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Director weekly highlights 10 Dec

Jane Simpson, Outreach

Date: 10 December 2021

What an astonishing year. Despite the painful isolations and stressful uncertainty, many CoEDL people have managed to carry out illuminating, creative, translational research, and generously give their time to help other people present their findings. This was brilliantly demonstrated at the Australian Linguistics Society (ALS) conference this week. I idly counted the number of talks, plenaries and posters involving CoEDL people. At least FIFTY-SEVEN of 91 papers, 3 plenaries and 12 posters. Just … wow… Check out the program here

Let’s also honour the generosity of people who gave up their time and put effort into providing platforms for other researchers: 

  • the ALS 2021 conference organisers from La Trobe University, led by CoEDL member James Walker. Superbly organised and super impressive to achieve this in the see-saw COVID-19 environment of Melbourne. 
  • the fifth Language Variation and Change - Australia workshop, organised by CoEDL members Celeste Rodriguez Louro, CI Catherine Travis and James Walker. Celeste and Catherine co-organised the first LVC-A in 2013, and since then the series has firmly cemented the methods of variationist sociolinguistics in Australian linguistics. 
  • three ‘Organised Sessions’ which illustrated the wide range of CoEDL's translational and applied research. ‘Australian Indigenous Children's Language/s’ was organised/chaired by CoEDL members Lucy Davidson, Rebecca Defina and CI Jill Wigglesworth. ‘Australian Indigenous Languages in Education’ was organised by CoEDL PhD students Emma Browne and Megan Wood. Both sessions attracted 60+ participants — something undreamt-of 20 years ago when the Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition project began (as Jill said to me afterwards). CoEDL’s ‘Spinning a new yarn’ group inspired the ‘Decolonisation, inclusion and collaboration in Linguistics’ session, chaired by Jakelin Troy. Recognising the interest in this topic outside ALS’s normal audience, the conference organisers made this session free, and it attracted 100+ participants. Good idea! Another good idea — Auslan interpreters were provided for this session and some others, showing ALS’s continued commitment to making linguistics research accessible. 
  • the presenters of the CoEDL Masterclasses, and the organiser Catherine Travis. (Some places are still available, so if you want to enrol in a Masterclass please contact Joshua Butler). Again, we owe them a great deal for their investment in teaching us all and strengthening the linguistics community. 

Here’s an update from Catherine Travis on the Masterclasses: 

CoEDL has run 5 summer schools, from 2015 to 2019. We had to take a break in 2020, and in 2021 are running Summer Masterclasses, in conjunction with ALS. These have been a huge success. Around 140 students have enrolled each year (including UG and PG students, academics, and others with a general interest) and have learned from national and international scholars on a range of topics. Courses have covered diverse language areas — Australian, Papuan, Polynesian, Tibeto-Burman language — and diverse fields — forensic linguistics, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, language contact, language evolution, language typology, language acquisition, language processing, prosody; as well as diverse methods — fieldwork, experimental work (and experimental fieldwork), video recording, R, statistics, visualisations, and much more. Through this, we have aimed to widen the horizons and expand the skillset of linguists in Australia. By bringing people together, we hope to have contributed to the sense of community among Australian linguists, while also facilitating connections with others working in fields related to linguistics who have participated in these events. We are very pleased that the Summer School will continue, managed by the Australian Linguistics Society, and we look forward to working with them to ensure the continued success of this event. 

In the near [fjʉːtʃɑ:], rush off and read James Grama, Catherine Travis and Simón Gonzalez Ochoa’s paper Ethnolectal and community change ov(er) time: Word-final (er) in Australian English which won the prize for best paper published in the Australian Journal of Linguistics in 2020 by vote of Australian Linguistics Society members. Congratulations to the authors! 


Jane Simpson
Deputy Director


The view from Western Arnhem 

In 2019 Claudia Cialone completed an ANU doctoral thesis which brought together psychology and linguistics in an unusual and rich exploration of wayfinding and talk: Placing spatial language and cognition in context through an investigation of Bininj Kunwok navigation talk. A recent Bininj project that she’s been involved in has just appeared in The Guardian, and shows again what unexpected and rewarding paths our research can lead us along. 

My 4-year doctorate at COEDL, through ANU, enabled me to coalesce research interests in spatial navigation and cognition, Aboriginal art, culture and language, GIS, and my life-long passion of working with Indigenous cultures into a multidisciplinary thesis. With such research and fieldwork skills I was confident enough to embark on a project for Warddeken Ltd, an Aboriginal organisation operating in the heart of Western Arnhem.  

I currently manage a philanthropically funded rock art project with Bininj (local) people. The project involves extensive periods of consultation with Traditional Owners across 36 clan estates. With a committed and wonderful team of Bininj rangers we exert a considerable amount of time, energies and resources exploring, recording and managing sites across a country of about 14,000 km2 to conserve the millenary history painted on the sandstone walls of the so called kuwarddewardde – stone country. We then organize all that information through a communal data management and archival process internally developed, accessed and owned by communities. The latter is used also to support creating educational resources for the independent bush school – Nawarddeken Academy

Last but not least we have started organising collaborative academic archaeological, conservation and scientific research with the local communities. This has already led to poster presentations, media articles (below a link to the most recent one) and conference papers (in preparation) where Bininj can express their research, their views and in their language. My role is also to facilitate this process. 

So, what we do in a nutshell is ‘reconnecting Bininj to their country and help them protecting it in a two-way manner’. 

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