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I recently attended a symposium titled Models for capacity development in language documentation and conservation hosted by ILCAA at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. The symposium brought together a group of people involved in supporting language work in the Asia-Pacific region in various ways (see the website for a full list): academic (Institute of Linguistics, Minhsiung, Taiwan, Beijing, China, Goroka, PNG, Batchelor, Australia, Bangkok, Thailand) and community-based (Manokwari, West-Papua; Tshanglalo, Bhutan; Bhasha Research Centre and Adivasi Academy, Gudjarat, India; Miromaa, Australia), using film (Sorosoro, France), or archiving language records (PARADISEC). The aim of the meeting was to build a network that would continue to link between training activities to support language work, the Consortium on Training in Language Documentation and Conservation (CTLDC), whose planning group members are listed here.

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Every time I revisited my fieldsite I was asked for copies of photos or recordings and I wanted some way that these could be accessed without me having to be present. When I started visiting Erakor village in central Vanuatu there was intermittent electricity available, usually only in the evenings in the house I lived in.

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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.

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A lot of work has been happening at the University of Sydney over the past six months, and at the end of last year the top floor of the Transient Building, which houses Linguistics, Paradisec and a few other offices, got renovated. Unfortunately, since the entire exterior of the building is composed of fibrous asbestos, it's unlikely that the University will outlay the mammoth insurance costs to do any exterior work. But anyone who knows the Transient building knows that the best option would be to demolish the whole thing and start again from scratch.

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On Wednesday 20 June last week PARADISEC held a very successful Open Day for staff and students of the University of Sydney.

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Last Friday was a bit of a milestone for me, since, in the 6 or so months that I have been involved in the audio preservation side of things at PARADISEC, I hadn't yet actually cleaned a damaged audio tape. Unfortunately for me, the process isn't quite as straight-forward as it is for a CD - warm soapy water, a non-abrasive cloth, wipe across the grain - rather, the entire process can take weeks, depending on how badly affected the tapes are.

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Regular summary of PARADISEC’s ever growing digital repository of sound and video recordings, images and text files, currently totalling 3,003 items representing 54 countries and 598 languages.

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Regular summary of PARADISEC’s ever growing digital repository of sound and video recordings, images and text files, currently totalling 2,779 items representing 54 countries and 593 languages.

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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.

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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!

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Biwa is a generic term for long-necked, plucked lutes in Japan (written with the same characters as the Chinese pipa, also a plucked lute). Almost all biwa traditions involve oral narrative or poetic recitation with biwa accompaniment. Frank Davey, PARADISEC’s Audio Preservation Officer, who has been carefully digitising and listening to Hugh de Ferranti’s vast collection of field recordings of various biwa traditions (HDF1) over the past few months, describes the music as having a raw, powerful quality that speaks directly to the listener’s emotions. I asked Hugh about his long-standing involvement with the biwa tradition.

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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.

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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Regular summary of PARADISEC’s ever growing digital repository of sound and video recordings, images and text files, currently totalling 2,732 items representing 54 countries and 593 languages.

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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.

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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

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There's an interesting post on slashdot today, on a product that will geo-tag your photos. Geo-tagging a photo means recording some geographic information at the time you take your photo, typically the longitude and latitude.

At first glance I thought it might be another on of these data-loggers, but actually, with a minor addition, it's a pretty nifty bit of hardware.

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(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!

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Regular summary of PARADISEC’s ever growing digital repository of sound and video recordings, images and text files, currently totalling 2,696 items representing 54 countries and 600 languages.

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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.

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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:

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I'm sure we've all done it from time to time: somehow, despite carefully trying to do something else altogether, we delete a critical and unique recording on our flash recorder... never to be heard again.

But all is not lost, in fact its often really quite simple to get it back... but only if you've taken the necessary precautions.

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Many academic disciplines depend on analysis of primary data captured during fieldwork. Increasingly, researchers today are using digital methods for the whole life cycle of their primary data, from capture to organisation, submission to a repository or archive, and later access and dissemination in publications, teaching resources and conference presentations. This conference and workshop will showcase a number of projects that have been developing innovative and sustainable ways of managing such data.

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Thanks to Linda and Frank for a very interesting workshop last Friday. I picked up some great tricks on using transcriber and audacity. Perhaps the best trick I learnt was how to remove cicada noise from my PNG recordings.

Maybe you already knew how to do this (or maybe you just fiddle with the EQ), but I always thought this was in the realm of Hollywood fantasy (like when the forensics guy magically "enhances" a grainy image to reveal the killer's face in a thriller). Removing the noise allows me to more easily transcribe a busy recording, and seeing as insect noise was pretty constant and loud through all my recordings, this is quite handy. There are some caveats, but here's how to do this using freely available, cross platform software.

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Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures / Sydney Humanities and Social Sciences e-Research Initiative Workshop

Presenters: Dr Linda Barwick, Director, PARADISEC and Frank Davey, Audio Preservation Officer, PARADISEC.
A free workshop covering: the range of research applications for recording and analysis of digital audiovisual media; questions of sustainability and archiving of audiovisual data; tools and resources for archiving, analysis and presentation of digital audio; the role of recordings in humanities disciplines; and using audio recordings in presentations and teaching. Includes hands-on sessions using Audacity sound editing software and Transcriber speech annotation software.

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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.
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FAQ

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

Links

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

Projects

ACLA child language acquisition in three Australian Aboriginal communities

DELAMAN The Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network

PARADISEC The Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures

Murriny-Patha Song Project Documenting the language and music of public songs and dances composed and performed by Murriny Patha-speaking people

PFED The Project for Free Electronic Dictionaries

DOBES Endangered language documentation and archiving, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and sponsored by the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen.

DELP Documenting endangered languages at the University of Sydney

Ethno EResearch Exploring methods and technology for streaming media and interlinear text