Category Archives: Chirila

Recently Added to Chirila

  • Wergaia
  • Holmer’s Darumbal list
  • Mathi-Mathia
  • Sidney May papers

 

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Polygons and centroids now on Zenodo

I’ve updated the polygon and centroid files for Australian language locations, and placed them on Zenodo. This means there’s something stable for you to reference if you want to use them and refer to them. As always, comments and corrections very welcome. And as always, please consider using the Zenodo community for Australian languages to upload your own materials.

Videos for Zenodo uploads

I made some videos about how to upload files to the Zenodo repository for Australian languages:

is how to sign up for a zenodo account

will show you how to upload files to the Australian Languages Zenodo community. Should be a help for anyone who would like to upload files but isn’t sure how.

Color in Pama-Nyungan: update

Last November, Hannah Haynie and I published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on color term systems in Pama-Nyungan. In it, we used phylogenetic methods to show that color term systems can both gain and lose terms, and that while they do so mostly in accordance with prior work on color term systems (Berlin and Kay, Kay and Maffi, and colleagues), we also found evidence for ‘exceptional’ systems that appeared not to conform to the B&K system. We used data from the Chirila database and fairly standard phylogenetic methods of ancestral state reconstruction.

For an analysis of this type to be correct, several assumptions must be satisfied:

  • sample data need to be representative of the languages as a whole;
  • sample data need to be correct;
  • the analytical tools need to be applicable to what’s being studied;
  • the analyses need to be interpreted correctly.

Over the last six months, Hannah and I have been in correspondence with David Nash about many of these points, particularly those involving sampling, the correctness of the underlying data, and judgments about what is a color term. In particular, in the original version of Table S1, a data conversion error resulted in words from several languages being associated with the wrong row in the table (particularly Wargamay and Warlmanpa). This did not affect the analyses reported in the paper, as the error was introduced when spreadsheets were converted to Microsoft Word documents for uploading to the journal’s online submission site. [The corrected table is available here.]

The discussions with Nash revolved around several issues already identified both in our paper and the supplementary materials:

  • the difficulty of determining whether a color term is genuinely absent from the language, or simply not recorded;
  • the difficulty of establishing the ranges of color terms glossed in English by non-native speakers of the language;
  • the issue of polysemy, for example, whether a term glossed as “unripe, green” is truly a color term, or whether “green” here is meant solely in the sense of “unripe, not ready for eating” (and therefore not glossing a true color term).

Coding decisions of this type are based on a careful philological analysis of each individual source, and while phylogenetic analyses are usually robust to individual errors, systematic errors may bias the results. In general, where Hannah and I were unsure, we tended to include rather than exclude; this applies especially to terms for ‘green’ and terms for ‘red’ based on words meaning ‘blood’ (which could be interpreted as the descriptive adjective ‘bloody’ rather than a true color term). For ‘green’ terms, many languages have a word that is glossed as ‘green’ or ‘unripe’; while some of these terms do appear to be real color terms (in that they can refer to items that aren’t unripe, like shirts), others aren’t — they refer to the ripeness of fruit, not directly to its color. (We had a similar problem with ‘grey’, which was often ambiguously glossed as a color term or a word referring only to grey hair.)

Another issue is the extent to which we make use of data from closely related languages in determining the color inventory of a particular language variety. For example, if a particular variety appears to lack a term for ‘blue’, but a term is present in other languages in the subgroup, are we justified in treating the lack of a term as a true omission? In our analyses, we treated such cases as absent rather than indeterminate, because we did not want to omit true variation in the color inventories of languages. But it would also be a possible argument to claim that color inventories are unlikely to vary so much between dialects of the same language (or closely related languages in a subgroup), so unrecorded colors are probably omissions from data collection rather than genuine absences from the language.

We suspect that some terms were not recorded because of the linguists’ expectations about what items are present (or not) in a language. For example, Australian languages are stereotypically claimed to lack color terms beyond black, white, red, and yellow; this can lead researchers not to ask for terms like blue or purple.

Finally, data for this paper came from the Chirila database (Bowern 2016), which while extensive (800,000+ items), is by no means exhaustive. Nash brought to our attention several cases where color terms had been recorded in sources which are not in Chirila. These are also noted in the revised supplementary table and reflected in the newly uploaded analysis files.

In order to assess the impact of our coding decisions, as well as the impact of terms which were missing from Chirila and hence recorded as absent from the languages, we re-ran all analyses. We ran two sets of updated analyses. One simply corrected errors resulting from data missing from Chirila. The other also used Nash’s alternative judgments about presence/absence of color terms like ‘green’. In neither case were our main conclusions affected. That is, we still find support for both color gain and color loss. While, as is expected, the numerical values of individual results changed somewhat, our inferences and conclusions stand. Color loss is possible (under this model), though it’s substantially less common than color gain.

I am currently working on a new update to Chirila and many of these revised sources will be available there.

New preprint (etc) archive for Australian languages!

I worry about data. It’s my job. I worry about how to analyze it, how to collect it, how to present it, and what happens to it. A particular worry for me at the moment is the very large amount of ‘grey’ publications for Australian language: that is, the language materials that are published locally, for example, by language centres or smaller publishers. There are also gems in working papers collections, some of which only exist in photocopies of photocopies at this stage. Some important work has come out of Hono(u)rs Theses, but that work isn’t often widely available, and unlike PhD theses, it tends not to make its way to university repositories. I have a large collection of such materials, both in print and in scanned format, and I presume that others do too, particularly the “older generation” of Australianists who did most of their work before putting stuff on the web was what one did as a matter of course.

Another area of accessibility in work on Australian languages is fire-walled publications (or subscription-only publications). There is an increasing attention to Open Access, but for various reasons, much work is either print-only or e-print but behind a firewall. But in many cases, authors are able to upload freely available preprints.

It’s important to make our work available to the many groups who are interested in language: to our linguist colleagues, to the wider scientific community, to the general public, and in particular to members of the Aboriginal community.

So, I’ve started a ‘community’ on Zenodo for Australian languages. Zenodo is an archive platform for sharing research. In a nutshell, you upload your paper, handout, or other item, give the site some information about the work’s metadata, and publish it. You choose a license to share your work under (it can be closed (archived), for example), upload the file(s), and presto!

Zenodo is somewhat similar to academia.edu and researchgate.net, in that it takes work and makes it available. However, there are also a couple of big differences. Both academia.edu and researchgate are for profit, while Zenodo is not for profit, and funded by CERN and programs in the EU’s Open Science Initiative. Zenodo uploads are publications, while the others’ aren’t. Zenodo assigns DOIs, allowing for referencing versions of publications (which makes it great for databases or dictionaries or other work that might have multiple editions or versions). It also lets you upload collections of files as a single item (which the others don’t), and it works well with code repositories like github, so you can publish the paper, supporting documentation, and code at the same time. If you have sound files, you can include them with the paper under the same DOI (which you can’t do on academia, for example)

Another issue is findability – in theory, everything on the web is ‘findable’ if you know what to search for. Search engines, however, optimize results, weighting results from different places differentially. I know from the experience of finding papers for ozpapers that it can be hard to find work on Australian languages, even when I have regular alerts set up. For example, not all university thesis repositories show up in google alerts (you have to know what to look for)

To contribute to Zenodo, go to https://zenodo.org/communities/australianlanguages/

You’ll see a list of current contributions and a button to upload.

If you have old handouts, or other useful information about Australian languages, that you would like to contribute but do not have the time/inclination to upload them, if you can get me the scans (or even paper copies), my students and I will upload them for you.

 

New bootcamp under way!

The 2017 grammar boot camp starts tomorrow. Three students (with bios below) will be working with me on materials for Noongar. We’re very lucky to be working with Denise Smith-Ali, Noongar linguist, and Sue Hanson from the Goldfields Language Centre. Our main focus for the month is to put together a phonological description of Noongar, with sound files to illustrate what we are describing. In some ways, this is pretty straightforward (in that it’s the sort of thing linguists do, the scope is known, etc) but in other ways, it’ll be a challenge! For example, we want to make something easy to access, and easy to edit and update. We’ll be posting more about this as we make decisions.

Akshay Aitha: Akshay is a rising senior at UC Berkeley working on a double major in Linguistics and Applied Mathematics (with a concentration in Logic). My main research interest at the moment is the functional structure of nominals, especially in my heritage language, Telugu. I also have a strong enthusiasm for linguistic fieldwork. Outside of my coursework, I’ve been involved as a research assistant on various phonetics and fieldwork projects under graduate students in the Berkeley Linguistics department, and I’m also involved in my department as an officer of our club for undergraduates, SLUgS.

Lydia Ding: Lydia is a recent graduate of Carleton College, where she majored in Linguistics and completed a senior thesis for distinction on wh-questions in Nukuoro [nkr] (Polynesian). Her primary interests lie in language documentation, syntax, morphology, and computational linguistics.

Sarah Mihuc: Sarah is a recent graduate of McGill University with a BA Honours in Linguistics & Computer Science. She works on anti-agreement and on word order in Kabyle Berber. She also has experience in experimental and computational linguistics, and fieldwork on two Mayan languages.

Conference talk on grammar boot camps

I run a grammar boot camp every year, where a small group of students write a grammar of a language in a month. Last year it was Ngalia, and this year (starting in a few weeks) it’ll be Cundalee Wangka and Kuwarra. I also ran a year-long grammar group to pilot the idea in 2013, using materials from Tjupan. All four languages are varieties of the Wati subgroup of Pama-Nyungan and all the books are based on fieldwork conducted by Sue Hanson.

At the recent Wanala Conference run by the Goldfields Language Centre, Anaí Navarro, Matthew Tyler and I did a video presentation about the boot camp, its aims, methods, and results. Here’s a link to the video: https://drive.google.com/a/yale.edu/file/d/0ByIoQcheKNw2RGx4amVjNjhLOUk/view. Warning that it’s 190mb and 22 minutes long.