Archive for the ‘Indigenous Australia News’ Category.

Upcoming lecture: Payi Linda Ford – New ways for old ceremonies

Payi Linda Ford will deliver the Alfred Hook Lecture at 5pm on Wednesday 11 May 2016 at the Charles Perkins Centre Lecture Theatre, Building D17, Johns Hopkins Drive (off Missenden Road), The University of Sydney NSW 2006

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A fruitful day in Copenhagen

No one likes the term ‘entomophogy’, and perhaps even fewer people know what it means. The title of the journal ‘Insects as food & feed’ is a deliberate move away from it, but even the term ‘edible insect’ is not unproblematic. According to GREEiNSECT researcher Afton Halloran, in many cultures the question ‘Do you eat insects?’ can get a negative response, whereas asking about a particularly species more often yields ‘yes’. Some Kaytetye speakers prefer the word ‘witchetty’ to ‘grub’; coining terms such as ‘whitewood witchetty’ and ‘river red gum witchetty’ as translations of the various edible larvae, a semantic extension also found in Kaytetye.

The pejorative overtones of English ‘grub’ and ‘insect’ reflects a preference in English to use a culinary name for animals as food. Consider ‘meat/animal’, ‘venison/deer’ etc. When the Kangaroo Industry sought a culinary term for skippy, they may have done better had they adopted marlu (Warlpiri) instead of the neologism ‘australus’. For ‘edible insects’ a similarly palatable set of sounds for English speakers might be tjapa (Western Arrarnta).

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Every hill got a story oral history just out

Every hill got a story: we grew up in country w51TVk4uaX0L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_as launched this afternoon at Alice Springs Telegraph Station. A companion multimedia site is hosted by SBS Books. The substantial volume is sold by SBS Books and is also available on Kindle.

The volume by ‘men and women of central Australia and the Central Land Council’ is compiled and edited by Marg Bowman, carrying on from the late Jane Hodson, long term anchor of the CLC media section.

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The 2014 ARC Cup

An astonishingly good ARC Cup run for Indigenous Australian languages. Onya! Good news for horses from PARADISEC, ELAC blog contributors and the new Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

Amidst this joy, deep sympathy to the many people working in linguistics who put in terrific projects that didn’t get funded.

This is the field for Indigenous language work as I see it – if I’ve missed anyone, lemme know.
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Myfany Turpin on Sand goannas in central Australian languages –

From Myfany Turpin

Aremay_alewatyerr
Picture © Myfany Turpin

The names for ‘sand goanna’ (Varanus gouldii) in the languages of areas where they are found often correspond to two ethnospecies. Photographed here are the small arlewatyerre and the large aremaye, both from near Barrow Creek, NT, as they are called in Arandic languages (Arrernte, Kaytetye, Anmatyerr and Alyawarr). On this day my companions successfully hunted both in close proximity, so I thought I’d see if there were differences in the scientific taxonomy that could improve my translations of ‘small sand goanna’ and ‘large sand goanna’ respectively.
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Kenneth L. Hale Award: Claire Bowern (Yale University)

Excellent news! Claire Bowern (see also Anggarrgoon) has been awarded the Kenneth L. Hale Award. Here’s the LSA’s commendation.

Claire Bowern and her work is the embodiment of the qualities that the Linguistic Society of America would like to see in a Hale award winner. Claire has been involved with documentation of the Bardi language in Australia since 1999, beginning while she was still an undergraduate at Australia National University. She led an oral history project, producing a large corpus of the language. She has published academic material and community materials both, including a gazetteer, narratives, a dictionary, and a learners guide. The nomination letter says that ‘Claire Bowern and her work represent the true spirit of Ken’s devotion to endangered languages in particular and linguistics at large. Her work is an inspiration to all of us, and especially to young scholars in our field.’
This award is presented in recognition of exemplary work on the documentation of Bardi, a highly endangered language, with outstanding contributions to the community and to linguistics.

Rejoicing at AUSTRALEX

AUSTRALEX held its biennial conference in a surprisingly green Adelaide, and the tall gums were filled with birds rejoicing. It was the biggest AUSTRALEX conference I’ve ever been to, a range of speakers from around the world, the first one with parallel sessions, and by far the greatest media coverage of any Australian linguistics/lexicography conference – around 16 news items. Amazing, and good work by the promoter, Ghil’ad Zuckermann!

The theme of this conference was Endangered Words, and Signs of Revival. What is an endangered word? Is it a word in a language for an idea that no other language has a word for? Is it a word in an endangered language? Is it both? Do they include the ephemeral words and phrases (e.g. the current Free free the refugees which I remember years ago as Free, free the ACT from, from the bourgeoisie). What does it mean to revive words? What habitats do endangered words survive on in? e.g. David Nash‘s paper noted that some words of Indigenous languages survive in scientific names – as Nicotiana rosulata subsp. Ingulba which J.M.Black named in the 1930s using the local Arrernte name for the plant. Discussion of this led to the mention of a fossil python, preserving a possibly ephemeral cultural reference: Montypythonoides).

Revival was front stage at the start, with a welcome to country and a speech in Kaurna by Jack Buckskin (Jack is starring in a recent film about his work). As if this wasn’t terrific enough, he followed it with a song he’d written in Kaurna, and played the didgeridoo (paying respect to the northern Australians who play it). It was a great tribute to what waking up a language can do.

The conference concluded with a related event that I really really regret missing — on Saturday, Kaurna people, descendants of the first missionaries, current Lutherans, linguists and lexicographers visited Pirlta Wardli (Possum house:the place where the first missionaries worked). They got together to recognise and celebrate the work those missionaries did on documenting Kaurna language and teaching Kaurna children to read and write their own language. There was a prelaunch of a Kaurna Learners Guide by Rob Amery. The event was supported by the Yitpi Foundation, which Tony Rathjen set up, and which has been a great and quiet supporter of Aboriginal languages.

Coming together at AUSTRALEX helps us realise that we can learn from each other. Dictionary-making seems at the outset so simple – how hard can it be to make a list of words and their meanings? And so many of us rush into it, and then discover problems, and have to think up solutions to them, when all the while other people have been dealing with similar problems. So it was great to see the makers of dictionaries for small endangered languages in discussion with people who mine the web to create huge corpora. There were talks on production of dictionaries and workflow (e.g. Lauren Gawne on two dictionaries she’s worked on – Lamjung Yolmo and Kagate) and on beginning dictionaries – Norah Zhong‘s dictionary of Western Yugur). Both papers raised the question of sources and corpora – so it was nice to set this against Julia Robinson‘s fascinating discussion of changing practice in searching for antedatings and historical evidence for the Australian National Dictionary. (Which raised in my mind the question of whether the privileging of literary sources is a legacy problem for English dictionaries on historical principles).

There was also a strong sense of history at the conference, paying tribute to the work of early word collectors – Luise Hercus described her first realisation in 1962 in Victoria, that there still were speakers and rememberers of many languages, and then how she devoted herself to recording them, and what they wanted recorded, which very often were songs and the places associated with the songs.

Archival work also featured, Mary-Anne Gale paying tribute to the organisation of Boandik materials by Barry Blake which Boandik language revivers have made considerable use of. Going to another country entirely, Lars-Gunnar Larsson described how much Ume Saami (southern Sweden) material had been recorded in the archives, and described how careful analysis of archival sources on Ume Saami had shown that there were village dialects, which differed systematically, rather than there being random chaotic variation in a language attrition situation. He also raised the question of conflicts between archival material and the later material on which Ume Saami revival has been based – [a dictionary of material collected during World War 2 by a German linguist, Wolfgang Schlachter, who was nearly blind. He lived with a Saami family who defended him when Swedes wanted to arrest him as a German spy.]

Similar kinds of conflicts are probably what led John Hobson to suggest returning “to a gentler model of prescriptivism” that will help communities trying to get revival underway. Few people can learn spelling, grammar etc under the “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach. Related to this are the difficulties raised by Peter Mühlhäusler for the new languages/English varieties of Pitkern and Norf’k of how to prepare a dictionary for a non-standard language, where families argue about what words to include – a situation familiar to many people working on small languages, whether traditional or new. (Worst pun of conference -description of Mühlhäusler, a ferret enthusiast, as Professor Eferretus).

I was particularly taken with the work on creating new terms, whether for Boandik (Gale), Kaurna (Jasmin Morley) or more generally in John Hobson‘s paper where he presented a resource for communities wanting to create new words – basically a list of strategies for doing this, and examples of it. Over the borrowing/copying strategy, Wanda Miller emphasised that linguists have a responsibility when they go out to communities to speak with the elders about copying words, and if a word is copied, then in our resources and books acknowledge where that word is taken from. John Hobson reported that a trial release to some University of Sydney Master of Indigenous Language Education students this year was greeted with praise. You can find the resource online here.

AUSTRALEX 2015 is probably to be held in New Zealand, home and exporter of many great lexicographers.

Australian Aboriginal Language Materials in ELAR


If you are interested in Australian Aboriginal languages you might like to take at look at the growing number of collections of audio, video and text materials that are now available in the ELAR archive.

Currently there are six online collections (comprising almost 900 file bundles) for languages from northern Australia, with one more from central Australia that we are currently working on, and several others queued for processing. The following is a brief listing of what is available right now:

  1. Claire Bowern’s Yan-nhangu Language Documentation 1 from north-east Anrhemland — 160 audio files, along with transcriptions of many of the recordings
  2. Claire Bowern’s Yan-nhangu Language Documentation 2 — over 140 audio and video files, as well as some translations into English and Djambarrpuyŋu
  3. Clair Hill’s Paman languages: Umpila, Kuuku Ya’u, Kaanju from Cape York Peninsula — including over 70 stories
  4. Eric Round’s Documentation of Kayardild from Bentick Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria — about 500 files, including audio, video, ELAN transcription files, and summary metadata
  5. Ruth Singer’s Mawng Dictionary Project from northern Anrhemland — audio recordings of myths and stories about traditional customs, video recordings made by Elizabeth Langslow as part of a community video project, and materials checking dictionary definitions
  6. Jean-Christophe Verstraete’s Paman languages: Umpithamu, Morrobolam, Mbarrumbathama from Cape York Peninsula — audio and video recordings and transcriptions of texts, along with lexical and grammatical elicitation

We have recently received Carmel O’Shannessy’s Traditional Warlpiri songs from Central Australia — six traditional Warlpiri love songs, called yilpinji, sung by Teddy Morrison Jupurrurla (transcribed and translated video and audio files) and two ceremonial initiation songs, sung by Peter Dixon Japanangka and a group of elder men (video and audio files). This collection is being curated and will be available on the ELAR website soon.

Several other Australian Aboriginal collections have been received from depositors and are being curated for addition to our archive. News about them will be circulated when they are available online.

Book launch: Kaytetye Dictionary

At the Aboriginal Languages Workshop at North Stradbroke Island last month, as usual there were things to celebrate. I had the honour of helping launch the Kaytetye Dictionary*. Book launches are a lovely way of thinking about and celebrating people’s work and ideas. Here’s what I said, more or less.

Things I love about this dictionary

1. it’s alkenhe (big) and contains elperterre (hard language).

2. It has lots of audiences: community members, linguists, scientists, teachers, people who want to learn the language. And the compilers, Myfany Turpin and the Kaytetye linguist, Alison Ross, have done their best to help all of these audiences. This is a dictionary that we will all learn from, not just for the encyclopaedic knowledge of Kaytetye it embodies, but also for how to present dictionary information.

3. I was trying to think of a metaphor to describe the Kaytetye Dictionary project. And I came up with the quandong tree (not a tree from Kaytetye country but not far off…).

Quandong tree: fruit
The bright red fruit looks pretty and it’s delicious. So I dip into the Kaytetye dictionary anywhere and I find things I love, I just keep on eating. Here are some:

Pronunciation: Arandic languages have a spelling system which takes a lot of getting used to – but the introduction to the dictionary is a real winner. It explains the system, demonstrates how sounds are made, gives respellings that will help English speakers, and even fuzzy spelling search clues. One thing I really like is the cross reference to words that sound similar arerre ‘collarbone’ and ararre ‘white bread’ are cross-referenced to help you distinguish between them.

Words: The dictionary includes not just traditional words but words for new things, words which show Kaytetye as a living language, one that a speech community uses to talk about things like batik wax, atnkere, and not-so-everyday things like guardian angels, arremparrenge. It also includes placenames, and a map with around 100 place names including country names. Yes!

It includes words for things which are very hard to elicit without the wholehearted deep involvement of native speakers. The clitic =akwele is glossed as:
“Of course, certainly; shows you are sure that what you are saying is true because you are speaking from your own knowledge, experience of authority” and then as a second sense:
When someone is repeatedly telling you something, akwele shows that you have heard what the person is saying and suggests that they don’t need to keep on about it.

ayntengarrenke is glossed as “Crawl back to someone after rubbishing them”. Not the kind of word that comes up in elicitation sessions..

And the gloss leads to another thing I like: Myf and Alison have used a lot of everyday language from Central Australia which will make it more useful to Kaytetye people. So, – you’ll find mpwarle arlwar-atnenke glossed as ‘busting for the toilet’.

Quandong tree: roots and branches
Like a quandong tree,the roots and branches are what produce the dictionary – and that is the fieldwork, and the resulting collection of tapes, transcriptions and linkages between example sentences and speakers that underlies the dictionary. This dictionary is just a fraction of what’s contained in that collection, which has already produced the Kaytetye Picture Dictionary. If you find something missing, it’s almost certainly in the massive underlying collection – e.g. following the practice of the other Arandic dictionaries, examples are not sourced, but that information is in the underlying files.

Quandong tree: root sustaining
A special thing about quandong trees is that, to start growing in the first place, they have to have initial sustenance from the roots of trees growing around. And for dictionaries, that sustenance is generosity. This generosity has manifested in many forms.

First are the more than 70 Kaytetye speakers who gave their time and enthusiasm to work with Myf and Alison on the dictionary. Many have since died, and the dictionary honours their work.

Second are the earlier researchers on Kaytetye and on Arandic: Ken Hale, Harold Koch, Grace Koch, and Gavan Breen, who freely added the material they’d collected to form the basis of the Kaytetye dictionary.

Third is the community of Alice Springs, an amazingly collaborative place, where Myf was able to collaborate with natural scientists who have worked to identify plants, animals, reptiles. (but she did say in her speech that some insects had proved hard to label, and the best they could suggest for witchetty grubs was that she let them hatch to see what they turned into..)

Fourth is the wonderful Alice Springs collaboration on picture dictionaries, learners guides and reference dictionaries published by IAD Press. A whole grove of them has grown up since the early 1980s. Through the efforts of Gavan Breen, Veronica Dobson, Cliff Goddard, Jenny Green, John Henderson, Robert Hoogenraad, Jim Wafer, David Wilkins and many others, there are materials such as picture dictionaries, learners guides and reference dictionaries for Mparntwe Arrernte, Alyawarr, Anmatyerr, Pitjantjatjara, Warlpiri…. and each dictionary compiler has built on the dictionaries of the past, so that the Kaytetye Dictionary draws on the information and good ideas of the previous dictionaries.

Finally there is the generosity of the compilers. Myf talked about Alison Ross and how she had worked with her grandmother and had produced several hundred written definitions in Kaytetye. I talked about Myf. She has over many years published an enormous amount of analysis and documentation of Kaytetye that is of great benefit to the Kaytetye community as well as to linguists. In 2000 she produced A Learner’s Guide to Kaytetye. IAD Press, Alice Springs, NT. In 2003 came the text collection Growing Up Kaytetye. Stories by Tommy Kngwarraye Thompson. (It’s one of his paintings that provides the beautiful cover of the dictionary). In 2004 she and Alison Ross produced the Kaytetye Picture Dictionary, and a CD Awelye Akwelye: Kaytetye women’s songs from Arnerre, Central Australia. (This was distributed by Papulu Apparr-kari language and culture centre, Tennant Creek. Recordings by Grace, Koch, Linda Barwick and Myfany Turpin, commentary by Myfany Turpin and Alison Ross. Somewhere along the line she produced a Kaytetye version of Sesame Street. Oh and by the by she fitted in her PhD thesis, Form and meaning of Akwelye: a Kaytetye women’s song series from Central Australia: University of Sydney PhD, 2005.
And now, this enormous dictionary. In today’s academic climate this has been an extraordinarily generous act. And it’s been a family act – one of the three proof-readers was Myf’s mum.

Alkapertawe! (finished, completed, done)


*Claimer: I’d gone out and bought a copy as soon as I saw it…before being asked to launch it…

The living archive of Aboriginal languages – call for expressions of interest

CALL FOR EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST
DEVELOP A USER-FRIENDLY SEARCH INTERFACE AND TOUCHPAD APP FOR A DIGITAL ARCHIVE OF LITERATURE IN ABORIGINAL LANGUAGES
THE LIVING ARCHIVE PROJECT

Submission date: 30 April 2012

During the era of bilingual education in the NT, books were produced in 25 Literature Production Centres in more than 16 languages. These materials are widely dispersed and endangered, and contain interesting and significant stories in indigenous Australian languages, often beautifully illustrated. This is an important collection and must be preserved for the future. We are creating a living archive of these endangered materials, in partnership with the communities of origin. This archive will be stored in the Charles Darwin University eSpace repository (http://espace.cdu.edu.au/). With permission from the language owners, materials in the archive will be accessible to Aboriginal communities, academics and the world. As some users may not have high levels of text literacy or technical ability the archive will require a user-friendly visual interface to allow searches beyond the conventional database search capabilities.

  • browse by image
    users view thumbnails of the covers of books and roll-over to see a larger image with basic metadata and select items to view
  • search by text
    users start typing a word and resources are selectively filtered to retain only those with that sequence of characters in their metadata. For example typing dja would retain books in Djapu and Djambarrpuyŋu, as well as books by Djäwa and books about djamarrkuli or with the word djamarrkuli in their title.
  • search by location
    users click on an area on a map to retrieve all materials in that language or from that region

See the attached call for expressions of interest: EoI LAAL User-friendly search interface.

Read more about the project at the living archive of Aboriginal languages

Submit applications to livingarchive AT cdu.edu.au including samples of references from clients and an estimate of cost, by 30 April 2012.