Archive for the ‘General News’ Category.

CALC (Central Australian Linguistic Circle) meeting

Central Australian Linguistic Circle (CALC) 2013 

Monday 9 September 2013, 8:30 am – 4:00 pm

Venue: Desert People’s Centre Function Room (next to the Irrarnte Café), Desert Knowledge Precinct, South Stuart Highway, Alice Springs



8:30 am          meet at Desert People’s Centre Function Room, set up, introductions

9:00-9:30      Cathy Bow, Charles Darwin University The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages

9:30-10:00    Margit Bowler, UCLA Majority Rules effects in Warlpiri vowel harmony

10:00-10:30  a session on educational linguistics and language-learning resources:

Susan Moore and Megan Wood, Department of Education and Childrens Services, The Australian Curriculum and Aboriginal languages

Michael LaFlamme, Publisher, Institute for Aboriginal Development Press, The Potential role of apps and picture dictionaries in language development

10:30-11:00        morning tea

11:00-11:30   Gavan Breen, IAD Dictionaries, Kaytetye and Warumungu

11:30-12:00   Margaret Carew, Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, Iltyem-iltyem: a new resource for Central Australian Sign Languages

12:00-12:30   Samantha Disbray, Charles Darwin University, Bilingual education programs in central Australia: A broader evaluation

12:30- 1:30          lunch

1:30-2:00       Mary Laughren, University of Queensland, Polysemy or vagueness in some Warlpiri quantificational terms 

2:00-2:30       David Moore, University of Western Australia, Alyawarr Motion

2:30-3:00       David Nash, ANU and AIATSIS, Alternating generations again again

3:00-3:30         afternoon tea

3:30- 4:00      Myf Turpin, University of Queensland Verb-final word order in Alyawarr song-poetry

Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea available from Irrarnte Café

Organiser: David Moore <moored03 AT>

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.

Who gives a Gonski for Indigenous education?

Who gives a Gonski for Indigenous Education?

Answer: three Australian states and the Australian Senate which yesterday passed the Australian Education Reform bill, aka the Gonski plan.

This is a wonderful achievement. Funding based on children’s needs. At last, schools with lots of disadvantaged Indigenous children can get funding by right and not by favour. We owe great thanks to Julia Gillard and Peter Garrett for making this happen.

The Opposition doesn’t give a Gonski in theory, the Labor leadership spillers didn’t give a Gonski in practice. Five states and territories haven’t signed up, violating Paul Keating’s maxim “Never stand between a premier and a bucket of money”? Why? Cynicism suggests that they don’t want to commit to transparent spending of state money on disadvantaged schools, when they could be pork-barrelling constituents in other ways and in other electorates.

The Australian Education Reform Bill is the visionary policy that should [have won/win] the Labor Party the next election.

Fieldwork helper – ExSite9

ExSite9 is an open-source cross-platform tool for creating descriptions of files created during fieldwork. We have been working on the development of ExSite9 over the past year and it is now ready for download and use:

ExSite9 collects information about files from a directory on your laptop you have selected, and presents it to you onscreen for your annotation, as can be seen in the following screenshot. The top left window shows the filenames, and the righthand window shows metadata characteristics that can be clicked once a file or set of files is selected.The manual is here:

Researchers who undertake fieldwork, or capture research data away from their desks, can use ExSite9 to support the quick application of descriptive metadata to the digital data they capture. This also enables researchers to prepare a package of metadata and data for backup to a data repository or archive for safekeeping and further manipulation.

Scholars in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) typically need to organise heterogeneous file-based information from a multitude of sources, including digital cameras, video and sound recording equipment, scanned documents, files from transcription and annotation software, spreadsheets and field notes.

The aim of this tool is to facilitate better management and documentation of research data close to the time it is created. An easy to use interface enables researchers to capture metadata that meets their research needs and matches the requirements for repository ingestion.

Continue reading ‘Fieldwork helper – ExSite9’ »

Kalam Language Dictionary Launch

Check here for an account of the launch of the Kalam dictionary – what a feat! 48 years on..there’s hope for all of us with dictionaries in the bottom drawer.

FEL call for grant applications

The Foundation for Endangered Languages has just announced that its 2012 grant application round is now open. Priority will be given to projects that focus on the revitalization of endangered languages and support the use of endangered languages in various spheres of community life (home, education, cultural and social life). Any language documentation proposals must have a clear and immediate relevance to prospects for language revitalization.

Full details and application forms are available on the FEL website. The deadline for submission of proposals is 31st December 2012.

LDD 11 now available for order

Volume 11 of Language Documentation and Description is now available for pre-publication order from the SOAS online store at GBP 10, a 25% discount off the regular price. Copies will be shipped in early December.

Volume 11 is edited by Peter K. Austin and Stuart McGill and is a collection of papers dealing with several topics in language documentation and description:

  • applied language documentation in sub-Saharan Africa
  • state-of-the art in Aslian language documentation
  • description of Sasak verb morphology

The first set of papers arise from a workshop held at SOAS in May 2011; two others were written for this volume. They represent important contributions to the theory and practice of the field of language documentation and description by leading scholars and younger researchers.

The volume will be of interest to anyone concerned with documenting and describing languages, and the application of language documentation principles within communities. In addition, Geoffrey Benjamin’s extended account of the state-of-the art in documentation and description of Aslian languages will be of interest to anyone wishing to know more about this fascinating sub-group of Mon-Khmer. The contents are:

  • Editor’s Introduction – Peter K. Austin & Stuart McGill
  • ‘Community’ collaboration in Africa: Experiences from Northwest Cameroon – Jeff Good
  • Building community participation into documentation design: lessons learned in Sakun (Sukur) – Michael F. Thomas
  • Ju|’hoan and ǂX’ao-ǁ’aen documentation in Namibia: overcoming obstacles to community-based language documentation – Megan Biesele, Lee Pratchett & Taesun Moon
  • Documentation, development, and ideology in the northwestern Kainji languages – Stuart McGill & Roger Blench
  • The Aslian languages of Malaysia and Thailand: an assessment – Geoffrey Benjamin
  • Too many nasal verbs: dialect variation in the voice system of Sasak – Peter K. Austin

To celebrate the publication of LDD 11 we are reducing the price of all LDD volumes by 25% for a limited time only. In addition, in time for Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/New Year we are offering a special package of all 11 volumes of LDD for GBP 100, a 30% reduction off the usual price.

And another new book and conference

Moving from Nigeria to Australia… We in Australia owe thanks to Maïa Ponsonnet, Loan Dao and Margit Bowler, who have shepherded the Proceedings of the 42th ALS Conference – 2011 to publication online on the ANU Research Repository in close to record time. Papers on lesser-known languages (old, new, created) include:

On Australian languages (old and new)
Taking to the airwaves. A strategy for language revival, by Rob Amery

Grammar rules, OK? What works when teaching a higly endangered Aboriginal language versus a strong language, by Mary-Anne Gale

Body-parts in Dalabon and Barunga Kriol: Matches and mismatches, by Maïa Ponsonnet

On created languages
I can haz language play: The construction of language and identity in LOLspeak, by Lauren Gawne and Jill Vaughan

The morphosyntax of a created language of the Philippines: Folk linguistic effects and the limits of relexification, by Piers Kelly

On other small languages
Simplifying a system: A story of language change in Lelepa, Vanuatu, by Sébastien Lacrampe

Non-referential actor indexing in Nehan, by John Olstad

The expression of potential event modality in the Papuan language of Koromu, by Carol Priestley

And language and music
Musicolinguistic artistry of niraval in Carnatic vocal music, by Mahesh Radhakrishnan

And the problems L1 speakers of Australian creoles face
Sad Stories. A preliminary study of NAPLAN practice texts analysing students’ second language linguistic resources and the effects of these on their written narratives, by Denise Angelo

Editing proceedings is an arduous task, but wonderful for the discipline – the world gets to see papers early, people are more inspired to go to the conference, and so there are more opportunities for fruitful collaboration: a virtuous cycle which repeats again at this year’s Australian Linguistics Society conference being held in Perth. Check out the presentations and abstracts – some fabulous-looking papers!

New book on minority languages of Nigeria

Readers of this blog may be interested in a new book that has just been published by Ruediger Koeppe Verlag on minority languages of Nigeria (thanks to Stuart McGill for giving me a copy for review):

Roger Blench and Stuart McGill (eds.) 2012. Advances in Minority Language Research in Nigeria, Volume 1. Cologne: Ruediger Koeppe Verlag.

The book is available from Koeppe via Amazon for USD 48.79 (including postage).

The chapters in the volume comprise papers presented at the monthly meetings of the Jos Linguistic Circle (northern Nigeria) plus an overview by Roger Blench of current linguistics research and language development in Nigeria. Topics covered include phonetics (Ch 3, 9, 11), orthography (Ch 5, 9), verb morphology (Ch 7, 8, 12), focus (Ch 6), noun class semantics (Ch 10), and historical linguistics (Ch 2, 4). A full list of contents is available here.

I have yet to read the volume in detail but a quick skim shows that the papers are pretty much all descriptively oriented with lots of new materials on previously undescribed languages being included. The book is very nicely produced and bound, with copious tables, maps and illustrations. It does, however, show the limits of paper-based publication at a time when multimedia presentation of linguistic research is relatively easy to achieve. So, for example, Chapter 3 on “Unusual sounds in Nigerian languages” that discusses labio-coronals, interdental approximants and an “explosive bilabial nasal” includes spectrograms and still photographs but would have been so much stronger if audio and video recordings of these phenomena were presented. Language Documentation and Conservation publishes online multimedia such as Lobel and Riwarung’s “Maranao: A Preliminary Phonological Sketch with Supporting Audio” in Volume 5 (2011) or Feeling et al.’s “Why Revisit Published Data of an Endangered Language with Native Speakers? An Illustration from Cherokee” in Volume 4 (2010). At SOAS, we publish multimedia volumes of Language Documentation and Description (such as Volume 10) as a book with accompanying CD or DVD.

Congratulations to Blench and McGill for putting together this volume and making materials on otherwise poorly known languages of Nigeria more widely available.

ELDP Grant Round 2013 – Call for applications

The Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP) at SOAS offers one granting cycle for 2013. The grant round opens next Monday 15th October 2012 10am (BST) and closes on 15th January 2013, 5pm (GMT).

The key objectives of the ELDP are:

  • to support the documentation of as many endangered languages as possible
  • to encourage fieldwork on endangered languages, especially by younger scholars with skills in language documentation
  • to create a repository of resources for the linguistic, social science, and the language communities

Grant categories available are:

  • Small Grants of up to £10,000
  • Individual Graduate Scholarships
  • Individual Postdoctoral Fellowships
  • Major Documentation Projects

Important dates:

  • Applications open: 15th October 2012
  • Deadline for submission: 15th January 2013, 5pm (GMT)
  • Decisions notified: 15th June 2013

Application forms and further information is available here.