Archive for the ‘Books’ Category.

Every hill got a story oral history just out

Every hill got a story: we grew up in country w51TVk4uaX0L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_as launched this afternoon at Alice Springs Telegraph Station. A companion multimedia site is hosted by SBS Books. The substantial volume is sold by SBS Books and is also available on Kindle.

The volume by ‘men and women of central Australia and the Central Land Council’ is compiled and edited by Marg Bowman, carrying on from the late Jane Hodson, long term anchor of the CLC media section.

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Dry-dock launch of ‘Kochlinger’

On Thursday I had a most pleasurable time launching a new book on Australian languages and linguistics at the terrific annual conference of the Australian Linguistics Society in Newcastle (thanks Newcastle organisers!). Here goes for ALS’s first ever dry-dock launch… for Harold Koch and Rachel Nordlinger’s co-edited book (2014) The languages and linguistics of Australia: a comprehensive guide.

Australia has a long and interesting history of developing new kinds of books about language areas. In the nineteenth century we had compendia of vocabularies across Australia or parts – by Edward Curr (Curr, 1887), George Taplin (Taplin, 1879) and Robert Brough-Smyth (Smyth, 1876). This was followed in the early twentieth century by Wilhelm Schmidt’s pan-Australia classificatory work (Schmidt, 1919), and later Arthur Capell’s new approach to Australian linguistics (Capell, 1956). Then Norman Tindale produced his map and bibliography in 1974 (Tindale, 1974). In 1976 Dixon edited a collection of papers by lots of different linguists addressing the same grammatical topics (Robert M.W. Dixon, 1976). A flurry of different types of books appeared in the 1980s—from R M W Dixon and Barry Blake’s editing of short grammar handbook series (e.g. Dixon and Blake, 1983), the handbook series for geographic areas with vocabularies and bibliographies which Jim Wafer initiated (e.g. Menning and Nash, 1981). Then there were overview books (Blake, 1987; Dixon, 1980; Yallop, 1982). In 1993 Michael Walsh and Colin Yallop produced their edited collection of chapters on different topics in Indigenous languages (Walsh and Yallop, 1993). That book became the mainstay of courses on Aboriginal languages and was affectionately known as ‘Wallop’.
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Kalam Language Dictionary Launch

Check here for an account of the launch of the Kalam dictionary – what a feat! 48 years on..there’s hope for all of us with dictionaries in the bottom drawer.

LDD 11 now available for order

Volume 11 of Language Documentation and Description is now available for pre-publication order from the SOAS online store at GBP 10, a 25% discount off the regular price. Copies will be shipped in early December.

Volume 11 is edited by Peter K. Austin and Stuart McGill and is a collection of papers dealing with several topics in language documentation and description:

  • applied language documentation in sub-Saharan Africa
  • state-of-the art in Aslian language documentation
  • description of Sasak verb morphology

The first set of papers arise from a workshop held at SOAS in May 2011; two others were written for this volume. They represent important contributions to the theory and practice of the field of language documentation and description by leading scholars and younger researchers.

The volume will be of interest to anyone concerned with documenting and describing languages, and the application of language documentation principles within communities. In addition, Geoffrey Benjamin’s extended account of the state-of-the art in documentation and description of Aslian languages will be of interest to anyone wishing to know more about this fascinating sub-group of Mon-Khmer. The contents are:

  • Editor’s Introduction – Peter K. Austin & Stuart McGill
  • ‘Community’ collaboration in Africa: Experiences from Northwest Cameroon – Jeff Good
  • Building community participation into documentation design: lessons learned in Sakun (Sukur) – Michael F. Thomas
  • Ju|’hoan and ǂX’ao-ǁ’aen documentation in Namibia: overcoming obstacles to community-based language documentation – Megan Biesele, Lee Pratchett & Taesun Moon
  • Documentation, development, and ideology in the northwestern Kainji languages – Stuart McGill & Roger Blench
  • The Aslian languages of Malaysia and Thailand: an assessment – Geoffrey Benjamin
  • Too many nasal verbs: dialect variation in the voice system of Sasak – Peter K. Austin

To celebrate the publication of LDD 11 we are reducing the price of all LDD volumes by 25% for a limited time only. In addition, in time for Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/New Year we are offering a special package of all 11 volumes of LDD for GBP 100, a 30% reduction off the usual price.

And another new book and conference

Moving from Nigeria to Australia… We in Australia owe thanks to Maïa Ponsonnet, Loan Dao and Margit Bowler, who have shepherded the Proceedings of the 42th ALS Conference – 2011 to publication online on the ANU Research Repository in close to record time. Papers on lesser-known languages (old, new, created) include:

On Australian languages (old and new)
Taking to the airwaves. A strategy for language revival, by Rob Amery

Grammar rules, OK? What works when teaching a higly endangered Aboriginal language versus a strong language, by Mary-Anne Gale

Body-parts in Dalabon and Barunga Kriol: Matches and mismatches, by Maïa Ponsonnet

On created languages
I can haz language play: The construction of language and identity in LOLspeak, by Lauren Gawne and Jill Vaughan

The morphosyntax of a created language of the Philippines: Folk linguistic effects and the limits of relexification, by Piers Kelly

On other small languages
Simplifying a system: A story of language change in Lelepa, Vanuatu, by Sébastien Lacrampe

Non-referential actor indexing in Nehan, by John Olstad

The expression of potential event modality in the Papuan language of Koromu, by Carol Priestley

And language and music
Musicolinguistic artistry of niraval in Carnatic vocal music, by Mahesh Radhakrishnan

And the problems L1 speakers of Australian creoles face
Sad Stories. A preliminary study of NAPLAN practice texts analysing students’ second language linguistic resources and the effects of these on their written narratives, by Denise Angelo

Editing proceedings is an arduous task, but wonderful for the discipline – the world gets to see papers early, people are more inspired to go to the conference, and so there are more opportunities for fruitful collaboration: a virtuous cycle which repeats again at this year’s Australian Linguistics Society conference being held in Perth. Check out the presentations and abstracts – some fabulous-looking papers!

New book on minority languages of Nigeria

Readers of this blog may be interested in a new book that has just been published by Ruediger Koeppe Verlag on minority languages of Nigeria (thanks to Stuart McGill for giving me a copy for review):

Roger Blench and Stuart McGill (eds.) 2012. Advances in Minority Language Research in Nigeria, Volume 1. Cologne: Ruediger Koeppe Verlag.

The book is available from Koeppe via Amazon for USD 48.79 (including postage).

The chapters in the volume comprise papers presented at the monthly meetings of the Jos Linguistic Circle (northern Nigeria) plus an overview by Roger Blench of current linguistics research and language development in Nigeria. Topics covered include phonetics (Ch 3, 9, 11), orthography (Ch 5, 9), verb morphology (Ch 7, 8, 12), focus (Ch 6), noun class semantics (Ch 10), and historical linguistics (Ch 2, 4). A full list of contents is available here.

I have yet to read the volume in detail but a quick skim shows that the papers are pretty much all descriptively oriented with lots of new materials on previously undescribed languages being included. The book is very nicely produced and bound, with copious tables, maps and illustrations. It does, however, show the limits of paper-based publication at a time when multimedia presentation of linguistic research is relatively easy to achieve. So, for example, Chapter 3 on “Unusual sounds in Nigerian languages” that discusses labio-coronals, interdental approximants and an “explosive bilabial nasal” includes spectrograms and still photographs but would have been so much stronger if audio and video recordings of these phenomena were presented. Language Documentation and Conservation publishes online multimedia such as Lobel and Riwarung’s “Maranao: A Preliminary Phonological Sketch with Supporting Audio” in Volume 5 (2011) or Feeling et al.’s “Why Revisit Published Data of an Endangered Language with Native Speakers? An Illustration from Cherokee” in Volume 4 (2010). At SOAS, we publish multimedia volumes of Language Documentation and Description (such as Volume 10) as a book with accompanying CD or DVD.

Congratulations to Blench and McGill for putting together this volume and making materials on otherwise poorly known languages of Nigeria more widely available.

Bursting through Dawes (2)

Further to my last post, I’ve read on, and my disappointment has only deepened at the treatment of the Sydney Language in Ross Gibson’s 26 views of the starburst world.

Think about the notes you made when you were getting into learning an undocumented language … Imagine they get archived and in a century or two someone looks through them and tries to work out what was going on when you made the notes.  With only shreds of metadata and general knowledge of the historical period to go on, the future reader makes inferences from the content. Could a cluster of words in one of your vocabulary lists point to a hunch you were checking? Or a sequence of illustrative sentences could be the skeletal narrative of a memorable experience shared with your teachers.
Continue reading ‘Bursting through Dawes (2)’ »

Bursting through Dawes

‘Aspects of the Sydney Language are a perennial fascination’, as I observed in a 2008 post, and the best record we have of the language is in the two notebooks of Lt William Dawes. Dawes himself has become a fascination and a new book pursues him to imaginary lengths. I have so far only read parts of Ross Gibson’s 26 views of the starburst world, and heard Maria Zijlstra interview him ten days ago on ABC RN’s Lingua Franca. For now I’d like to alert potential readers to what I think is a fundamental problem with Gibson’s approach: as I see it, Gibson misses the point of Dawes’ notebooks, that Dawes’ writing in the two extant notebooks records his developing understanding of the grammar and lexis of the language. It is a misreading to take Dawes’ notes as focussing on ethnography and world-view.

Gibson’s comments on the epigraph he (understandably) chose for his opening page (v) well illustrate how he has confused himself.
epigraph Gibson 2012:v

  1. Dawes here is not ‘musing’, rather he has recorded an apposite way to express a thought. It strikes me a particularly good illustration for a benefactive, as it is involves an action and object in the future.
  2. The sentence is not to illustrate ŋía, but rather ŋyıniwȧgolȧŋ: check the context in the image (of page 15 of Notebook B) on page 63 of Gibson’s book, or the annotated colour page image on the marvellous site from SOAS. Gibson may have misread the line break after Ŋía
  3. ngía is not the ‘utterance’ recorded, rather ngía is a word contained in the utterance Ngía büngabaoú buk ngyiniwågolå̊ ́ng. This might seem to be a pedantic point, but it is just one instance of Gibson’s straining to avoid the word ‘word’, such as in the excerpt in the Lingua Franca description:

    dara might also have been the noise for “tooth”. Memel is the sound for the place we call Goat Island

  4. ngía does not mean ‘for you’, it means ‘I’; ‘for you’ is ngyiniwågolå ́ng

Note that this same sentence had been used as an epigraph by Steele (2005:ii) for his MA, freely available online, and Steele (2005:172) provides an analysis of the sentence:
ngaya banga-ba-wu buk ngyini-wa-gulang
1sg make-FUT-1sg book 2sgO?-DAT?-appertaining to

Added 31 August 2012: My further post about Gibson’s book.


LDD and FEL books on sale

To celebrate Endangered Languages Week at SOAS we have cut the price of all issues of Language Documentation and Description by 20% until the end of May (copies now GBP 10, including postage). You can place orders through our online store.

Also, all Foundation for Endangered Languages books are now 25% off. Orders may be placed here.

Book launch: Kaytetye Dictionary

At the Aboriginal Languages Workshop at North Stradbroke Island last month, as usual there were things to celebrate. I had the honour of helping launch the Kaytetye Dictionary*. Book launches are a lovely way of thinking about and celebrating people’s work and ideas. Here’s what I said, more or less.

Things I love about this dictionary

1. it’s alkenhe (big) and contains elperterre (hard language).

2. It has lots of audiences: community members, linguists, scientists, teachers, people who want to learn the language. And the compilers, Myfany Turpin and the Kaytetye linguist, Alison Ross, have done their best to help all of these audiences. This is a dictionary that we will all learn from, not just for the encyclopaedic knowledge of Kaytetye it embodies, but also for how to present dictionary information.

3. I was trying to think of a metaphor to describe the Kaytetye Dictionary project. And I came up with the quandong tree (not a tree from Kaytetye country but not far off…).

Quandong tree: fruit
The bright red fruit looks pretty and it’s delicious. So I dip into the Kaytetye dictionary anywhere and I find things I love, I just keep on eating. Here are some:

Pronunciation: Arandic languages have a spelling system which takes a lot of getting used to – but the introduction to the dictionary is a real winner. It explains the system, demonstrates how sounds are made, gives respellings that will help English speakers, and even fuzzy spelling search clues. One thing I really like is the cross reference to words that sound similar arerre ‘collarbone’ and ararre ‘white bread’ are cross-referenced to help you distinguish between them.

Words: The dictionary includes not just traditional words but words for new things, words which show Kaytetye as a living language, one that a speech community uses to talk about things like batik wax, atnkere, and not-so-everyday things like guardian angels, arremparrenge. It also includes placenames, and a map with around 100 place names including country names. Yes!

It includes words for things which are very hard to elicit without the wholehearted deep involvement of native speakers. The clitic =akwele is glossed as:
“Of course, certainly; shows you are sure that what you are saying is true because you are speaking from your own knowledge, experience of authority” and then as a second sense:
When someone is repeatedly telling you something, akwele shows that you have heard what the person is saying and suggests that they don’t need to keep on about it.

ayntengarrenke is glossed as “Crawl back to someone after rubbishing them”. Not the kind of word that comes up in elicitation sessions..

And the gloss leads to another thing I like: Myf and Alison have used a lot of everyday language from Central Australia which will make it more useful to Kaytetye people. So, – you’ll find mpwarle arlwar-atnenke glossed as ‘busting for the toilet’.

Quandong tree: roots and branches
Like a quandong tree,the roots and branches are what produce the dictionary – and that is the fieldwork, and the resulting collection of tapes, transcriptions and linkages between example sentences and speakers that underlies the dictionary. This dictionary is just a fraction of what’s contained in that collection, which has already produced the Kaytetye Picture Dictionary. If you find something missing, it’s almost certainly in the massive underlying collection – e.g. following the practice of the other Arandic dictionaries, examples are not sourced, but that information is in the underlying files.

Quandong tree: root sustaining
A special thing about quandong trees is that, to start growing in the first place, they have to have initial sustenance from the roots of trees growing around. And for dictionaries, that sustenance is generosity. This generosity has manifested in many forms.

First are the more than 70 Kaytetye speakers who gave their time and enthusiasm to work with Myf and Alison on the dictionary. Many have since died, and the dictionary honours their work.

Second are the earlier researchers on Kaytetye and on Arandic: Ken Hale, Harold Koch, Grace Koch, and Gavan Breen, who freely added the material they’d collected to form the basis of the Kaytetye dictionary.

Third is the community of Alice Springs, an amazingly collaborative place, where Myf was able to collaborate with natural scientists who have worked to identify plants, animals, reptiles. (but she did say in her speech that some insects had proved hard to label, and the best they could suggest for witchetty grubs was that she let them hatch to see what they turned into..)

Fourth is the wonderful Alice Springs collaboration on picture dictionaries, learners guides and reference dictionaries published by IAD Press. A whole grove of them has grown up since the early 1980s. Through the efforts of Gavan Breen, Veronica Dobson, Cliff Goddard, Jenny Green, John Henderson, Robert Hoogenraad, Jim Wafer, David Wilkins and many others, there are materials such as picture dictionaries, learners guides and reference dictionaries for Mparntwe Arrernte, Alyawarr, Anmatyerr, Pitjantjatjara, Warlpiri…. and each dictionary compiler has built on the dictionaries of the past, so that the Kaytetye Dictionary draws on the information and good ideas of the previous dictionaries.

Finally there is the generosity of the compilers. Myf talked about Alison Ross and how she had worked with her grandmother and had produced several hundred written definitions in Kaytetye. I talked about Myf. She has over many years published an enormous amount of analysis and documentation of Kaytetye that is of great benefit to the Kaytetye community as well as to linguists. In 2000 she produced A Learner’s Guide to Kaytetye. IAD Press, Alice Springs, NT. In 2003 came the text collection Growing Up Kaytetye. Stories by Tommy Kngwarraye Thompson. (It’s one of his paintings that provides the beautiful cover of the dictionary). In 2004 she and Alison Ross produced the Kaytetye Picture Dictionary, and a CD Awelye Akwelye: Kaytetye women’s songs from Arnerre, Central Australia. (This was distributed by Papulu Apparr-kari language and culture centre, Tennant Creek. Recordings by Grace, Koch, Linda Barwick and Myfany Turpin, commentary by Myfany Turpin and Alison Ross. Somewhere along the line she produced a Kaytetye version of Sesame Street. Oh and by the by she fitted in her PhD thesis, Form and meaning of Akwelye: a Kaytetye women’s song series from Central Australia: University of Sydney PhD, 2005.
And now, this enormous dictionary. In today’s academic climate this has been an extraordinarily generous act. And it’s been a family act – one of the three proof-readers was Myf’s mum.

Alkapertawe! (finished, completed, done)

*Claimer: I’d gone out and bought a copy as soon as I saw it…before being asked to launch it…