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Language Documentation Grants announced for 2018

Date: 4 May 2018

The following projects have been awarded funding this round: 

Project: The interplay of morphosyntax and prosody in the expression of focus in Ashaninka
Elena Mihas, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The project provides a comprehensive analysis of the interaction of morphology, word order, and prosody in the expression of focus in Ashaninka, a Kampa Arawak language of Peru. The project will allow us to understand better how speakers of languages with complex morphology and verb-initial word order use prosody to highlight information in discourse. The project will contribute to the ongoing Ashaninka documentation and language maintenance project (carried out by the applicant Elena Mihas) by providing invaluable sound and text materials and training to the local bilingual teachers.

Project: Annotating historic Kunbarlang recordings
Ruth Singer, Australian National University

This project works with the Indigenous communities of Warruwi and Maningrida to index, transcribe and translate Kunbarlang recordings made by Kinslow-Harris in 1965 and Coleman in the 1980s. This will mean that these recordings can be used to understand the language change over the last five decades, through comparison with more recent recordings by O’Keeffe, Aung Si, and Kapitonov. With the permission of speakers and/or their descendants, the recordings and annotations will be made available in community archives and more widely through the Mawng Ngaralk website.

Project: Documentation of Papua New Guinea Sign Language (PNGSL)
Lauren Reed, Australian National University

In 2015, the Papua New Guinea government made PNGSL the country's fourth official language. Despite this status, it is unclear exactly what PNGSL is. No documentation exists, and while a video-recorded dictionary is in development, this has been criticised by stakeholders as recording signs developed by hearing consultants, rather than the natural language of PNG deaf communities. This project will carry out language documentation among deaf signers in Port Moresby. It will create a basic photographic PNGSL dictionary, which will incorporate and celebrate variation in this dynamic linguistic climate, and support deaf education and rights in Australia's nearest neighbour.

Project: Deaf signers and hearing speakers in action: Comparing visible bodily actions in a signed and spoken language
Gabrielle Hodge, University College London

This project is the first comparison of deaf Auslan signers and hearing non-signing speakers of Australian English doing the Family Problems Picture Task. It examines how five pairs of signers and five pairs of non-signers combine strategies for telling, showing and doing. Specifically, how signers and speakers create meaningful visible bodily actions with and without speech. This project draws from semiotics, language evolution and corpus linguistics by comparing social cognition data from an endangered, minority signed language with directly comparable data from a powerful spoken language. It will provide crucial insight into understanding the shape and evolution of signed and spoken languages.

Project: Acoustics of Nungon Adult Directed Speech vs. Child Directed Speech
Hannah Sarvasy, Australian National University 

Nungon is spoken by 1,000 people in remote Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. Nungon phonetics and phonology are described in Sarvasy’s (2017) grammar. But acoustic analysis of the vowel inventory there is limited and based on the speech of one speaker. In this project, we will complete a comprehensive acoustic analysis of fundamental frequency and vowel quality in adult-directed (ADS) and child-directed (CDS) Nungon speech from a larger number of speakers using the latest acoustic analysis techniques. Such a detailed acoustic analysis is rare for CDS in under-described languages like Nungon, as most previous research focuses on fundamental frequency differences.

Project: Pilot digital archive of historical sources in Australian languages
James McElvenny, University of Edinburgh

Historical documentation of Australian languages – which extends back to the late 18th century – is a valuable resource for linguists, historians of science and present-day language speakers. Such documentation can provide insights into language change, reveal details of earlier linguists' approach and methods, and aid in language revitalisation and revival efforts. This pilot project aims to create an online digital archive of historical sources in Australian languages in which these groups can access materials.

Project: Singers and composers: Ngarinyin conceptualisations of authorship and performance as a window onto metapragmatics
Stef Spronck, University of Helsinki

The Ungarinyin language uses the same structure to express the meaning of sentences such as ‘he thinks I will come’ and ‘he says I will come’. Even though this means that the language cannot explicitly distinguish between holding an idea in one’s head and expressing it as an utterance, understanding this distinction is central to Ungarinyin speech culture, but is not easily discussed in relation to language.

In this project we record speakers discussing a parallel distinction: the difference between composing and singing songs. We suggest that this will throw new light onto the Ungarinyin metapragmatics.

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