Waving to the Other Side: The Language of Poetry in Indigenous Australian Song
Free Public Lecture
Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A (Room G06)
Poetry and song are inextricably interwoven in most Indigenous Australian traditions. Yet the poetic masterpieces found across the continent are little known outside their immediate communities, tied up as they are with the intricacies of the languages they are sung in. As a result, Australia has little awareness of the many hundreds of Shakespeares, Keatses and Bob Dylans whose poetic masterpieces are composed in First Nations languages. The same goes for the continent’s rich and varied Indigenous musical traditions.
In this talk Professor Evans will give a glimpse into the richness of the poetic language found across a number of Australian indigenous traditions, focusing on allusive subtlety, inner feeling, multilingual characterisation, the deployment of vocabulary and grammar for expressive nuance, and the role of song in maintaining language knowledge through the powerful emotional charge it generates.
The title of the talk is taken from some lines of a Mayali song by the late and great Djorli Laywanga, a Dalabon songman: Kurebe ngadjowkke ngawayudwayudme, marrek berlnayiii, marrek nuk berlnayiii. ‘From the other side of the river I am waving, I couldn’t see your arm waving back, Maybe I missed your arm waving’.
Professor Evans hopes that the close readings of several poetic masterpieces to be undertaken during the lecture will help span what is seen and heard across the river.
Professor Nicholas Evans, ARC Laureate Fellow, Distinguished Professor of Linguistics, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
Professor Nicholas Evans
ARC Laureate Fellow, Distinguished Professor of Linguistics, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
Australian National University (ANU)
Nicholas (Nick) Evans, ARC Laureate Fellow and Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at the Australian National University, directs the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL). He has carried out wideranging fieldwork on indigenous languages of Australia and Papua New Guinea. The driving interest of his work is the interplay between documenting and describing the incredible diversity contained in the world’s endangered languages and the many humanistic and scientific questions they can help us answer. In addition to booklength grammars and dictionaries of several Aboriginal languages (Kayardild, Bininj Gunwok, Dalabon) and edited collections on numerous linguistic topics, he has published over 170 scientific papers. His crossover book Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us, which sets out a broad program for engaging with the world's dwindling linguistic diversity has been translated into French, Japanese, Korean and German, with a Chinese translation soon to appear. He has also worked as a linguist, interpreter and anthropologist in two Native Title claims, and as a promotor of Aboriginal art. Nick is a member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Australian Social Sciences Academy, a corresponding member of the British Academy, and the recipient of the inaugural Anneliese Maier Forschungspreis from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation / German Ministry of Science and Education, and the Ken Hale Award from the Linguistics Society of America.