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Director weekly highlights 5 June

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 5 June 2020

This has been an amazing week for CoEDL, in honours, publications, and plans. And, coming out of Reconciliation Week, it’s great to report on some really positive developments in the status and public awareness of First Nations languages.

To begin with I’d like to congratulate the ever-magnificent, Anne Cutler, on behalf of CoEDL for her recent award of the Silver Medal in Speech Communication by the Acoustical Society of America. The citation reads:

2020 – Anne Cutler – for contributions to understanding speech recognition by native and non-native listeners, and leadership in speech science

The Silver Medal in Speech Communication was first awarded in 1975 and last awarded in 2015. Recipients of the Silver Medal in Speech Communication include world leading, legendary!, speech scientists Gunnar Fant, Kenneth Stevens, Dennis Klatt, Peter Ladefoged, Patricia Kuhl. See (scroll two-thirds down). 

I’d also like to emphasise, for the sake of the Olympians among you, that the term ‘Silver Medal’ is a bit misleading. A Gold medal does exist, but it’s something quite different, and is based on service to the Acoustical Society (ex presidents, the Journal editor), while the Silver Medal is where the action is PER SUB-DISCIPLINE. There are a dozen or more varieties of acoustics represented in JASA, and restrictions on how many Silver Medals can be awarded each year (always 2, 3 or 4) and how often any sub-discipline may award such a medal – Speech Comm has 14 now over 45 years. So this really is a special honour to someone who is such an unflagging model of the highest standards not just of research, but also research mentoring, something so many CoEDLers have benefited from in many ways.

Then I’d like to pass on a great new publication on June 2nd, shared with us thanks to CoEDL Alumnus Greg Dickson (postdoc 2015-2018) and the Ngukurr team, on a Kriol book Bigismob Jigiwan Dog by Dion Beasley, a young Alyawarr man living in Tennant Creek, along with Meigim Kriol Strongbala translator Carol Robertson, who delivers the Kriol program at Ngukurr School, and original Too Many Cheeky Dogs authors Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley. Dion’s own story is quite amazing. This is a new edition of the popular NT picture book Too Many Cheeky Dogs - now translated into Kriol, and it’s the first time a major Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin, has released a commercial translation of an existing English title into an Australian Indigenous Language. Attached are some sample pages and illustrations. Can I put in a plug to buy copies, for yourselves and others, and libraries you know of – it’s important that publishers see there’s actually a market out there for books to be translated into First Nations languages.

Another step forward is the following story from Tiger Webb at the ABC, about how the new ABC pronunciation guide is progressing toward a more authentic and informed set of guidelines attuned to the phonologies of Australian languages.

Last week I mentioned that there would be a special session of the Abralin series on Australia’s First Nations Languages, and thanks to Ilana Mushin I can now report on the specifics of the session for the panel on July 10th at 9am AEST – as you’ll see many key members of CoEDL will be involved. Put this date in your diary; details at

Title: Australia’s First Nations Languages – lessons for Linguistics

Abstract: Australia is home to the world’s oldest living cultures. The languages of Australia’s First Nations were formed and shaped continuously over 60 millennia, and massively disrupted by the advent of colonisation 232 years ago. The sounds, grammars, meanings and modes of expression of First Nations languages are understood today by linguists to provide unique insights into human language capability and diversity. This panel will touch on some of the big questions in Theoretical Linguistics – in Historical Linguistics, Morphosyntax, Phonetics, Semantics and Pragmatics - that can be better explained through attention to Australia’s First Nations languages.


Associate Professor Clint Bracknell (Edith Cowan University)

Associate Professor Rob Mailhammer (Western Sydney University)

Professor Marija Tabain (LaTrobe University)

Professor Rachel Nordlinger (University of Melbourne)

Associate Professor Alice Gaby (Monash University)

Associate Professor Ilana Mushin (University of Queensland)

Moderator: Dr Maïa Ponsonnet 

A final follow-up about the call for nominations for the DELAMAN award that I mentioned last week. The deadline for nominations has been extended to 15 July 2020, and I encourage the many CoEDLers who have assembled outstanding multimedia documentary collections to consider putting in for this. The winner will be announced on 15 October 2020, and the award will be presented virtually at the 7th International Conference on Language Documentation & Conservation (ICLDC 7) in March 2021. The call and nomination form for the DELAMAN Award are found here.

The DELAMAN Award recognizes and honours early-career documenters who have done outstanding documentary work in creating a rich multimedia documentary collection of a particular language that is endangered or no longer spoken. “Early-career” is defined as (a) university-based documenters with a PhD awarded 01 January 2015 or later; or (b) non-university-based documenters who have been employed by or affiliated with a language-community based project since no earlier than 01 January 2015. If an entire team of documenters is nominated, all nominees must meet this definition of “early-career.” Self-nomination is permitted and encouraged.

The award consists of a payment of $500 USD from DELAMAN, as well as an automatic slot for a 20-minute presentation at the 7th International Conference on Language Documentation & Conservation and a $500 USD honorarium (subject to US taxation) from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa upon completion of the presentation.  

To be eligible, the language documentation collection must be archived and made accessible in a DELAMAN archive (with no or only minimal access restrictions), and it must provide rich audio and video documentation, keywords, comprehensive metadata, and explanatory material or guides, as well as transcription, translation and annotation of a subset of the AV collection. 

Nominations should include the following:

  • Name and email address of the nominee (i.e., the collector);
  • Name and email address of the nominator (if different from the nominee);
  • Name of the DELAMAN archive where the collection is located;
  • Link to the collection (URL, DOI or other persistent identifier);
  • Language(s) documented in the collection (including ISO 639-3 codes);
  • A brief description (< 500 words) of the contents / coverage of the collection, including types of documentation; genres; size of collection (hours/minutes of audio video); amount (hours/minutes) and level of transcription, translation & annotation;
  • If the collection is part of a larger group project, clearly indicate which part of the collection was created by the nominee (< 250 words);
  • An explanation (< 500 words) of the significance of the collection, identifying what makes the collection an outstanding example of an archival endangered language collection;
  • CV of the nominee.

If awarded, the Awardee commits to writing a guide to the collection, to be published in
 Language Documentation & Conservation, following examples such as Franjieh (2019), Caballero (2017), and Salffner (2015).

Have a great week and I hope that the steady lifting of COVID19 restrictions is helping you all to get back into the swing – and to savour the chance to start rediscovering the joys of real face-to-face interaction with treasured colleagues.

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