Meet the 2015 ANU Summer Scholars

In partnership with the Australian National University, the first Summer Scholar program ran from 22 November 2015 to 22 January 2016. 

Alexandra Grant

Alexandra Grant

  • Institution: The Australian National University

I am a third year Bachelor of Philosophy (Science) student at ANU. In my first two years as an undergraduate, I have mainly focused on mathematics with the majority of my non-science courses being in linguistics. In linguistics I am interested in a number of topics including syntactic theory, computational linguistics, and endangered languages and their documentation. While my formal study of Indigenous languages has been limited so far in my degree, ANU’s leading Indigenous language department was one of my reasons for choosing to study at the university.

For the summer project, I am working under the guidance of Ms Elizabeth Ellis and Dr Inge Kral focusing on building a FLEX dictionary to store lexical items from a Western Desert auxiliary language. For the end of the project I will also be working with Natalie O’Toole a young Pitjantjatjara trainee researcher. Creating a dictionary that keeps track of the source, grammatical features, dialect, and usage is essential. I am also tackling with technology to establish a smooth workflow to take the voice and video transcriptions in ELAN and incorporate them it into the new FLEX dictionary. The project has involved becoming familiar with the basic morphological and syntactic features of dialects such as Ngaanyatjarra and Pitjantjatjara and learning about Western Desert culture and history. I will also be helping in researching existing language technology apps and brainstorming possible ideas and initiatives to benefit the Western Desert communities. This summer I have also been involved in incorporating linguistics into the National Youth Science Forum program. I believe the forum is a great way to introduce high school science students to the exciting and diverse fields of linguistics!

Ellie Murphy

Ellie Murphy

  • Institution: University of Melbourne

I am a recent graduate of the University of Melbourne. I studied Linguistics and Italian as part of my BA, and also completed a Diploma in Languages in Japanese. I am interested in a number of topics, including Japanese ideophones, sociolinguistic variation in Japanese, narrative structure and ethnolects in Australian English. I am also passionate about minority and endangered languages and their documentation, preservation and revitalisation – particularly Australian languages and the Indigenous languages of Japan. Although I am looking forward to undertaking further study in linguistics soon, my immediate plans are to learn Auslan full time at Melbourne Polytechnic, and to spend time learning regional dialects of Japanese.

I am currently working with Sarah Cutfield, Cressida Fforde and Scott Gorringe on Mithaka as part of the 2015 Summer Scholars programme. I am building on the work of James Boffin, a previous Summer Scholar at AIATSIS who produced a dictionary and first-stage grammar of Mithaka. For my project, I am investigating the writings of Alice Duncan Kemp. Duncan Kemp wrote five books (published between 1933 and 2005) focusing on her life growing up in the Channel Country in South Western Queensland, in an area which is traditional Mithaka country. Her stories are full of the knowledge and language of the Aboriginal people she knew and grew up with. We hope to compile the language data in her books into a corpus, eventually transposing her descriptions into Mithaka orthography, and adding them to the existing Mithaka lexicon.

Kaitlyn Smith

Kaitlyn Smith

  • Institution: Victoria University Wellington

I completed my Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics and Modern Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, followed by an Honours degree in Linguistics. This year I am starting my Masters thesis in Linguistics at Victoria University where I will be examining language attitudes in the New Zealand Deaf Community. Over the course of my studies, I have developed an interest in minority and indigenous language research – from analysing the morpho-syntax, phonetics and semantics, to investigating the possible outcomes for language learners and communities with sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic methods. I am now even more curious about all things language, and I hope to enter further into the field of endangered language research in the future.

From the summer scholar experience I have gained knowledge in minute linguistic detail of an Australian Aboriginal language, Warumungu. In collaboration with Professor Jane Simpson, I have helped analyse and transcribe archived audio of Warumungu recorded in 1966 by Prithrindra Chakravarti with the purpose of creating descriptive materials, contributing to the revitalisation of the language. Primarily I have compared Chakravarti’s word list of the audio recordings with the current Warumungu word list, to ensure consistent and accurate orthographic and phonetic transcription of the language, as well as translating Warumungu sentences into English. While doing so, I have made observations about the language’s rhotic and vowel variation, and compiled a list of variants to be added to the eventual dictionary. I have also done detective work on the tapes themselves to determine the language elicitation method. As an avid language learner of New Zealand Sign Language and a French language teacher, I was thrilled to have the chance to learn a bit of the Warumungu language. I have been left energised by CoEDL’s summer school courses, seminars, workshops, and conversations about Australian linguistics.

William Peralta

William Peralta

I am a third year linguistics student at the University of Sydney, working towards an honours degree and further research within linguistics in the future. This is my first opportunity to work within the field of linguistics, particularly in Australian languages as previously I have studied and worked in digital media. My current interests in linguistics are broadly in acoustic and auditory phonetics, corpus linguistics, the Australian, Austronesian and Sino-Tibetan language families, the history and development of tone in tonal languages, as well as sociolinguistic variation and dialects in Japan. For possible future research I’d like to look into the phenomenon of tonogenesis and also into multilingualism and language contact.

As part of the 2015 Summer Scholars program I am working on the Dalabon language project with Sarah Cutfield and Nick Evans focusing on corpus building, transcription and preparation of materials for the Dalabon lexicon. The project requires hands-on work with materials such as field recordings and field notes, digitising them in preparation for archiving at PARADISEC, as well as the transcription and processing of those recordings. The second part of the project is to look at the variation and distributions within the vowel space for the vowels [u] and [û] to see exactly what acoustic features distinguish them from one another and to quantify these distinctions.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University

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