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Director weekly highlights 20 November

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 20 November 2020

A whole new round of news this week. Seven ARC grants – Discovery and Linkage Grants – all involving members of our CoEDL community will allow different strands of our research to garner the resources needed to pursue these questions well after the end of CoEDL’s funding period. There are crossovers between morphosyntax and new methods for investigating processing (Nordlinger, Kidd, Schlesewsky and Bornkessel-Schlesewsky ), between the philosophy of human evolution and modelling in understanding the evolution of norms (Sterelny & Gray), between archiving, Indigenous languages and early musical soundscapes (Harris & Troy), between vernacular literacy in Indigenous languages and art history (Disbray, Johnson, Jorgensen and Kral), between the study of Indigenous languages, listening and learning (Wigglesworth, Sharma, Demuth and the NT Education Department), and an investigation of what makes Aboriginal language programs sustainable (Bird, Christie & Spencer). By sparking the sorts of conversations and trial projects (e.g. through the Centre’s TI funding) that get such projects to the proof-of-concept stage CoEDL is proud to have been a hatchery for crossover research like this. Our congratulations to all concerned and we are eager to see what comes out of all of these projects. Meanwhile you can get a foretaste of the use of eye-tracking technologies to investigate the processing of Murrinhpatha and Pitjantjatjara at the end of Rachel’s Abralin Ao Vivo talk from a couple of days back.  

Our congratulations also to Carmel O’Shannessy and Denise Angelo, each of whom won fiercely competitive ANU awards for excellence in Research and Equity & Diversity respectively. 

Also you’ll find a link to the Gambay map being developed by First Languages Australia which has added placenames to its rich repertoire. Take a look: you can click on links on the map, and hear both the place name, pronounced by a speaker of the language, as well as the story behind the name. This is a fantastic initiative and we can expect many more place names to be added to it over the coming years, given the richness of the Indigenous namescape across this continent. So a big hand to First Languages Australia and its Manager Faith Baisden. 

Speaking of hands, many of you will remember our theme day on Modality (in the sense of modal channel) at last year’s CoEDLFest in Sydney. I think there’s a general sense that CoEDL hasn’t done enough in the space of sign language, so it’s heartening to see about the work going on support from RUIL and the CoEDL-sponsored 300 signs project, on rdaka-rdaka (Warlpiri sign language) and other sign languages of Central Australia. This builds on Adam Kendon’s pioneering video-recordings from 1978-1985, which had been edited into the Warlpiri Sign Language Dictionary, but the current work led by Jenny Green and Eleanor Jorgensen will create a much more easily searchable version while expanding out the number of languages for which documentation is available. 

I’d like to remind you again about the very important NILR forum next week.  

And on top of that see the huge range of forums, seminars and other presentations which, in these Zoomy times, can take you to most continents and through most hours of the 24-hour clock. Particularly for our colleagues and friends locked down from South Australia to France, Germany and the UK, we hope that these will offer at least some way to stay connected through this long stretch of dark times. 

Among the week’s publications I’d particularly like to flag Felicity Meakins and Sasha Wilmoth’s chapter on ‘Overabundance resulting from language contact’ in Gurindji Kriol both for its findings and its innovative methods. By examining the source of alternate forms in the cell of a paradigm (like dived and dove for English dive) they contribute to the growing literature showing that language contact, at least in particular circumstances, can lead to complexity of exponence – deploying generalized linear mixed models across 80 hours of transcribed data across 8-35 year olds representing around 20% of the Gurindji population.   

Many of you have already been approached by your program or thread leaders, or shortly will be, for brief information about your most exciting achievements or activities this year. While many of this can be dug back out from our weekly mailouts, it’s useful to have the winnowing perspective that comes from looking back over the whole year, so if you have received such a request please take the ten minutes or so that it takes to send on brief information about this – only highlights are needed. For this year, the fact that we’ve been so immobilised, with such a reduced amount of conferences, workshops and travel, means it’s going to be difficult to get the sort of photographic record that has enlivened our previous annual reports, but if you have any interesting ideas – such as visualisations you’ve come up with or yes, even off-the-wall screen shots of Zoom meetings (we’ll have to have at least a couple of those if we are to capture 2020) please send them on as well – in the case of graphics, to our functional account at so they can be incorporated into the visual design. 

As well as the jobs in northern Australia that I mentioned last week, there has been a call for applicants to the Laboratoire de Linguistique Formelle in Paris. Though entering at postdoc level these can lead to permanent positions, through a process of France-wide competition but requiring sponsorship by individual laboratories.  

Finally, a treat for next week: Tony Woodbury, Chair of our Advisory Committee has kindly agreed to do a special Thanksgiving Introduction to this mailout, from Austin, Texas – thankyou Tony and we are really looking forward to your perspectives. 

Have a good week everyone and don’t forget to keep us informed of any interesting new developments or achievements.  

Nick Evans 


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