Author Archive

Australian Aboriginal Languages Virtual Library

David Nathan’s Virtual Library for Australian Aboriginal Languages has just been updated with about 50 new items added to the catalogue. There are now 310 resources listed, for about 100 languages.

David has also added a custom full-text search facility which enables users to search for materials by typing any text in most fields of the catalogue, or for language names or codes. Users can also suggest new materials or give feedback by filling in a web form on the site.

ELAR cracks a ton

The Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR) at SOAS reaches an important milestone this week when our 100th deposit goes online. We will be working on a further 10 deposits and doing additional curation work on those currently online over the next two months.

ELAR now has 4 terabytes (4,000 gigabytes — double that I reported in April) of language, music and cultural data and analysis online and available for registered users (and, of course, fully preserved on our storage area network and securely backed up). Some material requires subscription but we have now implemented an online subscription system that enables user requests to be easily made, with the depositor being automatically asked for permission to access the relevant files.

The following is a list of our recent additions in alphabetical order of the main language:

  1. Ainu from Japan — Documentation of the Saru dialect of Ainu by Anna Bugaeva
  2. Bajjika from India — Bajjika: Swadesh List Elicitation Sessions by Jay Huweiler
  3. Baram from Nepal — Linguistic and ethnographic documentation of Baram by Yogendra Prasad Yadava
  4. Bedik from Senegal — Documentation of Bedik by Adjaratou Oumar Sall
  5. Choguita Rarámuri from Mexico — Choguita Rarámuri description and documentation by Gabriela Caballero
  6. Kabardian from Turkey — Documentation and Analysis of Kabardian as Spoken in Turkey — by Ayla Applebaum Bozkurt
  7. Kiksht from USA — Conversational Kiksht by Nariyo Kono
  8. Kunwinjku from Australia — Itpi-itpi songs in Kunwinjku, Mawng and Kunbarlang by Linda Barwick
  9. Kunwinjku from Australia — Karrbarda songs in Kunwinjku and Kunbarlang by Linda Barwick
  10. Lakandon from Mexico — Temporal Reference in Lakandon Maya by Henrik Bergqvist
  11. Mawng from Australia — Mirrijpu (seagull) songs in spirit-language Manangkarri by Linda Barwick
  12. Mawng from Australia — Inyjalarrku songs in spirit-language Mawng by Linda Bawrick
  13. Nahua from Peru — Documentation of mythology and shamanic songs of the Nahua — Conrad Feather
  14. North Ambrym from Vanuatu — A documentation of North Ambrym, a language of Vanuatu and research into its possessive structures by Michael Franjieh
  15. Paman from Australia — Paman languages: Umpila, Kuuku Ya’u, Kaanju by Claire Hill
  16. Paresi-Haliti from Brazil — Verbal events in Paresi-Haliti by Glauber Romling da Silva
  17. Pingelapese from the Marshall Islands — Pingelapese language data by Ryoko Hattori
  18. Tesltal from Mexico — Ethnographic and discursive audiovisual corpus of Tseltal by Gilles Pollian
  19. Yami from Taiwan —Yami Documentation by Meng Chien Yang and Der-Hwa Victoria Rau
  20. Yoloxochitl Mixtec from Mexico — Yoloxochitl Mixtec stories and other oral traditions by Jonathan Amith

The following deposits are in curation and will be available soon:

  1. Alipur Village sign language from India — Investigation of an endangered village sign language in India by Sibaji Panda
  2. Bom and Kim from Sierra Leone — Documentation of Kim and Bom Languages of Sierre Leone by Tucker Childs
  3. Asheninka Perene from Peru — Asheninka Perene (Arawak) 2010 collection, from eastern Peru by Elena Mihas
  4. Desano from Brazil — Desano – audio and video materials by Wilson Silva
  5. Enindhilyakwa from Australia — Documentation of Enindhilyakwa by Marie van Egmond
  6. Ingrian from Russia — Ingrian narratives and elicitations by Fedor Rozhanskiy and Ilya Nikolaev
  7. Ingrian from Russia — Ingrian, Vatic, and Ingrian Finnish elicitations and conversations by Fedor Rozhanskiy and Mehmet Muslimov
  8. Ingrian from Russia — Ingrian narratives recorded in 2011 by Fedor Rozhanskiy and Elena Markus
  9. Mmani from Guinea — Documentation of the moribund language Mmani, a Southern Atlantic language of Niger-Congo by Tucker Childs
  10. Solega from India — Documentation of Solega by Aung Si

We will be having a small celebratory party at ELAR this week to mark what is a pretty significant milestone for us.

Endangered linguistics in Australia?

Alongside endangered languages and cultures it is starting to look like Australia may also have endangered linguists and linguistics.

According to press reports (see also here) La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia, plans to stop teaching linguistics at the undergraduate level, resulting in 4 staff positions being what the consultation document calls “surplus to our curriculum requirements”. Apparently, post-graduate research will continue via the recently revamped Centre for Research on Language Diversity now headed by Adam Schembri.

I have great affection for La Trobe Linguistics as it was where I got my first tenured academic position (as Lecturer and Head of the (then) Division of Linguistics in July 1981) and the place where I have (so far) worked the longest (14.5 years before I left in 1995 to move to the University of Melbourne). The 1980’s and 1990’s were the halcyon days of La Trobe Linguistics and the Department was a dynamic and vibrant centre for research and teaching, and a breeding ground for a significant number of staff and students who went on to distinguished careers. In the last few years the Department has shrunk considerably (only David Bradley and Marija Tabain remain as regular staff) and has had strong competition from Linguistics at both Melbourne and Monash University. Hopefully the CRLD can keep the discipline alive at La Trobe if the university does carry out its current plans.

PS: As an outside and distant observer, the situation at Sydney University also looks pretty dire — only two non-applied linguists remain there (Bill Foley and Toni Borowsky) and it may be that descriptive and theoretical linguistics is endangered there too.

‘e’s a diamond (jubilee) geezer, innit

Most of the UK seems to have been distracted over the past few weeks (and especially over the four-day long weekend that is just now drawing to an end) by the celebrations surrounding the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

Not so the hard working team at the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR) at SOAS who have been curating and processing materials to add to our website.

In the past week the following nine deposits (in alphabetical order) have been added:

  1. Avatime from Ghana by Saskia van Putten and Rebecca Defina — video and audio recordings in various genres such as ceremonial events, personal stories, route descriptions, folk tales, conversations, recipes and speech elicited using various materials. Part of the corpus has been transcribed and translated using ELAN, and there is a word list in Toolbox format
  2. Baram from Nepal by Yogendra Prasad Yadava — audio and video files with annotations in ELAN and Toolbox, and metadata files in IMDI format
  3. Cappadocian from Greece by Mark Janse — a Greek-Turkish mixed language thought to have died in the 1960s until its rediscovery in 2005. The corpus includes digital audio and text files
  4. Chatino from Mexico by Anthony Woodbury — a collection of audio and video recordings of narratives, interviews, conversations, oratory, ritual speech, linguistic elicitations, and other genres in all major varieties of Chatino. The collection of almost 2,500 files also includes transcriptions, translations, and annotations of some of the recorded texts, data sets, word lists and analyses, academic papers, and pedagogical materials
  5. Glavda from Nigeria by Jonathan Owens — includes audio data based on interviews, free conversations and verbal art among speakers in the rural homeland, along with the language of Glavda speakers in Maiduguri, the largest urban center in the region, and the goal of considerable out-migration from the rural homeland
  6. Inuit sign from Canada by Joke Schuit — a collection of video stories of past and present life of deaf Inuit community members, and some elicitation tasks based on picture drawings and/or cartoon clips, plus descriptive documents and annotation files
  7. Ju|’hoan from Namibia by Megan Biesele — the corpus contains 150 audio recordings, 27 video recordings, transcriptions, language lessons and a dictionary. The materials cover 1970 to the present
  8. Middle Chulym from Siberia by David Harrison — includes unedited video, audio, photos, lexica, and field notes, as well as processed, edited and annotated recordings, scholarly articles, and a documentary film
  9. Langue des Signes Malienne from Mali by Victoria Nyst — video recordings of spontaneous narratives and dialogues by deaf signers, as well as semi-spontaneous discourse in response to cartoons and picture-based tasks, annotated in ELAN at the gloss, translation or abstract level

In addition to this we have also been working on our “person pages” on the ELAR website. Since ELAR first went online each depositor has been provided with a basic home page giving information about themselves, including links to their ELDP project information (if they are a grantee), their personal web site etc. (see for example Claire Bowern’s depositor page). We are now extending this to all registered users of the ELAR archive who are being invited to set up and edit their own information (see my user page as a sample — there is even a picture hidden in one of the tabs!). In this way we are adding more social context to archive depositing and use. So, for example, if a user requests access to materials with the protocol of “S” (subscriber only) the depositor can access the details on their ELAR user page in order to assist in deciding if this is an appropriate person to be given access to the requested materials (in the parlance of residents in my local area in London it could help figuring out whether ‘e’s a dimond geezer or not). We are planning further developments in this area in the near future that we will report on when they are ready to go live.

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.

LDD and FEL books on sale

To celebrate Endangered Languages Week at SOAS we have cut the price of all issues of Language Documentation and Description by 20% until the end of May (copies now GBP 10, including postage). You can place orders through our online store.

Also, all Foundation for Endangered Languages books are now 25% off. Orders may be placed here.

PARADISEC prepare for new catalogue as old catalogue grows

With the upgrade to a new catalogue system just around the corner, PARADISEC staff are busily fine-tuning metadata within existing collections whilst attending to business as usual and  accessioning recordings and documents representing a wide range of languages. Take a glimpse of our latest additions and the regions they originate from below to get a feel for the linguistic diversity that is developing within our archives:








Collector Collection Description Date of recording Country Language University
ALB01 Andrea Berez Documentation of Ahtna Athabascan language of Alaska 2009 – 2010 Alaska Ahtena University of California, Santa Barbara
BA1 Barry Alpher Recordings of conversations 1996 – 1997 Australia Gugubera and Yir Yoront University of Melbourne
CF1 Cathy Falk Recordings of the Tarawangsa-kacapi ensemble from six locations in West Java, Indonesia 1974, 1977, 1979 West Java, Indonesia Sunda University of Melbourne
CR1 Calvin Roesler Folktales, origins, customs, songs, daily life and linguistic analysis 1955 – 1998 Papua, Indonesia Asmat, Central
DH1 Deborah Hill Recordings of clan history, basket weaving and folk tales 1989 Solomon Islands Longgu Australian National University
DL1 Don Laycock Biwat language documentation (Papua New Guinea) 1958 – 1978 Papua New Guinea Biwat Australian National University
GH2 Gary Holton This collection documents languages of Alor-Pantar, Indonesia, with a focus on the Western Pantar (Lamma) language 1996 – 2007 Indonesia Lamma University of Alaska
GW1 Geoffrey White History, folktales and legends 1975 – 1976 Solomon Islands Cheke Holo University of Hawaii
JH1 John Harris Transcriptions and audio recordings from Kiwaumai village, Uramu Island, PNG 1964 – 1967 Papua New Guinea Kiwai, Northeast Australian National University
JN2 John Newman A collection  of recordings, transcriptions, and other materials 2001, 2007, 2011 New Zealand , Papua New Guinea Tulu-Bohuai University of Alberta
LG1 Lauren Gawne Sessions mainly conducted in Nepali and Yolmo 2009 Nepal Helambu Sherpa University of Melbourne
MG1 Murray Groves Reel to Reel Magnetic tapes mainly concerning the Motu people of Papua 1957 – 1973 Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Samoa Motu, Tongan, Samoan Australian National University
NT10 Nick Thieberger Warnman language and songs 1988-2011 Australia Wanman (Warnman) University of Melbourne
NT5 Nick Thieberger Digital recordings made between 2000 and 2008, both audio and video 2000 – 2008 Vanuatu Efate, South University of Melbourne
RB1 Robert Blust Recordings of languages from Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea 1971 Malaysia Bintulu, Sa’ban University of Hawaii
RS1 Ruth Singer Ruth Singer’s recordings from north-west Arnhem Land, mainly Mawng at Warruwi (Goulburn Island) but also some other languages and locations 2004 – 2010 Australia Gunwinggu (Kunwinjku), Iwaidja, Maung (Mawng), Kunbarlang University of Melbourne
SUY1 Lauren Gawne Audio recordings of grammatical elicitation and words lists, audio and video recordings of stories 2010 – 2012 Nepal Kagate, Nepali University of Melbourne
TTK1 Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka Two recordings made in English and Pijin 1992 Solomon Islands English, Pijin University of Hawaii
WD1 Wayne Dye Bahinemo Language and Culture: including audio texts, photos, videos of cultural activities, transcriptions, glossary of around 3000 words with English and some Tok Pisin glosses, phonology paper, a grammar paper and various other analyses. 1964 – 1989, 2007, 2008 Papua New Guinea Bahinemo

ELW podcasts

As part of Endangered Languages Week at SOAS some of our postgraduate students have prepared a series of podcasts about a range of topics that are now available from SOAS online radio.

They include Facts for newbies, an introduction to endangered languages and their study.

Launch of the Language Landscape website that describes a project to map unexpected languages in unexpected places.

Sand drawings of Vanuatu about a unique form of communicational art which represent physical objects as well as stories of the local population, and is listed by UNESCO as part of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

Palatography describes how linguists study the articulation of sounds and the inner workings of the mouth when speaking.

Have a listen to the various topics our students talk about.

Endangered Languages Week 2012

This year’s Endangered Languages Week will be held at SOAS from 3rd to 11th May 2012. The focus this year is on Language, Performance and Culture. There will be presentations of films, talks, and performances about endangered languages and cultures over the week.

Bob Holman, poet, film maker and co-director of the Endangered Language Alliance in New York City will present aspects of his work. Diaspora communities in London (including Sherpa, Kurdish and Maori singing groups) will also perform.

Open Day, with twelve exhibitors, will be held on 9th May 11am to 5pm in The Rausing Room (R201).

For more details of all the events check out the full programme of activities.

All events are free, so if you are in London over the next two weeks do come along.

Note: The poster photograph by PhD student Michael Franjieh comes from his extensive documentation of the sand drawing and narrative performance tradition of Ambrym Island, Vanuatu — Mike’s work, along with that of other students and researchers, will feature in the Exhibition that will run throughout Endangered Languages Week.

ELAR update update

In the past month (since my previous update post) the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR) at SOAS has been moving ahead with leaps and bounds. We now have 66 deposits available on our website, with six more having been added on Monday this week. There are now 41,690 files available online, amounting to 2 terabytes (2,000 gigabytes) of audio, video, image, text and metadata materials.

Our user group has also jumped and now stands at 545; it has been increasing at the rate of 1 per day for the past month! It is exciting to see the rising numbers of people interested in using the endangered languages materials in ELAR.

This will probably be my last update about ELAR here — that’s right, you won’t have to read about “ELAR update update update” :-). We have just launched on Twitter (@ELARarchive) and Facebook (ELAR archive) so if you want to keep in touch with our activities in future you can follow us on Twitter or become our Facebook friend. And if you are not already a user do sign up here.