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.

Continue reading ‘Improving the Metadata of Papua New Guinea Collections’ »

PARADISEC Activity Update

PARADISEC is steaming in to 2017, with plenty of activity across our offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

It’s been a huge year of increasing our quantity of archived material, growing 79% in 13 months since April 2016 from 14TB to 25TB, in part due to the contribution of the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language. The collection now represents 1,085 languages in nearly 153,000 files. This could be an interesting challenge we will face in the coming years – the continued growth in our requirement for digital storage space. This 11TB represents an increase to 7,150 hours of audio recordings (growth of 125% since April 2016!), with 40 new collections and nearly 2200 new items.

Continue reading ‘PARADISEC Activity Update’ »

Why researching languages in the family is complicated and how it can be the most entertaining thing – MLIP blog April 2017

MLIP blog April 2017

Alan Ray recaps the April Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub (MLIP) a monthly discussion group. This month’s MLIP was held in conjunction with Language practices and language policies in multilingual contexts workshop, University of Melbourne 6-7 April 2017

Leading the discussion was Judith Purkarthofer, Multiling: Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan, University of Oslo

She summarised the discussion in the announcement on the RNLD blog as below:
This discussion will start with experiences in researching family languages, policies and practices in a Northern European context. National languages, minority languages and languages of migration are considered a public question, but they are also very much a private question for families and family members.

Continue reading ‘Why researching languages in the family is complicated and how it can be the most entertaining thing – MLIP blog April 2017’ »

You’ve got a skin name- so use it! Promoting language diversity in the field – MLIP blog March 2017

MLIP blog March 2017

Ruth Singer recaps the March Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub (MLIP) a monthly discussion group.

On 1st March 2017, Alex Marley (ANU/Wellsprings) led a discussion on promoting language diversity in the field. The announcement for the discussion session looked like this:

You’ve got a skin name- so use it! Promoting language diversity in the field

As linguists, we are occasionally called upon to provide professional advice and consultation to government or community organisations. However, how our advice is received, implemented or interpreted can be disappointing and frustrating.

Continue reading ‘You’ve got a skin name- so use it! Promoting language diversity in the field – MLIP blog March 2017’ »

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.

Continue reading ‘More Pacific Manuscripts now available in PARADISEC’ »

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’ »

Working together to bring legacy Pacific language recordings to light

AC1-digitising

This is the story of institutional collaboration at its best.

In 2013 Bill Palmer sent through a list of 78 rpm discs held by the National Library of Australia, summarised in their catalog as follows:

“The collection consists of two albums and 20 single sound discs, word lists, slides and photographs. Records include specimens of native languages of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate; speech of Hagen natives; gospel recordings; and titles in Fijian, Babatana, Owa Raha, Bilua, Marovo, Dobu, Ungarinyin, Hula, Tavara, Motu, Johore Malay, Western Sumatra Malay, Wedau and Police Motu. Brief typescript word lists are included with the Motu, Hula, Tavara, Dobu and Babatana sound discs. There is an English-Owa Rahan vocabluary for the Owa Raha disc.”

We sent a request to the NLA with whom PARADISEC has always had a close working relationship. They agreed in principle and then we had periodic contact about this. In July 2015 we approached the National Film and Sound Archive who have the necessary playback equipment. Further to-ing and fro-ing of emails finally resulted in agreement from the NLA in June 2016.
Continue reading ‘Working together to bring legacy Pacific language recordings to light’ »

Polynesian plant names used on Lord Howe Island

Guest post by Jim Smith (PhD, Macquarie University):

In 2001 the discovery of a colony of Lord Howe Island Stick Insects living on Balls Pyramid, near Lord Howe Island, received international publicity. This species, originally very common on Lord Howe Island, had been thought to be extinct until rockclimbers, in 1964 and 1969, found evidence that it was still surviving on Balls Pyramid. In 2001 the Balls Pyramid colony was observed eating the leaves of a Tea-tree Melaleuca howeana which is endemic to Lord Howe and adjacent islands.

The local name of this Melaleuca species was first published in 1869: “A shrubby Melaleuca, inhabiting rocky exposed situations near the coast on the south-western side… locally called kilmogue, is used as a substitute for tea and said to be a pleasant and exhilarating beverage.” (Hill 1869:7; Moore 1870:9).1 When Maiden recorded the local vernacular names of plants and trees on Lord Howe Island in the 1880s, only two had non-English names. These were the Melaleuca, still known as kilmogue and Elaeodendron curtipendulum, a large tree also found on Norfolk Island and New Caledonia, which was known as tumana (Maiden 1898). The Melaleuca was still known as kilmoke in the 1930s (Nicholls 1938:90). Continue reading ‘Polynesian plant names used on Lord Howe Island’ »


Notes

  1. In Australia and New Zealand species of both Melaleuca and Leptospermum can be referred to as Tea-trees. Leptospermum polygalifolium occurs on Lord Howe Island but does not appear to have been made into ‘tea’ or referred to by the Polynesian name.

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.
Continue reading ‘Mouldy Mayhem’ »

The challenge that language variation poses to language description – a LIP recap

The July edition of LIP was led by David Gil from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena. The night was well attended with representatives from all the usual suspects: University of Melbourne, Monash, and La Trobe. Attendees this month also came from the University of New England, ANU, as well as from SOAS, London and NTNU, Norway. The evening’s discussion centred on issues related to Malay and Indonesian languages and varieties, but also included discussion of language documentation and description in general. Continue reading ‘The challenge that language variation poses to language description – a LIP recap’ »