June 26, 2007

the worst

I am really scared about what the government's doing with their 'National emergency response'. So much so, that I really just want to put my head in the sand because thinking about what might happen is terrifying, but putting my head in the sand is not going to be very helpful.

I've started reading the 'Little children are sacred' report (from the inquiry into child protection from sexual abuse) and the government's response and I'll comment as I go along.

One very important point stands out in the very first recommendation of the report - a point that Howard's government seems to have missed totally. "It is critical that both governments commit to genuine consultation with Aboriginal people in designing initiatives for Aboriginal communities."

Let me repeat that:

"It is critical that both governments commit to genuine consultation with Aboriginal people in designing initiatives for Aboriginal communities."

That recommendation has now been totally ignored by the government. Totally.

I will comment more about all this business soon, but in the meantime, I was talking briefly about the government's action with JJ, who is very concerned (as probably are all Aboriginal ppl living in communities) and I said to him 'out of all the no-good things the government has done to youmob this is the worst'. (Well, the worst in my time - fortunately I wasn't around when Aboriginal ppl were being killed, raped, removed from families, having their land taken over, punished for speaking language etc.)

June 25, 2007


Hey I'm in another article. Look here. And I don't even think I sound too silly!

June 15, 2007


Occasionally, I get asked if there's any meaning behind the names of the languages we work with here, like, if a similar thing happens here that you get on the east coast where language names are sometimes derived for the word for 'no, nothing' in that language (e.g. Gooreng gooreng (from Bundaberg area) is the word for 'no' reduplicated).

That doesn't happen here but I like to think what the languages would be called if that *did* happen here:

Marluy marluy
Mandi mandi
Gatjja gatjja
Waba waba
Waari waari

hehe... sounds funny.

But then the other day I realised that it *does* happen for one of the languages here, although only informally and in casual speech... I realised that I've regularly ppl talking about Yolŋu or Ritharrŋu / Wägilak mob and referring to them as 'yaka bayaŋu mob'. Neat!

June 13, 2007

Pidgin and creoles workshop

Last week we had a big week in town (Katherine). We had two days with Batchelor and then three days with the Education Department for a Language Revitalisation Workshop.

One of the highlights was working with Batchelor's linguistics students. They were in Katherine for a week-long workshop on Pidgins and Creoles. Their lecturer approached us to present something about the creole spoken at Ngukurr so we did a three hour session with them which was enjoyed by everyone.

Usmob really enjoyed meeting the linguistics students and finding out where they’re from. They came from all over: Torres Strait, Desert, Western NSW, Victoria, Palm Island and came from different backgrounds (but all Indigenous). And they really enjoyed meeting the guys from Ngukurr and learning a bit about Kriol. It was just one of those lovely sharing experiences, but also included lots of discussion, opining and more.

I was reflecting on why I enjoyed the session with them so much. One reason was that being linguistics students, I could use linguistics terms and be understood. Normally, I have to explain what a pronoun is, let alone more tricky things like the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb – but these guys knew it straight away which was lovely.

But it wasn’t til later that night I realised the main reason I enjoyed working with that mob. Because they’re linguists (or learning to be linguists) whose goal is the same as ours here at Ngukurr: the betterment of Indigenous languages and people. And it was comforting and refreshing. It was just so nice to be teaching like-minded people! And they warmed my heart to see what they’re learning and doing. I wish them all the best.

June 01, 2007

Marra and elan

The Marra team I work with here is just getting stronger and stronger. Their latest achievement is learning some basic skills on elan - which is a program linguists use where you can link sound to text - it helps a lot when you're transcribing and translating texts and it's good for listening to audio and reading along with it.

So JJ, AJ and AD who are all on CDEP and the language centre have all learned to use elan a little bit - selecting and playing the sound files while reading the annotated text, as well as entering in the text so that it then attaches itself to the soundfile. And the wonderful FR has been helping us with the transcriptions and translations because the rest of us are all still learning Marra.

So in the past two weeks we've transcribed and translated a 9-minute story in Marra spoken by an old lady a couple of years ago. It's been a good learning experience for me too. Here's a little bit of the story:

... wala-yurranyi na-warlja.
Guwarda-niwiyinji nana ragalunju: "buuuuuuuuuub".
"Ei! Jaw-wilanyi warlja nanggaya nyin.garr. Jawayiga!", wala-mindininya.
Yundunyuga jaw-wilanyi.
"Yundunyuga jaw-niwanji!"

Rough translation:
They used to go for dugong.
We would hear the trumpet shell: 'boooooooop'.
"Hey! They harpooned dugong, they're coming. Good-o!", they used to say.
They would harpoon sea turtle.
"We harpooned sea turtle!" (they would say).

Old languages and new technologies. Beautiful.