Archive for the ‘Documentation’ Category.

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The published Barcoo River (Queensland) expedition diary of explorer Edmund Kennedy (1852) was augmented with unpublished manuscript sources and republished by Edgar Beale (1983).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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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’ »

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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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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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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Seeking your help with tool development

We are in the process of identifying gaps in tools for fieldwork and data analysis that can be filled as part of the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language. I’d like to ask for your input into the requirements for a metadata entry tool. In part, this analysis asks for your opinions on the value of existing tools (listed below) and their relative strengths and weaknesses, and asks if it may be worth putting effort into developing any of them further, rather than starting from scratch.

The high-level requirement of this tool is to make it easy to describe files created in fieldwork, to be available both off- and on-line and to deliver the description as a text file for upload to an archive. This includes capturing as much metadata from the files themselves; providing controlled vocabularies of terms to select from (preferably via drag-and-drop rather than keyboard entry); allowing the metadata to be exported in a range of formats to suit whichever archive will host the collection; allowing the metadata to be imported to the tool for use by collaborative team members; allowing controlled vocabularies to be amended to suit the local situation. This tool could also allow users to visualise the state of a collection: which media files have been transcribed, which have been interlinearised, have text files been scanned, OCRed …. what other processes have been applied, which have been archived, what the rights are for each file, also allowing the user to specify what these criteria are for their own type of collection.

These are the currently available tools, please let us know of any others (especially those created for different disciplinary fieldwork):
Arbil
SayMore
ExSite9
CMDI Maker

You can either add comments below, or else write to me separately (thien [at] unimelb.edu.au) with your ideas that can contribute to how we develop this tool.

Dry-dock launch of ‘Kochlinger’

kochlinger
On Thursday I had a most pleasurable time launching a new book on Australian languages and linguistics at the terrific annual conference of the Australian Linguistics Society in Newcastle (thanks Newcastle organisers!). Here goes for ALS’s first ever dry-dock launch… for Harold Koch and Rachel Nordlinger’s co-edited book (2014) The languages and linguistics of Australia: a comprehensive guide.

Australia has a long and interesting history of developing new kinds of books about language areas. In the nineteenth century we had compendia of vocabularies across Australia or parts – by Edward Curr (Curr, 1887), George Taplin (Taplin, 1879) and Robert Brough-Smyth (Smyth, 1876). This was followed in the early twentieth century by Wilhelm Schmidt’s pan-Australia classificatory work (Schmidt, 1919), and later Arthur Capell’s new approach to Australian linguistics (Capell, 1956). Then Norman Tindale produced his map and bibliography in 1974 (Tindale, 1974). In 1976 Dixon edited a collection of papers by lots of different linguists addressing the same grammatical topics (Robert M.W. Dixon, 1976). A flurry of different types of books appeared in the 1980s—from R M W Dixon and Barry Blake’s editing of short grammar handbook series (e.g. Dixon and Blake, 1983), the handbook series for geographic areas with vocabularies and bibliographies which Jim Wafer initiated (e.g. Menning and Nash, 1981). Then there were overview books (Blake, 1987; Dixon, 1980; Yallop, 1982). In 1993 Michael Walsh and Colin Yallop produced their edited collection of chapters on different topics in Indigenous languages (Walsh and Yallop, 1993). That book became the mainstay of courses on Aboriginal languages and was affectionately known as ‘Wallop’.
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