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Director weekly highlights 16 October

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 16 October 2020

I’d like to begin this week’s Update with some congratulations. 

The results for the ARC’s SRI (Special Research Initiative Grants) have just been announced, and I’d like to congratulate a number of CoEDL researchers for their success in this scheme: Jane Simpson, Carmel O’Shannessy, Sally Dixon, Myfany Turpin, Kate Burridge and Rachel Hendery. Find more information about their projects here. It’s always interesting to ask how good projects start off at the hatchling phase, and in this connection I’d like to pass on Rachel Hendery’s appreciation for the role her first CoEDL Transdisciplinary & Innovation (TI) project funding played in getting this project started. It was a TI project funding that got her into collaborating with museums and galleries in the first place, and connected her with other members of the project team, who work in Virtual and Augmented Reality, leading to her SRI project Seeing yourself in Australian digital cultural heritage.  

I’d also like to congratulate Sonja Riesberg, who has been with us as a 50% postdoc, shuttling annually around a dizzying circuit between Canberra, Cologne, Sulawesi, and Manokwari and the mountains around Wamena in West Papua, and putting in a lot of time on linguistic capacity-building at CELD (Centre for Endangered Language Documentation) at Unipa in Manokwari. Sonja is taking up a tenured CNRS research position at LACITO (Langues et civilisations à tradition orale) in Paris, home of so many linguists working on Austronesian and Papuan languages. Her research project will focus on the expression of events in Papuan and western Autronesia, with a particular emphasis on coverb constructions in Papuan languages and on syntactic reflections of discourse structure in Austronesian and Papuan languages. Congratulations Sonja! 

Around the time of Sonja’s arrival in CoEDL in 2016 she received the inaugural Delaman Franz Boas award, which ‘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’. In these research-output-obsessed times, it is vital that early-career researchers receive career recognition for the many person-years that go into creating a first-rate corpus of a little-studied language – one of the transformations in the  language sciences which CoEDL is committed to is the building of large, well-curated corpora of naturalistic language, upon which linguistic analyses can be based. So I’m delighted that an Honourable Mention in this year’s award was earned by CoEDL Alumnus Christian Döhler (now at ZAS in Berlin) for his corpus of Bine, an Oriomo/Eastern Trans-Fly language of Western Province New Guinea (and a relative of Meryam, Eddie Mabo’s language and the only Papuan language spoken inside Australia’s borders). Christian also achieved an Honourable Mention in the 2016 Award, which now makes him the only person to have received two Honourable Mentions in this prestigious award. 

Deputy Director Jane Simpson is taking a well-earned break, but those of you who know her well won’t be surprised that she has been breaking her promise not to use her email and has sent on the following links with these instructions: ‘if you need some amusement and haven't come across it, Bardcore is a new genre which might appeal to some linguists, e.g. Old French or Middle Scots (Janet Hadley who works on Middle Scots reckons it is pretty good)’. 

I don’t know whether it’s too early to start stocking up on Christmas ideas, but another CoEDL affiliate Susan Butler, veteran lexicographer and former editor of the Macquarie dictionary, has published an engaging new book 'Rebel without a clause: losing the linguistic plot', which romps through new and older flowers in the English garden. Right up to the quarantini creations which might give you a cocktail idea for this evening to celebrate the end of the week. 

I won’t try to give you a foretaste of all the news, events, publications and job openings. But I would like to signal Rachel Nordlinger’s request for information that can feed into an updated map of all the languages that CoEDL has been working on. Bringing this all together in one map is a potent way of highlighting not just what we have been doing as language researchers, but is also another vivid visual reminder of the exuberant linguistic diversity around us, and a tonic against the looming resurgence of a fortress Australia mentality whether from the cultural stultification that long-term border closures will produce, or the ever-present undervaluing of non-English language skills in immigrants – what Tim Soutphommasane called ‘the face of nationalist exclusion’ in his Guardian article earlier this week. 

Meanwhile, on behalf of our whole CoEDL community, I’d like to send out our thoughts of support and solidarity to all CoEDLers for whom the constraints of lockdown continue to drag on. And once again I’d urge as many of you as possible to make contact with one or two of your fellow CoEDLers over the coming week – maybe someone you haven’t heard from in a while – just to check in and connect through the power of friendship. 

Nick Evans 


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