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Director weekly highlights 22 Apr

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 22 April 2022

I hope you all managed to get a bit of a break over the Easter break, whatever your creed1.  

One consequence of the holiday was that we skipped our regular Monday catch-up with the core CoEDL team at ANU, which meetings always end with Romina Paskotic fishing out some obscure ‘word of the week’ to keep us amused. To compensate for that loss, follow the second link in Bonnie Cheng’s interesting spotlight below to see what creative havoc the new concept of ‘healthpunk’ is bringing. Definitely a word to watch, and to create an analogue for in our own field – though, following Adam Bandt’s advice to ‘Google it, mate,’ I just found out that lingpunk, langpunk and lingopunk are all taken (with some pretty dodgy sites...). 

This week marked an important moment for the SCOPIC project (Social Cognition Parallax Interview Corpus), which most of you are by now well familiar with, but see here if you’re not. Over CoEDL’s lifetime this project, led by Danielle Barth and myself, has been steadily building up a ‘parallax corpus’, whose special property is that each speaker can frame their own wording (as in the Pear Stories), rather than getting the bias that arises in parallel corpora based on translation. Unlike the Pear Stories, speakers have the freedom to co-construct the narrative (working in pairs to form 16 cards into a story) that elicits rich talk about social cognition. Anyway, a milestone was reached this week when our Tokyo-based arm of the project, led by Asako Shiohara and Yukinori Kinoshita (also including previous CoEDL visitors Keita Kurabe and Norikazu Kogura), published a special issue of the journal Asian and African Languages and Linguistics featuring glossed texts in eight languages. These provide detailed and specific examples of language use to complement both the more quantitative large-corpus studies and the individual language cameos that the project is also building up. Languages include: Arta by Yukinori Kimoto; Standard Malay by Hiroki Nomoto; G|ui by Hitomi Ono; Jinghpaw by Keita Kurabe; Sibe by Norikazu Kogura; Japanese by Heiko Narrog, Akiko Yokohama and Yukinori Kimoto; Dalabon by myself; and Matukar Panau by Danielle Barth. 

I had a fascinating conversation yesterday with Roy Barker, who has a two-year ILA grant to work through the recordings that his grandfather Jimmie Barker (of ‘The Two Worlds of Jimmie Barker’ fame) made of his Muruwarri language. In addition to his work with Janet Mathews, Jimmie Barker was a pioneer of autodocumentation, leaving a legacy of dozens of hours of recordings which Roy is steadily going through — an unparalleled chance to bring Muruwarri back to life through the voice of his grandfather and others. Roy is working with Jane Simpson and a team of other young linguists who came onto the project as Summer Scholars: Alison Mount, Grace Ephraums, Michael Higgins and Ruben Thompson. A particularly interesting part of this story involves Jimmie’s early experiments in developing sound recording techniques, something Roy and Samantha Bennett (ANU School of Music) will be presenting on at the AES (Audio Engineering Society) Spring Conference, Monday May 16 (12:15-13:15). Check it out here

And now read on for much more than I can fit into this little intro, including a number of new jobs (in Australia, the Netherlands and Finland) and PhD positions (Cologne in Germany). 

Have a good week everyone. 

Nick Evans


1And it’s widely enough known that in 2013 the Ontario Rights Tribunal ruled that atheism is also a creed deserving of the same religious protections as Christianity, Islam, and other faiths — a position that as far as I know has yet to be endorsed here in Australia. The fact that ‘Easter’ can be used in a secular or religious sense is just one more reminder of how endlessly nuanced, language is, and how freighted with potential conflict. 



CoEDL Spotlight: Bonnie Cheng 

CoEDL CI Anthony Angwin introducing Bonnie Cheng

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Bonnie since she commenced her PhD examining prognostication in post-stroke aphasia. When we’re healthy, the ease with which we use language to communicate in everyday contexts is something we take for granted. However, this ease of use disappears for people with aphasia, and knowledge regarding prognosis is of the utmost importance. With that in mind, it was tremendous to see Bonnie address such a crucial area of research in her PhD, exploring the experience of people living with aphasia, their families and clinicians themselves. The Florence team have welcomed Bonnie’s unique perspectives and expertise in 2022 as we seek to further understand the experiences of people living with dementia and their caregivers. I’m truly looking forward to seeing where Bonnie’s career takes her in the coming years! 

CoEDL PhD Graduate Bonnie Cheng

Since completing my PhD last year I’ve been most excited to turn my mind to other topics and areas outside its niche. My doctoral research was in the area of clinical communication; it looked at what and how prognostic information is communicated between a clinician, patient and their significant other. I loved this research because of its overlap of linguistics, psychology, and an applied clinical context. Now, I work in forensics, an area I didn’t know I had an interest for. It came to be in my search for my dream role — one in which I get to make an original contribution to research, have direct engagement with consumers, and learn from colleagues across disciplines different from my own. 

My search for a post-PhD job continues, but I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in the interim to apply and extend my research skills and experience. My passion is in qualitative research. I find immersing in others’ first-person realities to untangle points of meaning and narrate their shared story very rewarding. Beyond aphasia (language impairment from stroke), I’ve been able to contribute to qualitative research in dementia. This has included exploring lived experiences of communication changes and technology use, as part of CoEDL’s Florence Project led by A/Prof Angwin at the UQ node. 

Other things that excite me right now are extracurricular activities where I get to stretch academia into a more creative realm. I’ve had the privilege of preparing my research findings in poetry, as an invited submission to Journal of Humanities in Rehabilitation’s Special Series; writing a fictional essay for Healthpunk, a new genre and way of inventing transformative future healthcare; and am currently looking forward to presenting for Pint of Science on 11th May (at The Paddo Tavern!). 

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