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Transdisciplinary & Innovation project funding announced for 2020

Date: 12 May 2020

The following projects have been awarded funding in this year's Transdisciplinary & Innovation project funding round: 


Pictures and Pedagogy: Creating shared picture-based language learning resources

Samantha Disbray, University of Queensland

Illustrated learner’s dictionaries and picture-based activities are important in a language teacher’s toolkit. The implementation of the Australian Curriculum has prompted a rise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language programs in Australian schools, however Indigenous language teacher training, teaching resources and guides remain scarce, motivating the investigation and creation of practical, usable and sharable resources. This project will investigate and create two related sets of resources, informed by educator’s practices and needs, lexicographic research and language documentation. They are (i) a teacher’s resource guide to picture- and picture-dictionary-based teaching activities, (ii) a corpus of line-drawn illustrations.


The impact of music and musical abilities on cross-situational word learning

Eline Smit, Western Sydney University

Previous research has established that music and musical abilities can be beneficial for the development of non-musical cognitive domains, for example linguistic and phonological encoding abilities. Of particular interest to this project is to investigate whether language learning processes are similar to those of music; whether such processes are affected by music and whether they are facilitated by musical abilities. So far, research has mostly used explicit learning methods, we are interested to investigate whether music and musical abilities impact implicit language learning. The results of this research will uncover useful learning strategies that can be applied for educational development.

Is cross-situational word learning better in peer or individual learning contexts?

Aisling Mulvihill, University of Queensland

Individual differences in early word-learning have implications for educational and social-emotional outcomes. Early word learning is shaped by individual capacities and social experiences. Currently we understand the role of adults in children’s word-learning, yet we have limited insight into the role of peers. Government initiatives for universal early education have led to expansion of the early childhood education and care sector. In this context children receive linguistic input from and alongside peers. Accordingly, we will examine peer influences on word-learning in 3-5year-old children attending childcare. Additionally, we will examine how individual capacity in theory-of-mind and peer-collaboration influence the propensity for word-learning alongside peers.

Arandic Elpis project

Ben Foley, University of Queensland

The Arandic Elpis project will research and document the process of adapting recordings and transcriptions from a group of Arandic languages, to develop language models for speech recognition systems. The project will investigate approaches to developing a dataset suitable for machine learning and other computational processes, including a standardised orthography. The benefits of combining languages to build general speech models for language groups will be evaluated, to gain insight into whether general systems can be useful for transcribing languages which otherwise may not have enough recordings to build their own system.

Rethinking Software for Co-Research with Diverse Communities in the Digital Age

Rachel Hendery, Western Sydney University

This project documents the range of available software platforms and tools used by social science researchers for work and collaboration with diverse communities. We consider common ethical issues that researchers, community members, and technologists are concerned about, and map them to functionalities of existing software, so that future researchers can easily find software that helps them carry out necessary research tasks while adhering to ethical requirements. In doing so, we identify gaps in ethical and accessible functionality for different population groups across existing platforms, so that we can better design software of the future that fulfils these needs.

Making the dictionary work: Community training workshops for the Mudburra dictionary

Amanda Hamilton-Hollaway, University of Queensland

The Mudburra dictionary was published in 2019. Its completion represented a symbolically important moment in the Mudburra community’s push for language maintenance. For this dictionary to have practical as well as symbolic value, however, potential users must feel confident using it. This project will develop hands-on workshops to familiarise Mudburra community members with the dictionary, its layout, and how they can use it to incorporate more language into their daily lives. The project will also support Indigenous and non-Indigenous school staff by delivering dictionary-based lesson plans and exercises. All workshops and resources will be developed and co-delivered with a Mudburra assistant teacher.

Monitoring as a Driver of Differential Language Change

Luisa Miceli, University of Western Australia

When languages share speakers one observed outcome is that their vocabulary differentiates while their structure converges. A monitoring process in bilingual speakers has been proposed as the mechanism responsible for vocabularies becoming more distinct over time. Words shared across a bilingual’s languages are selected less often than language distinctive words because they are ambiguous in their language membership and may be avoided in favour of an unambiguous synonym. Could monitoring also explain convergence in structure? In this study we test the hypothesis that different change outcomes for form/structure result from differences in our ability to monitor for these two levels.

Towards a collaborative workshop concept for the development of culturally responsive visual materials for language pedagogy

Kathrin Kaiser, University of Queensland & Haoyi Li, Australian National University

The visual reinforcement of learning resources, such as illustrated dictionaries and interactive fiction, is a standard practice in many language learning contexts. This project investigates the effective use of visual language in pedagogical materials and establishes guidelines for the collaborative development of language learning resources for Australian Aboriginal communities. These guidelines, in combination with a set of reflective practices for workshop purposes, are intended to support the work of language resource developers who aspire to collaborate on the design of materials that follow culturally appropriate visual language strategies, thus increasing accessibility, authenticity, and efficacy to foster the language learning process.

Effects of dialect and setting on word stress perception in Indian English

Robert Fuchs, University of Hamburg

Previous work has shown that word stress in mainstream varieties of English helps listeners identify word boundaries in spoken language. Less is known about dialects of English that emerged in complex multilingual environments, e.g. Indian English, and how speakers of these dialects adapt to new sociolinguistic settings after migration. This project develops an online experimental tool to investigate the perception of word stress by Indian English listeners in India and the diaspora, focusing on recently arrived migrants in Australia (mainstream ‘new’ dialect), the UK (mainstream ‘well-established’ dialect; colonial heritage) and Germany (English as an additional language).

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