Past research projects
- ACLA1 (2004-2007)
- ACLA2 (2011-2015)
- A longitudinal study of the interaction of home and school language in three Aboriginal communities (2008-2014)
- Children's Perspectives On Growing Up Multilingual At Warruwi Community (2011-2014)
- Doing great things with small languages (2009-2014)
- He's not heavy, he's my brother (2013-2016)
- Narrative art (2011-2013)
- New methodologies for representing and accessing resources on endangered languages: a case study from South Efate (2004-2006)
- Stories around a sand space (2011-2013)
- Structure and meaning in three Australian Languages (2011-2013)
- Getting in Touch: Digital resources for Indigenous languages
Professor Gillian Wigglesworth, Patrick McConvell and Professor Jane Simpson
The Aboriginal Child Language Project 1 was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant. The project investigated the type of input children receive in multilingual environments that include a traditional language, a contact variety of English and code-mixing between languages and speech styles. It involved case studies of three Aboriginal communities.
Professor Gillian Wigglesworth and Professor Jane Simpson
The Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition Project will identify how well Indigenous Australian children manage the major change from a home environment, in which Standard Australian English is not the dominant code, to the school environment, in which it is the main code. This will allow us to determine whether, and to what extent, the different codes the children bring from home, and the demands made of them in the school, affect their ability to manage and fully participate in the school environment.
A longitudinal study of the interaction of home and school language in three Aboriginal communities (2008-2014)
Professor Gillian Wigglesworth and Professor Jane Simpson
ARC Discovery Project DP0877762
The importance of language skills cannot be underestimated, and contribute to 'a healthy start to life'. In multilingual Indigenous communities, children must negotiate the complexities of different languages used for different purposes. This project will provide detailed insights into how children manage differences between home and school language, the kinds of problems they encounter when they enter the school system, and how their languages develop over the first four crucial years of school which provide the foundation for the children's future education. Their ability to manage the language of school underpins their ability to lead successful and engaged lives as adults.
Children's Perspectives On Growing Up Multilingual At Warruwi Community (2011-2014)
Dr Ruth Singer
Two Faculty of Arts research grants and an Early Career Researcher grant, The University of Melbourne
Warruwi Community, Arnhem Land is one of very few places in Australia where children grow up speaking more than one traditional Indigenous language. This project investigated language use at Warruwi Community through biographical interviews, participant observation and the analysis of multilingual conversations. The project examined the relationships between Indigenous languages at Warruwi Community to identify how so many small languages are maintained in this community. Although the set of languages spoken at Warruwi Community has changed since White contact, the way that multilingualism is practiced seems to reflect long standing practices underpinned by persisting language ideologies and attitudes to multilingualism.
The project looked at three age groups: adults, school children 6-10 years and adolescents 15-18 years. This study showed how strong indigenous languages have been maintained within multilingual communities so that we can work out how better to support Indigenous languages. The study also contributed to international debates around the nature of language change in small, highly multilingual communities, which are thought to have been the norm throughout most of human history.
Doing great things with small languages (2009-2014)
Associate Professor Nick Thieberger and Professor Rachel Nordlinger
Linguists routinely record minority endangered languages for which no prior documentation exists. This is vitally important work which often records language structures and knowledge of the culture and physical environment that would otherwise be lost. However, while it is typical for the interpretation and analysis of this data to be published, the raw data is rarely made available... How do we embed theoretical research work in responsible fieldwork so that we can create good primary data for longterm reuse by the speaker communities we work with and by other researchers? How can we build shared digital infrastructure to support collaborative research, both within Australia and internationally?
He's not heavy, he's my brother (2013-2016)
The acquisition of kinship terminology in a morphologically complex Australian Language
Dr Joe Blythe
Discovery Early Career Researcher Award
Of the 250+ Aboriginal languages spoken pre-contact, only 18 are still being learned by children. One of these is Murrinhpatha. Extended family networks lie at the nexus of the social universe and of Murrinhpatha's very complex grammar. This project investigates how children acquire the grammar and lexicon of kinship. It will further the continuity of Murrinhpatha and other strong languages by investigating the attainment of grammatical and social competence, thus placing Australia at the forefront of kinship acquisition, morphologically complex language acquisition and scientifically targeted language maintenance.
Narrative art (2011-2013)
Multimodal documentation of speech, song, sign, drawing and gesture in Arandic storytelling traditions from Central Australia
Dr Jennifer Green
ELDP Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship IPF0173
In Central Australia the expressive potentials of verbal and visual art forms are combined in multimodal narratives that incorporate speech, song, sign language, gesture and drawing. These stories are a highly valued yet endangered part of the traditions of Central Australian peoples. This project took a multimodal and multidisciplinary approach to the documentation of stories from the Arandic language group - a group of closely related languages spoken by about 5,500 people. It provides a significant record of these narrative practices and provides rich data sets for analyses that enhance our understanding of how multimodal communicative systems work.
New methodologies for representing and accessing resources on endangered languages: a case study from South Efate (2004-2006)
Associate Professor Nick Thieberger
ARC Discovery Project DP0450342
Linguists produce material which has immense cultural significance as it is often the only record of endangered cultures. With new technologies come new ways of working with indigenous languages. This project developed an innovative methodology for documenting and archiving data from a language of the Pacific. It did this by linking a dictionary, texts, audio, video, images and a grammar in order to facilitate presentation of both the data and its analysis to speakers, fellow linguists, and the general public. The methodology developed during this project resulted in innovative linguistic data management techniques conformant to emerging international standards.
Stories around a sand space (2011-2013)
Multimodal interaction in Central Australian Aboriginal sand drawing narratives
Dr Jennifer Green
ARC Discovery Project Fellowship DP110102767
Central Australian Aboriginal sand stories are a unique form of storytelling that incorporates speech, song, gesture, signs and drawn graphic symbols. This project enhanced our understandings of these narrative traditions and provided insight into the complexities of multimodal communicative systems as they are used in day‑to‑day interactions.
Structure and meaning in three Australian Languages (2011-2013)
Professor Janet Fletcher, Dr Marija Tabain (La Trobe) and Dr Ruth Singer
ARC Discovery grant
The tone or melody of a sentence can communicate different kinds of meaning, yet this important aspect of spoken language is still poorly understood for Australian Indigenous languages. In fact most of our linguistic models of speech communication are based on a handful of the world's languages. This project redressed this imbalance by showing how the Australian languages Mawng, Bininj Gun-wok and Pitjantjatjara use intonation in different contexts and situations. A second outcome of the project was a revision of current intonational typology to take into account the unique pronunciation features of Australian languages. This project also found out more about how intonation is used to express information structure in Mawng, in combination with word order and other strategies.
Getting in Touch: Digital resources for Indigenous languages
The Getting in Touch project seeks to create new and meaningful language projects with Indigenous communities with respect to the development of new digital technologies. The Getting in Touch project aims toward the concept of Digital Inclusion: making sure that Indigenous communities have support to develop digital resources in their own languages. In April 2014, a workshop was held at the Batchelor Institute's campus at the Desert People's Centre in Alice Springs. It brought together teams from Indigenous communities, linguists and technology experts.
The workshop discussed issues and ideas about digital tools for Indigenous Language Speakers. Everyone brainstormed these ideas and created maps and plans for future resources. Among those present were language teams from Maningrida, Wadeye, Warruwi (Goulburn Island), Ti Tree, Alice Springs, Willowra, Ngaanyatjarra lands, Pitjantjatjara lands, and Mwengart (McClaren Creek).
The workshop was funded by the University of Melbourne Social Equity Institute, and supported by the Australian Government's Indigenous Languages Support Program, the Australian Research Council, Batchelor Institute and First Languages Australia.
You can read about the project, view some presentation slides and watch a short film about the project on the Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics Getting in Touch web page.
One of the major outcomes from this workshop was the development of the Getting in Touch Bird Apps.