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Early this morning, a delivery of audio files was quietly sent from Paradisec's local server at the University of Sydney to permanent near-line tape storage at the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing in Canberra. This happens on many days, as you might imagine, but what makes today's delivery special, was that somewhere in that bunch of files was our 2000th archived hour of audio.

Moreover, we will soon be celebrating five years of operations, in which case, 2000 hours might not seem so impressive - it's just 400 hours per year after all - but we at Paradisec are very proud of our collection. Especially given that just about everything here is done on a shoestring budget and there have been some lengthy hiatuses of funding lately.

Speaking of which, this may be an opportune time to mention that we are always amenable to generous donations from people wishing to sponsor the digitisation and preservation of a collection of data. See our website for more details.

So, just which file was the lucky 2000th hour? Well, we can't really be sure, but we do know that it was among a collection of Mark Durie's research into the dialects of Aceh, an area that was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami of Boxing Day 2006.

To help us celebrate both these milestones, Mark has kindly written a small piece for us about Aceh's dialects, his research of them and the importance of preserving the collection. He has also allowed a small portion of one of these recordings to be posted with this piece, which you can download here.

The Acehnese dialect tape collection

By Mark Durie

When conducting research on Acehnese in the early 1980's I chose to focus my work in North Aceh, an area where the dialects were relatively uniform. Due to the large number of speakers in North Aceh, this dialect region had become something of a standard. Of far greater historical interest were the dialects of Great Aceh and down the West Coast to the ancient Daya region.

Acehnese society is matrilocal. The word for 'wife' in Acehnese is prumoh which means 'owner of the house'. Typically a woman lives in a house on land which belonged to her mother's family, and villages are composed of groups of houses owned by women who are all related to each other in their female line. So the linguistic history of Acehnese villages is marked by continuous chains of language transmission from mother to daughter, stretching back unbroken in the same location for centuries. The men of the family have typically married into it from other villages.

This circumstance lends itself to dialectal differentiation. As men often work elsewhere, they are absent from the village, and children learn their dialects from their mothers. North Aceh was relatively homogenous because it was only settled late, around the 17th-18th centuries. However in the Greater Aceh and Daya regions each village has a different dialect. Children shouting to each other across a river can often easily tell which side of the river a voice comes from, by the accent.

The Acehnese vowel system is quite complex, and what I found in dialect survey work, undertaken after my primary PhD field research in North Aceh, was an amazing variety in vowel systems, and evidence of a long history of dialect divergence. The most interesting dialects of all were from the area on the west coast of Aceh, directly opposite the earth quake zone.

I had compelling a sense of urgency in undertaking this research, with the assistance first of Dr Qismullah Yusuf, and then Dr Bukhari Daud, both of Universitas Syiah Kuala. I believed that the dialects would inevitably lose ground rapidly under pressure from modern living conditions, and if I did do at least some dialect recordings, no-one else would. Little did we realize that in just a few years, some of the locations we visited would no longer exist.

It was with a sinking heart that I heard even the first reports of the tsunami. I knew only too well that many thousands of Acehnese lived within a few metres of sea level. My worst fears were confirmed as the media reports came in over the following days.

The massive dislocation of people caused by the Indian Ocean Tsunami, combined with the complete destruction of the very oldest and most densely differentiated dialect areas, was a linguistic tragedy as well as massive humanitarian disaster. Today the Acehnese dialect tapes are a very precious resource, a fragmentary remnant of dialects which had more than a thousand years of settled history behind them.

As always, here are the repository reports:

Repository Metrics

   Collections : 112 collections
          Items : 3,962 items
          Files : 27,714 files
           Size : 3.56 TB
           Time : 2019:31:00.00

File Type Metrics

    Type     Files          Size          Duration
    ....    ......     .........     .............    
     .dv        23      23.44 GB       00:00:00.00
    .eaf         2     229.08 KB       00:00:00.00
    .img         8      24.75 GB       00:00:00.00
    .jpg    14,639      20.29 GB       00:00:00.00
    .mov        61     485.53 GB       00:00:00.00
    .mp3     6,027     107.46 GB     2003:08:30.00
    .mp4         6       2.22 GB       00:00:00.00
    .mpg       103      30.37 GB       00:00:00.00
    .pdf        82     487.33 MB       00:00:00.00
    .rtf        27       4.51 MB       00:00:00.00
    .tab        40     819.65 KB       00:00:00.00
    .tif       357       1.61 GB       00:00:00.00
    .trs        17     390.08 KB       00:00:00.00
    .txt       207      16.44 MB       00:00:00.00
    .wav     6,084       2.88 TB     2019:31:00.00
    .xml        31       1.20 MB       00:00:00.00
            ......     .........     .............    
            27,714       3.56 TB     4022:40:00.00


Wow thanks Mark. Truly amazing and heartbreaking and wonderful.

And thanks Aidan too.

And paradisec. :-)

thanks..really interesting..
proud to be an acehnese...

Thanks Mark for your great work to preserve the Acehnese culture and language. Your Acehnese pocket dictionary is of great help for those wanting to learn about the beautiful, unique language.

Thanks Mark, this is really a great work. This reminds myself how my daughter got my village accent from me (we live in my village) rather than his father, whose accent is fairly different from mine though we come from just different sub districts that are only a few kilometres apart.

I`m as Acehnese very proud of you... thanks for this study...great!!

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