Summer scholar presentations
CoEDL’s 2016 Summer Scholars (ANU) gave their presentations this week, and there was a real buzz in the room as some terrific new ideas and possible research approaches were proposed.
First we heard from Lauren Reed, who spent the summer with Lizzie Ellis and Inge Kral examining Ngaanyatjarra traditional sign language. This area of research is a natural fit for Lauren, who grew up in an Auslan-signing household. Lauren took the audience through a description of Ngaanyatjarra traditional sign language, followed by recent innovations by the Ngaanyatjarra community, such as the use of air writing (the tracing of letters in the air to refer to people or places, among other uses). She concluded with some interesting observations about the importance of signing in a community dealing with otitis media and suggested that traditional sign languages could be incorporated in schools as an educational aid.
Next up was Saliha (Sali) Muradoğlu, who spent the summer working on transcribing bits of a southern Papuan language - Nen, in order to establish a frequency distribution amongst inflected verbal forms. Using the existing corpus, the key research question before Sali was how much of the verbal paradigm does the most frequent forms account for and how much data is needed to encounter each verbal inflection at least once? In fact, given Nen’s extensive verbal morphology (over 7000 inflected forms for one transitive verb), it would appear that a mountain of transcribed language would fail to provide examples of every verb form! Nevertheless, Sali concluded that establishing a frequency distribution could potentially provide insightful information on language acquisition, with a more extensive range of data needed to make any meaning conclusion.
Nay San was our third speaker. For his project, Nay, who has a background in data processing, considered where improvements might be made in the linguistic process of collecting, cleaning, filing, and analysing language. It was a great session in terms of improving everyone’s data literacy. We learnt that linguists are not alone when it comes to spending tedious hours cleaning, tidying and maintaining data (up to 80% of time is usually spent on this, in terms of the data life cycle, no matter the scientific discipline).
He also introduced the room to Git and GitHub as tools not only for transparent recording of process and method, but also to make collaboration much more efficient. Over the next few months, Nay will be helping coordinate the collaborative production of introductory materials to such tools, using the Data Carpentry workshop model.
Top image: Lauren Reed gives her presentation