts the associated cultures and knowledge systems at risk, since Indigenous languages “represent complex systems of knowledge and communication and should be recognised as a strategic national resource for development, peace building and reconciliation.” (https://en.iyil2019.org/about/#about-1)

One of the aims of the year is to mobilise and connect different organisations, communities and individuals for coordinated action on the “urgent need to preserve, revitalize and promote indigenous languages around the world” (https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-launches-website-international-year-indigenous-languages-iyil2019). The IYIL website contributes to raising awareness about issues surrounding Indigenous languages by providing information, including a calendar of events and access to resources, and enabling organisations to register and actively participate. (https://en.iyil2019.org/) PARADISEC has registered and is planning a series of activities to support the IYIL and use the coordinated approach promoted on the website to expand the reach of our archival materials and our organisation.

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Local wifi versions of paradisec?

 

Getting records back to the places they came from is a major motivation for what we do at PARADISEC. Repatriation of unique analog artefacts is an important model, and digital records should, in principle, be easier to move to any place. However, not every place has capacity for access to or storage of digital files. In the Pacific there are few reliable digital repositories and the cultural agencies I know have little capacity to store or disseminate digital files. Internet connections are usually expensive and so discourage download of large files.

Earlier I talked about using Itunes to get records back to Erakor, the village where I work in Vanuatu. The computers that held the Itunes installation eventually stopped working and were replaced, but the language files were not copied over to the new computers.

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Merging SayMore audio snippets into a single wav file

SayMore is a piece of software developed by SIL that (among other things) allows you to annotate a primary audio file with audio annotations. This means that speakers can add information by carefully re-speaking an utterance, or giving an oral translation. However, this becomes a problem because each annotation segment is saved as a separate file, which means you have to manage or archive hundreds or even thousands of 1-2 second audio files.

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Texts and more texts: corpora in the CoEDL

Corpus development is one of the goals of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (see this web page for more details). We have run a number of workshops on corpus-related themes (e.g. the 2017 workshop that included a day on converting early sources).

In addition to creating useable materials for the source communities (which we have a strong commitment to supporting) we are archiving records that include primary media, transcripts and associated annotations. We aim to produce from this material a subset of accessible texts for a number of languages.
Here it is worth noting that we have come up with this terminology (thanks to Jane Simpson for the formulation) to distinguish the objects we have collected:
Assemblage – all material collected, working files, early sources, multiple versions and drafts
Collection – the archived material, a subset of the above, but curated with sufficient metadata to allow the user to know what all items are
Corpus – a crafted set of texts in the language that can be used for further analysis

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A WEBSITE IS NOT AN ARCHIVE!!!!!!

I had a message from the ‘pop up archive‘ to say they are closing down and I should download my data. They were a website that allowed users to upload audio files that were then meant to be prepared for searching via automated recognition of features in the file.

Leaving aside the functionality of the site (I admit I did not get it to work with my files), I want to reiterate my frustration with websites that call themselves archives (ok, so in this case the title ‘pop up’ should have been a giveaway), only to disappear at the end of a funding cycle or the retirement of the researcher.

In part this frustration is also motivated by a recent project in which I compared languages that have little representation in the OLAC listing (see the earlier discussion of this here) of holdings in the world’s language archives but have had a grammar written recently. If a linguist has worked on a language in the past thirty or so years then it would be reasonable to expect that some primary records were produced, and that they should be in an archive. They may be in a repository that is not part of OLAC, in which case we can create a record to point to that collection. If they are not in any archive, the task is to ask the linguist if they need help to get the records into an archive. At PARADISEC we have been doing this, partly through our ‘Lost and Found’ survey, which has resulted in a number of collections of analog tapes being digitised and made available.
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PARADISEC activity update

Time for a 2017 PARADISEC activity update!

At our last update in May 2017 we held 25TB of archived material and now just 4 months later we have grown to 31TB of archived material! We have also increased the number of languages represented in the archive to 1116.

In the last 4 years PARADISEC has had 16,375 downloads, with 1058 registered users. Our catalog has had 11,000 sessions over the past 12 months. Significantly, these include 95 from PNG, 89 from Vanuatu, 33 from Fiji, 23 from the Solomon Islands, 20 from French Polynesia and 18 from New Caledonia.

Are Australia’s Community Languages worth studying? – report on the Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub 13th June 2017

A report on this month’s Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub by Ana Krajinovic (University of Melbourne / Humboldt University)

Our discussion this week was led by James Walker who asked us an intriguing question about the linguistic research areas represented in Australia. Coming from the background of studying variation and change in community languages in Toronto, James became interested in these research topics in the Australian context. Melbourne is a multilingual city, and just like in Toronto, community languages brought through immigration by non-English speakers started appearing in Melbourne in the 20th century. We asked ourselves why the linguistic diversity of different communities isn’t equally well represented in the Australian research agenda. Is the study of indigenous languages of Australia seen as inherently more valuable and, if so, why?

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Maric dialect recorded by Edmund Kennedy in 1847

Guest post by Peter Sutton.

The published Barcoo River (Queensland) expedition diary of explorer Edmund Kennedy (1852) was augmented with unpublished manuscript sources and republished by Edgar Beale (1983). In the context of the present paper the key augmentation came from a handwritten copy of Kennedy’s journal for the period 01 April 1847 to 24 January 1848 made by Rev W.B. Clarke, and held by the Royal Geographical Society of London (RGS, see Beale 1983:96-97).

In an entry for 01 October 1847, Kennedy reported an encounter with Aboriginal people who were ‘without exception the most friendly and best behaved Natives I met with on the journey’. According to the RGS manuscript, Kennedy recorded:

We obtained from this party some useful words, which are correctly written, according to their sounds, River Victoria,1 “Barcoo”; Water, “Ammoo”; Grass, “Oo-lo-noo”; Fire, “Poordie” &c. (Beale 1983:142)

It is a pity that the rest of the list has not so far surfaced.

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Notes

  1. This name was later replaced by ‘Barcoo River’.

Categories in language descriptions and linguistic typology – Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub May 2017

Stefan Schnell (University of Melbourne) recaps last month’s Linguistics in the Pub (Melbourne)

Leading the discussion was Ana Krajinović (University of Melbourne / Humboldt University)

Introduction

The relationship between language-specific descriptive-analytical categories and categories figuring in cross-language comparative studies, and in particular the nature of the latter, have been subject of intensive and recurrent debate over the years, most recently in a dedicated discussion at last year’s SLE conference in Naples, and a focused discussion in the last October issue of Linguistic Typology (Vol 20, issue 2, 2016). In this LiP session, we focused on the research-practical aspects of the issue at hand from a descriptive point of view, asking questions about how researchers go about in identifying relevant categories in the languages they describe, and how they capture and describe their functions and label the categories. But what criteria and concepts do researchers apply when going about these tasks? A notoriously difficult area is research into systems of tense-mood-aspect (TMA) which illustrate some of the points during our discussion.

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