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February 2007

Two items for people who haven't read the Australian Linguistics Society February 2007 newsletter (subscribe! get all the goss AND the Australian Journal of Linguistics).

• LINGAD 2008 25 - 28 September, Adelaide comprises 3 meetings, including:
••the Australian Linguistics Society Conference 26 - 28 September, abstracts due 16 March; (reminder: same due date also for the associated workshop on the language of poetry and song - 300 words abstracts in word or PDF format to christina.eira AT adelaide.edu.au.)
•• Indigenous Languages Conference 2007, 25-27 September 2007,

CAAMA (the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association) got squillions from DCITA for work on endangered languages and now want a linguist to help them do it. (In several procrastinatory moments I searched the DCITA website to find out how many squillions, but the site didn't yield the information in an obvious way. Can anyone tell us?)

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As promised in my blog last week, mp3s have now been uploaded to the Sydney eScholarship Repository to accompany the papers that had already been published there from the Sustainable Data from Digital Fieldwork Conference.


All over Australia now people are writing reports on the progress of their grants - to attach to their begging-letters for more grants. Reading the reports gives you the sense that Australia is a garden of projects, each a mass of bright blossoms fragrant with success. (So why haven't we solved world poverty or climate change yet?) That's why it was really really good to go along to the ARC E-Research post-funding workshop (14-15 February), where participants were encouraged to report on the problems they encountered in their projects...

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• the Central Australian Linguistics Circle call for papers on language description, education, literacy and indigenous knowledge. Friday 20 - Saturday 21, April 2007, Charles Darwin University, Alice Springs Campus, Australia.

• the programme for the Pearl Beach Workshop on Australian Languages Friday 16 - Sunday 18, March 2007, Pearl Beach, Australia.

• a reminder that registration is open (and places are limited) for Puliima National Indigenous Languages and Information Communication Technology Forum, 24th - 26th April, 2007, Newcastle, Australia.

• a seminar on Maori tattooing (Tā Moko), 17 and 18 March 2007, at Wesley College, University of Sydney, Australia. (Information from curtis AT oceaniagroup.ac.nz)

Most of you who have been keeping an eye on this blog for a while will know about the conference organised by Paradisec last year on Sustainable data from digital fieldwork, but you might not know about its predecessor in 2003, Paradisec's inaugural workshop, Researchers, communities, institutions and sound recordings. The papers from this workshop, along with those from the 2006 conference, have now been made available online through the Sydney eScholarship Repository.


Regular summary of PARADISEC’s ever growing digital repository of sound and video recordings, images and text files, currently totalling 3,003 items representing 54 countries and 598 languages.


A post by Valerie Guerin on the Research Network for Linguistics Diversity list leads to a new source of funding open to individuals, groups, and organizations for language work (the Genographic Legacy Fund) on endangered languages (grant application deadline June 15 and December 15).

It also leads to a rather interesting web-site which has time-aligned maps showing the distribution of human genetic markers, and 'highlights of the human journey'. The latter include sites of occupation like Panaramitee and Arnhem Land as Sahul sites, languages like Burushaski and Na-Dene, and a map of modern language family distribution (only rock-solid families included: Australia and the Americas are listed as "Indo-European" and "Other", while PNG is "Austronesian" and "Other" ).


In a previous posting “Modern Grammar from nineteenth century mission materials” Jane Simpson refers to the 2005 University of Adelaide doctoral dissertation, The language of the chosen view: the first phase of graphization of Dieri by Hermannsburg Missionaries, Lake Killalpaninna 1867-80 by Heidi Kneebone who, she says “takes linguists to task for NOT looking at early grammars of the languages they're working on”.

Now I don’t have a copy of this dissertation and only had a few hours in Canberra recently to skim through a copy lent to me by Luise Hercus. I was impressed by the historical work Kneebone had done with Lutheran sources (some written in an old German handwriting that is incredibly difficult to read, at least for me) and how she turned up materials written in Diyari by native speakers that I had not seen before. But since the thesis makes claims about my own research on Diyari, spoken in northern South Australia, and appears to suggest that the language I recorded thirty years ago from the last generation of fluent speakers was in part a missionary creation, I would like to take this opportunity to make a couple of points.


I was thinking about tone-vowel and consonant sandhis in Fuzhou and I stumbled across this spectacular website from Matsu where they put up their primary school Fuzhou language textbooks with recordings of all the texts (and cutesy background music). There are also audio demonstrations of all the consonants, rhymes and tones. Apparently they are also working on putting up traditional kids stories on their website. All the Chinese characters are glossed with IPA and Zhuyin. (Sorry, no English.)


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It's Australian grant application time! Joy, rapture! (Skips lightly around the room)
If you're thinking about what to spend your requested squillions on, here are two thoughts:

Be realistic about how much it will cost to prepare your recordings for archiving, and then the cost of archiving itself - if you don't have a large friendly archive to hand. PARADISEC gives some guidelines on costs. And Dave Nathan has some shudder-inducing remarks on the current cost of archiving video. [1]

Getting manuscripts ready for publication
Many linguistics publishers do NOTHING about proof-reading or copy-editing your masterpiece. Your baby, you wash the nappies. And non-commercial linguistics publishers that do take copy-editing and proof-reading seriously, like Pacific Linguistics, need all the help you can give them - such as a publication subsidy to defray the costs of copy-editing. So imagine how many hours it might take to copy-edit your dictionary, double it, multiple by a suitable hourly rate - and build it into your application if you can.

[1] Video and Language Documentation: panacea or madness? presented at the DELAMAN IV meeting. 2 November 2006, SOAS.

After weeks of hot weather and blame-firing over failed native title compensation land deals, rape, gangs, children taken into state care etc., it was like a fine lemon gelato to come across a couple of good news stories on Australian Indigenous languages. New flavour-of-the-year language and tourism, and long-term favourite language reclamation.

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God and languages are in the air. The Australian Federal Government is cross with a radical Islamic sheik who preaches in Arabic (translator spooks required!). The sheik points out, correctly, that many churches advertise services in Korean, Tongan, etc., and this causes no offence (= no drain on the spook translator budget). The NSW State Opposition leader wants immigrants to Australia to learn a subject called "English as a first language", not "English as a second language". "Second", he thinks doesn't reflect the importance of English. Maybe he wants immigrants to talk to their gods in English. Clearly, what linguists think a first language is is not yet a mainstream thought.

And linguists have been debating our connections with missionary linguists, language work done by missionaries, and linguistic software built by the missionary linguist organisation SIL (Semantic compositions (11/1/07) on the panel at the LSA and Anggarrgoon). On one side there are people saying that missionaries roll Dalek-like through the societies of the speakers of the languages they study and do bad things, and so their work is irredeemably sinful. On the other side people say that linguists are also a Dalek species, and so, what the hell, if the SIL software's good and the linguistic descriptions are good, use them. (Setting aside Earthlings who say that both species of Dalek are only into extermination).

And there's the position taken by Heidi Kneebone in a 2005 University of Adelaide doctoral dissertation, The language of the chosen view: the first phase of graphization of Dieri by Hermannsburg Missionaries, Lake Killalpaninna 1867-80. PhD dissertation, Linguistics, University of Adelaide (noted at OzPapersOnline )[1]. Kneebone takes linguists to task for NOT looking at early grammars of the languages they're working on.

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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.


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ACLA child language acquisition in three Australian Aboriginal communities

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

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

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