> Linguistics - Transient Languages & Cultures
business learning training articles new learning business training opportunities finance learning training deposit money learning making training art loan learning training deposits make learning your training home good income learning outcome training issue medicine learning training drugs market learning money training trends self learning roof training repairing market learning training online secure skin learning training tools wedding learning training jewellery newspaper learning for training magazine geo learning training places business learning training design Car learning and training Jips production learning training business ladies learning cosmetics training sector sport learning and training fat burn vat learning insurance training price fitness learning training program furniture learning at training home which learning insurance training firms new learning devoloping training technology healthy learning training nutrition dress learning training up company learning training income insurance learning and training life dream learning training home create learning new training business individual learning loan training form cooking learning training ingredients which learning firms training is good choosing learning most training efficient business comment learning on training goods technology learning training business secret learning of training business company learning training redirects credits learning in training business guide learning for training business cheap learning insurance training tips selling learning training abroad protein learning training diets improve learning your training home security learning training importance

Blog home


[ Forwarded by John Hobson]

Re-awakening languages: theory and practice in the revitalisation of Australia's Indigenous languages
Edited by John Hobson, Kevin Lowe, Susan Poetsch and Michael Walsh
Sydney University Press
ISBN: 9781920899554

The Indigenous languages of Australia have been undergoing a renaissance over recent decades. Many languages that had long ceased to be heard in public and consequently deemed 'dead' or 'extinct', have begun to emerge.

Geographically and linguistically isolated, revitalisers of Indigenous Australian languages have often struggled to find guidance for their circumstances, unaware of the others walking a similar path. In this context Re-awakening languages seeks to provide the first comprehensive snapshot of the actions and aspirations of Indigenous people and their supporters for the revitalisation of Australian languages in the twenty-first century.

The contributions to this volume describe the satisfactions and tensions of this ongoing struggle. They also draw attention to the need for effective planning and strong advocacy at the highest political and administrative levels, if language revitalisation in Australia is to be successful and people's efforts are to have longevity.

Order from:
Sydney University Press

Contents, etc downloadable from:
The University of Sydney Library eScholarship repository

This post began in the auditorium of Diehtosiida, the new, beautiful and ultra well-equipped building in Guovdageaidnu/Kautokeino, Norway, which houses Sámi allaskuvla, the Sámi University College, as well as other Sámi institutions, including Gáldu, the Resource Centre for Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As we entered the auditorium for the first Indigenous Placenames Conference, we encountered a rack of Bosch handsets and headsets for simultaneous interpreting, and this was offered in Sámi, Russian and English. And they weren't for show - most introductions and some papers were given in (Northern) Sámi. Sámi people who spoke near-native English could, and did, give their papers in Sámi. Interpreters are at hand because of the Sámi University College - but because Diehtosiida houses other institutions, this probably increases the uptake on using interpreters, which in turn reduces the pressure to switch to a more dominant language, and widens the domains of use of Sámi.

Way to go! Where would we find that in Australia? Ah, but the price of the people and the equipment! Not even on offer at Trinity St David, the otherwise well-equipped and strongly Welsh branch of the University of Wales where the Foundation for Endangered Languages has just held its annual conference. Around 20,000 (?euros - Irish pounds thanks Peter!) for 3 days of simultaneous interpreting at a conference in Galway, said an Irish linguist. That's the financial pressure that forces speakers of small languages to give their papers in a lingua franca. But… at the FEL conference I learned from a representative of the Mentrau Iaith (Welsh Language Initiatives) that schools and community meetings can rent the equipment cheaply, and that often a bilingual parent or community member does the interpreting. They do it because they want to be able to use the minority language freely, not because they couldn't conduct the meeting in English. So it isn't best practice interpreting - but it is a choice between this and nothing - and nothing inevitably means using the dominant language.

Two important ideas came up at the FEL conference: the tipping point when bilingual speakers move to the majority language, and the conflict between authenticity and creativity.


Doing Great Things with Small Languages is an ARC funded project run by Nick Thieberger and Rachel Nordlinger at the University of Melbourne.

Linguists routinely record minority endangered languages for which no prior documentation exists. This is vitally important work which often records language structures and knowledge of the culture and physical environment that would otherwise be lost. However, while it is typical for the interpretation and analysis of this data to be published, the raw data is rarely made available.
Picture 4.png


Some recent accessions on Indigenous languages to the Sydney eScholarship repository:

  • Jeremy Hammond's Honours thesis The Grammar of Nouns and Verbs in Whitesands, an Oceanic Language of Southern Vanuatu. A ripper read for Oceanists thinking about arguments for there being distinct categories of nouns and verbs.
  • Aidan Wilson's Honours thesis Negative Evidence in Linguistics: The case of Wagiman Complex Predicates. What's a possible complex predicate? Good to read in conjunction with Stephen Wilson's University of Sydney Honours thesis also on Wagiman which was published by CSLI as Coverbs and Complex Predicates in Wagiman. NOTE: Aidan is not Stephen.
  • My 1985 paperlet "How Warumungu people express new concepts" published in the long dead, still lamented journal Language in Central Australia (issue 4, the last issue before it morphed into Language in Aboriginal Australia and died a couple of issues later). It was inspired by Geoffrey O'Grady's 1960 paper, "New concepts in Nyangumarda: some data on linguistic acculturation" [1], and was followed by Rob Amery's 1993 paper "Encoding new concepts in old languages: a case study of Kaurna, the language of the Adelaide Plains" [2]. I think the topic is due for further exploration. Psycholinguists are getting into it experimentally, but it's important to understand what actually has happened when people have had to find new ways of talking about things.



Now calling for papers and for registration of participants.

Following the successful recent Papuanists' Workshops in Sydney, the ANU Papuanists will be hosting a weekend of Papuanist talks at the Kioloa coast campus (c. 3 hours from Canberra and 3.5 hours from Sydney) from 2 pm Friday 30th October to early afternoon Sunday 1st November, with a bushwalk up Pigeon House planned for the Saturday afternoon.

Anyone who has an interest in Papuan languages and linguistics is invited to come and present a paper or just listen to other people's papers and join in the discussion.


Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
7 July 2009

The two-week 3L Summer School continued last week with plenary lectures on documentation and linguistic theory, language policy, language archiving, and documentation and language typology. Courses in the second week included Amazonian languages, Caucasian languages, Grammar writing, and documenting special vocabulary, together with the continuation of documenting sign languages, and sociolinguistics of language endangerment.

The Summer School ended in London last Friday with a Student Conference organised and run entirely by a group of SOAS PhD students with presentations from attendees at the summer school. The papers covered a wide range of topics and were of excellent quality -- so many good papers were submitted that the organisers decided to run two parallel sessions from 9:30am to 5:30pm. Here are the titles of the presentations organised by topic:

  • Language maintenance and revitalisation
    • New media forms and language revitalisation
    • Making use of resources from language documentation and description to enable language-based development
    • Visual representation of language maintenance and shift
  • Documentation theory
    • Challenges in documenting a moribund language: Ngarla
    • Documenting Ava-Guarani in the context of linguistic heterogeneity
    • The role of semi-speakers in language documentation
    • The importance of language documentation for languages which are not yet endangered
    • Old archives and the documentation and description of extinct languages
    • Edited fieldnotes and onomasiological grammar
  • Sign language documentation
    • Name signs in Ethiopian sign language
    • Is there a sentence in ASL? Insights on segmenting signed language data
    • Documentation of sociolinguistic variation in contemporary Auslan
  • Phonology and language documentation
    • The joy of doing prosodic research in a lesser known language
    • A tone inventory of Njanga
    • Lost in perception: transcribing distinctions not present in one's native language
  • Language overviews
    • The Istro-Romanians
    • The Katukina-Kanamari language
    • Megrelian: one century of language change
  • Multimedia, data and archiving
    • Central Alaskan Yup'ik: a linguistic research project
    • OLAC metadata and the need for improved metadata practices
    • How many languages are described?
  • Varia
    • Cultural worldviews and their implications for linguistic attitudes
    • Motion event segmentation in Jaminjung
    • Syntactic features in a linguistic atlas

The sign language documentation session included two presentations by deaf researchers (the session chair was also a deaf researcher) and at least one other was the first talk in English by
a presenter (and very well done too!). The talks were all of a high quality and prompted lively discussion among the 70 or so participants.

After a Farewell Party many of the students spent their last night in London dancing salsa at a club in Soho (photos can be found on the 3L Summer School group page on Facebook for those interested). I myself had to skip the dancing to go home and pack for a morning flight the next day to San Francisco to join the LSA Summer Institute where I am teaching a course on Syntax of Indonesian Languages for three weeks (the first lecture on Monday morning seems to have gone OK, despite the effects of an 8-hour time difference from London and the resulting jetlag).

The 3L Summer School series will continue in 2010 at Leiden University in The Netherlands. Details of the dates and organisational information will be announced by the 3L consortium members later this year.

From: Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
29 June 2009

Well, we have just passed the half-way point of the 3L Summer School and things seem to be going pretty much according to plan. Despite some last minute scrambles (presenters dropping out and needing to be replaced, equipment needing to be bought, rooms being taken out of service) all the classes got organised on time and have run well so far. Even Blackboard, the e-learning support environment, is functioning faultlessly, enabling us to do away with photocopying handouts and having useless piles of paper at the end of each class.

There are 97 students attending the 3L summer school, representing 42 nationalities (Argentinian, Australian, Belgian, Benin, Brazilian, British, Cameroonian, Canadian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Ethiopian, Finnish, French, German, Ghanaian, Greek, Indian, Indonesian, Irish, Israeli, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Malian, Mexican, Nigerian, Norwegian, Pakistani, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Saami, South African, Spainish, Swedish, Swiss, Taiwanese, Ugandan, USA). There are 18 instructors, who come from the three consortium universities (SOAS, Lyon and Leiden), along with colleagues from University College London. Three tutors from SOAS and a group of student volunteers, plus our Administrator Alison Kelly, make up the rest of the 3L team.

1 comments |

Peter K. Austin
Linguistics Department, SOAS

Two new groups of publications are now available from SOAS.

1. LDD 6
Volume 6 of Language Documentation and Description is now available. This volume is a fully-refereed collection of papers dealing with:

  • language documentation methodology
  • sociolinguistics and pedagogy for endangered languages
  • software applications

The papers were written specially written for the volume, and include the 2009 Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project Annual Public Lecture by Bernard Spolsky on the revitalisation of Maori. They represent important contributions to the theory and practice of the field of language documentation by leading scholars and younger researchers.


  • Editor's Introduction -- Peter K. Austin
  • Rescuing Maori: the last 40 years -- Bernard Spolsky
  • Dying to be counted: the commodification of endangered languages in documentary linguistics -- Lise M. Dobrin, Peter K. Austin and David Nathan
  • Data collection methods for field-based language documentation -- Friederike Lüpke
  • Audio responsibilities in endangered languages documentation and archiving -- David Nathan
  • Language management for endangered languages: the case of Navajo -- Bernard Spolsky
  • Language documentation and pedagogy for endangered languages: a mutual revitalisation -- David Nathan and Meili Fang
  • Managing linguistic diversity in the church -- Anicka Fast
  • Filming languages: implications of indigenous video production for language maintenance in Mexico -- Catherine Edwards
  • Documenting grammatical tone using Toolbox: an evaluation of Buseman's interlinearisation technique -- Stuart McGill

    Volume 6 costs £10.00 (postage and packaging is £2.50 extra). To order go to our website, download the order form, and follow the instructions.

    2. FEL books
    The Endangered Languages Academic Programme (ELAP) at SOAS has joined with the Foundation for Endangered Languages (FEL) to begin marketing and distribution of the series of publications produced by FEL over the past 10 years. There are 11 volumes available, covering a wide range of topics linking endangered languages to literacy, literature, land, language learning, media, multilingualism, migration and social impacts.

    To celebrate this ELAP-FEL collaboration, from 15th June to 15th September 2009 each FEL volume is priced at £12, a saving of 40% off the normal retail price (usually £20). This offer is for a strictly limited time only.

    To order your copies at this special price go to our website, download the order form, and follow the instructions.

From: Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS

Last year I wrote about how mobile phones are being used to do "fieldwork at a distance", checking data with consultants, or collecting text messages of writing in endangered languages.

A recent blog post by ESL educator Tom Leverett alerted me to yet another possible technological aid for linguistic data collection and checking, Skype. Many of us know Skype as a way to make cheap (or even free) voice and video phone calls, but Tom points out another use for the software (in association with audio and video software) -- conducting and recording conversations. He reports on an experiment that he carried out with a colleague:

"Thom T., our lab director, who makes it his business to know these things, agreed to place a call, and sure enough, from my office to his, we not only had a call, but also recorded it; furthermore, he bundled up that tiny recording (he had recorded only a few minutes of it - still, he said, it was quite a large bundle) and sent that bundle to me over the text chat function that is right there on Skype ... one can send songs, movies, documents, anything, as one would on an IM or another chat function. But, you can do it, and look the other person in the eye as you do it. Look 'em in the videocam eye, anyway"

So, I thought, what about interviewing consultants on Skype and using it to collect material to be added to a documentary corpus, check grammaticality judgements, socialise with the community, get feedback on materials, or indeed, just about anything that involves two-way communication? There are, however, limitations, as Tom points out. Two of these are bandwidth and interference:

4 comments |

From: Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
7 June 2009

That's my tabloid journalist headline for what is a serious, some would say momentous, development in the history of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), namely the adoption last month by the Executive Committee of the LSA of an Ethics Statement [.pdf]. Its Ethics Committee has been working on a draft statement for the past two and a half years, and engaged in consultation within the Society.

There is an article dealing with the issue in this week's Inside Higher Ed, but it focuses on what I believe are two less important aspects of thinking about ethical issues in linguistic research, namely what could be paraphrased as "how to stop linguists from screwing things up" and "how to get round the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process".

4 comments |

From: Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
4 June 2009

This week's Chronicle of Higher Education has two articles by Peter Monaghan on endangered languages issues. The first is entitled Languages on Life Support: Linguists debate their role in saving the world's endangered tongues (viewable free on line, and includes material from interviews with Nick Evans, Michael Krauss, Richard Rhodes, Noam Chomsky, and myself. Some of the topics covered will be familiar to readers of this blog, like what Monaghan calls "a 'commando style' of recording trip" (something Jane wrote about as Fifo (fly in fly out) fieldwork).

2 comments |

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 Nick Thieberger]

The 1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC) was held in Honolulu from March 12-14th this year. With a theme of ‘Supporting small languages together’ the emphasis was on collaborations, between
linguists and speakers, and between linguistics and other disciplines.

Over 300 people attended the conference with over 150 presentations on offer. When we began planning the conference we thought we may get 70 or 80 proposals and so we planned on a three day conference. However, despite rejecting nearly a third of the proposals, we still had a full schedule with up to six parallel sessions. Since this would result in participants missing some papers that they wanted to hear we decided to record as many papers as we could. We have now placed some 120 recordings online, together with pdf files and images of the presenters. This can be accessed here, and searched by presenter or by title.

There were four conference plenaries: Nikolaus Himmelmann discussed the nature of linguistic data and documentation; Paul Newman played devil’s advocate, suggesting ways in which language documentation could rethink some directions; Phil Cash Cash talked about an insider’s perspective on documentation for promotion of language use; Leanne Hinton ended the conference giving us inspiration about the ways in which language reintroduction is working in various North American language communities.

The full schedule, with abstracts, can be seen here.

Peter K. Austin
Linguistics Department, SOAS
2 March 2009

Endangered Languages Week 2009 has come and (just) gone, ending on Saturday with the second day of the workshop on Ideology and Beliefs on endangered languages. It was a fun, if exhausting week (made even more exhausting by having to teach our regular classes this year as it took place during term time), marked by having lots of visitors from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, the USA and Canada, as well as more local visitors from throughout Europe and the UK. The nice thing was that quite a number of people came to London for the whole week to participate in the various events.


From: Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
20th February 2009

Unesco has just published the latest version on its Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger edited by Christopher Moseley (the original 1996 and 2001 editions were edited by the late Stephen A. Wurm). The on-line interactive version of the Atlas is now available and the book version is due out soon. There is also a downloadable map in .pdf format (warning, it's 20 Mbytes in size and unless you have access to a very large monitor or printer it is not terribly usable).

The editorial group who assisted Moseley is a veritable who's who of specialists in endangered languages, including 27 experts from 13 named regions, supplemented by 6 specialists who provided "complementary information on specific areas". Having spoken to several of the contributors personally (including one colleague I met in Tokyo last week), it appears that preparation of the database underlying the Atlas was not all harmony and light and resulted in some disagreements among contributors. Not so unusual in endangered languages research, I guess.

I had a little cruise around the interactive presentation, which uses a Google Maps interface and noticed quite a few oddities in regions where I have a little knowledge. Perhaps readers of this blog will notice more. There is a "Contribute your comments" link to the website but it appears to be broken because all it does is display the same page. There doesn't seem to be anywhere one could point out apparent errors to Unesco and the editor, however it is possible to comment on individual listed languages by clicking on their "pin" on the Google Map and going to the "Comments" tab in the information that pops up. The comment then disappears and where it goes is not at all clear.

Here are a few other things I noticed:

8 comments |

The Foundation for Endangered Languqages is holding its thirteenth annual conference this year in Tajikistan, in association with the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan and The Institute of Humanities, Khorog.

Place: Institute of Humanities, Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan, Khorog Tajikistan

Dates: 24-26 September, 2009

Abstract deadline: March 1, 2009

The languages of the conference: English, Russian and Tajik. Abstract and papers will be accepted in any of these languages. Go to the conference website for further information. But I've put the conference themes below in full, because they make one think about history in a serious and interesting way.


From: Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS

2 February 2009

After the success of last year, we are running Endangered Languages Week 2009 at SOAS from 22nd to 28th February. The theme this year is "Endangered languages: who cares?"

Endangered Languages Week will presents a variety of displays, discussions, films, and workshops to provide a view of what is happening to languages around the world and what is being done to document, archive and support endangered languages at SOAS and elsewhere. Activities will include:


Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS

27 January 2009

On 27th and 28th February we will be running a workshop at SOAS in London to discuss theoretical and practical issues concerning beliefs and ideologies on endangered languages, with a special focus on the implications they have for language support and revitalisation.

Language ideologies have been described by Jan Blommaert as 'socioculturally motivated ideas, perceptions and expectations of language, manifested in all sorts of language use'. He goes on to suggest that 'there is now a widespread recognition of language ideologies as a crucial topic of debate when it comes to assessing the motives and causes for certain types of language change'. The study of language ideologies and beliefs may therefore provide insights into the reasons for language shift and/or revival, and may help to determine the success or otherwise of language revitalisation projects. At the workshop we will be looking at several issues:

2 comments |

40 years ago in Adelaide I didn't even know the name of the people whose country was officially invaded on 28 December 1836. Last Christmas walking in the city, I saw:


The problem: you have text files and audio files, but the text files are not aligned to the audio files.

I imagine there are a few readers out there who have transcriptions of audio files that never made it past an utterance per line text file. This is a post for you, if you'd like to know how to import and time-align those files in ELAN.

7 comments |

Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
12 November 2008

I began writing this post, appropriately enough it turns out, in Thessaloniki's Makedonia airport on my way back to London after an international conference on Language documentation and tradition with a special interest in the Kalasha of the Hindu Kush valleys, Himalayas. The conference ran from 7th to 9th November and included five plenary talks, over 30 papers, three workshops, and several ethnographic films made last summer in Pakistan. It was attended from researchers from around the world, including blog contributor Ana Kondic, as well as five Kalashas from north-west Pakistan.

2 comments |

Following on from Jane's announcement during the week of all the great news regarding successful grant applications, I have another bit of good news to share: James McElvenny and I recently applied for, and even more recently received, a grant from a philanthropic foundation to support our current work in compiling dictionaries.

3 comments |

[From Andrea L. Berez, University of California, Santa Barbara]

A few weeks ago in Uppsala, Nick Thieberger and I gave a talk on the need for digital standards and training in language documentation. During the Q-and-A, a distinguished member of the audience asked us, "How do you suggest we go about making communities do all the things you've been talking about?"

He was referring to the examples I had just been discussing regarding Alaska, where local (i.e., non-university) efforts at documentation and archiving are underway in several villages. He wanted to know how we, as linguists, can convince speaker community members to take up arms in the race for documentation and revitalization. After a moment's consideration, I could only reply, "I've never had any luck making the community do anything."

Although it may have seemed like a flippant response at the time, it was also a true one: any time I have been involved in proactively bringing technological standards and digital language-related activities to Alaskan communities, the result has always been different from what I expected.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge proponent of local training in language technology, and I've actively participated some of that training myself. I believe knowledge is power, and I don't subscribe to the notion that technology is somehow harmful or hegemonic. I consider it my responsibility to pass on my technical skills to anyone who wants to know. What I'm saying is that in my experience, attempts to introduce academic ideals about the "proper" way to do language documentation into the speaker community when nobody's asked for it has led to frustration.


David Nash

Munanga, 'white person' is widespread among the languages of the Arnhem Land region

as Jay Arthur (1996:161) notes in her compilation of written Aboriginal English, supported by citations from the northern NT 1977-1995.1 This extends to the present, as Wamut that munanga linguist can testify.

I was intrigued to learn recently that scholars don't have much of an idea of the origin of the word. The AND (Australian National Dictionary 1988), now available online, has the earliest written citation

1912 Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Feb. 13/2 There is the much less widely known aboriginal term ‘myrnonga’. The myrnonga is a person of more promiscuous habits [than the combo] who … prowls with furtiveness when the moon is young.

but this is under the obscure headword murlonga 'A white man who sexually exploits Aboriginal women', with etymology

[Poss. a. Yolŋu sub-group munaŋa a white person.]2

10 comments |

Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
28 September 2008

I was interviewed last week for PRI's the World: The World of Words for a podcast that was published on 26 September. The interviewer, Patrick Cox, who is based in Boston, contacted me after reading my Guardian Top 10 Endangered Languages and seeing a copy of the book 1000 Languages which I edited and which was published in North America on 1st September.

1 comments |

The 26th of September 2008 is the annual European Language Day, and this year is the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which among many other good things recognises "regional or minority languages as an expression of cultural wealth".

So, when and where better to hold the Foundation for Endangered Languages' annual conference, than in Fryslân? It's all happening from September 24 to 27 in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, at the Fryske Akademy, (who incidentally sponsor a Frisian spell-checker for MS Office - yes!)

The abstracts are on the web [.pdf]


Peter K. Austin
Linguistics Department, SOAS

The issues of the engagement of social science researchers in direct involvement in community activism, integration of activism with research and scholarship, and ways to ensure wider communication of our research results were topics of a one-day meeting held in Chicago last week. The Interdisciplinary Institute on Engaged Scholarship and Social Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) organised a workshop entitled "Engaged Scholarship and Social Justice: Transcending the Campus, Transforming the Academy" on 12th September.

The topics explored at the workshop were:

  1. How do we translate our scholarship and research findings into an accessible language that allows us to then engage in discussions and debates with a diverse range of communities? Can we write books and dissertations that working class friends and relatives can actually read?
  2. How do we reconcile notions of 'objectivity' with our own passions for and commitment to issues and communities? Can you love a subject and still analyze, research and assess it as a scholar? Should we be accountable, responsible or concerned with the application and outcomes of our research?
  3. How do we forge creative new methodologies that help us ask new questions and get at new insights and information? How does pedagogy reflect politics? What's the connection between what we teach and how we teach it?
  4. Where does 'utopia' and imagined futures fit into our work as social scientists and scholars in the humanities, and as teachers and students? Is our job to help students acquire skills and to better understand the known world, as well as to 'dream' of what we can only imagine?

1 comments |

From our long-term knowledge transferrer, Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS

15 September 2008

At the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) conference held at the University of Essex last week, there was a discussion session with Professor Shearer West, recently appointed Director of Research at the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). During the discussion she emphasised that "knowledge transfer" is now an essential expectation of all AHRC grant applications, where "knowledge transfer" means "ensur[ing] that the research we fund can be used to make a difference beyond academia". Apparently the AHRC feels that researchers in Arts and Humanities in the UK have been traditionally rather poor at disseminating their knowledge outside the ivy towers and wants to push them more in this direction. Specifically, this includes:

  • promot[ing] the interests of arts and humanities research and its value to our social, economic and cultural life
  • increas[ing] the amount of high quality research supporting special exhibitions, resdisplays and conservation

2 comments |

I raved on about how good OZCLO was in an earlier post.

So, now here's your chance to get involved....

Call for Expressions of Interest

OZCLO – Australian Computational and Linguistics Olympiad 2009

The Inaugural Australian Computational and Linguistics Olympiad (OZCLO) was held earlier this year at the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney. The three winning teams from the State rounds in both states competed to solve problems in Icelandic agreement, finite state automata, Mayan hieroglyphs, Manam Pile directionals, and spectrograms of English in the national round in August. Competitors ranged from year 9 to year 12, and came from both state and private schools. The competition was a huge success and a lot of fun for all involved. We would like to hold it again next year, and are hoping to expand it into other states, depending on the level of interest (we already have interest from Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia). So we are now calling for expressions of interest from colleagues around Australia who would be willing to be involved in next year’s competition.


Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
7th September 2008

In a recent blog post, Jane Simpson reported on opinions expressed by a group at ANU meeting to discuss grammar writing:

"We all agree it's a good thing to publish glossed texts so that readers can check out the hypotheses proposed in the grammar, and expressed by the glossing."

I'd like to inject a note of caution here. It seems to me that many times published texts, with interlinear glossing or not, and especially those that derive from transcriptions of spoken language, have often been fiddled with (or to put it more politely 'edited') on their way from recording to printed page. This is also often true of published texts that are based on written originals produced by literate native speakers. It is rarely the case that, as Wamut commented about Jeffrey Heath's work on Ngandi at the end of Jane's blog post:

"What is especially great, is that when you go back to Heath's archived field recordings, the spoken texts are there in pristine form, that is, the spoken text and written text correlate perfectly" [emphasis added]

Heath adopted the same principle of "perfect correlation" in his published work on other languages such as his 1980 Nunggubuyu Myths and Ethnographic Texts which clearly states in the introduction: "in the texts presented here I have not 'weeded out' false starts, intrusive English words, or grammatical errors by the narrators".

In many other cases of text publication, I know editing has taken place -- I have done it myself, and some other researchers have admitted to it (though rarely indicating exactly what editorial changes were made -- more on this below). The texts in my 1997 book of Texts in the Mantharta Languages, Western Australia. [Tokyo: ILCAA, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies] were heavily edited, though I didn't mention that in print at the time, and it was only when it came to creating a multimedia Jiwarli website where both published texts and original recordings were presented that I had to confess: "[y]ou may also notice that the Jiwarli texts are not word for word identical to the sound files, as Jack Butler, after recording the stories, made his own corrections in the texts". There was no attempt to deceive here, rather it was Jack's explicit wish that the stories be edited for publication.

As an example, consider published Text 50 (which appears on the website here) and the way it corresponds to the original recording (italics indicates material on the tape which was deleted in the editing process, bold indicates text added during editing, and { x == y} indicates substitution during editing):

4 comments |

It's yellow everywhere in Canberra - it's Wattle Day. Meanwhile, inside the honeycomb Coombs building at ANU, the grammar-writing group wrestled with Ulrike Mosel's article, 'Grammaticography: The art and craft of writing grammars', in Catching language: The standing challenge of grammar writing (Eds. Felix K. Ameka, Alan Dench, Nicholas Evans, Mouton de Gruyter, 2006, pp.41-68).

The name 'Grammaticography', while way way behind in the 'most elegant word of the day' competition, leads into the nice comparison made by Mosel between preparing dictionaries and preparing grammars. Front matter, macro structure, microstructure and all. It also led to us thinking about the growing fuzziness of the boundary between lexicon and grammar- all those Advanced Learners Grammars with heaps of information about subcategorisation, or the OED with its definitions of suffixes, all those grammars with information about the meanings of words.

One thing that grammars have over most dictionaries however, is the notion of publishing an accompanying set of texts. Falsifiability has traditionally been more of a concern for grammarians than for lexicographers. We all agree it's a good thing to publish glossed texts so that readers can check out the hypotheses proposed in the grammar, and expressed by the glossing. The classic example is Jeffrey Heath's careful analysis of R. M.W. Dixon's Dyirbal texts (HEATH, J. 1979. Is Dyirbal ergative?. Linguistics 17, 401-463) to argue against DIxon's claim about Dyirbal being syntactically Ergative. Can anyone think of further examples?

3 comments |

Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
1st September 2008

After some delay due to a backlog of other "Top 10s", my promised article entitled Top 10 Endangered Languages appeared on the Guardian website on Tuesday last week. It has been attracting some attention and comment. Several things seem to have happened to the article in the blogosphere:

  1. the content was copied whole (with citation) by a number of bloggers - here, here
  2. only part of the content attracted the attention of some bloggers, eg. Ainu here and here, Ket here, Yuchi here, the loss of cultural heritage here and the parameters I adopted to help me choose here
  3. Claire Bowern was prompted to come up with her own list of Top 10 endangered languages on her Anggarrgoon blog
  4. David Crystal mentioned it on his blog which resulted in a comment linking to Claire's list, and a snappy commentary on Claire's choice of Mapundungun as an endangered language
  5. it was listed on Deliggit.com, which claims to track "the social sites most interesting urls"
  6. it was dug (digged?) on Digg, with 1059 diggs and 154 comments so far. It is currently on the first page of Digg, which is apparently a cool place to be.

2 comments |

1st Call for Papers for a graduate student colloquium on Language Documentation, to be submitted as part of the 1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation at the University of Hawai'i, March 12-14 2009. This colloquium, organized by and for graduate students, will provide an opportunity for graduate students to share their research and experiences. The main conference website is at http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/ICLDC09.



In late August, the sun, blue skies and daffodils turn a person to cleaning up the old (spring-cleaning, grave-tending, proof-reading), and starting up the new. The new this time is a grammar-writing workshop that Nick Evans has started at the Australian National University.

Thirteen of us (ANU students, staff, visitors and hangers-on) met today for the first meeting. Each of us confessed/asserted/laid out something about the grammars we hope to work on (ranging from biblical Hebrew, to languages of Timor and PNG, to some (like mine on Warumungu and Kaurna) that have been waiting for a lo-o-o-o-ng time.

Nick's idea is that the group will work on a 4 week cycle

  • Week 1. Orientation to the topic (presented by one or more of the convenors)
  • Week 2. Reading of two or three key papers.
  • Week 3. Critical presentation by selected participants of how this issue is treated in one or more of their 'adopted' grammars [Adopting grammars means looking at a grammar of a language related to the one you're working on, and one which is quite unrelated.[2]]
  • Week 4. Presentation by two or three selected participants of special problems they are facing in working up this part of the grammar of the language they are researching.

1 comments |

Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
23rd August 2008

I just got back to London after 9 days in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the invitation of Dr Lucia Galluscio, Instituto de Lingística, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires. Lucia is one of the leading researchers on indigenous languages of Argentina, having worked for over 30 years on a range of languages including Mapundungun (spoken by the Mapuche in southern Argentina), and Mocovi, Tapiete and Vilela (from the Chaco region in the north of Argentina - she leads the Chaco DoBeS project). Lucia is also a staff member of CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas), the national Argentinian research agency, modelled on the CNRS in France, and has held a Guggenheim Fellowship among other awards.

I was invited to participate in four events while I was there:


I've been feeling the need for an Australian corpus for a long time - do people really speak the way I so confidently say to our students that they do? Maybe not...

Anyway at the last Australian Linguistics Society (ALS) conference, there was a meeting on establishing the Australian National Corpus initiative. As a result, they're planning an HCSNet Workshop on Designing the Australian National Corpus to be held in Sydney (4-5 December 2008), as well as getting the National Audit of Language Data in Australia rolling. The call for papers for this workshop will be distributed very soon.

If you want to add your name to their statement of common purpose (attached below) and be on the mailing list, contact Michael Haugh [m.haugh (AT griffith.edu.au)] or Cliff Goddard [cgoddard (AT une.edu.au)]


I could whinge for hours & hours & hours about the time&labour-wasting process of getting ethics clearance for - wait for it - the dangerous act of giving students questionnaires about everyday language use on everyday subjects. You have better things to read.

Among which could be the Linguistics Society of America's draft statement on ethics. It contains some interesting ideas, links to codes of ethics in related disciplines, and, most helpfully, it's in a blog format, so people are commenting on pieces of the proposal. The comments are fascinating.

Peter K. Austin
Department of Linguistics, SOAS
8th August 2008

I took a couple of weeks off recently for my summer holidays during which I started reading an "airport book" (picked up at W.H. Smith's in the new Heathrow Terminal 5 under one of those ubiquitous "buy one get one half price" deals also offered by Waterstones, Blackwells and Borders throughout the UK -- even my local Tesco supermarket offers 50% discount on trade paperbacks). It is called The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Penguin Books, 2007), and what attracted me to shell out my 6 pounds (sorry, readers in Australia) was the subtitle The Impact of the Highly Improbable and the blurb:

"This book is all about Black Swans: the random events that underlie our lives from bestsellers to world disasters. Their impact is huge: they're nearly impossible to predict; yet after they happen we always try to rationalise them."


"A history of neglect and a neglect of history" was Nick Evans' summary of some gaps in work on Indigenous languages in Australia on Friday, as he launched a new collection of papers Encountering Aboriginal Languages: Studies in the history of Australian linguistics, edited by William B. McGregor. Gaps that we authors hope we've shoved fingers into...

Nick listed several reasons for linguists being concerned about the history of linguistics, most of which were demonstrated by papers in the workshop that preceded the launch, the Inaugural Conference of the Society for the History of Linguistics in the Pacific (SHLP), held at the Australian National University on Friday August 1.


[ 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:

5 comments |

[ 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


[ 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.

19 comments |

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:

2 comments |

[ from our man in Lyon, Peter K. Austin, Linguistics Department, SOAS]

As it approaches the halfway point, the 3L (Leiden-London-Lyon) Summer School on Language Documentation and Description is humming along. It started on Monday 23rd June and ends on Friday 4th July.

So far we have had five days of plenary lectures (in English) and discussions (in English, and French) on a range of topics, practical classes (on phonology, tonology, audio recording, Toolbox, multimedia, applying for research grants -- most available in both English and French), and areal classes (on Cushitic, and Mayan languages). There is a full list [.pdf] of course descriptions on the 3L website. There are around 65 students and researchers attending from a wide range of countries as varied as Togo, Gabon, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Guatemala, USA, Netherlands, Germany, France, Russia, UK, Taiwan and Australia. Teachers are from the University of Lyon-2, SOAS and Leiden. The local organisational team is made up of students and staff from Lyon-2 together with student volunteers.

On Wednesday evening there was a very interesting soirée which brought researchers and students attending the 3L Summer School together with researchers and students attending a summer school on Interactional Linguistics being run by the CNRS ICAR laboratory headed by Professor Lorenza Mondada at the recently opened École Normale Supérieure de Lyon (with brand new architecturally outstanding buildings and facilities). There were many interesting issues of common interest that surfaced in the short presentations given by researchers from the two groups, including problems of fieldwork (entering, being in and leaving the field, the role of gatekeepers and brokers), research methods and tools, and giving back to those participating in the research. There are sure to be more useful interactions between the ICAR and DDL research groups in Lyon in the future.

Today there is a student conference, or rather two conferences since there will be presentations of around 20 papers in two parallel sessions, one in French and one in English. The students are so keen to discuss their work that the programme starts at 9:30am and goes to 7pm (on a Saturday, mind you!). This level of enthusiasm and willingness to share ideas and experiences has been a feature of the past week both in class and outside.

Some other features of the summer school so far that I have noticed include:


In the flurry of exam marking and LingFest preparation, the top floor of the Transient is still coming down from the ascent of 64 high school students today. They came from as far away as Camden (Macarthur Anglican), and James Ruse, to as close as Fort Street and St Marys in Sydney proper. Year 9, 10 and 11 students bounded up our stairs, and along our (thankfully refurbished) corridors, to the State Round of OzCLO, the First Australian Computational and Linguistics Olympiad.

Fueled by tim-tams and orange juice, teams of three worked away at problems in Luiseno, Chinantec, Japanese compounds, the horror [1] of getting computers to parse English morphology, and a wonderful problem on Anglicised Irish place-names - how do you get Clashgortmore from the forms in An Chlais Bhán (The White Pit), Bun an Ghoirt Bháin (Base of the White Field), An Currach Mór (The Big Marsh) - and what does it mean?

They seemed excited, charming, enthusiastic problem-solvers, and, with luck they'll be the next generation of linguists (doctor, lawyer, Indian chief?)

The general consensus seems to be that:

  • yes, we must have it next year,
  • yes if we advertise in further in advance we will get more students (64 was FAR more than we'd expected),
  • and
    YES, we must find sponsors [2] to send the national winners overseas to the International Computational and Linguistic Olympiads.

Suggestions anyone?

And now, to mark the results…

Watch this space for the three winners who will go on to the National round on 6th August.

[1] and the horror of marking - one of our Melbourne collaborators spent today whipping off "a quick and dirty Perl script to evaluate the effectiveness of the regular expressions that the students come up with" in answer to the problem.

[2] Above and beyond our current kind & generous sponsors, HCSNet, the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney, Macquarie University, CSIRO, the Australasian Language Technology Association, and the Australian Linguistics Society.


Alexandre Duchêne & Monica Heller. 2007. Discourses of Endangerment: Ideology and Interest in the Defence of Languages. London: Continuum.

Reviewed by Nick Thieberger, University of Melbourne / University of Hawai'i

This collection of thirteen papers addresses language ideology, in particular the use of 'language endangerment' as a rallying cry with broader 'ideological struggles on the terrain of language'. If I could have done a concordance of the text, I'm sure that tokens including 'discourse' and 'essentialize' would have come out near the top of the frequency list. The use of the former is apparently necessary at least once a page (and preferably more often) and the second is a 'Bad Thing', although I have to say that most authors in this book essentialize linguists and the linguistic project as unproblematic, and not internally fraught in the way that everything else is (although the naivete of this postmodern critique would have one think that only they could consider such a thing to be possible).

Deconstruction is the trope of choice throughout this volume – unfortunately constructive critique is not. A certain amount of critical evaluation of linguists' engagement with endangered languages is necessary, but I find it in general to be dealt with in a heavy-handed and unhelpful way by many of the contributions to this volume.

In this review I will give a brief sketch of the contents of the book which I approached eagerly, keen to read a critical account of the endangered languages (EL) movement in which I have had some interest over almost three decades now. My interest in ELs has focussed on small languages, typically spoken by marginalised groups in what used to be called the fourth world, pre-industrial people living largely traditional lives and, in general these language were not provided with much in the way of resources or existing documentation. This book, on the whole, deals with languages ranging from Corsican to French as endangered in some way and it takes some changing gear in my mind to sympathise with their plight. One chapter deals with indigenous languages (of Canada) but otherwise the volume has a strong European focus (the other exceptions being a chapter on the 'Official English' movement in the USA and another on Acadian French in Nova Scotia).

1 comments |

[from Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, Linguistics Department, SOAS]

As I pointed out in a previous post, there have been a lot of new developments in the field of endangered languages research in the past five years. One of those has been the publication series Language Documentation and Description which we produce annually at SOAS. We started the series in 2003 with the launch of HRELP, the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project (in fact, the first volume contains papers from our launch event and the workshop that followed). Hot off the presses this week is the fifth volume of papers, containing six papers on three topics: data and language documentation, digital video and archiving in language documentation, and training and activism in documentary linguistics. Here is the table of contents (for more details including a downloadable PDF of my Editor's Preface and an order form go here):

2 comments |

[from Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, Linguistics Department, SOAS]

The May Newsletter of the Australian Linguistic Society has just come out and can be viewed here. As usual it includes information about conferences, workshops, research grants awarded to members, recent publications, and the odd flashback to ALS doings of the last century. Then there is the "News from ..." section where stories submitted by Linguistics Departments around Australia are presented; the May edition includes Macquarie University, University of New England, Australian National University, and the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology at La Trobe University.

3 comments |

[ a review from Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, Linguistics Department, SOAS]

Things move fast in the endangered languages world. Five years is a long time, especially the past five years when so much has happened. Last speakers of languages have passed away, such as the late Marie Smith Jones who was the last speaker of Eyak and who died on 21st January 2008 (her death garnered much publicity as signalling the first native Alaskan language to become extinct -- a Google search of "last speaker of Eyak", for example, returns 537 hits, led by such big names as the BBC, the Economist and so on). Other less publicised losses have occurred, such as Jawoyn from the Northern Territory, whose last fluent speaker died in July 2007.

But really good stuff has happened in the last five years too: millions of dollars of research funds have been made available for work with endangered languages through the Volkswagen Foundation's DoBeS project, the NSF-NEH DEL scheme, and the ELDP grants administered by SOAS. There have been lots of grass roots activities to document, archive and support endangered languages, and a whole new group of committed students have entered the field via training programmes at ELAP at SOAS and University of Hawaii, among others. There have been summer schools, like the 2004 DoBeS summer school in Frankfurt, with more on the way including the 3L summer school and InField summer institute starting in June this year. If you add in the conferences, workshops, training courses, books, articles, media coverage, blogs and so on it is pretty clear that endangered languages has become a really hot issue, especially since 2003 or so.

Courtesy of the KITLV Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies I have just received a copy of Encyclopedia of the world's endangered languages edited by Christopher Moseley and started dipping into it. I am writing a proper review of the book for the BKI Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, but thought I would share some initial impressions here.

1 comments |

[ from Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, Linguistics Department, SOAS]

One of the events which featured in Endangered Languages Week 2008 at SOAS was called What is your language footprint?. This concept of a Language Footprint and the ideas behind it were developed by David Nathan, and presented by his team that also included Chaithra Puttaswamy and Juliette Rutherford (Tom Castle created the dramatic poster).footprint.gif

It has since attracted the attention of several bloggers, including Bulanjdjan (Langguj Gel) and Hoyden about town.

The basic concept is simple. A language footprint is the influence of those speaking a dominant language on the behaviour of speakers of other languages. In any communication, if your choice of language makes another person shift from their language to yours, you have made a language footprint. The concept is intended as a metaphor similar to the"carbon footprint"notion and, like it, includes the potential that individuals can reduce or offset their language footprint. You can reduce your language footprint by:

2 comments |

[ from Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, Linguistics Department, SOAS]

The recently established Fondation Chirac in collaboration with the Musée du quai Branly and Unesco is organising a one-day public event to be held on Monday 9th June in Paris called "SOROSORO pour que vivent les langues du monde!" (SOROSORO long live the languages of the world! ). Sorosoro in the Araki language of Vanuatu means ‘breath, word, language’. The event will highlight the current situation of language diversity and endangered languages and includes presentations by linguists from France, Gabon, Guatemala, UK and Vanuatu.

The programme begins at 3pm in the Claude Levi-Strauss Theatre at the Museum and includes the following presentations (my translations of the French original):

1 comments |

[ from our man on the spot, Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, Linguistics Department, SOAS]

Following on from our successful experiment in April 2007 the Endangered Languages Project at SOAS is running an even bigger and better Endangered Languages Week from 30th April to 8th May 2008.
Through films, displays, discussions and workshops we are presenting what is being done to document, archive and support endangered languages at SOAS and around the world. The theme of the week is “What can WE do?", exploring how researchers, students, language community members and members of the public can work together to address the challenges of global language and cultural loss.
Activities include:

2 comments |

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

Last Wednesday, Elizabeth Zeitoun’s recently published Grammar of Mantauran (Rukai) arrived in my mailbox at SOAS from Academic Sinica in Taipei. This is a beautifully produced description of a dialect of Rukai, one of the Endangered Languages of Taiwan and at 551 pages is a sizeable account of the language.

So I got to thinking: this is a pretty impressive comprehensive reference grammar of an endangered language. And then, well what counts as a “comprehensive (reference) grammar”? The term gets used quite a bit in relation to endangered and minority languages. For example the February 2007 newsletter [pdf] of La Trobe University’s Research Centre for Linguistic Typology, the most recent one available, contains over 25 uses of the term, and all 10 PhD students associated with the Centre are said to be writing a “comprehensive grammar” of a small language. A Google search for “comprehensive reference grammar” returns 1,130 hits, and for “comprehensive grammar” 128,000 hits, though that includes things like A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk,Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik, which doesn’t really count for our purposes, nor does Matthews and Yip’s Cantonese: A Comprehensive Reference Grammar.

So I then adopted a tried and true sampling method of language typologists, namely have a look at the grammars of smaller languages that are on my book shelves at SOAS and pick the fattest ones (ok, ok, I know real typologists don’t do sampling like this any longer, but bear with me for the purposes of this exercise). What I came up with is summarised in the following table (astute readers will notice that I am not controlling for factors like margin width, page size, font type size and line spacing, but I’m only human):

3 comments |

So, the Oz Government wants to ensure that the Oz tax payer gets value for the taxes that pay for me and my colleagues to scuttle and scurry around universities, and our students to read & learn & think & write &..

To this praiseworthy end, each year the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Training ask us to produce copies of everything solid & worthy we've published over the previous year with all sorts of verification information, and of course the all important label MADE IN AN AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITY CONTAINING ALL AUSTRALIAN INGREDIENTS. And the "we" includes not only staff but also students - which is right & proper, except that the students get no direct benefit from the labor of copying and collating the information, whereas a small trickle of money comes back to departments on the basis of their research output.

Now, one of our students* has just published an interesting article on grammaticalisation of a Cantonese particle, in the Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Yue dialects (Cheung, H-H; S-H Cheung and H-K Chan (eds) 2007. Dishijie GuoYuefangyan Yantaohui Lunwunji (Beijing: China Social Sciences Press. ISBN 978-7-5004-6582-9). She kindly copied the article, and the preface, the table of contents, and the ISBN publication details page, all of which are needed for verification.


Among the people invited to share ideas at the 2020 Summit on visions for Australia's future are several speakers of traditional Indigenous Languages, Jeannie Nungarrayi Egan, Raymattja Marika and Thomas Jangala Rice. Apart from them, as far as I can see, linguists haven't got a look in. Our ideas aren't part of the vision for Australia. Sigh, so what's new?

Australia's language capacity has declined. This includes the capacity to speak the languages of our neighbours, the loss of Australia's Indigenous language heritage, and the fact that Indigenous children in remote communities are not learning Standard English. Changes in policy are needed to rebuild our ability as a country to learn and use languages. It'd be great if the summit considered this as something to push for.

2 comments |

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

A series of five documentaries on languages is scheduled to air on OBE (Original Black Entertainment) TV in the UK starting on 13th April 2008. OBE TV is a freeview 24 hour Channel on Sky Digital Channel 204 with a primary target audience from the African, Caribbean and other ethnic communities in the UK and Ireland, Europe, North Africa and beyond. OBE TV reaches over 7.8 million satellite subscribers in the UK and Ireland alone.

The documentary series is called World – Speaking in Tongues and the episodes are.....

2 comments |

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

Since 1963 the Australian National University has annually awarded the University Medal as its most prestigious undergraduate academic prize. At each conferring of degrees ceremony the University’s most outstanding first class honours students are recognised with the award. An Honour Board displaying the names of all University Medal winning students was launched in February 2008 and is now on display in the Great Hall, University House, Canberra. There is a Virtual Honour Board on the ANU website.

Between 1974 and the present 17 Linguistics students have been awarded the medal, and quite a few names that will be familiar to readers of this blog are among them. They include a number of students who went on to do PhDs and further research describing and/or documenting endangered languages:

2 comments |

This year's Australian languages workshop, the seventh, was very well organised by Kazuko Obata, Jutta Besold, Jo Caffery and the rest of their committee. It was held at Kioloa [kai'oʊlə], ANU's field station on the NSW south coast. Spongy green grass and tall green trees make it a far cry from drought-ridden Canberra, and the extent of the wilderness is restful. Walking along a white beach to the Murramarang Aboriginal area (very good signs with information on local words for sea creatures and traditional practices). Generations of rainbow lorikeets trained by generations of students to perch on arms, shoulders, knees. Boobook owls calling in the night as we looked at the Milky Way during Earth Hour.

The weather was perfect, warm, and the papers were cool..


The Australian Linguistics Institute is now open for online registration [finally - oh the pain of making a rego page that's secure AND university-compliant, tax-compliant, human-compliant...]. Short, intensive courses will be presented by some excellent linguists from 7th - 11th July 2008, at the University of Sydney. It is a great opportunity for linguists, language professionals, graduate students and advanced undergraduates to learn more about a wide range of topics in language. Plus there's to be a three day Indigenous Languages Institute sponsored by the Koori Centre which will bring heaps of Indigenous people working on languages together to work on problems of language maintenance and language revitalisation.

Participants may register for up to four courses during the week-long ALI. Each course is offered for 1.5 hours each day for five days. Topics include psycholinguistics (Anne Cutler), first language acquisition (Rosalind Thornton and Stephen Crain), morpho-syntax (Brett Baker, Greville Corbett, Mark Harvey, Rachel Nordlinger, Gert Webelhuth and Regine Eckhardt), computational linguistics (Robert Dale, Mary Dalrymple, Mark Dras), Japanese grammar (Nerida Jarkey and Harumi Minagawa), sociolinguistics (Jennifer Hay, Michael Clyne, Diana Eades), semantics (Bert Peeters, Cliff Goddard and Anna Wierzbicka), discourse and conversational analysis (Celia Kitzinger, Jim Martin, Sigrid Norris), sign language linguistics and grammaticalisation (Louise de Beuzeville and Trevor Johnston), contact language typology (Ian Smith), quantitative methods (Carsten Roever) and educational linguistics (William Armour, Ryuko Kubota, Ahmar Mahboob, Aek Phakiti).

Do book your accommodation early, as the combination of World Youth Day and the Pope's visit the following week mean that accommodation may be taken up.


This is a conference "with a special interest in the Kalasha of the Hindu Kush valleys, Himalayas", to be held at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in Greece, 7-9 November 2008.

More information on the website, and below [reposted from the RNLD list]:


[From Tamworth export Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

There is an article in Tuesday’s Education supplement of the The Guardian newspaper with the byline “Bowling Google a googly" about Tara Brabazon, Professor of Media Studies at Brighton University, who recently gave her inaugural lecture there. Professor Brabazon hails from Perth and the interview article makes much of her Australian connections (including her 2002 book Ladies Who Lunge that includes a discussion of another Australian academic export to the UK, Germaine Greer).

At the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in Chicago two weeks ago, among the assembled linguists were seven Australians now established overseas:

14 comments |

[From our man back from the Netherlands, Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

We had an interesting discussion about documentation corpora in the course I taught last week for the LOT winter school at the Universiteit van Tilburg.

In the course I took the somewhat strong view that a documentary corpus minimally consists of: (a) media or text recordings (inscriptions), with (b) time-aligned transcription, and (c) time-aligned translation, and (d) relevant metadata about the documentation and communicative context. Thus, on this view, the 150 hours of untranscribed video collected by a project that one of the students is involved in is not part of any corpus (though it might be what Himmelmann (2006:10) calls 'primary data' ("recordings of observable linguistic behaviour and metalinguistic knowledge"), or what OLAC calls 'a resource', and it might become part of the corpus when it is worked on in the future). Neither is the audio recording of a 6-person conversation that another student made in Sri Lanka that neither he nor his consultants are able to transcribe. Media recordings without transcription or translation thus do not constitute data by themselves and don't document anything. This view of what a corpus is also appears in the DoBeS guidelines as presented in Brugman 2003, available here, and on the HRELP website. A corpus can be enriched by annotation (see Bird and Liberman 2001) with the addition of linguistic information like morphemic analysis, morpheme-by-morpheme glosses, part of speech tags etc (see Schultze-Berndt 2006), or non-linguistic information like kinship relations or cultural practices etc (see Franchetto 2006).


[From our man back from Chicago, Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

At the recent Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in Chicago, Sandra Chung from University of California Santa Cruz gave an invited plenary address on the topic “How much can understudied languages really tell us about how language works?” She argued, among other things, that data from understudied languages should play a crucial role in the development of linguistic theory since only by including them can we get a full picture of the array of phenomena found in human languages that need to be taken account of. She illustrated her talk with examples from her work on Chamorro, an endangered Austronesian language spoken on Guam.

During the question time following Sandy’s talk, one person commented something along the following lines (I paraphrase, since I was rather stunned to hear the opinion being openly expressed before a linguistics audience, and don’t recall the exact formulation):

“Linguistic research needs to concentrate on working with corpora and for the sort of languages you were talking about, like Chamorro, you will never be able to put together a corpus of sufficient size to be able to do anything meaningful. We should give up on the small (and disappearing) languages and concentrate on ones where we are likely to be able to get a decent sized corpus.”

1 comments |

[Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS, reporting on a joint poster presentation with Lise Dobrin (University of Virginia) and David Nathan (SOAS) at the 2008 LSA annual meeting]

They came. They saw. They chuckled. Some snickered, and a few laughed out loud. A couple even went “what the … ?”

Such was the range of reactions to the poster which Lise Dobrin (University of Virginia), David Nathan (SOAS) and I presented at last week’s Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in Chicago dealing with the topic of commodification of endangered languages, ie. their reduction to things to be counted and standardised, and their treatment as if they were a tradeable commodity.

At David’s suggestion we decided to adopt a satirical approach using the metaphor of a newspaper front page to deal with what is, of course, a very serious topic. It was the only (deliberately) funny poster at the LSA this year, and probably ever. Ten points to avid readers who get all the allusions and jokes. View thumbnail of image or full size poster here.

9 comments |

This week saw a conference on placenames held in Ballarat Trends in Toponymy: Indigenous identity and theoretical developments in placename research, (organised by Ian Clark and Laura Kostanski). I got to the first two days of talks, which sparkled with maps and pictures of the places whose names were under discussion. Here are some ideas that struck me.

3 comments |

When Australians talk about 'Indigenous writing', 'Indigenous writers' and 'Indigenous literature' in Australia, they usually don't mean 'writing in Indigenous languages'. They mean English. You'd never guess that Indigenous Australians wrote in their own languages from reading Lisa Slater's review [1] of Penny van Toorn's recent book (2006) Writing never arrives naked: Early Aboriginal cultures of writing in Australia. (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press). Go instead to Mary-Anne Gale's (1997) book Dhaŋum Djorra'wuy Dhäwu: a history of writing in Aboriginal languages. Adelaide: Aboriginal Research Institute, University of South Australia. (and go to the end of this post to see how to get a copy!).

In fact, Van Toorn does have a little about early writings in Indigenous languages, but not much, because she mostly focuses on the east coast of Australia and Tasmania. The English monolingual mindset has always been very strong on the east coast since the early settlers spoke mostly English, or Gaelic, which was not highly valued as a language of learning. The monolingual mindset was less strong in South Australia (which, with the Northern Territory, is the focus of Gale's study), since the early settlers included a relatively large group of speakers of German. German was one of the major languages of science in the nineteenth century, English speakers studied it, and the SA German settlers published in German and ran German language schools until World War 1.

That's perhaps why bilingual education in Indigenous languages, and the production of literature in Indigenous languages has been strongest in South Australia and the Northern Territory, (which was part of SA during its first effective settlement from 1863 - 1911, and which, after 1911, retained close links with SA in relevant institutions such as churches and the law). Van Toorn suggests (p.14) that the German missionaries used the local languages because they knew very little English. Much more relevant are the language policies of the London Mission Society and the Lutheran mission societies, as well as the early SA missionaries' discussions with the Governors of South Australia, about what languages to use in schools [2].

7 comments |

[From our man in Ísland, Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages at the University of Iceland organised a conference on cultural and linguistic diversity on 2nd and 3rd November. The conference was associated with a proposal to set up a World Language Centre in Reykjavík and two main topics were discussed:

1. future visions for the World Language Centre to be established at the University of Iceland; and
2. comparative research in linguistic, literary and cultural studies

The conference was opened by Geir H. Haarde, the Prime Minister of Iceland (John Howard please note) who stressed the importance of multilingualism in the modern world and the need for people to learn several languages, not only for their economic advantages, but also to appreciate the richness and beauty of their own native language and culture. The Prime Minister is himself a fluent speaker of Icelandic, English, Danish, Swedish, German and Italian (beat that Alexander Downer). The PM was followed by Vigdís herself, the former President of Iceland (1980-1996) and UNESCO goodwill ambassador for languages, who stressed the need for academics and the general public to appreciate cultural and linguistic diversity. We non-Icelanders in the audience were wishing that we had even a fraction of this top-level political support for linguistics and languages back in our home countries.


Michael Clyne has a good article in today's Australian Higher Education Supplement where he attacks the monolingual mindset of the Federal Government, as shown by Alexander Downer's extraordinary remarks in an interview, a transcript of which appears on his website. Here are the low points.

MR DOWNER: (speaks French) But I mean I don’t think in diplomacy the fact that you can speak foreign languages is anything special and obviously he runs the risk of being seen by a lot of Australians as a show-off.
PRESENTER: So you think that’s how it went down with foreign visitors as well?
MR DOWNER: No because foreign visitors are here trying to deal with English – although of course the bulk of them do speak English but not all of them do – but they are dealing with interpreters and people who speak different languages every day of the week. So…
PRESENTER: Looking at the reaction on television…
MR DOWNER: …there’s nothing that unusual about people speaking foreign languages.
PRESENTER: Well speaking Mandarin is unusual and for someone who could potentially be the next Prime Minister. It is a bit like when Tony Blair went to France and spoke fluent French to the French.
MR DOWNER: Well I mean I don’t think it makes any difference to people’s lives, personal lives, their living standards, their jobs or anything.
PRESENTER: Alright, so he is a bit of a show-off,.
7 September 2007, Interview – ABC with Jon Faine


[ From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

Over the past two years a group of European researchers including myself, Michael Fortescue (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), Nikolaus Himmelmann (Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany), François Jacquesson (LACITO, CNRS, France), Maarten Mous (Leiden University, Netherlands), and Mauro Tosco (L’Orientale, Naples, Italy) have been working on a European Science Foundation EUROCORES proposal called "BABEL: Better Analyses Based on Endangered Languages".

3 comments |

Update: (thanks Peter!) Barista has a long post discussing Harrison's work in the light of Anggarrgoon's post.

Huge media attention has been garnered by K. David Harrison's National Geographic funded fly-in-fly-out trips to document endangered languages in settings mostly remote and picturesque. See for example the Independent, and the Australian (the article also features Brownie Doolan, perhaps the last speaker of Lower Arrernte, and Gavan Breen, a linguist who has been working with him for years on a dictionary).

I was rung up in a supermarket by Jenny Green who was rung up on the road by a journalist who.. wanted to know more about endangered languages. So much for all our online information.. This started me thinking about two questions:

•How can we build on this media interest to do good things for endangered languages and their speakers?

•How could fly-in-fly-out trips be made useful for endangered languages and their speakers? (For some problems with Harrison's recent FiFo trip to Australia, see Anggarrgoon today).

Suggestions welcome, my present suggestions below..

4 comments |

[Our London correspondent does some sniffing out: Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

I blogged earlier this year about some differences I have been running into between my native Australian English and that of the locals here in the UK. Well it’s happened again.

I was taking part in a conference abstract selection panel recently with two English and one other Australian academic when one of our English colleagues offered the opinion that a particular abstract was "on the nose".
"But I thought you liked it when we did a quick run through earlier" said the other Australian.
"I do" responded the Brit, "that’s what I just said, it’s on the nose, exactly on the topic of the conference!"
My interpretation, and that of the other Australian, was that "on the nose" means "it stinks, it’s bad" and should be rejected.

1 comments |

The Australian newspaper has been running a teacher-bashing campaign for years - asserting that kids don't learn to read and write because their teachers are crap or because they use a crap teaching method. Front page news today was an article by the Education Writer, Justine Ferrari, Teacher failures spell student trouble. Ferrari quotes one Denyse Ritchie, "executive director and co-author of THRASS (Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills)," as saying:

"You can learn to read without knowing phenomics (the sounds that make up words), but when you spell, you have to have a good phenomic understanding to help spell words like said. "Unless you're taught that 'ai' as well as 'e' can make an 'eh' sound in words like said and again, you will spell said as 'sed'.

"But many teachers don't have that inherent knowledge,"

The teachers' phenomic knowledge was also tested. When asked to break words into the constituent sounds or phenomes - such as how many sounds in 'cat' (c-a-t) - the average score was 4.1 out of a possible 10 correct answers.

3 comments |

Yesterday was an important day in determining the directions of university work on endangered languages in the Asia-Pacific area - the decision on the appointment of a replacement for Andrew Pawley as the research-only Chair of Linguistics at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University. This department fosters much work on endangered languages, through staff research, doctoral student training and its publishing arm, Pacific Linguistics.

There were public talks by the three shortlisted candidates - back to back and neck and neck were Nick (Laos and Vietnam), Nick (Australian and a toe-hold in Papuan) and Nik (Western Austronesian).

Public job talks are a curious ritual - a discreet competition watched by an audience, most of whom are not on the selection panel, but who have a serious interest in the outcome, and only a few, like me, just along to hear an interesting paper. The etiquette is a puzzle for the organisers - should the candidates see each other? should they attend each other's talks? The puzzle for the paper-givers is what type of paper to give. Go for breadth? Go for depth? Show 'the vision thing'? Show how you fit in? Show what you'd add to the department? And in the end the quality of the paper may have little to do with the selection committee's decision. They may just want to know that you don't habitually spit in the corner.

1 comments |

Excellent news! The Economic and Social Science Research Council of the UK has just awarded a £1 million grant to Adam Schembri for what sounds like important work,  The British Sign Language (BSL) Corpus Project: Sociolinguistic variation, language change, language contact and lexical frequency in BSL (2007-2010), which builds on the work he and Trevor Johnston and Louise de Beuzeville and others have been doing on the sign language of the deaf community of Australia, Auslan (e.g. the Auslan corpus project and Adam and Trevor's recent book. Adam got his PhD in 2002 from the University of Sydney, for a thesis Issues in the analysis of polycomponential verbs in Australian Sign Language (Auslan)).

Adam's the Principal Investigator - based at University College, London, and other investigators include Bencie Woll, Kearsy Cormier, Frances Elton, Rachel Sutton-Spence (University of Bristol), Graham Turner (Heriot Watt University), Margaret Deuchar (University of Wales Bangor) and Donall O'Baoill (Queens University Belfast). Here's the project summary.

2 comments |

In 2001 and 2002 St John Skilton carried out a survey of Scottish Gaelic in Australia and New Zealand using different means- participating in Scottish Gaelic community activities, carrying out interviews, forming focus groups, and sending out a questionnaire to which he received 178 responses. His description of the situation and his analysis were part of his doctoral work at the University of Sydney, which he finished at the University of Fribourg: The Survey of Scottish Gaelic in Australia and New Zealand PhD 2004.

Skilton examines from many angles the position in Australia of Scottish Gaelic, a language spoken by few, but the heritage language of many. He discusses the demography of the speakers and learners; he shows how opportunities to use and learn the language are shaped by the language practices in Australia - such as the language policies and the teaching of language at schools. He also discusses how the speakers and learners felt about the language. The situation of Scottish Gaelic as a minority language in Australia is both interestingly similar to, and interestingly different from, the situation of minority Indigenous languages in Australia. I quote here one of his concluding summaries.


[From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

Last month (on 14th June) I gave a talk at the Tokyo University Linguistics Colloquium entitled “Current Trends in Language Documentation”; some of the ideas I discussed there can be found in a paper under the same name that I co-authored with Lenore Grenoble in the recently published Language Documentation and Description, Volume 4. In my talk I referred to and quoted a recent blog post that is an excellent discussion of what some language communities judge linguists to be useful for. The bottom line is: “Linguists are good for trust and love” – establishing and maintaining good human relationships over an extended period of time. Other things, like linguistic research, follow from that.

3 comments |

The inaugural issue (Volume 1, Number 1) of Language Documentation & Conservation (LD&C) is now available at http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/ldc/.

LD&C is a free, fully refereed, open-access, online journal that is published twice a year, in June and December. Please visit the LD&C webpage and subscribe (free), because that will help the journal editors show to their paymistresses/masters that we need and value the journal.

The Table of Contents lists 6 articles, 3 technology reviews and 2 book reviews. Among the articles is one for addicts of Tom Honeyman's posts on Solar power (parts 1, 2 and 3 - a paper "Solar Power for the Digital Fieldworker" by Tom together with Laura Robinson. The technology reviews include one by Felicity Meakins, who works on the Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition project that I'm involved in, on the transcription program CLAN that we've been using. The book reviews include a detailed review by Robert Early of PARADISEC's manager Nick Thieberger's recent grammar of South Efate (Vanuatu). Early highlights the important documentation innovation in Nick's book.


[From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

[I began this blog on Saturday 9th June while sitting in Taipei Airport at the end of five extremely interesting but rather exhausting days in Taiwan. I was reflecting on the International Conference on Austronesian Endangered Language Documentation (held at Providence University (PU), and especially the two day post-conference excursion to Sun Moon Lake and Puli. I put the finishing touches to this post on Saturday 16th June sitting in Narita Airport, Tokyo, thanks to a four hour delay in the departure of my BA flight back to London.]

The International Conference on Austronesian Endangered Language Documentation, which was organised by Victoria Rau, Meng-Chien Yang, Yih-Ren Lin, and Margaret Florey brought together around 40 people from Taiwan, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, UK and USA working on endangered Austronesian languages.


[From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

As an Australian living and working in London (coming up for 4.5 years now) I have gradually come to realise how similar yet different British and Australian English are. I don’t mean the obvious differences like ‘lorry’ instead of ‘truck’, or avoiding terms like ‘mozzie’ and ‘salvo’ (see this helpful list), or turning off intervocalic alveolar stop flapping in favour of glottal stop. What I mean are more subtle things like ‘ambit claim’.

13 comments |

[From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

The Endangered Languages Academic Programme (ELAP) in the Department of Linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, is seeking to fill two new three-year posts, a research fellow and a post-doctoral fellow, available from September 2007. Details below.


[From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

I have been asked on a number of occasions to talk to general audiences in England about linguistic diversity and the threat to smaller languages. I usually begin my talks by asking which languages are spoken by members of the audience (the largest number I recall was around 15) and then how many languages are spoken in London. Everyone is aware that London is a linguistically diverse place (during my morning bus commute I frequently hear various European languages spoken, especially Polish, Russian and Portuguese, along with Yoruba, Bangla, and Kurdish, plus other languages I am unable to identify). Few members of the general public however have any idea just how linguistically diverse London is – “there must be dozens” or “a hundred at least” are common responses.

And the correct answer is?

1 comments |

For some time now I’ve misguidedly thought that there was very little attention paid to polysynthesis in the CA (Conversation Analysis) literature. I now realize how very wrong I was. On the contrary, it seems that polysynthesis and CA go together like love and marriage, but I was too blind to see it. As I digested as much of the literature as I could find, I really only came across one book and three obscure papers by Roger Spielmann on Ojibwe interaction and I thought that’s about where it ends. You see I was having trouble trying reconcile Murriny Patha conversation with what I was reading. Typologically it is just light years removed from everything being discussed. And much of the literature in interactional linguistics is very syntactically oriented rather than morphosyntactically oriented. I had been thinking that conversation analysts had studiously avoided this type of language (Spielmann being the exception). However I must have had blinkers on or something. You know what it’s like when you can’t see the wood for the trees?

4 comments |

[From Jeremy Hammond, Field methods student, University of Sydney]

In Australia the relocation or “resettlement” of Indigenous Australians during the 20th century has caused the extinction of many dialects. The then Government motives of assimilation have caused fractured social and cultural landscapes. In western NSW at Lake Cargelligo, the Ngiyampaa and Paakantji people were relocated to Murrin Bridge in Wiradjuri Country and have lost much of their cultural knowledge.

Elsewhere in the world there are similar patterns and in particular high rates of urbanisation (such as in Vanuatu and PNG) may exacerbate this process. During a course on development in the Mekong River Region, I was made aware of entire village movement in the name of “progress” (and check out today's ABC Ockham's Razor commentary by Milton Osborne on the Mekong and the Salween Rivers - he wrote River at risk).

1 comments |

[From Jeremy Hammond, Field methods student, University of Sydney]

In Australia the relocation or “resettlement” of Indigenous Australians during the 20th century has caused the extinction of many dialects. The then Government motives of assimilation have caused fractured social and cultural landscapes. In western NSW at Lake Cargelligo, the Ngiyampaa and Paakantji people were relocated to Murrin Bridge in Wiradjuri Country and have lost much of their cultural knowledge.

Elsewhere in the world there are similar patterns and in particular high rates of urbanisation (such as in Vanuatu and PNG) may exacerbate this process. During a course on development in the Mekong River Region, I was made aware of entire village movement in the name of “progress” (and check out today's ABC Ockham's Razor commentary by Milton Osborne on the Mekong and the Salween Rivers - he wrote River at risk).

1 comments |

[Joint post by Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS and Jane Simpson]

There has been a flare up on the LINGTYP list again (cf. PKA's post last week) - this time from Gideon Goldenberg who suggested there is a distinction between research (good) and data collection (bad). He was writing about typological databases but it looks like the same opinion applies to documentary linguistic corpora - here's what he said:

"The clear and sharp distinction between research and materials is essential. The latter will be needed to illustrate scholarly discussion, but data themselves are not research even though they require thoughtful preparation. When electronic means became available there was the hope that from then on the mere accumulation of data would no longer be able to give credit of scientific work; it unfortunately turns to go the other way about. To share databases with others is OK and can be beneficial, but do not mistake it for research."

Ouch! All those digitised sound and video recordings with time-aligned multi-tier annotated corpora with linked metadata that we've been creating are fine and dandy, but it ain't research folks!

5 comments |

[From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

Oxford University Press has just published The Vanishing Languages of the Pacific Rim edited by Osahito Miyaoka, Osamu Sakiyama and Michael Krauss. At 530 pages and weighing 1.2 kilos (according to my kitchen scales) it is a massive collection of material that will be of interest to readers of this blog. It consists of two thematic parts:

Diversity, Endangerment, and Documentation - comprising eight general papers on endangered languages and language documentation
Areal Surveys - regionally-based surveys of the South Pacific Rim, South-east Asia, and the North Pacific Rim, making up the bulk of the volume


[From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

There has been an interesting discussion on the LINGTYP linguistic typology list over the past week about publishing fieldwork data (archived here). David Gil argued that:

“One's collection of transcribed texts constitutes a set of complete objects, each of which could (if there were a willing publisher) stand alone as an electronic or hardcopy publication. Barring the discovery and correction of errata, once the text is transcribed, that's it, it's done.”

4 comments |

[From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

Almost ten years ago, the late Ken Hale argued that global language destruction will lead to loss of important information to linguistics and other sciences. In an article called ‘On endangered languages and the importance of linguistic diversity’ published in Endangered Languages: Language Loss and Community Response edited by Lenore A. Grenoble and Lindsay J. Whaley. Ken wrote:

“The loss of linguistic diversity is a loss to scholarship and science. … While a major goal of linguistic science is to define universal grammar, i.e. to determine what is constant and invariant in the grammars of all natural languages, attainment of that goal is severely hampered, some would say impossible, in the absence of linguistic diversity.”

4 comments |

Chronologically and perhaps otherwise connected with Peter Austin's post on CDFM are discussions of Dan Everett's claims about the Pirahã, a Brazilian group, which have hit the news recently (thanks Jeremy). The good thing is that Everett's claims can be tested. The hyperbole surrounding them is probably bad - for the people, and for the study of language.

The online slide-show accompanying John Colapinto's April 16 New Yorker article contains a slide of Everett's disembodied head emerging from a river, while Tooi sits in a boat nearby, with a strange expression on his face. For more, check out Everett's article in Current Anthropology (2006), and the response (on the useful archive site Lingbuzz) by Nevins, Pesetsky and Rodriguez, and Everett's come-back. Language Log has some good posts on the claims - most recently by Paul Kay' on the claims about colour terms.


[From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

As someone who is currently supervising PhD students undertaking fieldwork in various locations around the world, the health and safety of my students is a fundamental concern. This was especially brought home a week ago when an 8.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated coastal villages in the western Solomon Islands, including the village on Ranongga Island where one of our PhD students is working. Fortunately she was in a boat at sea when the earthquake hit and was OK; the same cannot be said for Ranongga Island however. Communications with the area are difficult but it appears that several people died, many were injured, and the village and everything in it (including her fieldnotes and equipment) may have been destroyed.

1 comments |

[From Peter K. Austin, Endangered Languages Academic Programme, SOAS]

I spent last week in Lyon working on plans for collaborative teaching and research with Colette Grinevald and her colleagues at Lyon-2 University and the CNRS DDL research laboratory. This will include a summer school on language documentation planned for June-July 2008 (we will announce more details soon), joint workshops and conferences, and development of a European Masters programme.

On Saturday (31st March) Michel Bert, who also teaches at Lyon-2 and is a researcher in the CNRS ICAR research laboratory, invited Colette and me to accompany him south from Lyon along the Rhône River to visit the field sites where he has been collecting data on the Franco-Provençal language over the past 10 years. Michel's PhD dissertation is a detailed study of this language based on data he collected from over 150 consultants.


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.


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.

3 comments |

2006 saw the release of several films with actors speaking endangered languages - Mel Gibson's Apocalypto (Mayan) and Rolf de Heer's film Ten Canoes, set in Arnhem Land, and with actors speaking mostly in Ganalbingu (and see Anggarrgoon on it).

Leaving aside the pleasure of hearing actors speak in Indigenous Australian languages, I liked Ten Canoes - it was funny, it gave an idea of the good and the bad about small societies - you're looked after, but you have reciprocal responsibility, and NO privacy - everyone knows what you're thinking. The filming was beautiful - both the recreation of early photos, and the shots of the light on the water and the tangled trees in the swamp. And the authors worked hard to "make a film that would not only satisfy local tastes and requirements but would also satisfy Western audiences used to Western storytelling conventions." [1]

Ten Canoes won awards, it had some box-office success, and it has resulted in several spin-off projects which benefit the Ramingining community e.g. recording traditional songs, publishing Donald Thomson's photographs of Arnhem Land in 1937, training older teenagers (with help from Save the Children and Create Australia) in film-making.

Good eh? But oddly, some people have found it offensive that the Australian Catholic Film Office and the Australian Film Institute would vote Ten Canoes Best Film of the year.

4 comments |

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.


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.

5 comments |

There's an interesting post up on slashdot today about a legal battle between the Mapuche people of Chile and Microsoft. It seems that the tribal leaders of the Mapuche are unhappy about Microsoft working on a Mapudungan version of their Office suite of software.

Slashdot is a geek oriented web site that likes to track court cases against Microsoft. Cultural group ownership is a slightly left of field topic. The site generally advocates open source software and more liberal IP laws, so it was interesting to read the attitudes of the commenters on the main article.

UPDATE: 25/11/06
Mark Liberman of Language Log weighs in.
UPDATE: 27/11/06
See a second post by Geoffrey Pullum at Language Log, and also see Jane Simpson's post for a thorough and very interesting analysis of the Australian situation.

2 comments |

A visit to the University of Sydney Archives soothed my sorrow over a Sydney Morning Herald article (13/11/2006 p.10). In this article it's said of a semi-phonics-based literacy project in Tennant Creek that:

"..Aboriginal languages have been approached by linguists as some kind of historical artefact, but this method makes them usable in a way that has the potential to transform literacy education in indigenous communities".

This shows a basic confusion between what linguists do - prepare spelling systems, dictionaries and grammars - and what teachers do - devise ways to teach language using the dictionaries and grammars as references, and maybe using the spelling systems if they're teaching reading and writing. What's puzzling is the implied criticism in the phrase "some kind of historical artefact".


I wandered into the office today to see Jane and Mark with a large map of part of the northern territory rolled out on the floor, discussing the issue of iso-glosses, and boundaries. Maps maps maps. They're just everywhere at the moment!


Following on our previous posting.....

The Fifth International East Nusantara Conference (Kupang, Indonesia, 1-3 August 2007) has an important theme for speakers of many endangered languages: Language and Cultural Aspects of Tourism and Sustainable Development. I don't know of work on this for endangered languages (apart from the negative - we can't share our language with outsiders because outsider tourist operators might use it and take business away from us) . So it'll be very interesting to hear the results.

Here's a call for papers from John Haan.


It was a perfect cool and sunny Canberra afternoon. Some of the Wednesday Lunch Linguists wanted to avoid spending it on marking. And so we headed off to Peter Bellwood's seminar at ANU, Early farmers and the spread of languages in South Asia. This was partly based on a paper he gave at the Harvard Kyoto Roundtable in 2005 [1]. Prehistorians can tell grand stories, and this was grand by their standards - wheat, barley, rice and the linguistic history of the whole of India and Pakistan.

12 comments |

Last week, one of my favourite blogs, BoingBoing, had an interesting link to a new web based research tool. I've been having a go over the weekend.

3 comments |

Sociolingo's Africa is a general blog which includes posts about languages (the writer's based in Mali but draws together material from across Africa). There are some interesting posts on linguistics, literacy - including mother tongue language education. So much seems so familiar. Thanks to this blog I've learned about Litcam, Google, and UNESCO’s Institute for Lifelong Learning Launch “The Literacy Project” and of practical handbooks which looks it might be useful in our region: Handbook for Literacy and Non-formal Education Facilitators in Africa, and its predecessor, designed for use in Asia, Handbook for Non-formal Education Facilitators.

Other blogs I've come across recently:
• Will Owen's blog Aboriginal art and culture: an American eye - has extensive and thoughtful reviews of art shows, books and films related to Australian Indigenous ethnography. (thanks David!)

• the blog of a graduate student, David Kaufman, who includes glossed texts of different Northern and Central American languages in the blog, as well as discussions of the language.

• The Lexique pro blog has been created for information sharing on Lexique Pro which has the potential to be a useful tool for dictionary-makers and publishers. (Thanks to a posting by David Ker of the Nyungwe Project - Mozambique on the Lexicography list)

Fulbright journey to Turtle Island ( USA) is the travel-blog of Samia Goudie, an Australian Bundjalung / Mununjali woman visiting the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship to find out about "inter-generational trauma, healing and resilience in Indigenous communities". So far, mostly travel, but some stuff on work with Native Americans.

from the website:

In the past, four International Conferences for East Nusantara Linguistics have been held; three in Leiden (1998, 2001, 2005), and one at the ANU in Canberra (2000). With this fifth conference the location moves to Indonesia, and more specifically to the East Nusantara region. Also, the focus of the conference has been expanded to include both language and culture. The conference will be hosted by Universitas Nusa Cendana (UNDANA), with the support of Prof. Dr. Frans Umbu Datta, Rektor.

The aim of this conference is to bring together linguists, anthropologists, ethnolgraphers, musicologists, and others who work in the east Nusantara region to share the results of their research with each other. The East Nusantara region includes eastern Indonesia and East Timor, and Austronesian as well as non-Austronesian languages.

The confernce will be held at the UNDANA Language Center (Pusat Bahasa) on the Penfui campus. A welcome gathering will be held on the evening of 1 August. Main conference presentations will take place 2-3 August, with a conference dinner on 2 August. The main conference will be followed by a one-day workshop on Alor-Pantar(-Timur) languages on 4 August. More information on this workshop will be circulated through a separate announcement.


We don't know very much about the language of songs and poetry in many of the small societies in our region, so it's excellent that a group of researchers (Myf Turpin, Christina Eira, Tonya Stebbins and Stephen Morey) are putting on a workshop on the topic at the Australian Linguistics Society Conference 2007 in Adelaide, September 26-28. Here's the information:


Our December conference is almost full, so if you were thinking of coming along, now is the time to register! The preliminary schedule is up, papers have been reviewed, everything is going along nicely (touch wood).

The third day of the conference is a workshop, with sections on audio and video recording, transcribing and managing your data, and producing outputs from this data. If this is more your thing you can come to just that. If you're interested in ELAN for transcribing or shoebox/toolbox, I thoroughly recommend it, but there'll be plenty of other useful stuff.

In Central Australia, you often see Aboriginal people sitting on the ground, talking, and simultaneously drawing on the sand, smoothing it over when they've finished a point, and starting again. They might be recounting places along a journey, listing family members, drawing maps, or describing the movement of characters in a story. I'll call this 'sand talk'.

1 comments |

The Australian Research Council's website today has survived the pressure of everyone wanting to know whether they've got winning tickets. I was in a few syndicates (PARADISEC, continuing the Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition (ACLA project), and a new project on Indonesian). And the lucky winners are...

1 comments |

The Endangered Languages Academic Programme, Linguistics Department, School of Oriental and
African Studies, University of London, is seeking to appoint a Lecturer in Endangered Languages and a Post-doctoral Researcher in Language Documentation .


The preliminary schedule for the conference "Sustainable data from digital fieldwork: from creation to archive and back" is now up. There looks to be some really interesting projects on display. I had a sneak peek at EOPAS, a project to create a workflow and display interlinearised texts, and annodex, a project to display multiple streams of visual, audio and textual data, both of which look great. I'll also be talking about the FieldHelper tool I've been working on this year, a tool to add in the tagging of arbitrary metadata to field work data, amongst other things.

Our registration quota of 40 places is fast filling up. Please register now if you wish to come, also note that you can choose to come to the third day workshop if your interest in more in practical experience with current digital field work tools.


Behaving in a good way to the people one is working with is vital - unethical researchers do damage to communities in the short-term. And they do incalculable longterm damage, because communities that feel burned by researchers will reject other research proposals which might benefit them. There's a new publication addressed to Indigenous people on how to deal with health researchers. It's a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) booklet Keeping research on track: a guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about health research ethics. In the past, the NHMRC guidelines for working with Indigenous people have been taken as models in other disciplines. And so it's important for us to look at them, even though linguists don't go sticking needles into people, and a grammar is of less direct benefit than the results of a study of the causes of kidney failure.

3 comments |

RNLD in collaboration with the conference "Sustainable data from fieldwork" is offering a day-long session on the creation, organisation, annotation and display of digital media. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in making digital recordings and annotating them. If you're new to shoebox or ELAN and have any questions about using it, and you have your own data, then bring along your laptop. The workshop will be held at Sydney University on Wednesday, December 6, 2006.

Read on for the specifics


Pitjantjatjara people in South Australia are thinking of abandoning their experiment with monolingual English education after fifteen years. At the same time, some communities in the Northern Territory are suffering from dysfunctional schools which happen to be bilingual, and so are thinking of abandoning their bilingual education programs, and the attendant teaching positions for community members. Churn churn. It's not about whether the program teaches English literacy and numeracy only. It's about children understanding what is happening in the classroom, and it's about communities understanding language shift. The evidence is that dropping bilingual education is no magic silver bullet for a miraculous improvement in children's English language and literacy.

But there's more evidence that bilingual education can produce better results than monolingual education. In The Australian Anthropological Society Newsletter Number 103, September 2006 (thanks David!) is an article by Ute Eickelkamp On a Positive Note: The Anangu Education Service Conference. Ute describes a conference held in Alice Springs in which half of the more than 200 delegates were Anangu staff and tertiary students "and many discussions and workshops were held in Pitjantjatjara". Yes!


Registration for the Human Communication Sciences Network SummerFest06 (Nov 27th - Dec 1st) opens today. There looks to be an interesting line up of courses. I'm hoping I can head along to the courses on Bayesian Networks and Markov Models and Statistics for Linguistics amongst others.

I heard that Trevor Johnston's course on sign languages was excellent. I'll definitely be going along to that one.

And... OK so this is a shameless plug: I hope Introduction to Fieldwork Methods will be fun ;-)

(Following a previous post and a reply from Claire at Anggarrgoon)

Is it possible to reduce the intrusiveness of video taping someone?

Before I launch into this... let me just say: "flashing lights and ethical alarm bells!". What I'm going to talk about is the paradox of fully informing your informants that you're going film them, and then trying your hardest to seem like you're not there!

2 comments |

a post from Nick Thieberger

David Nash just alerted me to http://www.mouton-online.com/ausbib.php which is promisingly called: 'Language in Australia and New Zealand', and, for a mere 248 euros would seem to be an indispensible aid to the Australasian linguist. I popped in and got a guest logon which they generously (but perhaps ill-advisedly) offer for free. It seems to be a bibliographic listing (but in the days of Google Scholar and other such resources it may already be redundant?). I put in the name of my favourite Aboriginal language, Warnman, and got zero hits. Curious I thought.

2 comments |

Jane's last post and a post on the ever excellent Language Log have got me thinking about permanence and accountability in the internet age. Its a theme that I encounter again and again, working for a digital archive.

3 comments |

Vivid pink plum trees, white cherry trees, soft masses of yellow wattle, japonica hedges with pink flowers leaping out of new green leaves, white cockatoos browsing on the ground. That was Canberra during the Rematerialising colour conference at ANU's Centre for Cross-Cultural Research. How does the outsider linguist find out if speakers of another language have colour terms? This important question for field linguists and lexicographers was raised in two papers on the Australian language Warlpiri by David Nash and Anna Wierzbicka.


if you want to spend three years thinking and writing about languages and cultures of Australia and the Asia-Pacific region ...
Nod to Ethics committee: HEALTH WARNING: and you're not ESPECIALLY worried about whether you'll find a interesting job afterwards....

... applications for the 2007 APA/UPA scholarships at the University of Sydney are now open. Information and an application can be downloaded from:


Following on the discussion of Sri Lankan Portuguese in the Speaking to God and Mammon post, Thushara Gamage, Linguistics department alumna, gives her view on what's happening to the linguistic ecology of Sri Lanka, and why.


Two seminars were given last week at Sydney University on languages in contact - Helen Fulton (University of Wales, Swansea) on "Language on the Borders : Contacts between Welsh and English in the Marches of Wales after 1066", and Ian Smith's (currently visiting the Linguistics Department for a year) Linguistics department seminar "Wesleyan missionaries and the conversion of Sri Lanka Portuguese", on the new languages in Sri Lanka that developed from contact with Portuguese, Dutch and then English. In both cases aspirations for heavenly and worldly advancement provided motivations for language shift and language maintenance, sometimes in competition and sometimes in collaboration.


Today I've been pointed to The Center for Indigenous Languages of Latin America (CILLA):
"The Center hopes to help indigenous communities realize their goals of language recovery and widening the contexts of language use by providing technical education in fields related to language, with an emphasis on language maintenance, documentation, and applications to social institutions that depend on language and communication among all citizens."

They have some excellent ideas about training and working with speakers of Indigenous languages.

1 comments |

Margaret Florey just posted a notice on the list "Resource-Network-Linguistic-Diversity@unimelb.edu.au" (a terrific list for information on languages and fieldwork - see also their website) about a new 161 page Canadian report on revitalising First Nation, Inuit and Métis languages and cultures. It is definitely worth downloading, both for its recommendations and for the information about what's happening in Canada.


The latest Ogmios newsletter has just appeared as a pdf - lots of information about what's happening around the world, including excellent links to work on Indigenous languages around the world as well as reprints of interesting articles (local plug: they've reprinted Nicolas Rothwell's rave review of Allan Marett's book on Australian Aboriginal music) .

Back issues of the newsletters are at FEL's website. To get the current newsletter you need to be a subscriber - it's not very expensive - and they're doing a terrific job.

On Thursday 29 June 2006 I joined heaps of overcoated people in the large, airy Reading Room of the Australian Institute of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
(AIATSIS) in Canberra. We were celebrating the launch of "Indigitisation" - a three year funded digitisation program for sound, text, film, and photographs. The view of lake, sky and trees and some determined ducks was a distraction from the speeches, but some things stuck - 40,000 hours of sound recordings of Indigenous languages to digitise, lots of expensive machines, some enthusiastic staff, and as yet no off-site backup. Storage problems mean they're not digitising everything at 24-bit, 96 kHz. They're planning to deliver some sound files through the web, where communities have given permission. So in future you should be able to click on some on-line catalogue entries and download sound files.

The AIATSIS Library staff showed "Collectors of words" - a web presentation of the nineteenth century word-lists of Australian languages from E. M. Curr and Victorian and Tasmanian languages from R. B. Brough Smyth . They're available as pdfs, organised alphabetically according to the place the words were attributed to, and linked to maps. A nice feature is the linking to the AIATSIS catalogue, so that you can find other materials referring to the same language group. Unfortunately the pdfs are only images - you can't search for text in them. If you want text copies of Curr, go for the transcribed copies in AIATSIS's electronic text archive ASEDA. These aren't yet linked to the scanned images - a job for the future!


The Authors

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