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Director weekly highlights 17 July

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 17 July 2020

First a fun link to lighten our spirits, courtesy of Lauren Sadow and David Nash. I know NAIDOC week’s been postponed, but this is something to listen to while we wait for it – a weird tour de force by LinguaPhilliax singing his way through the names of all languages on David Horton’s map of Australian languages 

Last week I mentioned the Dhurga dictionary launch and here’s a brief report courtesy of Doug Marmion and Jane Simpson: 

The launch was held in the Eurobodalla Shire Library on Friday 10 July. The three main compilers of the dictionary Patricia Ellis, Kerry Boyenga and Waine Donovan all spoke about their work and the history of the project and the various people involved. As well as thanking CoEDL people for their assistance with getting the dictionary ready for publication, they paid special tribute to Jutta Besold, who played an important role in helping the project in its early days and Diana Eades who recorded material on south coast languages in the 1970s. They were followed by AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie, who spoke about the importance of language to communities and the great value of the dictionary and the dictionary was then launched by well-known author and local, Jackie French. CoEDL summer scholars Eleanor Jorgensen and Romi Hill, Jane Simpson and Doug Marmion attended the launch of the Dhurga dictionary via Zoom (number of attendees had to be very limited) and enjoyed a very happy event with much justified pride in the new “Dhurga Dictionary and Learner’s Grammar”. There’s a good story about the dictionary on ABC online. 

The next dictionary to come up in this initiative will be the Dhanggati dictionary, which has been sent to the printers. Once done copies will be available from the Murrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-Operative. 

Meanwhile the connections between language science, health and emotional well-being keep growing. Two important papers by CoEDL researchers came out this week (details below): 

  • the Queensland-based Florence team (Rachel Sluis, Daniel Angus, Janet Wiles, Andrew Beck, Tingting (Amy) Gibson, Jacki Liddle, Peter Worthy, David Copland, and Anthony Angwin) showed how the Calpy tool can be used to analyse pausing, a central element in tracking the speech of people with dementia. 

  • Partner Investigator Morten Christiansen and his team showed the differential role of different speech sounds in producing emotional arousal, suggesting that the evolution of some linguistic signs may have occurred by being associated certain acoustic properties with objects producing high arousal. 

And the link between reclaiming language and wellbeing was passionately made this morning on Radio National Breakfast by Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch. She has just won the Miles Franklin award for her novel “The Yield” which gives a strong place to Aboriginal languages.  

As CoVID forces us to rethink how we will maintain the intense exchange of ideas that drives all science along, a thought-provoking panel on ‘Sustainable Academia: the Way Forward’ was presented in the ABRALIN series by Celeste Rodriguez Louro (UWA), Lauren Gawne (LaTrobe) and others. 

Today we’ve enjoyed Australia’s Linguistic Landscape with Ilana Mushin Jaky Troy, Felicity Meakins, Kate Burridge, John Hajek and Ingrid Piller. 

I’ll be giving a talk myself at 9 am next Tuesday (AEST) in the same Abralin Ao Vivo series, entitled ‘Whose here and whose there: double perspective and the grammar of social cognition’. In it I’ll return to a theme I’ve been interested in for some time, gradually accumulating a range of wild and wonderful design solutions across the world’s languages in ways that spookily anticipate some of the complex perspectival problems we are all facing at this moment when – like you, dear readers – we are scattered across different time zones, seasons, cultures and languages...   

Next week I’m taking a few days off and Jane Simpson will kindly take over as Director during that time – thanks yet again Jane! – so I hope you have a great fortnight 

Nick Evans


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