I think I’ve figured out why Laves writes some initial vowels (particularly of verbs) as long.
Bardi has a heap of verb inflection, as readers of this blog probably know by now. There’s a person marker, a tense marker, a transitivity marker, and a number marker, and that’s before you get to the verb root! The third person past prefix bundle is ingarr- (or ingarra- if the verb is transitive). The i is a short vowel phonemically, and there’s no phonological or grammatical reason for it ever to be long. But Laves sometimes writes it as long.
I noticed this morning that NI has significant prosodic lengthening in focal positions, particularly in lists of actions (e.g. they did this, then they did that, then they went home) – the first vowel of the last verb is lengthened to about 160 msec, which is getting towards the length of phonemic long vowels.
It’ll be fun to test this and see if it works for the Laves corpus too, although it’ll be a bit hard. One of the transcription decisions I made was to standardise orthography. We recognised that that would probably mean losing some things like this, but since the aim is to produce something that Bardi people can use, particularly Bardi learners, we needed to standardise. Major differences are annotated, and some of these long vowels are, but we didn’t annotate every instance of minor orthographical difference.