You gotta be in it to win it

Peter Austin’s blog post deals with online endangered language archive searchability. As one of the targets of his latest post, PARADISEC apparently does not provide him with the results he wants in searching a catalog. Searching for ‘Educational material’ in a catalog makes lots of assumptions about the way that catalog has been constructed, one of which must be that the term is provided by the catalog or that the typical depositor would use the term in their freeform description of the item. Strangely, the answer he offers is not to provide the infrastructure on which such searches may succeed in future, but to advocate a folksonomy in which such searches will always be sure to fail.

The post is an advertisement for what is undoubtedly a very nice interface to a set of material held by ELAR, but we should also bear in mind the large amount of funding that ELAR/ELDP have had, so we would hope for at least a nice looking webpage after eight years now. It is also interesting that ELAR holds only 70 collections after ELDP has funded 216 projects, what has happened to the rest of the material, or am I being too commodifying to think of such a thing?

The comments on the post raise OLAC – a great service that provides information for the broader community (including linguists, but especially speakers who can access it via google), harvesting information from archives around the world every 8 hours to update its language documentation index. OLAC provides a system for digital archives to maximise the searchability of their catalogs. There are 45 digital archives who take advantage of this free service. That represents almost all language archives in the world but to date ELAR has unfortunately chosen not to be part of that community.

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Happy snaps

If you ask a linguist what they collect when they do fieldwork on a language they will probably tell you that they make audio and video recordings. They then go on to annotate these in various ways, such as by adding information about pronunciation (transcription), meaning (translation) or word structure (morpheme-by-morpheme glossing) and sentence structure … Read more

A Warlpiri double launch

The annual meeting of Warlpiri-patu-kurlangu Jaru Inc. and its professional development workshop known as Warlpiri Triangle this year is being hosted by Yuendumu CEC, 16-19 May 2011.

This evening in the Yuendumu school library two resources were launched to a large gathering including senior Warlpiri women.

Yuendumu launch invitation

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Trumpeting revival at Lajamanu

My recent interest in some traditional Australian aerophones sprang from hearing about the Warlpiri kurlumpurrngu or ‘Warlpiri didjeridu’.

The instrument was shown in a event on Thursday 21 April at the National Library, when Steven Patrick Jangala and Yukihiro Doi presented ‘Milpirri: A Response to Cultural Loss’ to the National Australian Folklore Conference 2011. The pair also have a paper accepted for ICTM 2011 in Newfoundland this July, ‘Milpirri: An Aboriginal community event that joins the ancient with the contemporary.’

Milpirri is a biennial gathering at Lajamanu1, with ‘extraordinary performance events’ (source).  Milpirri has been a focus for maintenance of traditional Warlpiri performance which has also ‘toured to local and national festivals’.

Steve Jampijinpa is a Warlpiri man who has long worked at Lajamanu Community Education Centre (CEC), and who has led Milpirri. Yukihiro Doi (土井幸宏) is an ethnomusicology PhD student who has spent time at Lajamanu and also been involved in several Milpirri.  Together they appear on a short video (with transcript) [update: now only on YouTube] (also on YouTube) in which we can glimpse a kurlumpurrngu and something of its revival at Lajamanu. As the NT Mojos mobile journalist (and Jerry Jangala’s granddaughter) Jasmine Patrick says on the commentary, the kurlumpurrngu ‘was used in the early days and it was lost in our days but Jerry is bringing the Kurlumpurrungu back to the community’.

There are a couple of linguistic angles on this revival.

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  1. Records of the last three Milpirri are available through Tracks Indigenous Projects

Who uses digital language archives?

Over the past 10 years or so it has become increasingly common for researchers working on endangered languages to deposit their recordings and analysis (transcriptions, translations, annotations, dictionaries, grammars etc.) in a language archive1 In fact, in Himmelmann’s manifesto on language documentation (HImmelmann 1998, 2002, see also Himmelmann 2006) and Woodbury’s seminal articles (Woodbury 2003, … Read more

Emu-callers, the didjeridu, and bamboo

The published grammar of the Kalkatungu language of western Queensland has this entry in the ‘Weapons, tools, etc.’ section of the glossary:

‘pump’ (decoy device for attracting birds) kuɭumpu1 (Blake 1979:179)

‘What on earth is that?’ I said to myself, and wondered also why whatever it is would attract the English word for a fluid pumping device (let alone a type of footwear!).

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  1. ɭ represents l-with-dot-under, apico-domal lateral

Pap smears, footy and language/culture teaching

My colleagues teaching modern European languages are really into plaiting/braiding — recycling bins, speed dating, Tintin cartoons, Dante, and revolutionary songs in Uruguay are entwined with their language teaching. So now, if you were going to work with Aboriginal people to make a language/culture plait, what would it contain? I found an answer thanks to … Read more