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Director weekly highlights 3 July

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 3 July 2020

It’s a pleasure to begin this week’s newsletter with two congratulations – as at happens, both to CoEDLers currently in New Zealand, and both working on linguistic variation in the Pacific.  

First, CoEDL Partner Investigator Professor Miriam Meyerhoff was recently elected to a seven-year term as a Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College Oxford, an incredible honour. All Souls is something like the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and will offer Miriam unparalleled opportunities to continue her work on the sociolinguistics of small-scale speech communities particularly in Vanuatu. While it’s a real loss to the neighbourhood not having Miriam just a hop across the Tasman, it’s a fabulous chance for her to spread her wings in a close to ideal academic setting and thanks to her field commitments in Vanuatu we can look forward to staying in touch.  

Second, I’m proud to announce a completed thesis: Marie-France Duhamel’s PhD Dissertation,  ‘Variation in Raga A quantitative and qualitative study of the language of North Pentecost, Vanuatu’ has just been passed to the satisfaction of examiners – you can find it here. Marie-France’s work was part of the Wellsprings of Linguistic Diversity Laureate project, and is one of the first detailed sociolinguistic studies of an Oceanic language – with some intriguing findings, especially a very low level of internal variation inside the Raga speech communities. Congratulations Dr Duhamel!  

Another really heartwarming event that took place this week, particularly important for those who have had the good fortune to know the amazing Gavan Breen, was the virtual Breen Symposium. A brilliant kaleidoscope of Gavan Breen's life and work was provided through Zoom, a face-to-face gathering in Alice Springs, and a filmed slideshow of photos with Gavan's commentary provided. There were reminiscences by Aboriginal colleagues, people he'd helped, his family, and papers on phonology, language documentation, spelling systems. Congratulations to the organisers, CoEDL affiliates Margaret Carew, Mark Harvey, Mary Laughren, David Nash and local organiser Ange Harrison for a wonderful day.  

The ABRALIN AO VIVO series continues to fire along, and among their star-studded cast (too numerous to name here but check out the program) I’d particularly like to signal the following sessions, involving CIs Rachel Nordlinger (UMelb) and Catherine Travis (ANU), Advisory Board Member Clint Bracknell (Edith Cowan), Associate Investigator Ilana Mushin (UQ), Alumnus John Mansfield (UMelb), and a range of CoEDL affiliates and collaborators include Felix Ameka, Gerry Docherty, Alice Gaby, Lauren Gawne, Celeste Rodriguez Louro, Rob Mailhammer, Marija Tabain James Walker. The series includes special panel sessions of Language Variation and Change in Australia (Wednesday 8th July 09.00 AEST – 12.00 AEST and Australia’s First Nations Languages: Lessons for Linguistics (Friday 10th July 09.00 AEST - 12.00 AEST). Abralin Ao Vivo is really managing to create a true global linguistics forum – check out the whole program here.   

Closer to home, I’d also like to draw your attention to the following online symposium, being organised by CoEDL Associate Investigator Wayan Arka in collaboration with ANU colleagues Li Narangoa and Nyoman Sutarsa, at this moment when the relevance of language to health issues has never been more apparent:  

“Interdisciplinary perspectives on language, health and well-being in Asia and the Pacific” 

Date: 25-27 November 2020. The list of invited speakers includes our own CoEDL Deputy Director Jane Simpson as well as a fascinating lineup of other speakers (see details below).  

With CoVID flaring up again, attention has again turned to the importance of getting accurate messaging out in community languages. For those who haven’t already seen it I recommend the following article by Alexandra Grey in the Conversation – based at the University of Sydney, Alexandra is the founder of the the Interdisciplinary Law and Linguistic Researchers' Network. 

Another first off (at least in Australia, as far as I know): postdoc Matt Carroll this week will be pioneering the teaching of ANU’s Linguistic Field Methods in online mode, focussing on the Sinaugoro language of Papua New Guinea. Naturally this poses all sorts of logistic challenges in what has traditionally been a very hands-on, face-to-face course. Matt has promised to give us more details of how this is working out in a few weeks’ time once the workings of the course become clearer. 

For those of you here in the Southern Hemisphere I hope your step is lightening this week as you feel the days getting longer again, and for those in the Northern Hemisphere enjoy those long summer evenings.  

Have a great week 

Nick Evans 


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