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Director weekly highlights 2 July

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 2 July 2021

First a big thanks for Jane Simpson for taking over these messages over the last two weeks while I took some deeply regenerative leave (and thanks in advance for another spell coming up). 

That time has seen a scary rebound of COVID in many places that had previously been nearly unscathed — let’s hope the recent lockdowns manage to put that particular genie back in the bottle. 

Talking to people I am close to in communities in Arnhem Land it is clear there is still a lot of reluctance about vaccination, so those of you who have connections there please do all you can to get clear information out there about why it is so important, and to allay people’s fears. 

Another important development to signal this week, in terms of the broader ethical imperative we have as language scientists to open communicative channels as widely as we can, wherever we can, is our posting of captioning guidelines to facilitate access to seminars, meetings and other events for deaf and hard of hearing participants. A big thanks to Gabrielle Hodge and Julia Miller for steering this through. 

This has been another bumper week for publications. One (by CoEDL alumni James Grama and Simón Gonzalez along with Catherine Travis) looks at the constantly fascinating changes in diphthongs and ethnic variants in Australian English (a topic Catherine will say more about in her upcoming Abralin Ao Vivo seminar). Two (by Vivien Dunn, Felicity Meakins & Cassandra Algy, and Carmel O’Shannessy) are contributions at the interface of language contact and evolution in the Tanami to a Festschrift for the great Salikoko Mufwene, aptly titled Variation rolls the dice: A worldwide collage in honour of Salikoko S. Mufwene. And the really big one is Ivan (Vanya) Kapitonov’s grammar of Kunbarlang in the Mouton Grammar Library — the first substantive new grammar of a Gunwinyguan language to appear for many years, and growing out of his recent PhD at CoEDL’s University of Melbourne node. You’ll recall Bruno Olsson’s Marind grammar coming out in the same series just a couple of weeks ago, and if you take a peek at their catalogue you’ll see a couple of other CoEDL-linked grammars about to come out very soon. Congratulations to all authors involved! 

Speaking of books (and staying with Mouton de Gruyter as publisher), last Friday saw the launch of Associated Motion. Edited by Antoine Guillaume and CoEDL affiliate Harold Koch, it contains papers by several CoEDL alumni, students and affiliates (Harold Koch, Lauren Reed, David Osgarby, Dineke Schokkin), and grew out of a workshop held on this topic at the CoEDL-hosted Association for Linguistic Typology conference in Canberra back in carefree December 2017. The whole idea of Associated Motion grew out of work on Arandic languages by David Wilkins, Harold Koch and others in the 1980s. Co-editor Antoine Guillaume is based in Lyon; the contributors span the world, from the Americas, Europe, and Japan, to Australia. So how to launch it? A hybrid COVID-inspired celebration — at a time to (somewhat) suit the world. This turned into a ‘Meet the Book’, magnificently coordinated by Danielle Barth and Rosey Billington. The editors gave an overarching summary of Associated Motion, and how the book came to be, and most contributors talked for 2 minutes each about the main contribution of their papers. It was a lovely introduction to the complexities of associated motion, and the wide range of people interested in it. And these were recorded and will shortly be available on the CoEDL website. A good new way of celebrating edited books. 

Friday was also the day of the summit for the National Languages Plan and Strategy for languages education in Australia. The project's lead investigators include CoEDL Advisory Committee member Anne-Marie Morgan, and Andrew Scrimgeour, and they've brought on board First Languages Australia. They've already collected fascinating (and worrying) data, despite the large problems of different jurisdictions and different sectors. Of the most taught languages at schools, Japanese is top, followed by Italian, French, and Chinese, then German and Indonesian, and finally Spanish. There is a massive drop in language learning at schools after year 8 (in the last four years of school). The age of language teachers varies enormously — Chinese teachers being the youngest (40% under the age of 40), and Indonesian teachers being the oldest (less than 12% under 40). AFMLTA have also begun putting up recommendations for consideration. For example, many language teachers flounder for lack of resources and they propose a "nationally coordinated process of resource development … for all learner cohorts". 

They'll be running online focus groups on the language education plan for all interested stakeholders and language teachers (whether in community after-hours schools, or in regular schools, whether First Nations languages or other languages). Check out the website to take part. 

You’ll see a whole lot of new positions below, in Australia, New Zealand and the UK, as well as a bunch of conferences and intensive courses — plus more news items than I could touch on individually here. 

Have a safe week everyone and my especial thoughts to all who have been plunged back into another discouraging lockdown. 


Nick Evans 

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