SHLP6 – Program

The 6th biennial conference of the Society for the History of Linguistics in the Pacific was held from 12 to 14 December 2018 at the University of Adelaide, in conjunction with the 2018 conference of the Australian Linguistics Society.

SHLP6 was supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, the Research Unit for Indigenous Language at the University of Melbourne, and the University of Adelaide School of Humanities and Faculty of Arts.

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SHLP6 was organized by
Clara Stockigt
James McElvenny
David Moore

Wednesday 12th December 2018
The University of South Australia, TBA
TBA Professor Otto Zwartjes
Université Paris 7 Diderot, Laboratoire d’Histoire des Théories Linguistiques
Masterclass: New challenges in missionary linguistics: an introduction
Thursday 13th December 2018
The University of Adelaide, Napier Building, Rm 102
8:30-9:00 Arrive
Tea & Coffee
9:00 Floris Solleveld, University of Amsterdam
Expanding the comparative view
9:30 James McElvenny, University of Edinburgh
Alternating sounds from Steinthal to Boas
10:00 Barbara F. Kelly, University of Melbourne &
Aimée Lahaussois, CNRS/Univ. Paris Diderot
Evolving approaches to verbal paradigms in Hodgson’s descriptions of Kiranti languages
10:30-11:00 Morning Tea
11:00 Nick Thieberger, The University of Melbourne
Delivering manuscript sources for Australian languages, an example from the Bates collection
11:30 Rachel Hendery & Michael Falk, University of Western Sydney
Some approaches to variant spellings in Australian historical sources
12:00 Michelle Warren, James McElvenny, Clara Stockigt & David Moore,
Pilot digital archive of historic sources in Australian languages
12:30-1:45 Lunch
1:45 Marcin Kilarski, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
Absence of generic terms in Tasmanian languages as a civilizational benchmark
2:15 Stephen Morey, LaTrobe University
The developing understanding of morphosyntax in the languages of Victoria – 1835-1905
2:45 Patrick McConvell, Australian National University
Mutual influence between Pacific and Australian anthropology and linguistics: from Fison and Howitt on
3:15-3:30 Afternoon Tea
3:30 Clara Stockigt, The University of Adelaide
Lineages of Wiradjuri description
4:00 Michael Walsh, The University of Sydney
The expunction of the Reverend Richard Taylor from Australian missionary linguistics
4:30 Launch of Ozlings ‘firsts’
5:00 Please join us for a ceremony to celebrate the establishment of the Yaitya Ngutupira collection, located on Level 1 of the Barr Smith Library.
Friday 14th December 2018
The University of Adelaide, Napier Building, Rm 102
8:30-9:00 Arrive
Tea & Coffee
9:00 Gavan Breen, The Institute for Aboriginal Development
Half a century and still going: Memoirs of a field worker in the central and eastern arid zones of Australia
9:30 David Moore, the University of Western Australia
W.H. Douglas and the study of Australia Languages
10:00 Morning tea
10:30 Harold Koch, The Australian National University
Luise Hercus’ legacy on Australian languages
11:00 Jane Simpson, The Australian National University
Women in the history of linguistics in Australia in the nineteenth century
11:30 Conclusion of conference


Masterclass: New challenges in Missionary Linguistics: An introduction
Professor Otto Zwartjes
Université Paris 7- Diderot/Laboratoire d’Histoire des Théories Linguistiques

Missionaries dedicated themselves to the study of languages, which resulted in the production of a great number of works in or about the Amerindian languages, mainly grammars, dictionaries accompanied by texts, such as confession books, sermons and catechisms. This course focuses on the linguistic works written in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin during the 16th-18th century. Although missionaries based and structured their works in the tradition of the Humanistic linguistic works, which developed from the Greco-Latin, they were forced by the linguistic facts themselves, to develop new strategies and descriptive techniques. In this course, their search for non-conventional solutions in their descriptions, which never had been studied before in Europe, will be highlighted; there is no doubt that their approaches were not always original or creative on all subdisciplines of grammar: phonology, orthography (the rendering of sounds never heard or written before), morphology- morphosyntax, pragmatics, semantics and finally lexicography. Over the last decades, it has been demonstrated that many works are important contributions for the history of linguistics. The course is organized in four sessions, which will be structured as follows:

  1. Introduction
    1. Historical background. Objectives of the missionaries, didactic tools which were produced, the role of the native speakers, the role of the press. Brief state of the Art.
    2. The sounds and letters: Phonology and orthography.
  2. Words
    1. What is a word? Approaches to and analysis of the internal structure of the word.
    2. Compound words. Inflection and derivation.
  3. Texts
    1. Syntax
    2. The examples in the grammars. Translation theories and practices.
  4. Lexicography and semantics
    1. Dictionaries. Lemmatization strategies.
    2. Final remarks. Synthesis. Suggestions for future research.

Expanding the comparative view
Floris Solleveld
University of Amsterdam
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The emergence of linguistics as a discipline is traditionally linked to that of a ‘historical-comparative’ method, which developed in relation to the study of Sanskrit in the late 18th/early 19th century. As a result, the history of linguistics is very much focussed on the study of Indo-European languages. However, from the 1830s onward, works of comparative grammar were also written for a range of other (groups of) families: native American (Du Ponceau 1838), Austronesian/Melanesian (Humboldt 1839, Gabelentz 1860), Semitic (Renan 1855), Dravidian (Caldwell 1860), Bantu and Khoisan (Bleek 1862-67), covering most of the globe.

This presentation highlights the role of this expansion of the comparative view in the making of linguistics. In particular, it focuses on Wilhelm von Humboldt’s posthumous Über die Kawi-Sprache, now mainly remembered for its introduction. Starting from the exegesis of a single 10th-century Javanese text modelled on the Bhagavad-Gita, Humboldt identified patterns of relatedness across languages of Indonesia, Madagascar, and the Pacific. A gentleman scholar who had never left Europe, he mainly relied on reports by British colonial administrators Stamford Raffles and John Crawfurd, and word lists compiled by earlier explorers.

Humboldt, in short, had to cope with a paucity of linguistic material – material which he was actively reformulating to meet the demands of his research agenda. Moreover, the ‘comparative view’ had its limitations when writing about ‘people without history’ (Wolf 1982), especially when it came to identifying language change and reconstructing the genealogy of language families.

More generally, the comparative study of unwritten languages posed practical as well as typological problems. They were documented initially neither by native speakers nor by trained philologists but by missionaries, explorers, and colonial administrators – while the linguist’s expert judgement that was passed in comparative grammars required a certain degree of autopsy, but also ranged over more languages than any individual scholar could master. Also, what were the borders of a ‘word’ in an unwritten language, how could the sounds in it be represented correctly and adequately, and how to determine the fine structure of the grammar, if the speakers had no explicit notion of ‘grammar’?

Bleek, Wilhelm (1862-67): A comparative Grammar of the South African Languages. 2 vols. (London: Trübner)
Caldwell, Robert (1856): A comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages (London: Harrison)
Crawfurd, John (1820): History of the Indian Archipelago. Containing an Account of the Manners, Arts, Languages, Religions, Institutions, and Commerce of its Inhabitants. 3 vols. (Edinburgh: Constable)
Gabelentz, Hans Conon von der (1860): Die Melanesischen Sprachen nach ihrem grammatischen Bau und ihrer Verwandtschaft unter sich und mit den Malaiisch-Polynesischen Sprachen untersucht (Leipzig: s.n.)
Humboldt, Wilhelm von (1839): Über die Kawi-Sprache auf der Insel Java. Vol. III (Berlin: Königliche Akademie der Wissenschaften)
Du Ponceau, Peter Stephen (1838): Mémoire sur le système grammatical des langues de quelques nations Indiennes de l’Amerique du Nord (Paris: Pihan de la Forest)
Raffles, Thomas Stamford (1817): The History of Java. 2 vols. (London: Murray/East India Company)
Renan, Ernest (1855): Histoire générale et système comparé des langues sémitiques (Paris: Imprimerie Impériale)
Wolf, Eric (1982): Europe and the People without History (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press)

Alternating sounds from Steinthal to Boas
James McElvenny
University of Edinburgh
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A milestone on the way to both modern conceptions of phonology and the current belief in the structural equality of all languages is the 1889 paper ‘On alternating sounds’ by Franz Boas (1858–1942). In this paper, Boas demonstrated that the alleged ‘alternating’ or ‘synthetic’ sounds of indigenous American languages were not a sign of their ‘primitiveness’, as was postulated by rival anthropologists Daniel Garrison Brinton (1837–1899) and John Wesley Powell (1834–1902), but rather observational artefacts caused by the interference of European observers’ native phonologies. Despite their opposite conclusions, both Brinton and Boas were drawing on the same the theoretical background in their linguistic research: the work of Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), as interpreted and propagated by H. Steinthal (1823–1899).
In this talk, we will look at the development of the notion of ‘alternating sounds’ from Steinthal to Boas and what it reveals about the development of linguistic theory and the professionalization of linguistic research in this period. We will see how ‘correct’ treatment of the phenomena was used as a criterion for assessing the scientific validity of primary language documentation.

Evolving approaches to verbal paradigms in Hodgson’s descriptions of Kiranti languages
Barbara F. Kelly
University of Melbourne
Aimée Lahaussois
Histoire des théories linguistiques, CNRS/Univ. Paris Diderot

The first extant descriptions of Kiranti languages (Tibeto-Burman, Nepal) are three articles by B. Hodgson published in 1857 and 1858 in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal: the first article presents the vocabulary and grammar of Vayu (now called Hayu), and the second two describe those of Bahing. Hodgson, a British Resident in Kathmandu (Waterhouse 2004), also produced, in addition to these grammatical descriptions, comparative word lists of a large number of languages of Nepal (including a list of 272 words collected in 17 different Kiranti languages).

The Kiranti languages are known for their complex verbal morphology, indexing two arguments on transitive verbs, a feature which led Hodgson to label them “complex” or “pronominalized” (1857: 480, 481). One issue faced by Hodgson in his descriptions was how to lay out verb conjugations in order to reflect this morphological complexity. Of particular interest in reading the grammars of Vayu and Bahing is thus the presentation of verbal paradigms: the data is initially heavily influenced by Western grammatical tradition (there are sections on moods which are not relevant for Kiranti languages), but over the course of the writing of the two language descriptions, the presentation method evolves, eventually arriving at a presentation form which is, in Hodgson’s own words, “more accomodating to the genius of the language”.

We shall describe the content of the articles on Vayu and Bahing, focusing on the verbal morphology and highlighting the changes in layout and the effects of these choices.

Hodgson, BH., 1857. “Comparative vocabulary of the languages of the broken tribes of Nepal”, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 26:317-372, Online:
Hodgson, BH., 1857. “Vayu Vocabulary”, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 26:372-485
Hodgson, BH., 1857. “Bahing Vocabulary”, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 26:486-522
Hodgson, BH., 1858. “Bahing Vocabulary”, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 27:393-442, Online:
Waterhouse, D., 2004. The Origins of Himalayan Studies: Brian Houghton Hodgson in Nepal and Darjeeling, 1820–1858. London/New York: Routledge

Delivering manuscript sources for Australian languages, an example from the Bates collection
Nick Thieberger
The University of Melbourne

In this presentation I will outline the method used to present 21,000 pages of manuscript material held at the NLA, collected in the early 1900s and representing vocabularies from a number of Western Australian Aboriginal languages. The records have internal links that could be made to work online semi-automatically and allow searchable text to be linked back to the source documents. I will discuss the effort required and compare it to the simpler presentation of page images with no textual equivalents that we used earlier for Arthur Capell’s papers. I will show the soundex or fuzzy search function we have developed for use in this collection and offer it for use in other projects. This work then suggests a broader project of building a platform for other early sources, that can make citable and searchable records available for use in current language revitalisation programs.

Some approaches to variant spellings in Australian historical sources
Rachel Hendery & Michael Falk
Western Sydney University.

As part of the ARC Linkage project Howitt & Fison’s Archive: Insights into Australian Aboriginal Language, Kinship and Culture a team of researchers from four universities and four cultural institutions together with members of the Gunaikurnai community of Gippsland are systematically analysing nineteenth century anthropologists Lorimer Fison and A.W. Howitt’s accounts of kinship, social organisation, and local languages.

One of the aims of the project is to present a public portal to the Howitt & Fison documents, which will be indexed and searchable. One complication is that – as is the case for most 19th century Australian language documentation – spelling of language words and proper names is inconsistent. A clear example of this can even be seen in the spelling of the community’s name itself, which was in these documents sometimes written as Kŭrnai, Kurnai, Gunnai, Gannai, etc. Ideally users of the project website will be able to search for any one of these terms, or the modern-day Gunaikurnai spelling and have it return the relevant parts of the documents, even if the orthography varies significantly.

We have been experimenting with various solutions to this problem, including a ‘soundex’ approach, fuzzy matching using e.g. levenshtein distance, and machine learning possibilities. In this paper we report on our progress so far, and possible applications for other corpora of early Australian materials.

Absence of generic terms in Tasmanian languages as a civilizational benchmark
Marcin Kilarski
Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań

In this paper I examine a recurrent motif in descriptions of ‘exotic’ languages in the late 19th and 20th centuries concerning the notion that Tasmanian languages (usually referred to as a single language) lacked generic and abstract terms. In particular, I trace the history of the example in mainstream publications in linguistics and the social sciences since Joseph Milligan’s (1807–1884) account of the Tasmanian lexicon (Milligan 1859), where its “very limited powers of abstraction or generalization” (p. 280) were illustrated by the absence of a word equivalent to English tree. While the theoretical and ideological contexts of the example changed dramatically in the period under consideration, it maintained its form and primary reading, i.e., the lack of a generic term. In addition, I analyse the historical context of the example with regard to colonization, competition for land and violence during the Black War of 1825–1831, which resulted in the extinction of the indigenous population and the loss of their languages. Finally, I consider the ideological context, as illustrated by the evolving functions of the Tasmanian example and other related examples from the languages of southern Africa and North America. While initially such examples offered evidence of the early forms of speech and civilizational development, they subsequently provided an illustration of the excessive specialization of the lexicon in ‘primitive’ languages. Tracing the history of the Tasmanian example allows us therefore to demonstrate the interdependence between accounts of distant languages and cultures, and their historical, theoretical and ideological context.


Milligan, Joseph. 1859. “On the dialects and language of the Aboriginal tribes of Tasmania, and on their manners and customs”, Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 3, 2: 275-282.

The developing understanding of morphosyntax in the languages of Victoria – 1835-1905
Stephen Morey
La Trobe University
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The pioneering work of Luise Hercus (1926-2018) in documenting and analysing the languages of Victoria from 1962 has given us a significant insight into the grammatical structures of several languages, particularly Wembawemba, Werkaya and Mathimathi.

However much of the linguistic diversity of Victoria was already lost before Luise commenced her work, and for many of the languages we thus rely on earlier sources, almost entirely only in written form.

These efforts at what we now term language documentation, arose from a range of motivations, and go back to the earliest period of British rule in Victoria, starting with George Augustus Robinson in the 1830s, and running through until R.H. Mathews’ publications in the early years after Federation.

In this paper, I will present evidence of how these earlier figures attempted to come to an understanding of the basic morphosyntax of these languages – via pronoun paradigms, verb paradigms and attempts at understanding case marking systems.

While the verb and pronoun paradigms of R.H. Mathews, in both his publications and manuscript notes, are generally more perceptive than earlier recorders, attempts were made by many people to present such paradigms. For example there is the verb paradigms from Rev. Hagenauer in Robert Brough Smyth’s The Aborigines of Victoria Volume II, p. 40, and a paradigm of case marking for nouns and pronouns on p. 43.

Since Mathews, for example, had read all the available publications, and made notes that are still present in his papers, we can view the 19th century work on these languages as a developing academic process. It is only after Federation that this work stops completely, as Luise Hercus pointed out in 1965, writing that “no proper first-hand investigation of any Victorian language had been carried out for precisely sixty years, since the work of R.H. Mathews.”

In that period of 60 years most of the languages of Victoria lost their last native speakers, a period that is rather neatly bounded by Federation at its beginning and the rise of a movement towards Indigenous rights that led to the 1967 referendum at its end.

Hercus, Luise A. 1965. ‘The Survival of Victorian Languages’. Mankind (6,5: 201-206)
Hercus, Luise A. 1986. Victorian languages – a late survey. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
Mathews, R.H. 1902a. ‘The Aboriginal languages of Victoria’ Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales. 36: 71-106.
Mathews, R.H. 1902b. ‘Languages of some native tribes of Queensland New South Wales and Victoria’ Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales. 36: 135-190.
Mathews, R.H. 1903. ‘Notes on some native dialects of Victoria’ Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales. 37: 243-253.
Mathews, R.H. no date. National Library of Australia, Manuscript 8006.
Smyth, Robert Brough. 1878. Aborigines of Victoria and other Parts of Australia and Tasmania (2 vols) Victorian Government Printer Melbourne. Republished in facsimile 1972 John Currey O’Neil Melbourne.

Mutual influence between Pacific and Australian anthropology and linguistics: from Fison and Howitt on
Patrick McConvell
Australian National University

Lorimer Fison and Alfred Howitt were a leading team of Pacific and Australian anthropologists in the nineteenth century. Fison’s expertise in Pacific languages assisted in the analysis of the material in Australian kinship and social organisation, for instance his spotting of a sound change in section terms in Queensland because of its similarity to one in Fijian. Howitt’s development of ethnographic methods in Australia and a comparative and evolutionary perspective on kinship systems was showing promise but never came to fruition at the time (Gardner & McConvell 2015). One of the reasons that these kinship themes were not explored at the time of the Howitt-Fison collaboration in the 1870’s-1880’s was their turn to concentration on social categories like sections, an exciting ‘discovery’ in Australia in the mid-nineteenth century. This also provoked interest in possible section-like systems in Fiji and Vanuatu. The proposal of such a system in Ambrym (Vanuatu) opened the door for Bernard Deacon’s recruitment to Radcliffe-Brown’s new Anthropology department at the University of Sydney, but Deacon died in 1927 before arriving there. The debate rumbles on with Scheffler’s (1970) denial that there is a section-like system there, with a response from Patterson (1976; Langham 1981: 345). If there was a section-like system in Vanuatu, does this suggest an actual connection between this part of Melanesia and northern Queensland, proposed as the origin of Australian section systems by McConvell (2018)?

Gardner, Helen & Patrick McConvell.2015. Southern Anthropology: a History of Fison and Howitt’s Kamilaroi and Kurnai. Palgrave MacMillan.
Deacon, A. Bernard. 1927. The regulation of marriage in Ambrym. JRAI. 57:325-342.
Langham, Ian. 1981. The Building of British Social Anthropology: W.H.R. Rivers and his Cambridge disciples in the development of kinship studies 1898-1931, Dordrecht: Reidel.
McConvell, Patrick. 2018. The Birds and the Bees: the origins of sections in Queensland. In McConvell, P. Kelly, P. & Lacrampe, S. eds. Skin, Kin and Clan: the Dynamics of Social Categories in Indigenous Australia. Pp.219-270. Canberra: ANU Press.
Patterson, Mary. 1976. Kinship, Marriage and Ritual in North Ambrym. Ph.D. thesis , University of Sydney.
Scheffler, Harold. 1970. ‘Ambrym Revisited: A Preliminary Report’. SWJA 26: 52-66.

Lineages of Wiradjuri description
Clara Stockigt
University of Adelaide

Between 1832 and 1843 successive missionaries stationed at the Anglican Church Mission Society (CMS) mission at Wellington Valley collated vocabularies and made grammatical analyses of Wiradjuri. While establishing the intellectual provenance of this early body of Wiradjuri linguistic material is “probably impossible” (Carey, 2009: 169), a forensic comparative reading of extant grammatical materials (Günther 1838; 1840; Hale 1846) helps establish the authorship of particular analyses.

An appraisal of the grammatical material produced at the mission suggests that mission histories (Bridges 1978; Carey 2009) have overplayed the involvement of CMS missionary W. Watson (1798–1866) and Basle-trained Anglican minister W.J. Günther (1806–1879), and have underplayed the contribution of the Basle-trained Lutheran minister J.S.C. Handt (1783-1863), who left the mission in 1836, a year before Günther’s arrival.

The grounds on which Threlkeld’s published accounts of Awabakal (1827; 1834) have been assumed to have shaped the missionaries’ analyses of Wiradjuri are examined, raising the possibility that the very early grammatical analyses of both languages were formulated in a realm of intellectual collaboration in which the flow of ideas may not have been as one-way as has generally been supposed.


Bridges, Barry John. 1978. The Church of England and the Aborigines of New South Wales 1788-1855. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. The University of New South Wales, Sydney.
Carey, H. M. 2009. Death, God and linguistics: Conversations with missionaries on the Australian frontier, 1824-1845. Australian Historical Studies 40 (2): 161-177.
Günther, J. W. 1838. The native dialect Wirradhurri spoken in the Wellington District. Unpublished ms. State Library of New South Wales, Mitchell library. C 136.
Günther, J. W. 1840. Lecture on the Aborigines of Australia and papers on the Wirradhurrei dialect 1837–1840. Unpublished ms. State Library of New South Wales, Mitchell library [Wiradjuri grammar. 337-379]. C 136.B 505.
Hale, Horatio. 1846. The languages of Australia. Ethnology and philology, Vol. VI of Reports of the United States exploring expedition 1838–1842. Philadelphia: Lee and Blanchard.
Threlkeld, L. E. 1927. Specimens of a dialect of the Aborigines of New South Wales: being the first attempt to form their speech into a written language. Sydney: Monitor Office.
Threlkeld, L. 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 River, Lake Macquarie, &c., New South Wales. Sydney: Stephens & Stokes.

W.H. Douglas and the study of Australia Languages
David Moore
University of Western Australia

This presentation explores the contribution of Wilfred H. Douglas to the description of Australian languages and to the development of descriptive Australianist linguistics. An immigrant from Northern Ireland under the Fairbridge Scheme Douglas developed an interest in the Nyungar language of southwestern Australia. This led to his training with the American linguist Ken Pike at the first Summer Institute of Linguistics schools in Melbourne in the early 1950s. He published the first phonemic analysis of an Australian language (Douglas 1955). Douglas coined the term ‘Western Desert Language’ and investigated dialect variation in the Western Desert. Leading the United Aborigines Mission linguistics department from his base in Kalgoorlie he inspired other missionary linguists to research Australian languages. Douglas contributed to the foundation of linguistics at the University of Western Australia, making a unique contribution to the discipline at a critical phase of its development.


Douglas, W.H., 1955, Phonology of the Australian Aboriginal language spoken at Ooldea, South Australia 1951–1952. Oceania 25:216–229.

Hymes, Dell and John Fought, 1981, American structuralism. The Hague: Mouton.

Luise Hercus’ legacy on Australian languages
Harold Koch
The Australian National University
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Luise Hercus’ research made a huge contribution to the knowledge of languages over a great part of south-eastern and southern Australia. This presentation attempts to summarise this contribution. We describe which languages what aspects of the each language she described. Her worked covered not only phonology, grammar and lexicon, but also establishing which languages were spoken where and how they are related genetically. Particular attention was devoted to areal features, which were shared across genetic divides. A valuable contribution was relating what she discovered through fieldwork with what was recorded in earlier written sources—using each to interpret the other. Her language documentation extended to the recording of a huge amount of knowledge of traditions (mythological narratives and songs), sites and placename information, local histories and biographies, cultural and ecological knowledge, etc. A theme we will pursue is the many ways that her knowledge of languages and groups, gained from fieldwork, has informed a host of other disciplines, including: the teaching and re-learning of languages to current generations of Aborigines; traditional culture, especially myths and songs; knowledge and ownership of country; ecology; post-contact history.

The expunction of the Reverend Richard Taylor from Australian Missionary Linguistics
Michael Walsh
The University of Sydney
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A few years ago I came across a manuscript by the Reverend Richard Taylor in the Alexander Turnbull Library within the National Library of New Zealand. Within this MS are Notes on New Holland which run to about 50 pages. These notes include material from the Wiradjuri language of central NSW as well as cultural material. This provides some background on Taylor:

In 1835 Richard Taylor took his MA. After he was appointed a missionary in New Zealand for the Church Missionary Society, the family sailed on the Prince Regent, disembarking at Sydney on 13 June 1836, in company with a fellow missionary, the Reverend William Yate. Because of a shortage of clergy and because Richard Taylor was required to give evidence concerning Yate’s alleged homosexual behaviour on board ship, the family remained in New South Wales for three years.

It seems that Taylor collected some of this material while at Wellington within Wiradjuri territory. This would have been some time within 1836-1839. The Church Missionary Society had a significant presence at Wellington from 1832 to 1840 including the Reverend James Guenther and the Reverend William Watson (both of whom made efforts in documenting the Wiradjuri language) as outlined by Carey (2009). Neither Carey nor other sources on Wiradjuri language documentation make mention of Taylor. At the time the entire population of Australia at around 125,000 was a little over the current population of Ballarat. We can assume that the population of Wellington in the 1830s must have been tiny so how is it that Taylor’s linguistic efforts to have been expunged from the history of from Australian Missionary Linguistics?


Carey, Hilary 2009 Death, God and linguistics: conversations with missionaries on the Australian frontier, 1824-1845. Australian Historical Studies 40 (2): 161-177.

Upcoming events

28-30 June 2023
Faro, Portugal
International Inter-association (History of Language Teaching) Conference
Language teachers, methodologies and teacher training in historical perspective

4-6 September 2023
Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal
2023 Annual Colloquium of the Henry Sweet Society
What counts as scientific in the History of Linguistics?

6-9 September 2023
Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Portugal
XXXII. International Colloquium of the “Studienkreis ‘Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft'” (SGdS)
Controversies in the history of linguistics

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