A report on this month’s Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub by Ana Krajinovic (University of Melbourne / Humboldt University)
Our discussion this week was led by James Walker who asked us an intriguing question about the linguistic research areas represented in Australia. Coming from the background of studying variation and change in community languages in Toronto, James became interested in these research topics in the Australian context. Melbourne is a multilingual city, and just like in Toronto, community languages brought through immigration by non-English speakers started appearing in Melbourne in the 20th century. We asked ourselves why the linguistic diversity of different communities isn’t equally well represented in the Australian research agenda. Is the study of indigenous languages of Australia seen as inherently more valuable and, if so, why?
The published Barcoo River (Queensland) expedition diary of explorer Edmund Kennedy (1852) was augmented with unpublished manuscript sources and republished by Edgar Beale (1983). In the context of the present paper the key augmentation came from a handwritten copy of Kennedy’s journal for the period 01 April 1847 to 24 January 1848 made by Rev W.B. Clarke, and held by the Royal Geographical Society of London (RGS, see Beale 1983:96-97).
In an entry for 01 October 1847, Kennedy reported an encounter with Aboriginal people who were ‘without exception the most friendly and best behaved Natives I met with on the journey’. According to the RGS manuscript, Kennedy recorded:
We obtained from this party some useful words, which are correctly written, according to their sounds, River Victoria,1 “Barcoo”; Water, “Ammoo”; Grass, “Oo-lo-noo”; Fire, “Poordie” &c. (Beale 1983:142)
It is a pity that the rest of the list has not so far surfaced.
Stefan Schnell (University of Melbourne) recaps last month’s Linguistics in the Pub (Melbourne)
Leading the discussion was Ana Krajinović (University of Melbourne / Humboldt University)
The relationship between language-specific descriptive-analytical categories and categories figuring in cross-language comparative studies, and in particular the nature of the latter, have been subject of intensive and recurrent debate over the years, most recently in a dedicated discussion at last year’s SLE conference in Naples, and a focused discussion in the last October issue of Linguistic Typology (Vol 20, issue 2, 2016). In this LiP session, we focused on the research-practical aspects of the issue at hand from a descriptive point of view, asking questions about how researchers go about in identifying relevant categories in the languages they describe, and how they capture and describe their functions and label the categories. But what criteria and concepts do researchers apply when going about these tasks? A notoriously difficult area is research into systems of tense-mood-aspect (TMA) which illustrate some of the points during our discussion.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This week a suitcase of audio tapes will arrive in Melbourne from Madang in PNG. While a lot of the effort of building collections in PARADISEC goes in finding tapes and encouraging people to deposit their recordings, there are some collections that stand out for the amount of work required. This is the story of one of them.
A recap of last night’s Melbourne Linguistics in the Pub, by Kellen Parker van Dam (La Trobe University).
The topic of MLIP was ‘Language in education in multilingual contexts: beyond ‘mother tongue’ education’ and the discussion was led by Felix Ameka (Leiden University).
Topic and description as posed by Felix Ameka in the original MLIP announcement:
Linguists promote the benefits of “mother-tongue” education, especially in the first years of primary education. Linguistic human rights advocates argue that if a child is not taught in their first language, then the child’s basic linguistic human rights are violated (e.g. Babaci-Wilhite 2014). However the notion of the ‘mother tongue’ is inappropriate in highly multilingual contexts (see e.g. Lüpke and Storch 2013). In these contexts, children can be disadvantaged by ‘mother tongue’ policies in education that favour the use of a single standardised language in education. I will discuss the case of Ewe-speaking children in Sokode, Ghana who use a colloquial Central Ewe variety at home and struggle with the standard Ewe used in the school. I advocate a multi-lectal, multilingual, multi-modal approach to language in education that eschews an opposition between so called exoglossic national languages and local indigenous languages.
Harriet Sheppard and Jonathan Schlossberg recap the March Linguistics in the Pub, a monthly informal gathering of linguists in Melbourne to discuss topical areas in our field.
Topic: Is the study of Australian languages at the expense of the study of Australian English variation?
Australian linguists are world renowned for their work on the description and documentation of indigenous languages. It is remarkable (to this outsider), given such a febrile research environment, that so little descriptive work seems to be being done on dialects of Australian English compared to the study of English variation in other nations. Can it really be true that Masterchef Australia has more to contribute to the analysis and documentation of Australian English than Australian linguistics does? I’d be interested in hearing from local (socio) linguists whether they think a focus on indigenous languages will necessarily be at the expense of the regional varieties of English in Australia.
A large contingent turned out for the March LIP, with representatives from Melbourne, Monash and La Trobe Universities, including many sociolinguists. The discussion was led by special guest Prof Miriam Meyerhoff (Victoria University of Wellington).