Updated 12 September 2016
Missionary translation in Efate
University of Melbourne
The earliest European missionary to Efate (central Vanuatu) arrived in 1863 and was a Presbyterian, and, like those that followed him, was from Scotland, either directly or via Nova Scotia. The London Missionary Society had placed missionaries elsewhere in the New Hebrides since 1839, and a Samoan ‘teacher’ called Toma had been on Efate since the early 1860s. Their work resulted in translations of Christian material, the first of which, a hymnal and small set of Bible translations, were printed in 1864, followed by a revised hymnal (1868), Genesis (1874), Bible texts (1875 & 1877), Apostles (1880), Genesis (again, in 1881), and John (1885). This paper explores the way in which the earliest three missionaries to Efate approached the task of translation, what we can glean about how they worked with speakers, and what impact this work may have had on the use of the language Nafsan (also known as South Efate).
From correspondence we can infer the level of language skills attained by the missionaries at various points in time, for example, the following letter by Janet Cosh from Pango village, dated December 1866 indicates that the more recent arrival, James Cosh, who had arrived that year, was still learning the language, but that Morrison, who had arrived in 1863, was already able to communicate well: “Matthew, the teacher from Emungalin came to Pango wishing medicine for his boy who was sick. In vain James (Cosh) told him there were a great many sicknesses and advised him to go to Mr.Morrison who would be able to speak and understand what troubles his boy had.” (Letter from Ebag 13/12/1866)
In an earlier paper (Thieberger and Ballard 208) we talked about the mixed variety of language used by missonaries in early translations in north Efate and speculated on the degree to which it could have reflected a spoken variety. In this paper I will briefly discuss two linguistic features that could have been contributed to Nafsan by missionary translation work, a conditional of the form if and the word kano meaning ‘to be unable to’. Neither of these occur in neighbouring languages, so could they have been a result of missionary translations, and then by what mechanism could such forms enter into the everyday spoken language of the community?
Macdonald, D. D. 1898. “The Mythology of the Efatese.” Report of the Seventh Meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, 759–68.
Macdonald, D. D. 1907. The Oceanic Languages, Their Grammatical Structure, Vocabulary, and Origin. Oxford: Henry Frowde.
Thieberger, Nick, and Chris Ballard. 2008. “Daniel Macdonald and the ‘Compromise Literary Dialect’ in Efate, Central Vanuatu” Oceanic Linguistics 47: 365–82.
The role of Ferdinand Blumentritt in the development of Creolistics
University of Vienna
This dissertation project involves discovering the linguistic researches of the Austrian Bohemian, Ferdinand Blumentritt, about the languages of the Spanish colony, the Philippines, during the late nineteenth century, the period when Creolistics have been developed as scientific fields of study.
One of the originators of the scientific study of Creole languages was the well-known Austrian Romanist, Hugo Schuchardt, who exchanged intensely creolistic information with Blumentritt and who obtained valuable stimuli from him. Blumentritt played an important role in building an academic network of scientists and representatives/speakers of Creole languages, thus by exchange of letters the researchers could receive and interchange information about mixed languages, Pidgin and Creoles from all over the world. Blumentritt dedicated his studies on mixed languages inter alia to the Spanish-based Creole language spoken in the Philippines. In contrast to Schuchardt the current status of Ferdinand Blumentritt and his linguistic studies are widely unknown and scientifically little researched.
In consideration of this background the purpose of my research project is to identify the role and significance of Blumentritt as participant in a period of evolvement of the scientific discipline of Creolistics. His part as recognized ethnologist and ethnographer could be of prime importance which delineated Creolistics from the parent discipline, Linguistics, which was predominantly Neogrammarian.
By means of the methods of History of Science I am trying to determine which concepts and approaches of language theory and of mixed languages he applied in his studies, in particular among the scholarly discourse about language change process and to examine his ethnological influence on the evolvement and paradigmatic shift of Creolistics.
Researching English in Kiribati
University of Bern
The 33 islands of Kiribati that are scattered across Micronesia are an independent republic since 1979, after having been under British rule for almost a century. English has the status of an official language with prominence in administrative and educational domains, but it is virtually never spoken when I-Kiribati communicate among each other and possibilities to get in contact with foreigners are very scarce as there are hardly any non-I-Kiribati residents (only 892 of 103’058, Census 2010) and virtually no tourism (one of the least visited countries in the world, UN World Tourism Organization 2015).
The attitudes towards English are complex: What with being under serious threat of rising sea levels that already now take their toll on the low-lying islands and its people, many I-Kiribati are already leaving or will have to leave their home islands and thus, on the one side, regard English as a necessity to find jobs and make a living in the places they migrate to, while, on the other side, it is a reminder of just this grim future.
As a consequence of Kiribati’s history of non-extensive contact with the English language and of looming climate change threats, the Englishes spoken by locals share many common features, some of which are highly influenced by the substrate language, others are a manifestation of linguistic accommodation as well as cultural reorientation towards Australia and New Zealand – these two nations are actively providing support on and off Kiribati, and their Englishes are clearly the best represented varieties besides the local vernacular. I will provide a brief description of Kiribati English, and discuss in more detail /t,d/-affrication, where e.g. <time> becomes [tsaim], a variable that, I argue, exemplifies Kiribati’s truly unique sociolinguistic situation. The data for these discussions consist of 1-hour long sociolinguistic interviews with 33 I-Kiribati who differ in age, sex, and experience with the English language. Half of the informants were born during Britain’s administration, while the younger half only know Kiribati as an independent republic.
Kiribati National Statistics Office; Secretariat of the Pacific Community Statistics for Development Programme. (2012). Kiribati 2010 Census Volume 2: Analytical Report. Noumea: Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
United Nations World Tourism Organization. (2015). UNWTO tourism highlights, 2015 edition. Retrieved from http://www.e-unwto.org/doi/book/10.18111/9789284416899
Language conferences in New Guinea under German colonial rule (and beyond)
Institut für Deutsche Spraceh, Mannheim
New Guinea was under colonial rule from different powers, among them the German Empire, with the German colonial period lasting from 1884 to 1914. During this period, German mission societies were active there, supported by the German colonial government that expected them to provide schooling and to spread the German language. Both expectations were clearly linked to economic interests. For the missionaries – who tended to comply with the government in general – it was difficult, however, to integrate the government’s requirement of teaching German with their own goals of using the local languages for evangelizing (cf. Adick/Mehnert 2001).
During (and beyond) this period, several missionary language conferences were arranged that were generally aimed at developing strategies to handle multilingual settings of unprecedented complexity, from the missionaries’ point of view. A number of archival documents are preserved that report the main points of discussion at such language conferences. Based on such reports, and with a special focus on the Rhenish Mission Society that was active in the Astrolabe Bay area between 1887 and 1932 (cf. Steffen 1995), this paper analyses the linguistic topics that were of interest to the missionaries, the missionaries’ attitudes towards the languages involved (as they become apparent from the documents), and the language policies that were derived from the missionaries’ perceptions of the language settings they were involved with.
The paper concludes with an outlook on recent publications discussing language-related questions such as language planning regarding Christian terminology (cf. King 2014); these publications reflect the continuing relevance of language matters in the Christian/missionary context. In that way, the paper aims at taking a first step towards linking such current discussions to an ongoing tradition that is rooted in colonial times.
Adick, Christel/Mehnert, Wolfgang, unter Mitarbeit von Thea Christiani (ed.). 2001. Deutsche Missions- und Schulpolitik in Dokumenten. Eine kommentierte Quellensammlung aus den Afrikabeständen deutschsprachiger Archive 1884- 1914. Frankfurt/Main: IKO – Verlag für Interkulturelle Kommunikation.
King, Phil. 2014. Perspectives on Translating YHWH in Papua New Guinea. In: The Bible Translator, 65(2). 185- 204. http://tbt.sagepub.com/content/65/2/185; http://www.sil.org/pacific/png/abstract.asp?id=928474560570 [Accessed: Jan. 27, 2015]
Steffen, Paul. 1995. Missionsbeginn in Neuguinea. Die Anfänge der Rheinischen, Neuendettelsauer und Steyler Missionsarbeit in Neuguinea. Studia Instituti Missiologici Verbi Divini 61. Nettetal: Steyler Verlag.
Missionary linguistics and fieldwork in Central Australia 1890-1910
University of Western Australia
In the nineteenth century much of the linguistic fieldwork was being done by missionaries and that was certainly true of the Australian linguistics landscape. The early years of the twentieth century saw the first comprehensive grammars and wordlists of some Australian languages. German Lutheran missionaries conducted primary research in the communities of a number of languages, with early work on the Diyari language at Lake Eyre in South Australia and on Aranda (Arrernte) and Luritja at Hermannsburg in the Northern Territory. A text-based philology, based upon classical and orientalist philology influenced missionary linguistics in Germany. This paper examines the theoretical bases underpinning the analysis and description of Central Australian languages by German Lutheran Missionaries from 1890 to 1910.
The language of Airforce Hill: early documentation of Murrinh-Patha by LAC Parkes
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra
During World War II a number of radar stations were set up in the Northern Territory of Australia. One of these was on a hill on the outskirts of Port Keats (now Wadeye). This hill came to be known as Airforce Hill. William Stanley Parkes, 1913-?1991, had been a primary school teacher before enlisting with the RAAF in early 1943. He trained as a radar operator and ended up being stationed at Port Keats from 1943 to 1945, ending up as a Leading Aircraftman. During that time he documented the language and culture of the Murrinh-Patha and this survives in a notebook housed at the Mitchell Library in Sydney.
This notebook runs to about 80 pages and is one of the earliest accounts of the Murrinh-Patha. Surprisingly, the document suggests that the compiler has some training in phonetics. For instance, he uses engma for the velar nasal; colons for vowel length; epsilon for the vowel in ‘egg’; ‘back-to-front c’ for the vowel in ‘port’.
This paper will explore the contents of the notebook in the light of more recent knowledge. It will also ponder the question of how someone like Parkes might have acquired training in phonetics.
Fison and Howitt’s documentation of Australian kinterms
Harold Koch, Patrick McConvell and Jane Simpson
Australian National University, Canberra
Fison and Howitt’s schedules of Australian kinterms, collected in the 1870s and 1880s and not really utilised in their 1880 book, have largely remained unknown to linguistic and anthropological scholarship. Their historical background has been described in Gardner and McConvell 2015. The data has been entered into the Austkin database (http://austkin.net). Here we further assess their significance. We detail which languages are described, where they are located, and their linguistic classification. The schedules greatly increase the amount of kinship known from a number of languages (some otherwise limited to the seven terms of Curr’s vocabularies). They are especially valuable in showing the extended senses of particular kinterms, since the original schedules contained more than 200 kin-types for each language. Many use the ‘genealogical method’, whereby genealogies were drawn up with Aboriginal consultants and the term used between the pairs of people on the genealogy elicited. This provides a check on the reality of the more abstract elicitation used for the early schedules, and in some cases reveals how unexpected terms used in some cases are caused by special ritual contexts or marital histories. The schedules may reveal properties of kinship systems that are otherwise hardly known, thus contributing to kinship theory. We also make inferences about how their correspondents, who contributed the data, elicited the information in a fieldwork situation; thus adding to our understanding of the history of fieldwork research methods. We discuss three of their schedules in particular: Butchulla (Fraser Island, Queensland), Dharamba (Jervis Bay district, New South Wales), and Narungga (Yorke Peninsula, South Australia).
Curr, Edward M. 1886-87. The Australian race: its origin, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia, and the routes by which it spread itself over that continent. Melbourne: J. Ferres, Government Printer.
Fison, Lorimer, and Howitt, A.W. 1880. Kamilaroi and Kurnai: Group-marriage and relationship, and marriage by elopement. Melbourne: George Robertson.
Gardner, Helen, and McConvell, Patrick 2015. Southern anthropology – a history of Fison and Howitt’s Kamilaroi and Kurnai: Palgrave Studies in Pacific History: Palgrave Macmillan.
Australian message sticks: A survey of artefacts and commentaries
MPI for the Science of Human History, Jena
Message sticks are engraved wooden tools used by Aboriginal Australians to assist in the communication of important information across territorial boundaries. In the late nineteenth century message sticks captured the imagination of settlers as museums began collecting them in great numbers. Today at least two hundred are archived in museums and informal collections around the world, but curiously they have attracted very little in the way of serious scholarly engagement. This paper provides an introductory survey of existing commentaries on message sticks and identifies all known artefacts, including those that have survived only as sketches. Fortunately, substantial metadata is preserved for a subset of the items, including the ethnolinguistic affiliation of the messenger and precise details of the intended communication. Images of the artefacts are now being collected in a database for the purposes of systematic comparative analysis. The database is already providing insights into key questions concerning the historical diffusion of message sticks across the continent, the common conventions for representing and reproducing intended meanings, and the degree to which these conventions are expressive and combinatorial.
Arbitrariness and value of the linguistic sign in Saussure’s Course in general linguistics (1916) and the Writings in General Linguistics (2002)
University of Potsdam
Although various questions have since been raised whether the edition of the Cours de Linguistique Générale corresponds to the authentic Saussure, the success story of this vulgate edition and its influence on the development of structural linguistics is a fact. Arbitrariness and the value of the linguistic sign are fundamental concepts which, in their relation to one another, mark the contribution of Saussure to semiotics and linguistic semantics. Saussure’s point of departure in determining the nature of the linguistic sign is the explicit rejection of the conception of language as a nomenclature. According to Saussure, the linguistic sign is constituted by parts drawn from two amorphous masses; it loses its existence as a concrete entity as soon as either the sound or the content is removed. Since the linguistic sign is itself the combination of these two sides, it is possible to attribute an arbitrary character to it. In making this claim, Saussure is conscious of the long tradition of treating the linguistic sign as arbitrary and indeed regards it as generally accepted. The first arbitrary aspect of the sign that he recognizes is the non-necessary connection between signifiant and signifé, where he explicitly excludes the possibility of a free choice of the signifiant on the part of the speaker. In addition to this, however, the two sides of the linguistic sign are themselves arbitrary, since they are not pre-existing, but rather function only because of their connection to each other as parts of the sign. The arbitrary character of a sign implies that the signs are values within a system. The notes which were found in the garden house of the Saussure family in 1996 and which were published in 2002 under the title Écrits de linguistique générale, confirm several assessments based on the Cours, but also led to some corrections. In particular, this applies to the dual essence of language, which can be brought into direct relation to the principle of arbitrariness and to the value concept.
Albrecht, Jörn (2015): ‟Der »alte« und der »neue« Saussure Kontinuitäten und Brüche in der Saussure-Rezeption”. Metasprachliche Reflexion und Diskontinuität. Wendepunkte – Krisenzeiten – Umbrüche, ed. Gerda Haßler. Münster: Nodus Publikationen, 222–238.
Bouquet, Simon (2014): ‟Triple articulation de la langue et articulation herméneutique du langage. Quand De l’essence double du langage réinterprète les textes saussuriens”. Texto! Textes & Cultures, Volume 19/1, coordonné par Régis Missire. URL : http://www.revue-texto.net/index.php?id=3478.
Depecker, Loïc /ed.) (2012): L’apport des manuscrits de Ferdinand de Saussure. = Langages 185.
Haßler, Gerda (1991): Der semantische Wertbegriff in Sprachtheorien vom 18. bis zum 20. Jahrhundert. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.
Haßler, Gerda (2015): ‟La doppia e tripla natura della lingua: ricezione e trasformazione dei concetti di Saussure da parte di Coseriu”. Oltre Saussure/Beyond Saussure, ed. por Vicenzo Orioles. Firenze: Franco Cesati Editore, 155-165.Joseph, John E. (2012): Saussure. Oxford: University Press.
Rastier, François (2015): Saussure au futur. Paris: Éditions Les Belles Lettres.
Saussure, Ferdinand de (1983 ): Course in general linguistics. Edited by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye with the Collaboration of Albert Riedlinger. Translated and Annotated by Roy Harris, Professor of General linguistics at the University of Oxford. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court.
Saussure, Ferdinand de (2002): Écrits de linguistique générale. Texte établi par Simon Bouquet et Rudolf Engler. Paris: Éditions Gallimard.
Saussure, Ferdinand de (2006): Writings in General Linguistics. Edited by Simon Bouquet and Rudolf Engler. Translated by Carol Sanders and Matthew Pires. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jakob Linzbach’s unpublished works of the beginning of the 1950s
University of Tartu, University of Lausanne
Among historians of linguistics and semioticians, Estonian Jakob Linzbach (1874-1953) is above all known as the author in 1916 of the book Printsipy filosofskogo iazyka. Opyt tochnogo iazykoznaniia [The Principles of Philosophical Language: An Attempt at Exact Linguistics] published in Saint Petersburg.
Considered by some authors as a Russian Saussure or a pioneer of semiotics, Linzbach wrote, at the beginning of the 1950s, some (quite voluminous) works that remained unpublished. These works, written in Russian, are kept in the archives of the library of Tartu University in Estonia.
In this paper I will present and analyze these unpublished manuscripts, all dedicated to the problem of an universal language, which remained Linzbach’s main concern throughout his life. Can we find differences between these works of the 1950s and his 1916 book? Did his concept of an universal language evolve? Did he change his conception of creating such a language? What can these texts tell us about Linzbach’s linguistic (interlinguistic, semantic, semiotic) ideas? Finally, I will point out that these texts about an universal language were written in a very particular context of Soviet history: the linguistic discussion of 1950, when Stalin rejected N. Marr’s linguistic theories, which claimed that an universal language would unite all the human beings in the communist future. Alongside perhaps with Linzbach’s death in 1953, such a context that was hostile to the idea of an universal language could explain why these works remained unpublished.
Does linguistics need its own philosophy of language?
Laboratoire d’Histoire des Théories Linguistiques
Although philosophy – as evidenced by Plato’s Cratylus or Sophist – has always been concerned about language, “philosophy of language”, as it has been called since Frege’s work (1892), specifically dealt with the issue of language from a logicist perspective (Russell 1903, Wittgenstein 1922, Carnap 1934), followed by turning to approaches that would reconcile it with the idea that natural languages were worthy of interest (Wittgenstein 1953, Austin 1962, Searle 1969, Grice 1975). But does this evolution allow “philosophy of language” to currently be considered a branch of linguistics? Given the difficulties encountered when trying to convince descriptivist linguists who are working on very diverse languages to analyze their data in terms of the concepts contained in philosophy of language, the answer seems to be clearly negative. Therefore, the question arises as to whether linguistics should not now seek to define its own philosophy of language. However, to do this, we must first establish an inventory that will clearly show the incompatibilities, misunderstandings and differences as well as the contact points, similarities and bridges that linguistics has maintained with philosophy of language up to now.
This communication will deal with this issue in two phases in order to respect the different objectives contained within philosophy of language up through the first half of the twentieth century, and the period – focused on the analysis of ordinary language – which has followed. Thus, I will first identify the stumbling points and the theoretical decisions that contributed to keeping many linguists away from the logicist perspective. Then, I will counterbalance this approach by recalling the inheritance that philosophy of language has nevertheless contributed to syntax and semantics. Finally, I will draw a parallel between some proposals made by the philosophers of ordinary language and the criticisms which were addressed to them (Ochs 1976, Rosaldo 1982). This study, which will highlight both the methodological limitations and the (nonetheless) heuristic character of the philosophical approach, will lead us to prepare the ground for initiating an investigation into the type of philosophy of language that is needed by linguistics.
Austin, J. 1962. How to do things with words. J. O. Urmson (ed.), Oxford: Clarendom Press.
Carnap, R. 1934. Die logische Syntax der Sprache. Wien: Verlag von J. Springer.
Frege, G. 1892. “Ueber Sinn und Bedeutung”. Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik (100).
Grice, P. 1975. “Logic and conversation”. In Cole & Morgan (eds.) Syntax and Semantics, vol. III: Speech acts. New York: Academic Press. pp. 41-58.
Ochs, E. 1976. “The Universality of Conversational Postulates”. Language in Society. vol. 5. n° 1. pp. 67-80.
Rosaldo, M. 1982. “The Things We Do with Words: Ilongot Speech Acts and Speech Act Theory in Philosophy”. Language in Society. vol. 11. n° 2. pp. 203-237.
Russell, B. 1903. Principles of mathematics. Georges Allen & Unwin.
Searle, J. 1969. Speech Acts. Cambridge University Press.
Wittgenstein, L. 1922. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Repr. in 1961 London: Routledge.
Wittgenstein, L. 1953. Philosophical Investigations. New York: Macmillan.
‘Primitive languages spoken by primitive people’: Australian languages and nineteenth century conceptions of Aboriginal Australians.
University of Adelaide
A current of primitivism underlies two bodies of nineteenth-century literature that investigate Australian Aboriginal languages: the synchronic grammars written by missionaries in Australia for evangelistic purpose, and the secondary, diachronic and classificatory linguistic studies produced outside the country. Within the emergence of mid-century evolutionary theory and Humboldtian notions of linguistic relativism, language came to be seen as an important cultural artefact that informed understandings of human origin and of humanity. Linguistic classifications were both racial and racist. Like the physical phenomena examined within the emerging discipline of Anthroplogie, languages of the world were classified according to type and ranked on an existing hierarchy that placed Europeans at the pinnacle and Australian ‘savages’ towards the bottom. By examining the body of grammars written in Australia, as well as the particularly racist sub-school of European comparative philology that examined Australian linguistic structures, this paper investigates the tension between the complexity of structures that the languages presented and the preconceived notions of Australian primitivism.
Language classifications in the 19th century: the case of Georg von der Gabelentz
University of Potsdam
In this talk, I take a look at the project of language evaluation (Sprachwürderung) pursued by the German linguist Georg von der Gabelentz (1840–1893). His work on language evaluation reveals him to be a transitional figure between the 19th and 20th century. He maintains the 19th-century practice of assessing the putative merits of different languages, but at the same time his project exhibits a kind of relativism usually associated with the later explicitly non-judgemental approach of Franz Boas (1858–1942) and his followers. Instead of treating a single aspect of linguistic structure, such as inflectional morphology, as the indicator of a language’s development, Gabelentz sees the structures of each language as reflecting the specific mental and living conditions of its speakers. I focus in particular on Gabelentz’ views on Pacific and Australian languages.
Linguistic Research Methods in Remote Australia
Christina Ringel (née Murmann)
University of Cologne
Documenting an endangered language has countless advantages for speakers, communities, linguists and society as a whole (among many others Zuckermann et al. 2014). The data necessary for an in-depth description of the grammar has since the early days been obtained in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, translation tasks, grammaticality judgements, collections of texts, songs and conversations. Primarily in the area of language acquisition lately a further method of language elicitation has become more and more important: language tasks and games (Eisenbeiß 2010).
Seeing that in the indigenous community she works with the majority of speakers are L2 learners, the author of this talk decided to collect data for her dissertation on the linguistic expression of possession in the language of that community using ̶ among other methods ̶ language games and tasks. Apart from being hypothesised to be a suitable elicitation method for the endangered language situation, the games were taken to be a fitting supplement for the variety of revitalisation measures the community is undertaking.
In addition to the tasks and games the author used further methods during her field stays in 2014 and 2015, taking into account suggestions by authors such as (Mosel 2012). For example, she designed grammaticality judgements in ways that minimize known issues in this area (Bowern 2008).
This talk will present the methodology used to collect linguistic data for the dissertation project and discuss other issues encountered when studying endangered languages, such as the availability of fluent speakers and variability. Moreover, aspects to be kept in mind generally when working in the field in Australia and more specifically when researching possession will be covered. For instance, there are ethical imperatives such as obtaining informed consent and permissions for the sharing of data. Concerning the description of possession the author will present a selection of what to cover: questionnaires on possession help to answer questions which are interesting from a typological perspective; descriptions of neighbouring languages offer hints at what one might find and are relevant for discussions of historical and areal phenomena; Kriol data allows insights into language contact and language change.
Eisenbeiss, Sonja. Production methods in language acquisition research. In: Experimental Methods in Language Acquisition Research. Blom, Unsworth: 2010.
Mosel, Ulrike. Morphosyntactic Analysis in the Field: A guide to the guides. In Thieberger, Nicholas (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Fieldwork. Oxford University Press. 2012.
Zuckermann, Ghil‘ad, Shiori Shakuto-Neoh and Giovanni Matteo Quer 2014. Native Tongue Title: Proposed Compensation for the Loss of Aboriginal Languages. Australian Aboriginal Studies (AAS) 2014/1: 55-71.
Seeking the Authentic Pure Form: Attitudes to contact languages in the documentation of Australia’s Indigenous languages.
University of Adelaide
Many language researchers have consciously or unconsciously attempted to record and document pure languages, uncontaminated by the influence of other languages, especially contact languages (pidgins and creoles). Threlkeld (1834: xi-xii) went to the extent of singling out a list of “barbarisms” and setting them apart from the “Aboriginal proper word”, though most of these ‘barbarisms’ are in fact drawn from neighbouring Dharuk of the Sydney region. In the Australian context, language documentation has avoided or downplayed the influence of English, a trend which persists to this day. English loanwords are usually under-represented in the published lexicons, yet may appear in the very same publication in example phrases and sentences, thus indicating that they were in widespread use at the time.
Some less-informed observers unwittingly admitted terms and even syntactic structures from contact languages. Koeler (1842: 49) (cited in Zweck, 2006: 59) made false claims about grammar based on his observation of a pidgin, believing it to be representative of the traditional language, thereby supporting racially-based theories of the day.
This paper explores the practice of language documentation with respect to the treatment of language contact phenomena within the description of traditional Aboriginal languages. It will draw on the earliest written records of Australian Indigenous languages as well as contemporary dictionaries published today.
Koeler, Hermann (1842) Einege Notizen über die Eingebornen an der Ostküste des St. Vincent – Golfs, Süd – Australien; 1837 und 1838. Mitgeheilt durch Herrn Ritter. Gesellschaft für Erdkunde in Berlin. Stück 1. April, Mei, Juni und Juli 1841, 42–57.
Threlkeld, Lancelot E (1834) An Australian Grammar comprehending the principles and natural rules of the language as spoken by the Aborigines, in the vicinity of Hunter’s Reiver, Lake Macquarie etc. New South Wales. Stephens & Stokes “Herald Office” Lower George Street, Sydney.
Zweck, Lois (2006) English Translation of Koeler (1842) Some notes on the Aborigines on the East Coast of Gulf St Vincent in South Australia 1837 and 1838. In Peter Mühlhäusler (ed.) Hermann Koeler’s Adelaide. Observations on the Language and Culture of South Australia by the First German Visitor. Australian Humanities Press, Unley, South Australia. pp.51-70.
You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist: reflections on unfolding the Ngarrindjeri texts in the 1993 Berndt & Berndt book A World That Was…
University of Adelaide
This paper will present some preliminary findings from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant, DP150103287, project based at the University of Adelaide, running from 2015 to 2017. The project title is: Analysis of Ngarrindjeri texts from the Lower Murray, Lakes and Coorong region of South Australia, as recorded by Ronald and Catherine Berndt in the early 1940s. The texts appear in Appendix four of the 1993 book by the Berndts entitled: A World That Was: the Yaraldi of the Murray River and the Lakes, South Australia. The ARC project has several aims, some academic and some to meet Ngarrindjeri community requests for language and cultural repatriation. Hopefully this project will demonstrate that each of the aims can feed into the others.
There are 163 Ngarrindjeri texts in Appendix four, covering 178 pages, and as they appear in Berndt and Berndt they have no titles, no free translations and seem randomly and inconsistently glossed. The texts were primarily told by Albert Karloan, an Elderly Ngarrindjeri man who became a close friend of the Berndts during their very first fieldwork experience. Of all the texts in Appendix four, there are only 17 Dreaming narratives, many of which are unknown to the community today. They have all now been analysed, as well as a number of ethnographic texts, and printed and distributed to the community for feedback. The analysis has been done using the FLEx software program. Thus far, over 500 new lexemes (and many more variants) have been added to the original database of 3,680 head words. But only 270 of these lexemes have made it into a newly published Ngarrindjeri wordlist. Throughout this project, it seems judgements have to be made all the time about the integrity of the recordings in the 1993 Berndt texts. Many of the new lexemes appear oddly shaped, compared to other Ngarrindjeri lexemes, and it is unclear if this is because of the Berndt’s inadequate early research skills, or because of the inevitable breakdown of Karloan’s language knowledge by the 1940s.
It was hoped this project would reveal more about the Ngarrindjeri language at the discourse level, but so far it has thrown up more questions than answers. Time will tell what can be made of the data. Initial observations reveal that Karloan’s language seems to represent an “in-between language”, with much double marking, the introduction of new lexemes as free standing prepositions, and new (English-like) suffixes on verbs. So the question needs to be asked: When the Dreaming narratives are repatriated to the community, what form of the Ngarrindjeri language do we use: a “tidied-up” version that resembles the grammar of the early mission recordings of HAE Meyer (1843), or the seemingly flawed version as remembered by Albert Karloan 100 years later? These are the questions that will be posed in this Potsdam presentation.
Berndt, Ronald & Berndt, Catherine (1993) A World That Was: The Yaraldi of the Murray and the Lakes, South Australia. Melbourne University Press, Carlton.
Gale, Mary-Anne (2009) Ngarrindjeri Dictionary: First Edition. University of South Australia, Adelaide.
Gale, Mary-Anne & Williams, Phyllis (2016) Ngarrindjeri for Smarties: Some Useful Words & Phrase to Speak Ngarrindjeri in Everyday Situations: First Edition. MIPAAC, Victor Harbor.
Meyer, H.A.E. (1843) Vocabulary of the Language Spoken by the Aborigines of the Southern and Eastern Portions of the Settled Districts of South Australia… Preceded by a Grammar. James Allen, Adelaide.