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Director weekly highlights 9 October

Nicholas Evans, Outreach

Date: 9 October 2020

For many of us this week was dominated by the week’s Australian budget announcements, including the disappointing passage of the new set of HECS charges through Parliament with their misconceived undervaluing of social sciences and the humanities and the belief they can second-guess what fields will prove useful or relevant in an uncertain future. It could have been worse – linguistics itself was spared from being in the worst off cluster (1), and was placed in cluster (2) along with subjects such as Education, Clinical Psychology, English, Mathematics, Statistics, Allied Health, Other Health, Built Environment, Computing, Visual and Performing Arts,– and Languages themselves go into the better-supported Cluster (3) along with Nursing, Engineering, and Surveying. You can read the detail here

In the meantime the announced extra $1 billion funding for research, to be distributed across universities as block grants, is being touted as a partial relief from the financial shortfalls most universities are facing – since it’s far from clear how this will be spent, so it is important to make Vice-Chancellors and others realise how important it is to keep the Language Sciences in the picture here. 

Turning our attention back to CoEDL, I’d like to congratulate Catalina Torres (UM node) for submitting her PhD, Alexandra Marley (ANU) for obtaining a postdoc with CSIRO at the linguistics-botany interface, and Rosey Billington and Jonathan Moodie on the appearance of their epic grammar of the South Sudanese language Lopit, a resounding proof that it is possible to do deeply insightful research in the doubly diasporic conditions of Melbourne and supplemented by remote fieldwork with community members in refugee camps in northern Kenya. This is a nice moment to go back through our CoEDL archive and read an earlier (2017) version of this story here

A lot is continuing to happen in the Australian Indigenous languages space. The Fifty Words project, run out of RUIL (Research Unit for Indigenous Language) at our UM node, has been steadily adding languages and is now wanting to reach 100 languages. If you are able to help by adding more languages, contact them here. Another great new addition to the RUIL site, growing out of conversations between the ABC’s Tiger Webb, RUIL researchers Hywel Stoakes and Jill Vaughan, and Gamilaraay language specialist Tracey Cameron from the University of Sydney, is a great site on (general aspects of) the pronunciation of Australian Indigenous languages – check it out here

Another development that is worth checking out – is the recently-released Awemele Itelaretyeke App, that teaches users about Arrernte culture and language, and includes two audio-guided walking tours of Alice Springs. Read the story here. Apps like this will make a huge difference to getting the authentic sound and the real names of places out there into the language-covered landscape. 

An update on the Language On Fire initiative: the original submission deadline for our Language on Fire grants ended. We have received just one application so far (currently being evaluated) but there is still capacity to support additional projects, so we are extending the application deadline out to December 1st. I realise that many people may have held off from putting in an application because of all the problems COVID has been causing for on-site fieldwork, but hopefully domestic travel will have opened up substantially by the time of the main fire-management season next year. I’d also remind you that grants based on archival material – for example pulling out rich material on the language of burning from earlier documentary sources – are also eligible, provided that a prima facie case is made for such material existing. 

On the other side of the Pacific, the raging fires on the US west coast have been belatedly drawing attention to traditional knowledge of fire management there – see the story here

Another really interesting collection of articles (so far just available in Spanish) has just appeared in the journal Language Documentation and Conservation, from a group of Mexican linguists, led by Chatino linguist Emiliana Cruz. The authors, members of various indigenous communities in Mexico, explore a wide range of issues that arise from work in their own communities and families. Tony Woodbury, chair of our Advisory Committee, has just assembled a linguistics team at the University of Texas that will be translating these into English for appearance as a further LD&C Special Publication early next year. 

As I write this, the Forum on Englishes in Australia is taking place virtually, organised by La Trobe University, and many CoEDL people are giving papers, on topics ranging from English on Croker Island to social variation in the speech of Chinese-Australians to Kriol repair, to location expression in Wumpurrarni English. 

Once again, so much is happening at the moment – publications, talks, upcoming jobs – that I’ve only been able to touch on a fraction of them here, so read on for more. But do make sure to check out the announcement regarding the Patji-Dawes Award. Still plenty of time there for nominations, but it’s worthwhile listening out among your circle of friends and colleagues for stories of the teachers who inspired their language learning, and seeing if you can persuade them to nominate someone.  

Have a great week, wherever you may be, and I’ll look forward to seeing many of you at one or another of the many seminars coming up. 

Nick Evans 


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