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Director weekly highlights 30 October

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 30 October 2020

First I’d like to share, on behalf of all of us, the moment of joy and release that our Melbourne CoEDLers have been experiencing as they are finally released from the long lockdown. Even though this is still mixed with wariness that CoVID case numbers could start rising again, it’s not beyond hoping that things can now gradually start opening up. Lack of certainty about planning actual gatherings is one of the hardest psychological burdens of this pandemic, and much of our planning for CoEDL activities in 2021 is still in wait-and-watch mode, but for now let’s just celebrate this reminder that a return to normality will ultimately happen, even if we don’t know when yet. And meanwhile our solidarity to our colleagues and friends in countries where things are currently heading in the opposite direction, like France and Germany, as well as to those many other places where the pandemic continues to rage unabated. 

Some weeks back I promised that we’d be putting up a series of stories on how CoEDL researchers grappling with the challenge of digital fieldwork discuss the ups and downs of their experiences. Morgan Alexander, who has been on occasional loan to us from ANU’s School of Culture History and Language outreach team, has been working with several people to get their stories, and the first one is now up on the CoEDL site, featuring ANU node postdoc Matt Carroll, on his experiences teaching a remote version of the Linguistic Field Methods course (find the story here). We’ll be putting up a new story like this every couple of weeks for the next little while. 

There continues to be more happening online, in the way of seminars and conferences, than any one person can hope to attend, but the offerings are dizzyingly rich – see below, and will showcase presentations by CoEDL researchers Laurence Bruggeman, Kristyn Sommer, Charlotte Casey, Janet Wiles and Paola Escudero (virtually in Boston), Nick Thieberger and myself (virtually in Paris), and Rachel Nordlinger (virtually in São Paulo), while here, virtually in Canberra, we will get a chance to hear from CoEDL alumnus Christian Döhler (physically in Potsdam). 

It’s also well worth following the links (again, see below) to the revamped and much more user-friendly 50 words project site, which much easier now to search by language or by word-meaning thanks to work by Marco La Rosa and Eduardo Velloso (50 Words). 

Another really important software development, now at the alpha release phase, is the Lameta metadata entry tool, which promises to greatly simplify the chore of entering metadata with language (and music) files. Complex metadata systems have been one of the great barriers to fieldworkers (I certainly plead guilty of this) entering metadata promptly, and this new system – growing out of the Tools and Methods Summit that Nick Thieberger organised back in 2016 – is the fruit of collaboration between the NSF in the USA, ELDP in London, and CoEDL. Plaudits are due to Nick Thieberger, Gary Holton and John Hatton for coordinating this tricontinental project. 

There are many other people to congratulate this week: Felicity Meakins for her well-deserved promotion to Professor at our UQ node (effective 1st January), Cathy Bow for the completion of her ANU/Charles Darwin thesis, Caroline Jones and her team for their presentation of their new and improved child-language development checklists to Waranwarin Early Learning Centre in Minto, and Rosey Billington, Julie Finlayson, Bonnie McLean, Francesca Merlan, Paul Monaghan, Jonathan Moodie, Frances Morphy, Alan Rumsey and Michael Walsh for the string of publications listed below. 

We are having a CoEDL Executive meeting next Friday (6 Nov) and an Education subcommittee meeting next Monday (2 Nov). Please let Romina Paskotic know if there’s something you’d like us to discuss at either meeting.  

Four years ago we held our second CoEDL retreat in Bungendore – the idea being to switch off from the outside world and concentrate on planning out the future of CoEDL. But that wasn’t to be – as the US Election unfolded, with its unexpected Trump victory, it was impossible to keep people’s attentions away from their mobile phones and the growing sense of shock and trepidation. As the days narrow to the next US election, and so much hangs in the balance for US and the world, we send a message of hope, commitment and fortitude to all our American colleagues and friends at one of the most important moments in the history of democracy. Many of our Australia-based American CoEDLers have been putting in for leave so they can sit and watch this all unfold and by this time next week the die will largely be cast. 

Please have a great week and – if you’re lucky enough to be in a place where this is now possible again – I hope you get the chance to hang out a bit with friends and colleagues over a coffee or a glass of something stronger and let the ideas come tumbling out. 

Nick Evans 


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