Archive for the ‘Conferences’ Category.

Rejoicing at AUSTRALEX

AUSTRALEX held its biennial conference in a surprisingly green Adelaide, and the tall gums were filled with birds rejoicing. It was the biggest AUSTRALEX conference I’ve ever been to, a range of speakers from around the world, the first one with parallel sessions, and by far the greatest media coverage of any Australian linguistics/lexicography conference – around 16 news items. Amazing, and good work by the promoter, Ghil’ad Zuckermann!

The theme of this conference was Endangered Words, and Signs of Revival. What is an endangered word? Is it a word in a language for an idea that no other language has a word for? Is it a word in an endangered language? Is it both? Do they include the ephemeral words and phrases (e.g. the current Free free the refugees which I remember years ago as Free, free the ACT from, from the bourgeoisie). What does it mean to revive words? What habitats do endangered words survive on in? e.g. David Nash‘s paper noted that some words of Indigenous languages survive in scientific names – as Nicotiana rosulata subsp. Ingulba which J.M.Black named in the 1930s using the local Arrernte name for the plant. Discussion of this led to the mention of a fossil python, preserving a possibly ephemeral cultural reference: Montypythonoides).

Revival was front stage at the start, with a welcome to country and a speech in Kaurna by Jack Buckskin (Jack is starring in a recent film about his work). As if this wasn’t terrific enough, he followed it with a song he’d written in Kaurna, and played the didgeridoo (paying respect to the northern Australians who play it). It was a great tribute to what waking up a language can do.

The conference concluded with a related event that I really really regret missing — on Saturday, Kaurna people, descendants of the first missionaries, current Lutherans, linguists and lexicographers visited Pirlta Wardli (Possum house:the place where the first missionaries worked). They got together to recognise and celebrate the work those missionaries did on documenting Kaurna language and teaching Kaurna children to read and write their own language. There was a prelaunch of a Kaurna Learners Guide by Rob Amery. The event was supported by the Yitpi Foundation, which Tony Rathjen set up, and which has been a great and quiet supporter of Aboriginal languages.

Coming together at AUSTRALEX helps us realise that we can learn from each other. Dictionary-making seems at the outset so simple – how hard can it be to make a list of words and their meanings? And so many of us rush into it, and then discover problems, and have to think up solutions to them, when all the while other people have been dealing with similar problems. So it was great to see the makers of dictionaries for small endangered languages in discussion with people who mine the web to create huge corpora. There were talks on production of dictionaries and workflow (e.g. Lauren Gawne on two dictionaries she’s worked on – Lamjung Yolmo and Kagate) and on beginning dictionaries – Norah Zhong‘s dictionary of Western Yugur). Both papers raised the question of sources and corpora – so it was nice to set this against Julia Robinson‘s fascinating discussion of changing practice in searching for antedatings and historical evidence for the Australian National Dictionary. (Which raised in my mind the question of whether the privileging of literary sources is a legacy problem for English dictionaries on historical principles).

There was also a strong sense of history at the conference, paying tribute to the work of early word collectors – Luise Hercus described her first realisation in 1962 in Victoria, that there still were speakers and rememberers of many languages, and then how she devoted herself to recording them, and what they wanted recorded, which very often were songs and the places associated with the songs.

Archival work also featured, Mary-Anne Gale paying tribute to the organisation of Boandik materials by Barry Blake which Boandik language revivers have made considerable use of. Going to another country entirely, Lars-Gunnar Larsson described how much Ume Saami (southern Sweden) material had been recorded in the archives, and described how careful analysis of archival sources on Ume Saami had shown that there were village dialects, which differed systematically, rather than there being random chaotic variation in a language attrition situation. He also raised the question of conflicts between archival material and the later material on which Ume Saami revival has been based – [a dictionary of material collected during World War 2 by a German linguist, Wolfgang Schlachter, who was nearly blind. He lived with a Saami family who defended him when Swedes wanted to arrest him as a German spy.]

Similar kinds of conflicts are probably what led John Hobson to suggest returning “to a gentler model of prescriptivism” that will help communities trying to get revival underway. Few people can learn spelling, grammar etc under the “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach. Related to this are the difficulties raised by Peter Mühlhäusler for the new languages/English varieties of Pitkern and Norf’k of how to prepare a dictionary for a non-standard language, where families argue about what words to include – a situation familiar to many people working on small languages, whether traditional or new. (Worst pun of conference -description of Mühlhäusler, a ferret enthusiast, as Professor Eferretus).

I was particularly taken with the work on creating new terms, whether for Boandik (Gale), Kaurna (Jasmin Morley) or more generally in John Hobson‘s paper where he presented a resource for communities wanting to create new words – basically a list of strategies for doing this, and examples of it. Over the borrowing/copying strategy, Wanda Miller emphasised that linguists have a responsibility when they go out to communities to speak with the elders about copying words, and if a word is copied, then in our resources and books acknowledge where that word is taken from. John Hobson reported that a trial release to some University of Sydney Master of Indigenous Language Education students this year was greeted with praise. You can find the resource online here.

AUSTRALEX 2015 is probably to be held in New Zealand, home and exporter of many great lexicographers.

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!

APLL5 conference registration open

Registration is now open for the 5th Austronesian and Papuan Languages and Linguistics conference (APLL5), to be held 4-5 May 2012 and sponsored by SOAS, Oxford University Linguistics and Surrey Morphology Group. The full programme will be available on the conference website later this week.

Preregistration for the conference and (optional) conference dinner can be made by secure credit card payment at the SOAS online store.

7th European Australianist workshop

Candide Simard (ELAP) is organising the 7th European Australianists workshop 2012 which will be held at SOAS on 3-4 April.

The purpose of the workshop is to provide a venue for the presentation and discussion on current research on Australian languages. As in previous workshops a theme is suggested: ‘Contact phenomena in Australian languages’. However, participants are free to present papers not related to this theme, and contributions relating to any aspect of Australian languages, from any perspective are welcome

Confirmed speakers are:

Eva Schultze-Berndt, University of Manchester
William McGregor, University of Aarhus
Peter Austin, SOAS

Pre-registration for the workshop is required and can be done by secure credit card payment here.

Earlier workshops were held in Machester in 2008 and Nijmegen in 2007.

3L Summer School in Lyon, France, July 2012

The fourth International Summer School of the 3L Consortium (Lyon, London, Leiden) will be hosted by the LED-TDR team (Langues En Danger-Terrain, Documentation, Revitalisation), members of the DDL and ICAR laboratories (University Lumière-Lyon 2 and ENS Lyon, France), from 1st to 13 July 2012.

It follows on from the highly successful 3L Summer Schools in Lyon 2008, London 2009 and Leiden 2010.

The 2012 3L Summer School will concentrate on the theme of Endangered Languages Revitalisation. The main objective will be to create a space of reflection in an academic setting on the growing number of projects of revitalisation around the world. Based on an analysis of current and planned projects, it will promote a critical outlook on fieldwork in contexts of language revitalisation. The summer school includes lectures, courses and workshops, and thematic evening events, and sessions will be available in English, French and Spanish. It includes an International Conference on 6th and 7th July entitled: “1992-2012: twenty years of research on language endangerment” with the participation of international researchers, and of the main institutions involved in issues of language endangerment. There will also be a Junior Researchers Conference on 11th July for participants who wish to present their work from a critical perspective.

The website and registration form [.pdf] for the 3L Summer School is now available.

The deadline for registration is 31st March.

Langfest 2011 – inspiration and exh(ilar)alation

Canberra is breath-taking at the moment, and I am just catching breath between marking and Langfest … it starts today with the French Studies conference.

Tomorrow=Monday, dictionary-making, with AUSTRALEX, and a keynote by Sarah Ogilvie, the soon-to-be-director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre.

Wednesday brings New Zealand and Australia together with the combined mega-conference of the applied linguistics associations of New Zealand and Australia (ALAA-ALANZ) at the University of Canberra

Thursday sees a session on Indigenous language revival and revitalisation at the start of the Australian Linguistics Society conference and shared with ALAA-ALANZ at the University of Canberra. Then we whiz back to ANU for ALS’s first poster session which contains several posters on endangered languages, followed by Canberra’s first Linguistics in the Pub session.

Friday is a big day on Language and the Law at ANU – language rights of different types. ALS has heaps of papers on endangered languages. And our workshop on Kids kriols and classrooms. And Jenny Green and Barb Kelly’s workshop on Current issues in non-verbal communication research. That was the trigger for getting sign language interpreting for some sessions on Friday and Saturday – very professional interpreters, and brings home the cost of language rights. It’s easy enough to ask for Governments to pay for language rights. But it makes us much more aware of what we are asking when societies like ALS and ALAA and conference attenders realise the cost to themselves of language rights.

And, and, and, Saturday has a class on learning and teaching Gamilaraay. AND a workshop on Modality in the Indigenous languages of Australia and PNG, as well as other papers on endangered languages (perception in Avatime?, fronting in Mawng, voicing in Gurindji Kriol). Sunday has lots of papers in the general session and workshops from telling who intentionally does what in Sherpa, to body-parts in Kriol and Dalabon, to Topic Continuity of Subject and Non-Subject in Squliq Atayal Legends: Evidence from Statistics. There’s also a special audio workshop run by David Nathan.

And, completely breathless by now, we down the last arvo tea, and head to Kioloa for master classesJoan Bresnan on Probabilistic syntax (up to us to think how can we do it with small data sets as we normally have for endangered languages) and Fiona Jordan on Cultural phylogeny. Others stay on in Canberra for a workshop on tone in New Guinea languages.


New Austronesian and Papuan research group

A new organisation, the Austronesian and Papuan Languages and Linguistics research group (APLL), has been established with sponsorship from SOAS, Oxford University and University of Surrey. It is a successor to the UK Austronesian Research Group that was established in 2005 but has been dormant for some years — APLL has a wider focus, including Papuan languages.

APLL is pleased to announce its fifth international conference APLL5 to be held at SOAS, University of London, on 4-5 May 2012. APLL5 follows the successful Austronesian Languages and Linguistics (ALL) conferences held at SOAS and St Catherine’s College Oxford in previous years, most recently ALL4 in 2008; the numbering of the APLL conferences follows on from the sequence established by the ALL conferences.

The purpose of the APLL conferences is to provide a venue for presentation of the best current research on Austronesian and Papuan languages and linguistics and to promote collaboration and research in this area. All papers will be subject to assessment by the Program Committee.

The keynote speaker for the conference will be Marian Klamer of Leiden University.

For further details, including key dates and abstract submission guidelines see the conference website.

Upcoming events

The following events may be of interest to readers:

1. Workshop on Language Ethics as a Field of Inquiry 11-12 November 2011, Montreal, Canada

This workshop will bring together leading experts in politics, philosophy, linguistics, history and economics, in order to explore language ethics in a strong transdisciplinary environment. Papers that may be of particular interest are:

  • Luisa Maffi (Terralingua): Earth of Languages, Languages of the Earth: Towards a Biocultural Ethics for the World’s Languages
  • Alan Patten (Political Science, Princeton): Language Preservation, Fairness and Language Rights
  • Suzanne Romaine (English, Oxford): Towards Sustainable and Equitable Human Development: Why Language Matters
  • Daniel Weinstock (Philosophy, Montreal): Is Language Death Necessarily Unjust? Three Arguments
  • David Robichaud (Philosophy, Ottawa): Language Rights and the Costs of Language Diversity

2. Digital Humanities 2012 16-22 July 2012, Hamburg, Germany

The Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations International Program Committee invites submissions of abstracts of between 750 and 1500 words on any aspect of digital humanities, from information technology to problems in humanities research and teaching by 1 November 2011. It welcomes submissions particularly relating to interdisciplinary work and on new developments in the field, and encourages submissions relating in some way to the theme of the 2012 conference, which is ‘Digital Diversity: Cultures, languages and methods’. The conference web site has some information and more will be added over the next few weeks.

Note particularly that the conference organises say:

“we particularly invite proposals on the potential and impact of digital methods and models in fostering multilingualism and multiculturalism, and on the challenges and potential presented to DH in terms of linguistic and cultural diversity. Proposals regarding endangered, lesser-known or minority languages and cultures are especially welcome”

All proposals must be submitted electronically using the online submission form found at the conference web site, starting from 1st October 2011.

LDLT-3 conference news

The third Language Documentation and Linguistic Theory conference will be held at SOAS in London on 19th to 20th November, preceded by a workshop on language documentation and archiving on 18th November. The conference programme and workshop programme are now available.

On-line registration for the conference is now open here. Note that early bird registration closes on 10th October.

Workshop on applied language documentation

The Endangered Languages Academic Programme (ELAP) at SOAS is organising a workshop on Applied Language Documentation in sub-Saharan Africa on Saturday 14th May 2011. The workshop will discuss how the central themes of language documentation relate to improving site-specific applied language documentation, including:

  • how corpus design might help/hinder local dissemination of language documentation outcomes;
  • how new technology and media can be employed in applied language documentation to overcome prevailing problems with dissemination in community settings;
  • ways in which site-specific community participation in language documentation can lead to more effective application of language documentation goals;
  • how multi-disciplinary approaches to language documentation might provide lasting impact in African language support and maintenance.

Keynote speakers are Jeff Good, University of Buffalo, and Guy De Pauw, University of Antwerp & African Language Technology. A detailed programme for the workshop is now online.

Registration for the workshop is now open through the SOAS Online Store and will close by Thursday 12 May 2011. Spaces are strictly limited so register early to avoid disappointment. Note that there are 15 students bursaries available which cover the registration fee for students who wish to attend the workshop. For more details see the workshop website.