Author Archive

David Nathan on EL Publishing’s first month, about Open Access, and being Open about Access

David Nathan writes

EL Publishing is a new online publisher which was launched on 18th July and which will publish a journal, multimedia, and monographs, focussing on documentation and description of endangered languages. EL Publishing has an international editorial board and operates a fully double-blind peer-review process for all submitted materials.

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Hurry again – Groote Eylandt linguist position

JOB VACANCY
Linguist

Anindilyakwa Services Aboriginal Corporation (ASAC) is located on Groote Eylandt, situated on the western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, is a newly established entity with the core objective to relive the poverty, improve the well-being, and promote the community development of the Anindilyakwa people.
The Linguistics Centre is currently responsible for effectively promoting and fostering Anindilyakwa language and culture through the provision of services for the benefit of indigenous communities of the Groote Archipelago.

Reporting to the Cultural Centres Project Manager, this project position is responsible for assessing the current linguistics operations and advising on the strategic direction of the Linguistics Centre into the future, in collaboration with the Cultural Centres, and to provide a strategic plan and further operational plan, detailing the future of linguistics within the Groote Archipelago. This is a great opportunity to work in a vibrant and complex linguistic and cultural environment.
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Hurry! Job as linguist in Barkly and Alice regions of Northern Territory – deadline extended to Monday 16 June

Short-term job – forwarded by Susan Moore – for more information contact her; tel: (08) 89511662 e: susan.moore@nt.gov.au

Northern Territory Department of Education
Job Title: Senior Language Resource Officer
Designation: Senior Professional 1
Work Unit: School Education South
Position Number: 19164
Responsible To: Manager Learning and Performance

Primary Objective
Support the delivery of vernacular and English language programs in the context of Indigenous Languages and Cultures Programs and Indigenous education as appropriate to the region.
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Garbled voices: restoring Aboriginal words and meanings in historical sources

All who can make it to Canberra are welcome to attend our workshop next week.

Garbled voices from the archives: A workshop on restoring Aboriginal words and meanings in historical sources.

Date and time: 9am-4pm, 15-16 April 2014 Lunch provided (There is no obligation to attend all sessions)
Location: Room W3.03, Level 3, Baldessin Precinct Building (110), The Australian National University

How do we make sense of Aboriginal words recorded in early sources when the language cannot be identified? What if the language is known, but no speakers remain?

Our workshop seeks to bring together scholars who routinely work with old sources on Australia’s indigenous cultures, from Aboriginal people investigating their heritage, to linguists, archivists, anthropologists and historians. The standing challenge of working with historical documents is that individual scribes applied their own personal spelling conventions, and may not have heard the sounds accurately to begin with. As a result, many of the most important ethnographic, linguistic and historical materials are accessible only to specialist scholars who have knowledge of Aboriginal sound systems and long experience working with archival sources.

Over two days, the workshop will hear presentations from a range of practitioners who will describe informative case studies and offer practical interpretive techniques. Plenty of time is given for discussion between each session. Feel free to bring your own archival conundrums for analysis by the group.

No registration is required but please RSVP to Piers Kelly (Piers.Kelly @ anu.edu.au) for catering purposes.

More details here: http://slll.anu.edu.au/news-events/events/garbled-voices-archives-restoring-aboriginal-words-and-meanings-historical

A copy of the workshop program can be downloaded here.

The Access powers: Open Access and Language Documentation – David Nathan

[This post was written by David Nathan]

“… You cannot sue us for libel, though we have exposed your characters, your secrets, and your private lives. Our protection lies in your unworldliness.”

(Mary and Elizabeth Durack. 1935. All-About: The story of a Black Community on Argyle Station, Kimberley. Sydney: The Bulletin)

The issue of Open Access has recently been brought to the attention of many language documenters. For example, ELDP, funded by Arcadia, recently announced an Open Access policy in its guidelines, and the same policy may eventually be applied to ELAR. But is Open Access relevant and appropriate for language documentation and its archiving? I offer the following initial thoughts:

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Sunlight on IMLD 21 February 2014

Posters 'Language Walk' 21_2

A perfect blue sky and cool summer weather for Australia’s first International Mother Language Day (IMLD) 2014 walk. We walked from Reconcilation Place across the Kings Avenue Bridge to a Canberra park, where people sang, ate sausages, jumped on a bouncy castle, read poems in Bangla and Telugu, and generally had a good time. People from all sorts of backgrounds – Nigeria, Spain, Bangladesh, and Chris Bourke, ACT’s first Indigenous member of parliament.

This is the first time our heritage Indigenous and immigrant languages have been celebrated in this way, and it’s a great initiative of Canberra’s IMLD group.

Elsewhere in the world..

The Dhaka Times writes about the life and death of Rafiqul Islam, the man they say really pushed for the recognition of IMLD (Ekushey).

The Cherokee Nation honoured Cherokee translators who “work with technology companies, museums and universities to translate everything from documents to programs” and also a recent project to add Cherokee on Microsoft’s Office Online.

In Canada a private members bill has been introduced to get the government to recognise IMLD.

Sadly, in Iran Umid Niayesh reports: “
Tens of Iranian Azerbaijani cultural activists have been arrested in the city of Ahar in the East Azerbaijan province of Iran ahead of International Mother Language Day, the Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP) reported on Feb. 20. The report has published names of some 60 arrested civil activists which were gathered in a home in Ahar.
Ebrahim Rashidi and Abbas Lesani who have been arrested several times due to their civil rights and mother language activities are among the arrested persons.”

And sadly in Kushtia in Bangladesh there was vandalisation of a Shaheed Minar monument built in memory of the mother language protesters whose deaths on 21 February 1952 led to this day being chosen for IMLD.

And to add to the gloom, back in Australia, we have the draft report
Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory
. It is written by Bruce Wilson, director of a company ‘Education Business’. Major recommendations are that Indigenous students in the Northern Territory should be taught in English right from the start, and that for secondary schooling children from remote communities should go to boarding schools in the few big cities. The report does not tackle the fact that both strategies have been tried in the past, and have not worked. Munanga has posts detailing his concerns. You can send in a submission relating to this draft report. Submission deadline is 4.30 pm March 9.

But anyway, the couple of hours in the sunlight celebrating IMLD were great.

Aboriginal Languages Workshop 2014

Don’t miss the annual Aboriginal Languages Workshop 2014 to be held at ANU’s beautiful Kioloa Coastal campus. The workshop web-page is up http://chl.anu.edu.au/languages/alw2014.php
And for some previous workshops: 2012 on North Stradbroke Island and 2009 at Kioloa

See the web-page for the call for abstracts – deadline: Jan 18, 2014.

19 October National Day of Mourning

Today is 12 years since an unnamed boat sank on the way to Australia. The boat became known as SIEV X (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel, Unknown). At least 146 children, 142 women and 65 men from Iraq and Afghanistan drowned; their names are tracked on a non-official website. The voices of the survivors are rarely heard: Ahmed Al-Zalimi here, Faris Shohani here.

A writer, Arnold Zable, calls for 19 October as an annual national day of mourning in today’s Canberra Times (Forum p.2).

We have a non-official SIEV-X memorial in Canberra; it was devised by 300+ groups, schools and churches who felt and feel grief at that tragedy and the continuing tragedies. The memorial survives thanks to the ACT Government.

SIEV X Memorial http://www.sievxmemorial.com/images/sievx-memorial-poles-aerial.jpg

SIEV X Memorial
http://www.sievxmemorial.com/images/sievx-memorial-poles-aerial.jpg

Lest we forget non-officially.

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.