Pama-Nyungan language locations

As noted in a previous post, I’ve started to put some of the results of my Pama-Nyungan prehistory grant on my lab web site, at One of the recent updates is a language map. The data are not new; this map was released in about 2011 (though with updates since). It is released through a wordpress plugin on the site, which allows easy embedding of maps into sites. I highly recommend it for its ease of use, except for the fact that it doesn’t seem  to render in Chrome on a Mac (at least, not on my mac).

Comments on language locations, names, etc, on the map are very welcome. Please use the comment form on the map’s page.

Semantic maps in Pama-Nyungan

One of the advantages of a large lexical database is the ability to test large-scale ideas about language behaviors. As a quick experiment this afternoon, I extracted all the colexification patterns from the database. These are all the words that are glossed by multiple distinct words within the same language.* 20 minutes to download the file, and about the same to manipulate it with the igraph package in R to produce some cluster visualisations.

Fruchterman-Reingold layout, colexification patterns appearing more than 50 times in Australian languages. (c) Claire Bowern, 2015

Fruchterman-Reingold layout, colexification patterns appearing more than 50 times in Australian languages. (c) Claire Bowern, 2015

*Of course, there are going to be issues with this, particularly in the lack of colexification evidence for some languages. The data are only as complete or as good as the dictionaries that went into the database in the first place.

Release of the Australian lexical database

I will be releasing the part tranche of data in the 775,000 word lexical database in Mid-August. It will most probably be available as a series of downloads at In order to download the data, you will need to register and agree to some terms and conditions. More about that once the data are released.

In the meantime, I will be doing a series of posts about features of the dataset and some of its uses. I hope this will encourage others to contribute data, or to allow us to make data readily available.

Anggarrgoon content at

Anggarrgoon posts (of which there may be slightly more than one per year in future) will be cross-posted on my research web site,

@pamanyungan on twitter

My new grant has a twitter presence. We’ll be tweeting relevant language and other research, grant findings, news, and the like. See

Lab manager for NSF project

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve hired Matthew Massie (Yale) as lab manager to help coordinate aspects of my new Pama-Nyungan grant. This will include more regular updates to the papers blog, coordinating consultations about release of materials associated with the comparative database, and providing more plain English/informal summaries of recent research activities.

‘Grammar Boot Camp’ at Yale

I will be holding a summer ‘grammar boot camp’ next year (2015), from June 1 to June 26. The idea is to have up to four advanced undergraduate students work intensively on existing high-quality archival field notes and recordings with the aim of producing a publishable sketch grammar. Students will receive a stipend and travel expenses to come to Yale.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program; as such, applicants are limited to US citizens or permanent residents. Students who have graduated in Spring 2015 will be eligible to apply. The targeted cohort is undergraduates who will have just finished either their junior or senior year.

Applications will be accepted towards the end of 2014 and applicants will be notified about the result in mid-February. Students will need to show some evidence of prior research experience (e.g. through an RA-ship or by having a senior thesis in progress) and some familiarity with language documentation procedures (e.g. through having taken a field methods class or equivalent, such as attendance at a CoLang summer school). Applicants will need to show attention to detail and ability to focus on a project for a sustained period. The application will require a letter from the student and two letters of support from faculty.

The materials to be worked on will be from an Australian Aboriginal language from Western Australia and will include both print materials and audio files. It is probable that the ‘print’ materials will already be digitized and in Toolbox.

Students will meet twice a day as a group with me to discuss analyses and writing. They will spend the rest of the time working with the materials in the department. They will receive regular detailed feedback on the analysis and writing. Familiarity with Australian languages is not required but I would expect that successful applicants would do some reading of grammars of related languages (which would be provided) prior to the start of the boot camp.

More formal application information will be sent out later, but for now I just wanted to let everyone know about the opportunity so potential students can keep it in mind when planning their course schedules and plans for the coming year.

Please forward to anyone you think would be interested and feel free to contact me with any questions.