July 13, 2011

Federal inquiry into Indigenous languages and other good news stories

I tend to complain a lot more than celebrate when I look at how Australia as a nation treats Indigenous languages. Well, I'm pleased to share a few recent happenings that have left me feeling optimistic and a bit warm and fuzzy (for a change).

First and foremost, the Federal Government has announced a full-blown parliamentary inquiry into "Language Learning in Indigenous Communities". This took me completely by surprise and totally blew my away! I have a real sense of hope with this. As was pointed out by Frank Baarda at Yuendumu, what's really great is the tone of this inquiry, which is framed very positively. It talks of 'benefits' and 'contributions' that Indigenous languages make and that avoids ethnocentricity. Often, policy discussions of anything Indigenous can tend towards talking more of deficits, issues and problems. I've copied the blurb of the inquiry's media release at the bottom of this post.

Oh yeah, and please consider making a submission! (By August 19). Instructions on how to do so are here. It's not hard!

The other two nice little news items:

This story that aired on NT Stateline last week about a language revitalisation at Elliott school for the Mudburra language. I've been a long term critic of how the NT Education Dept treats Aboriginal languages, even though there are many within the department who work hard to support them. It's nice that some of the good work is publicised in this story. I also like the subtle messages about improved attendance and the need to resource language programs in the story that hopefully are taken up by others within NT DET.

Lastly, we now have a version of our national anthem in the Luritja language! Neat!

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Media Release: New federal parliamentary inquiry on Indigenous languages

July 10, 2011

Semantic theories

This is one for the linguists... A naive question I'd like to put out there:

I really enjoy semantics: thinking and writing about word meanings, cross-linguistic translatability and all the other juicy stuff you get when you really try and pin down meanings of words, morphemes, phrases etc. which are usually tantalisingly slippery and have lovely fuzzy boundaries.

But!

When it comes to semantic theories, I just haven't come across one that I've liked. I've looked a little bit at NSM and am now learning a bit about frame semantics, but theories like this bother me. They all seem to have quite a lot of limitations, so much so that I wonder how useful they really are. Why can't we just write detailed semantic descriptions of words/morphemes/phrases etc. and leave it at that?

This really is an issue I'm grappling with because my PhD thesis will hopefully be a lot about semantics, but I have this chip on my shoulder about semantic theories.

Thought?Comments?Feelings?

July 05, 2011

Nga-gin.garra na-Jidni-yurr, nga-jurra na-Balda-yurr / I'm here in Sydney and going to Boulder!

Just a quick Hi while I have a few hours to kill in Sydney Airport.

After a few great weeks out bush (that I haven't described in nearly enough detail here), I'm off on a whole different cultural experience. And believe me, compared to what I'm used to, sitting in a fancy cafe in Sydney Airport about to board a plane for America is definitely a cultural experience for me.

I'm off to Boulder, Colorado to attend the 2011 Linguistics Institute, which is a summer school held bi-annually that attracts a lot of very clever linguists who come from all over the globe to deliver short courses on specialised topics. I'm excited and a bit nervous and going in expecting it to be an awful lot of work and assignments. As my Facebook friends may already know, I was also very pleased to see that my accommodation at the uni is very close to the tennis courts, so my beloved Babolat racquet has a prized place in my suitcase. :)

But I'm also excited about being challenged and learning lots. The courses I've chosen are:
- Frame Semantics and Verb Constructions
- Intro to Morphology
- Dialectology and
- Pidgin and Creole languages: a linguistic, historical and cognitive overview

As they say in Iceland: Mjög spennandi! (Very exciting!)