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 The standing challenge of working with historical documents is that individual scribes applied their own personal spelling conventions, and may not have heard the sounds accurately to begin with.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Some of the collections that have recently been archived include Lamont Lindstrom’s Kwamera recordings from Vanuatu, Malcolm Ross’ Papua New Guinea recordings, Roger Blench’s Niger-Congo recordings, Renée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.
Continue reading ‘Open access and intimate fieldwork’ »

The Access powers: Open Access and Language Documentation – David Nathan

[This post was written by David Nathan]

“… You cannot sue us for libel, though we have exposed your characters, your secrets, and your private lives. Our protection lies in your unworldliness.”

(Mary and Elizabeth Durack. 1935. All-About: The story of a Black Community on Argyle Station, Kimberley. Sydney: The Bulletin)

The issue of Open Access has recently been brought to the attention of many language documenters. For example, ELDP, funded by Arcadia, recently announced an Open Access policy in its guidelines, and the same policy may eventually be applied to ELAR. But is Open Access relevant and appropriate for language documentation and its archiving? I offer the following initial thoughts:

Continue reading ‘The Access powers: Open Access and Language Documentation – David Nathan’ »

Sunlight on IMLD 21 February 2014

Posters 'Language Walk' 21_2

A perfect blue sky and cool summer weather for Australia’s first International Mother Language Day (IMLD) 2014 walk. We walked from Reconcilation Place across the Kings Avenue Bridge to a Canberra park, where people sang, ate sausages, jumped on a bouncy castle, read poems in Bangla and Telugu, and generally had a good time. People from all sorts of backgrounds – Nigeria, Spain, Bangladesh, and Chris Bourke, ACT’s first Indigenous member of parliament.

This is the first time our heritage Indigenous and immigrant languages have been celebrated in this way, and it’s a great initiative of Canberra’s IMLD group.

Elsewhere in the world..

The Dhaka Times writes about the life and death of Rafiqul Islam, the man they say really pushed for the recognition of IMLD (Ekushey).

The Cherokee Nation honoured Cherokee translators who “work with technology companies, museums and universities to translate everything from documents to programs” and also a recent project to add Cherokee on Microsoft’s Office Online.

In Canada a private members bill has been introduced to get the government to recognise IMLD.

Sadly, in Iran Umid Niayesh reports: “
Tens of Iranian Azerbaijani cultural activists have been arrested in the city of Ahar in the East Azerbaijan province of Iran ahead of International Mother Language Day, the Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP) reported on Feb. 20. The report has published names of some 60 arrested civil activists which were gathered in a home in Ahar.
Ebrahim Rashidi and Abbas Lesani who have been arrested several times due to their civil rights and mother language activities are among the arrested persons.”

And sadly in Kushtia in Bangladesh there was vandalisation of a Shaheed Minar monument built in memory of the mother language protesters whose deaths on 21 February 1952 led to this day being chosen for IMLD.

And to add to the gloom, back in Australia, we have the draft report
Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory
. It is written by Bruce Wilson, director of a company ‘Education Business’. Major recommendations are that Indigenous students in the Northern Territory should be taught in English right from the start, and that for secondary schooling children from remote communities should go to boarding schools in the few big cities. The report does not tackle the fact that both strategies have been tried in the past, and have not worked. Munanga has posts detailing his concerns. You can send in a submission relating to this draft report. Submission deadline is 4.30 pm March 9.

But anyway, the couple of hours in the sunlight celebrating IMLD were great.

Berigora: a word that clawed on — from where?

The challenge

Brown falcon drawing

Brown falcon  © J.N. Davies from Birdata

‘Australia’s Most Widespread’ bird, according to Birdata’s featured bird last week, is the Brown Falcon, Falco berigora. A few months ago, a ‘complete guide to the origin of Australian bird names’ (that is, English and Linnæan names), was published, and in it Fraser and Gray (2013:80) summarised the published information on this species name:

berigora [is] stated in many places to be the name for the bird in an indigenous language, though nobody appears willing to nominate a particular language. The original namers, Vigors and Horsfield (1827), simply said: ‘The native name of this bird, which we have adopted as its specific name, is Berigora’. Gould (1848) mentioned ‘Aborigines of New South Wales’ against the word, and Morris (1898), in his Dictionary of Austral English, claimed it is made up of beri, claw, and gora, long. The word does not appear in a glossary of the languages spoken by indigenous people of the Sydney region as the time of early white settlement (Troy 1994), though many other bird names do, and the bird was certainly to be found there. Are the claws longer than those of other falcons? Perhaps not, and indeed, the toes, according to Debus (2012:131), are shorter.

Actually Falco berigora Vigors and Horsfield 1827:184-5 is one of only three birds whose scientific (Linnæan) name draws on a word of an Australian language.1 The word berigora has managed to survive in this ornithological niche, and is now guaranteed as much as longevity as science can offer. But can we give due credit to the language which provided it? Continue reading ‘Berigora: a word that clawed on — from where?’ »


Notes

  1. The other two are Ninox boobook, Latham 1801:64, Southern Boobook owl, and Petroica (Muscicapa) boodang Lesson 1837:322, Scarlet Robin, each using the name that is well attested in the Sydney Language.

Aboriginal Languages Workshop 2014

Don’t miss the annual Aboriginal Languages Workshop 2014 to be held at ANU’s beautiful Kioloa Coastal campus. The workshop web-page is up http://chl.anu.edu.au/languages/alw2014.php
And for some previous workshops: 2012 on North Stradbroke Island and 2009 at Kioloa

See the web-page for the call for abstracts - deadline: Jan 18, 2014.

First Footprints, Farsd Fatbrontz, Verst Pitprands: Spelling as if the language matters

I have watched the excellent series First Footprints a couple of times. It is a great overview of the origins of human occupation of Australia, with fantastic visual effects and photography. It starts with the declaration that “First Footprints seeks to treat Indigenous cultures and beliefs with respect”. Respecting Indigenous Australian languages should involve at least treating them the way you would any other language and checking that words in Australian Indigenous languages were written accurately. Think of the times you have watched a film that had misspelled English subtitles in it and what it makes you think of the care the subtitler took. It only took me a little effort to check on the following mistakes by web-browsing and by talking to people with experience in the particular languages.
Continue reading ‘First Footprints, Farsd Fatbrontz, Verst Pitprands: Spelling as if the language matters’ »

ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language

We have great pleasure in announcing that the ARC has funded a Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language over seven years. This project will be led by Nick Evans at ANU with a collaborative team from there, the University of Western Sydney, the University of Queensland and the University of Melbourne, and with many partners from other universities and institutions including AIATSIS and  Appen.

We want this to be a centre for collaboration, for generating  ideas and inspiration for linguistics in Australia and the world.  In the New Year we’ll be putting up a web-page to give more information, In the meantime, here’s an overview of what we are planning.

Continue reading ‘ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language’ »

Research, records and responsibility conference: Ten years of PARADISEC

RRRReception

The conference celebrating ten years of PARADISEC in early December had a suitably interdisciplinary mix of presentations. Joining in the reflection on building records of the world’s languages and cultures were musicologists, linguists, and archivists from India, Hong Kong, Poland, Canada, Alaska, Hawai’i, Australia, the UK and Russia. The range of topics covered can be seen in the program: http://paradisec.org.au/RRRProgram.html

The conference ended with a discussion of what was missing in our current tools and methods. While it is clear that linguists have done pretty well at using appropriate tools for transcribing and annotating text, and building repositories to provide long-term citation and access to the material, there is still a long way to go. Continue reading ‘Research, records and responsibility conference: Ten years of PARADISEC’ »