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ARC funding success for CoEDL members

Evan Kidd, Gillian Wigglesworth, Kim Sterelny, Rachel Nordlinger

Date: 20 November 2020

Severall ARC grants awarded involving members of our CoEDL community will allow different strands of our research to garner the resources needed to pursue questions well after the end of CoEDL. Congratulations to our CoEDL members.


Future Fellowship

Ruth Singer - Hearing the future: supporting Indigenous linguistic diversity. This project aims to find new ways to support the extraordinary diversity of Indigenous languages spoken in Australia. In Arnhem Land the ability to understand but not speak a language is widespread and plays a crucial role supporting linguistic diversity. This ability, receptive multilingualism, will be examined using an innovative interdisciplinary methodology, generating new understandings about the relationship between multilingualism and linguistic diversity that are crucial to tackling the global decline in Indigenous languages. The findings will help communities, educators and policymakers develop new strategies to support Australia’s Indigenous languages which are vital to Indigenous health and wellbeing.

Erich RoundA fast comparative method for historical linguistics. Linguists are able to infer ancient histories of languages by a procedure known as the Comparative Method. Its results are used in related studies of human genetic and cultural change. However, the Comparative Method is a manual-only process and thus currently is a bottleneck for the science of unravelling the human past. This project aims to overcome this limitation and significantly accelerate linguistic discovery, by combining recent advances in computational language processing, statistics and cultural-evolutionary modelling. By producing innovative mathematical means for rapidly discovering ancient language relationships, it will enable a breakthrough in our capacity to uncover human linguistic, genetic and cultural heritage worldwide.

Special Research Initiative

Jane Simpson, Carmel O'Shannessy and Sally DixonUnderstanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language ecologies. The project aims to advance understandings of Indigenous languages across Australia by investigating which languages are used where (‘language ecologies’), and how they impact on people's lives. With Indigenous co-researchers, the project plans to illuminate present and historical features of language ecologies. Its significance is in bridging a chasm between Indigenous people's understandings of languages, and a lack of good data on this for policy-makers. Expected outcomes are better empirical data on language use and new methods for identifying language ecologies. Intended benefits include increased appreciation of the rich history of Indigenous language use, leading to new capacity for policy-makers to distinguish language ecologies.

Myfany Turpin, Maya Haviland and John CartyFollowing the Trade Routes: exchange and innovations in cultural economy. This project aims to create new understanding of cultural economies and trade routes that shaped Aboriginal societies across Australia, and to explore how such knowledge informs society today. It expects to generate national research capacity through innovative networks of early-mid career scholars, Indigenous researchers and cultural custodians, and new understandings of connections between living and archival knowledge of Indigenous trade in the Kimberley and Desert Regions. This should provide significant outcomes and benefits including revitalised Indigenous cultural exchange and trade practices; strengthened Indigenous networks and cultural authority; and greater awareness of this part of Australia’s history, economy and society.

Kate Burridge, Howard Manns, Keith Allan and Simon Musgrave - Metaphors and identities in the Australian vernacular. This project investigates the uniqueness of Australian vernacular English from the late 1800s until today. This is an area of vocabulary which most people find fascinating, and yet its formal study has been largely ignored. The project expects to develop a new understanding of Australia’s novel, often entertaining, use of words. Expected project outcomes include a better appreciation of Australian culture and identity, and by employing a new interdisciplinary approach. Benefits of the project include the development of podcasts, educational materials, and publications aimed at building an increased awareness of Australian English and its reflection of Australian culture and values.

Rachel Hendery, Jonathon Allen, Kylie Budge and Kate RichardsSeeing yourself in Australian digital cultural heritage. To ensure that Australia's museums, galleries and archives reflect what is important to all of us as we move into the digital age, we need to increase accessibility, participation and ownership for all Australians. We therefore aim to discover and test best practices for engaging diverse members of the general public in the creation of digital cultural heritage. Outcomes will include engagement of new visitor groups and increased accessibility to collections. Cultural institutions will gain access to new digital practices for telling a wide range of lesser-known stories. This will bring cultural and social benefits as well as economic benefits by putting our cultural sector at the forefront of cutting edge international digital practice.

Discovery Project

Kim SterelnyBeyond Scenarios: Testable Models of the Evolution of Norms. The aim of this project is to investigate the evolution of social norms, and their causal role in social life and its breakdown. It expects to generate new knowledge in this area through the application of new formal techniques to existing hypotheses; especially causal analysis, evolutionary game theory, and phylogenetic cross-cultural testing for empirically plausibility. Expected outcomes include theory development, improved research infrastructure and training in collaboration with international partners, and theoretical recommendations for policy intervention. This should allow greater insight and control over the levers of peaceful social life, both in traditional societies, and in large, open, multi-cultural nations like Australia.

Rachel Nordlinger, Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, Matthias Schlesewsky and Evan KiddHow free is free?: word order in Australian Indigenous languages. This project aims to address the fundamental issue of how the grammatical structure of the language we speak shapes the way we plan and interpret sentences. The project will use innovative methodologies to investigate language production and comprehension in three Australian Indigenous languages that have unusually free word order, where the words in a sentence can be varied in multiple ways without changing the overall meaning. Expected outcomes include new knowledge of the relationship between language structure and human cognition, a deeper understanding of the grammatical structure of three Indigenous languages and how they differ from other languages, and important contributions to Indigenous language maintenance and education.

Darren Jorgensen and Samantha DisbrayThe Illustrated Literature of Papunya and Strelley, 1979-1998. Literature Production Centres at Papunya and Strelley (WA) published hundreds of illustrated books during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. They tell stories of the first contact, the Dreaming, bush plants, animals and life on pastoral stations, missions, government settlements and communities. This project will trace the histories of two key centres and the communities in which they were and are embedded, their authors and illustrators, to build a dynamic picture of Indigenous Australia that contributes another dimension to the history of art and literature in Australia. It will produce scholarly papers, a monograph and an exhibition that brings this story to the Australian public.

Steven Bird, Michael Christie and Michaela SpencerInvesting in Aboriginal Languages. We will develop the first systematic account of Aboriginal language programs and what makes them effective and sustainable. The project will create a substantial evidence base, leading to a comprehensive model of language revitalisation and how it operates in each place, and for whom. The model will show how local and national organisations can invest in Aboriginal languages, and what kinds of returns they can expect. The project involves a two-way collaboration with Aboriginal people across the country that will elevate their voices and build their capacity for designing and evaluating programs, businesses and technologies for keeping Aboriginal languages strong.

Neal Peres Da Costa, Amanda Harris, Jaklin Troy and Toby MartinHearing the music of early New South Wales, 1788-1860. This project aims to restore the musical sound world of early New South Wales, from local Aboriginal songs to imported European settler music. It aims to develop new creative research methodologies applicable to the study, teaching and understanding of musical interactions in the early colony. By digitally embedding the recorded outcomes and documentary materials within an accessible web repository, the project aims to disseminate new knowledge of musical soundscapes. The project expects to transform the way we talk about and understand the sound worlds of Indigenous and settler musical cultures, with benefits for academic, music professional and amateur researchers.

Linkage Project

Mridula Sharma, Gillian Wigglesworth, Katherine Demuth and NT Department of EducationThe ABC’s of listening and learning: a study in the Northern Territory. Indigenous Australian children experience middle ear disorders earlier in life and for longer periods than their non-Indigenous counterparts. The resulting listening challenges can have implications for academic achievement and future health and well-being, despite normal hearing thresholds. The current project aims to determine the effects of pervasive otitis media and related hearing loss on Indigenous children’s listening and pre-literacy skills in the Northern Territory, and how to better identify those at most risk for poor educational outcomes. The findings will lead to policy recommendations to help improve these children’s learning potential.

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