> May 2009 - Transient Languages & Cultures
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May 2009

The Australian Research Council have funded a project 2009 - 2012 Strategies for preserving and sustaining Australian Aboriginal song and dance in the modern world: the Ngarluma community of Roebourne, WA.

The researchers are Sally Treloyn (CDU); Allan Marett; Andrew Dowding, Ngarluma Aboriginal Corporation

Project Summary
This project makes a major contribution to the community in which it is based by developing an appropriate and efficient model for cultural maintenance and regeneration through repatriation, recording, documentation, and digital dissemination. National benefit derives from the development of a model to preserve and sustain endangered cultural knowledges associated with song and dance, and a pre‑emptive strategy for the recovery of almost extinct traditions. National benefit also derives from establishing Australia at the forefront of international efforts to safeguard intangible cultural heritages, by revealing how access to recordings via digital platforms contributes to cultural maintenance and regeneration.


Work continues on the Wunderkammer software package, which makes electronic dictionaries available on mobile phones. A new version of the package, with new features and bug fixes, is available from the Wunderkammer website: http://www.pfed.info/wksite/

We'll be presenting the Wunderkammer software and talking about some of the dictionaries that use it on 1 June 4pm to 5.30pm in Eastern Avenue Seminar Room 119, Sydney Uni. If you're in Sydney, come along.

[From Alex Kelly, Ngapartji Ngapartji and BIGhART]

Dear friends and supporters,
After 5 years working on Ngapartji Ngapartji, building the language website [and see blogpost] and touring the show, we have the opportunity to engage with the people who can help move the issue of Indigenous languages forward in leaps and bounds. Currently, without any supportive Indigenous languages policy at a federal level we are left with a culture of fragmented and unspoken policy that prioritises English at the expense of Indigenous languages.

There is a long history of campaigning and lobbying for Indigenous languages in Australia, with some successes, and periods of regression. Hopefully Australia is emerging from a particularly unsupportive period in the last 15 - 20 years. At the end of June we will make our contribution to that process by going to Canberra to talk to the Ministers for Indigenous Affairs, Education and the Arts to talk about the need for a long term whole-of-Government strategy on Indigenous languages and a National Indigenous Languages Policy.

We would love to be able to present each of the Ministers with a pile of letters from individuals and organisations about why it is so important, and why the Australian government needs to provide national leadership on indigenous languages - NOW OR NEVER.

Please take the time to write a letter - handwritten or typed, with or without letter-head - and send it to us by the 10th of June. You can email them to alexATngapartji.org, or post them to Ngapartji Ngapartji, P0 Box 2765, Alice Springs NT 0871.

You could include references to the importance of Indigenous languages

  • to a sense of identity, belonging and self
  • as a key to unlocking education participation
  • to improvements in mental health
  • to improvements in literacy and numeracy
  • being taught alongside English and not subordinate to it
  • and being taken out of the 'too hard' basket before it is too late
  • or any other issue that you think is relevant

It's going to make a big difference too, if we can demonstrate to them the reach and difference that this one area of policy could make. We look forward to being able to place your letter directly in the hand of the Minister who can make a difference.

Alex Kelly
Creative Producer, Ngapartji Ngapartji

From: Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
12 May 2009

The financial difficulties currently facing the world's economies are having an impact on funding and support for research on endangered languages in various ways. (I heard the current situation referred to in Australia last month as The GFC ("Global Financial Crisis"), an acronym that I initially confused with The BFG (as a Roald Dahl fan) and that doesn't seem to have much purchase outside Australia -- even Wikipedia is taking the G out of GFC.)

Here are some of the signs:

  • the Sorosoro Programme of Fondation Chirac has postponed its planned annual events at the Musée du Quai Branly from early June to the end of 2009, or possibly even later (videos of last June's events are here)
  • the planned World Language Centre initiative of the Vigdis Finnboggadottir Institute in Iceland is being scaled back and no new international activities are now planned until early 2010
  • the laying of the foundation stone for LINGUAMÓN - Casa de les Llengës that had been scheduled for last year will now take place in November this year with the building planned to be open in 2011 (Linguamón continues to be active and an electronic newsletter is now available in Catalan, Spanish and English)
  • the DoBeS programme of the Volkswagen Stiftung will not have a funding application round in 2009 -- the next application deadline will be in September 2010 with funds available from 2011

Things look a bit gloomy for the next year or so, however there is some good news. The grants from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme that is administered by SOAS have not been affected as the funding base was established by a commitment from Arcadia (formerly the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund) back in 2002. In fact, under new arrangements recently negotiated with Arcadia, ELDP's budget end date has now been extended until 2016, some four years later than originally anticipated. There are two grant cycles this year: the second cycle of grant applications opens on Friday 15 May, with a closing date of 3rd August (see here for details).


From: Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
12 May 2009

As I reported back in October 2007, the European Science Foundation has been working on a project called EuroBABEL(standing for "Better Analyses Based on Endangered Languages") as part of the EUROCORES collaborative research infrastructure. The main goal of the EuroBABEL is:

"to promote empirical research on underdescribed endangered languages, both spoken and signed, that aims at changing and refining our ideas about linguistic structure in general and about language in relation to cognition, social and cultural organization and related issues in a trans-/multi-disciplinary perspective"

After a complex selection process that involved review by an international expert panel and then negotiations with national funding agencies, ESF has just announced the successful EuroBABEL projects:


from David Nathan,
HRELP, Endangered Languages Archive, SOAS

Gayarragi, winangali, a new Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay language resource, is now available. Click on the picture to download.

Download Gayarragi, winangali

Gayarragi, winangali is an interactive multimedia resource for the Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay languages of northern New South Wales, Australia. It is aimed at language learners at all levels, and anyone interested in these languages. It contains extensive language material, including audio. The main features are:


From: Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
9th May 2009

It seems that linguistic fieldwork has become a topic that is attracting quite a lot of interest lately. As Sheena Van Der Mark from La Trobe University recently wrote, there will be a workshop on Non-linguistic aspects of fieldwork at the Australian Linguistic Society annual conference in July.

On the 22nd of this month, SOAS Linguistics Department will be hosting a workshop on Teaching field linguistics techniques, organised in conjunction with the LLAS, the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, the UK national body which supports teaching of languages, linguistics and area studies in higher education. We anticipate roughly 40 attendees, including students interested in learning more about fieldwork, and staff who are considering how fieldwork might fit into the linguistics curriculum. Presentations will be given by staff and post-graduate students from SOAS, Manchester University and Queen Mary, University of London, covering the following topics (in line with my remarks from two years ago here and here (see especially the comments section), we are aiming to cover a range of fieldwork types, including language documentation-type fieldwork and urban sociolinguistic-type fieldwork):


A couple of weeks ago I watched "Samson and Delilah" at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station along with maybe 1700 other people, black and white, on the grass or swags and a few on camp chairs. It was a spectacular place for a premiere, the screen set up against red cliffs and white gums.

Several reviews have come out, by David Stratton, and by Julie Rigg on the ABC.

It's a bleak fairytale that's beautifully filmed and staged - the light at different times of day and in different places, the shadows when Samson is dancing, the strangeness of living under a bridge in the Todd River.


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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.


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

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

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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

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