> July 2008 - Transient Languages & Cultures

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July 2008

Ngapartji Ngapartji has launched a policy paper regarding Australian Indigenous languages. You can download it [.pdf] from their website. The press release is below.

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I am down in Adelaide at the moment delivering the Kaurna electronic dictionaries we've been working on to the Kaurna Warra Pintyandi group. We've produced a Kirrkirr Kaurna dictionary and a mobile phone Kaurna dictionary, based on the work of the 19th century German missionaries Christian Teichelmann and Clamor Schürmann. Both dictionaries were well received. The mobile phone dictionary seemed to be particularly well received by the young people, but I guess we can really appreciate these things. I've put up a demonstration version of the dictionary for download so that a wider audience can try it out. I've also put up information about how the dictionary works and provided the source code and instructions on how to port other dictionaries into the program.

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[ from Peter K. Austin, Linguistics Department, SOAS]

The Books section of the website of The Guardian newspaper here in the UK has a feature they call Top 10s. These are lists prepared by a prominent author featuring their pick of the top 10 items within a topic area, one usually connected to the publication of one of their books. There are the kinds of lists you might expect, like Sarah Anderson's Top 10 books about wilderness, or Alison MacLeod's top 10 short stories. But there are also cute ones like Simon Critchley's top 10 philosophers' deaths (would linguists' deaths be quite so interesting?).

In connection with the recent publication of the book I edited called 1000 Languages, The Guardian asked me to prepare a Top 10 endangered languages list. "Great", I thought, "given my interest in communicating about our work, here's a way to reach thousands of Guardian readers and others and get them interested in what we do as linguists, as well as highlight some issues about endangered languages. But how do you pick 10 languages out of a potential list of 3,000 (or over 6,000 if Michael Krauss is to be believed?)"

It was an impossible task, so I figured I'd set some parameters and see what I came up with. I decided on the following rules of thumb:

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Following on from Aidan's blog last week announcing that PARADISEC's archive has reached 2000 hours of recordings, here is some of the detail about what's in our digital archive. Along with Mark Durie's collection from Aceh, described in the last post, are other collections from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, China, the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Lao, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Reunion, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Vietnam, and Wallis and Futuna.

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[ from Peter K. Austin, Linguistics Department, SOAS]

This is a follow up to my posting about materials from the Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay Web Dictionary and my 1993 book Reference Dictionary of Gamilaraay, northern New South Wales being copied without attribution, repackaged and sold in book form.

The ever vigilant David Nash has brought to my attention this wiki which contains Gamilaraay language materials with English glosses, roughly 100 vocabulary items in all. The site is organised into eight subsections:


  • Topics
  • Adverbs
  • Interjections
  • Nouns
  • Particles
  • Verbs
  • Pronouns
  • Suffixes

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[ from Peter K. Austin, Linguistics Department, SOAS]

Today I have a story to share that involves intellectual property violations, taking materials without attribution from a copyrighted dictionary of an Australian indigenous language, and publication of a book that contains such bad scholarship, ridiculous claims, nonsense, and stupid howlers that it is actually funny.

Over the past couple of years I have presented sessions at various workshops and training courses (most recently at a grantee training workshop held at SOAS 11-17th June) on the topics of "ethics, intellectual property rights and copyright". I have learnt a bit about copyright and moral rights in the process - my Powerpoint slides for the most recent presentation can be found here.

One of the issues that is often raised by fieldworkers and researchers during these presentations can be summarised as: "I don't want to make my data publicly available because someone will steal it and publish it under their own name". I usually reply in terms of the low likelihood of such an event happening (as Andrew Garrett said at an archiving workshop at the January 2008 Linguistic Society of America annual meeting (and I paraphrase): "Sorry to tell you this, but actually no-one wants to steal your data") and the protection afforded by copyright and moral rights (mentioning the World Intellectual Property Organisation and various other lobby groups).

Well, unfortunately, I have to change my tune, folks, because it has happened to me. A subset of materials which I have published in book form (and deposited as Word .doc files with the ASEDA archive) and co-published with David Nathan on the web as the Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay Web Dictionary that are all clearly marked as copyright have been reproduced without attribution or recognition of our authorship both on a website and in a recent book publication. Fortunately, they have been done in such as way as to reveal the ignorance of the violator that is truly laughable. Sadly, this individual is attempting to profit financially from both our intellectual property and that of an Australian Aboriginal group, along with potentially damaging the trust we have built up by years of work with the community.

The story goes like this.

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So you haven't had enough conferences on languages of the Pacific - or you missed AFLA and the Papuan languages workshop??

Head to Ourimbah, 9-11 December 2008 for for the Directions in Oceanic Research (DOR) conference.

Here's the info:

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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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Language on the Move Intercultural communication and multilingualism

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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

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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

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

Projects

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