Author Archive

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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Improving the Metadata of Papua New Guinea Collections

Written by Steven Gagau and Jodie Kell

As part of a project to improve the metadata of PARADISEC’s Papua New Guinea collections made possible with funding from the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), PARADISEC has welcomed Steven Gagau into the Sydney office. Steven was engaged as a Research Assistant to provide language support for the project. Steven’s key role is listening to PNG collections held in the PARADISEC catalogue to find out more about the recordings and record this information into the catalogue.

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Steven can be seen here with Nick Ward from PARADISEC

 

Steven’s role involves listening to recordings of people speaking and singing and then documenting details about the content of the collections specific to the items. He verifies the catalogue details in Title, Description, Dates, Subject and Content languages, Regions and Villages and locates on language maps. He further determines the discourse types such as language play, oratory, report, procedural, formulaic, interactive, narrative or singing.

He then edits the data and updates directly the PARADISEC catalogue for metadata enrichment thus contributing to enhancing the knowledge and information of these materials held.

Steven’s initial work was on the extensive collection recorded by Dr. Thomas (Tom) Dutton in the Kuanua language of the “Tolai” people of the Gazelle Peninsula of East New Britain Province. Dr. Dutton was a linguist with the Australian National University between 1969 and 1997. Prior to taking up linguistics Dutton was an Education Officer in the Administration of Papua and New Guinea. His many books include studies on Papuan languages and the collection digitised by PARDISEC includes his fieldwork tape recordings and other recordings developed to accompany his language learning publications.

Lately, Steven has been working on the materials in the catalogue by collectors from various regions with their language and cultural groups in PNG guided by the database of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) of PNG. Given his local knowledge of Papua New Guinea, he is able to identify the language and cultural groups to improve the metadata materials in the catalogue collections. He is now reviewing tape collections from Divine Word University (DWU) in Madang, PNG where there are a wide variety of items and discourse types being verified and enhanced in the catalogue.

Steven has extended his language and cultural knowledge to Melanesia Region where he is now involved with Vanuatu and Solomon Islands collections and can enhance the metadata in Bislama (Vanuatu) and Pijin (Solomon Islands) languages similar to Tok Pisin where are usually referred to as Melanesian Pidgin languages and are lingua franca languages in these countries.

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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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