> December 2006 - Transient Languages & Cultures
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December 2006

16-18 March 2007 Workshop on Australian Indigenous languages at the Crommelin Field Station, Pearl Beach. This is organised by the Departments of Linguistics of the Universities of Sydney and Newcastle. There's a call for papers out.

24 -26 April 2007: Puliima National Indigenous Languages Information Communication Technology Forum
"Modern ways for ancient words" at Newcastle. Coordinated by the Arwarbukarl Cultural Resource Association, this is is an expo of technology which all has the potential to assist Indigenous Language programs. The content may range from the use of basic equipment such as audio and video recorders, to computer based programs that support the teaching of languages and the production of resources."

25-27 September 2007: Indigenous Languages Conference 2007 This is run as part of LINGAD 2007, along with the Australian Linguistics Society and AUSTRALEX's annual meetings. There's a call for offers to "present on any topic related to the use and strengthening of Australia’s Indigenous languages, run a workshop or panel, or be part of a panel. Indigenous Language workers and Indigenous teachers of Australian Languages are particularly encouraged to participate"

Whether languages can be property has generated further discussion, on Language Log, and on several anthropology blogs (thanks Kimberly!). Two themes emerged: power, and the potential conflict with open access.


Hilário de Sousa' s doctoral thesis is now available in the University of Sydney thesis repository. It's a grammar of Menggwa Dla, an endangered Papuan language of the Senagi family spoken in Papua New Guinea and West Irian. The language has complex cross-referencing and is undergoing an amazing change in how switch reference works - you can also read his ALS article (PDF) on it. Four texts are also included in the thesis.

It's another ripper of a thesis - click and add it to your reference grammar collection!

Chinese Pidgin English is most certainly a transient language — it arose from contact between English and Chinese traders in the late 17th century and ceased to be spoken by the early 20th century. During its short life Chinese Pidgin English donated several expressions to standard varieties of English, where they live on. Among these donated expressions is chop-chop, meaning 'hurry up'. Most etymologies of the English word chopsticks (e.g. those in the the Oxford English Dictionary, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the Hobson-Jobson Anglo-Indian dictionary) claim that it is also derived from Pidgin English. Chopsticks is taken to be a semi-calque on the word 筷子 kuàizi (Mandarin pronunciation), which is the usual word for chopsticks in many Chinese dialects.1 The 筷 kuài in kuàizi is homophonous in many dialects with the word for 'fast', 快 kuài. The theory is that the English word chopsticks comes from the Pidgin word chop 'fast' plus the English word stick. The true story may not be that simple, however.

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Regular summary of PARADISEC’s ever growing digital repository of sound and video recordings, images and text files, currently totalling 2,779 items representing 54 countries and 593 languages.

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The surprise for me from the Sustainable Data from Digital Fieldwork workshop (aka Suzzy Data..) was how much plant taxonomists and field linguists have in common. And how much we need to work together with librarians and archivists. We both have to look after records - the decaying recordings of the languages, and the dried specimens in the herbariums. We both work with the living communities, the trees that will get logged and the communities that live with the trees, and the families and children who will switch to speaking another language.

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Dear ELAN Workshop attendees, and anyone who might find this of interest,

There were a few loose ends left at the end of the ELAN workshop last week. I'd particularly like to address one, the question as to whether we should aim for a standard set of ELAN templates which everyone uses.

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Several of the regular bloggers here are associated with PARADISEC, and they are modest folk. We cannot therefore expect them to tell you that the conference which they held this week (Sustainable data from Digital Fieldwork) was a huge success and a really wonderful event.

But this is a message which should be broadcast, so I felt that a guest post was appropriate.


In 1998, the Canadian government established the Aboriginal Languages Initiative (ALI) to fund projects aimed at preserving and protecting Aboriginal languages. Initial funding was CAD 5M per year. In Dec. 2002 the government announced funding of $175M for a proposed Aboriginal Languages and Cultures Centre (ALCC), which would replace the ALI. The Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures was also established, with a mandate "to make recommendations to the Minister of Canadian Heritage on the preservation, revitalization and promotion of Aboriginal ... languages". The Task Force submitted its recommendations in June 2005.

The election of Jan 23rd this year saw the rejection of the long-reigning left-of-centre but corrupt Liberals and the installation of a shiny new right-of-centre Conservative government.

On Nov. 3, the new government cut the remaining $160M of funding for the ALCC and reinstated the ALI for 8 years, with funding at the original level of $5M per year. The change has been condemned by various Aboriginal groups, including the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the First Peoples' Heritage, Language and Culture Council of British Columbia. On Nov. 14, the Ontario-based Native radio station CKRZ aired a discussion of the situation with representatives of Aboriginal groups, including the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine. The reinstatement of language funding was among the demands of a national protest in Ottawa on Dec. 5, sponsored by the Assembly of First Nations.

Letters of concern may be sent to The Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ont., Canada K1A 0A6 Oda.B@parl.gc.ca and to Ms. Judith A. LaRocque, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, Aboriginal Affairs, Les Terrasses de la Chaudière, Room 12A14 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada K1A 0M5 Judith_A_LaRocque@pch.gc.ca

Australian Indigenous place names often suffer distortion in form and meaning when they are adopted into English. The distortion can have many different causes: English speakers might not be able to hear the sounds of the source language properly or they might not understand what place the name really refers to. In the case of Tayan Pic (32°58'4"S, 150°12'58"E — picture shown below), a mountain near Kandos in New South Wales, however, the name has suffered further distortion after its adoption into English because of a misreading of the English transcription of the name. We first have to investigate the evolution of the name in English before we can begin to look into its Australian origin.

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About the Blog

The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.


Papua New Guinea FAQs from Eva Lindstrom Papua New Guinea (New Ireland): Eva Lindstrom's tips for fieldworkers

Australian Languages Answers to some frequently asked questions about Australian languages

Papua Web Information network on Papua, Indonesia (formerly Irian Jaya)

Hibernating blogs

Indigenous Language SPEAK

Langguj gel Australian linguistics and fieldwork blog

Interesting Blogs

Omniglot Writing systems and languages of the world

LingFormant Linguistics news

Language hat Linguistics news and commentary

Jabal al-Lughat Linguistics news and commentary on a range of languages

Living languages Blog with news items and discussion of endangered languages

OzPapersOnline Notices of recent work on the Indigenous languages of Australia

That Munanga linguist Community linguist blog

Anggarrgoon Claire Bowern's linguistics and fieldwork blog

Savage Minds A group blog on Anthropology

Fully (sic)

Language on the Move Intercultural communication and multilingualism

Talking Alaska: Reflections on the native languages of Alaska

Culture matters: applying anthropology Australian anthropology blog: postgraduates and staff

Long Road ethnography and anthropology blog - including about Australia

matjjin-nehen Blog on Australian linguistics, fieldwork, politics and the environment.

Language Log Group blog on language and linguistics


E-MELD The E-MELD School of Best Practices in Digital Language Documentation

Tema Modersmål Website in Swedish with links to sites on and in many languages

Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project: Language Documentation: What is it? Information on equipment, formats, and archiving, and examples of documentation

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources a worldwide network of organizations, academics, activists, indigenous groups, and others representing indigenous and tribal peoples

Technorati Profile

Technology-enhanced language revitalization Include ILAT (Indigenous Languages and Technology) discussion list.

Endangered languages of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

Koryak Net Information on the people of Kamchatka

Linguistic fieldwork preparation: a guide for field linguists syllabi, funding, technology, ethics, readings, bibliography

On-line resources for endangered languages

Papua New Guinea Language Resources Phonologies, grammars, dictionaries, literacy, language maps for many PNG languages

Resource network for linguistic diversity Networking practitioners working to record,retrieve & reintroduce endangered languages


ACLA child language acquisition in three Australian Aboriginal communities

DELAMAN The Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network

PARADISEC The Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures

Murriny-Patha Song Project Documenting the language and music of public songs and dances composed and performed by Murriny Patha-speaking people

PFED The Project for Free Electronic Dictionaries

DOBES Endangered language documentation and archiving, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and sponsored by the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen.

DELP Documenting endangered languages at the University of Sydney

Ethno EResearch Exploring methods and technology for streaming media and interlinear text