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A large corpus of recorded oral tradition can be created using two recording machines, one playing back the spoken texts and the other used to capture an oral annotation. Recording speakers who are commenting on earlier recordings is a method for providing annotations that bypasses literacy.

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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.


What can a linguist do on a hot summer's day on North Terrace in Adelaide? Once upon a time I loved the SA State Library &mdash they had a very good collection of books looked after by helpful specialist librarians who knew the collections inside out, and the Friends of the State Library of South Australia did an excellent facsimile publishing service which ensured that nineteenth century materials on South Australian languages were available. Now, while the Friends are still doing good things ..there's an enormous Christmas tree and fake-looking presents in the new energy-inefficient glass foyer, a closed Circulating Library ("You can hire this book-lined room for a party!"), a billboard for the Bradman collection merchandise, and the historic Mortlock reading room has been converted into a low-lux display room (oh yes, and you can hire this room for functions too!). OK - so the library needs to raise money, and maybe someone who buys a Bradman t-shirt will browse a book. But when the rumour spreads that the State Liibrary is going to evict the Royal Geographical Society library and its superb Australian collection, you have to wonder if some people think of books as Christmas trees, temporary decorations for a convention centre. Please tell us the rumour is false!

The Art Gallery of South Australia? Sure &mdash there's a Tiwi art exhibition Yingarti Jilamara (glossed as 'lots of art’), and there are some interesting early colonial portraits of encounters between Aborigines and Europeans.

But the must-see is the Pacific Cultures Gallery in the South Australian Museum. It's free, it's cool, and it has the largest collection of Pacific artefacts in Australia. This will attract people working on languages of Papua New Guinea (including Bougainville), the Solomon and Santa Cruz Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, as well as Fijian and Maori.

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Hilário de Sousa' s doctoral thesis is now available in the University of Sydney thesis repository. It's a grammar of Menggwa Dla, an endangered Papuan language of the Senagi family spoken in Papua New Guinea and West Irian. The language has complex cross-referencing and is undergoing an amazing change in how switch reference works - you can also read his ALS article (PDF) on it. Four texts are also included in the thesis.

It's another ripper of a thesis - click and add it to your reference grammar collection!

In spite of a few early setbacks — including the workshop venue being eaten by termites — the Pearl Beach Papuanists' Workshop, or perhaps I should say the Itinerant Papuanists' Workshop, was held last weekend.

Everyone had something interesting to say at the workshop. We heard from a range of people from SIL field linguists to PhD students to professors. The weekend was filled with intensive (and exhausting) discussion of many different aspects of Papuan languages and linguistics. Our exhaustion was kept at bay, however, by the New Guinea Fair Trade coffee that Tom so thoughtfully provided.


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 were very worried when we were told the other day that the Crommelin Field Station at Pearl Beach — where we were going to hold the Papuanists' Workshop — had suffered an attack from killer termites and had been declared unsafe (although it will be repaired by next year). This meant that our workshop was without a venue. So after much deliberation we decided to hold the workshop at the university.

Now we're at the university the workshop has some more space for audience members and is also a little bit more accessible to people in Sydney who did not want to commit to a weekend at Pearl Beach. If you're interested in coming to the workshop now that it's in Sydney, please send me an e-mail. You can find the program for the workshop and my contact information at http://www.arts.usyd.edu.au/departs/linguistics/ling/papuan_2006/pbpwpp2006.html My e-mail address is at the very end of the document. It's written in a way that is meant to be readable to people while confounding programs that search for e-mail addresses to add to spam mailing lists.

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...

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James McElvenny has put up the preliminary program for the Pearl Beach workshop on Papuan languages. How can you miss "Kalam Rhyming Jingles" "Books, papayas and chicken cries in Bunak", or the drum rolling finale: Mark Donohue "The end of Papuan"?

The workshop runs from the evening of Friday the 27th of October to Sunday the 29th of October at the Crommelin Field Station, Pearl Beach, Sydney.

Media Cannibals

19 Sep

Media watch devoted their entire episode on the 18th of September to analysis of this embarrassing stoush between channel 7 and channel 9. Until next monday, you can view this week's Media Watch online, the transcripts should be up for a bit longer than that.

Perhaps my only criticism on the Media Watch coverage is that they focused mostly on the content of the fight between the two channels, but didn't look so much at how ridiculously improbable the scenario was. I guess a follow up on this Paul Raffaele character, and a real discussion of life and hardships of people living in Papua (AIDS springs to mind...amongst many other issues), is content for a real news show rather than a show that critiques the media...

incidentally...I love the title "why 7 ate 9"

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It seems that Channels 7 and 9 want to persist in their policy of sensationalist misinformation about the Korowai of Papua. The only cannibals involved here are the news teams of Channels 7 and 9 feeding on each other. While the Korowai did practice cannibalism in the past, there have been no reported cases for over 20 years. There have been missionaries based the Korowai region since the 1980s and they have not reported any cases on the killing and eating of kakwa 'male sorcerers'. Nor is the group uncontacted or unstudied, as claimed by Channel 9; National Geographic made a 1 hour documentary on them and there is a grammar and dictionary published by a Dutch missionary and linguist who (van Enk, G and de Vries, L. 1997. The Korowai of Irian Jaya. Oxford University Press). It is clear that the Korowai quickly worked out what the Channel 9 reporter wanted to hear about cannibalism and they told him what he come to hear. The Korowai may have seen potential profit in selling such stories to a naive and callow Channel 9 reporter, pretty much as Channel 7 and 9 see profit in onselling this sensationalist tripe.

With a language group that has 10,200 hits on google and a definition in wikipedia! Hmmm...

Bill Foley, from the Linguistic Department here at Sydney Uni did an interview this afternoon and will be on channel seven's news tonight commenting on the disgraceful "Wa-Wa" scandal.

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:


In the field last year I meticulously gathered photos with audio recordings of many plants in the area I was working in PNG. I certainly don't like creating lexicon entries all with a gloss of "tree/plant species" and I figured in this digital age, including a picture and audio recording of each plant was one way of increasing the identifiability of each plant (and animal... but they're not so photogenic). Pictures are a much more salient identifier for speakers of the language than anything else. Never-the-less, scientific name are a good universal identifier for a plant, but they're hard to get if you don't have a botanist with you.

So earlier this year I sat down with Barry Conn at the National Herbarium of New South Wales to discuss interdisciplinary work between linguists and botanists. One of my questions was "what does a linguist need to do in the field to get a plant identified?".

Here are some of my notes from the meeting, with some comments from Barry:


I've just been pointed to an interesting program on SBS radio on language use in Papua New Guinea and Bougainville. Greg Muller interviews Bill Foley and Sana Banai who is a Hakö speaker from Buka Island, near Bougainville. Both Sana and Bill talk about language and identity, and vernacular literacy. And they both talk about the spread of Tok Pisin, how it is a unifying language, the language of mates, the most common language in Port Moresby, and now is becoming a lingua franca. (Surprising isn't it that Tok Pisin isn't taught in schools and universities in Australia? Where are the intensive courses for our soldiers going off to be peace-keepers?)

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After a couple of very enjoyable Australianist mini-conferences at Crommelin Field Station, James McElvenny from Sydney University has decided to organise the same for Papuan Languages!. We're hoping to replicate the laid back style of the Blackwood by the Beach conferences, but specifically for Papuan languages. Read on for more details.


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