Category Archives: Media

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.

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.

Documenting Endangered Languages outreach videos

A new set of videos have been released which provide information on how to apply for a grant to do language documentation. The series is focused on the requirements for the National Science Foundation’s DEL program, but there is much information that would be useful to anyone applying for funding for their language projects. The videos are aimed at community members as much as (if not more than) academic linguists.

I have two of the video segments: components of an application, and 6 things that tank a grant proposal. The first segment is DEL-specific; we walk through the sections of an application. The second one, however, is very general, and applies to just about all grant applications.

In brief, the six things are

  1. A project outside the agency’s mandate (e.g. DEL funds linguistic work on endangered languages)
  2. Project doesn’t meet the agency requirements (e.g. they ask for X, Y, and Z in the application, but if that’s not provided, it’ll be rejected;
  3. Unrealistic aims, budget, time frame.
  4. Too vague
  5. Too specific, too narrow for the scope of the budget or time, ie not good value for money
  6. Inconsistency in the proposal.

You can watch the video here for further information.

Edited to add: Production of the videos was funded by NSF grant BCS#1500695, awarded to Racquel Sapien and Carlos Nash. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

domain name update

The domain is now defunct. (I registered it in 2005 through yahoo “small business” as part of my Houston home phone account, and now can’t recover the account information. It’s somewhere in internet limbo.) My blog is still available from, though. At some point I may even have time to write some more contentful posts.

Aboriginal Languages Project for ABC Open


The Eastern States Aboriginal Languages Group is working with Suzanne Taylor of ABC Open Wodonga running a project called “Our Mother Tongue”. The intention of the project is to raise awareness of Languages and language programs in the general public. Initially the project is being piloted in Victoria with films being made about three Victorian languages and radio programs and promos being run on regional stations across Victoria through NAIDOC and the following weeks.
Next week Suzanne will be meeting with the ABC Open powers that be to advocate for the project to run nationally. This would mean that for the next year the 50 ABC Open producers around Australia would each produce stories about their local languages and programs.
It would be great if you could have a look at the films and drop a line or two of feedback down the bottom of the blog. Sharing and cross posting the stories are also appreciated. Comments about how you’d like to see a story like this made in your region, or the region you work in, will particularly help Suzanne in her pitch for National uptake.
Two films made so far are below:
Here is an extended article Suzanne wrote for ABC Sydney on the Wiradjuri program:
Thank you very much for your time in this regard
Carolyn Barker
Faith Baisden
Eastern States Aboriginal Languages Group

Endangered Languages Catalogue is Out

Point your browsers right now to and check out your favourite language. It’s definitely a work in progress, but it’s nicely presented and I hope it will provide a realization of just how precarious so many languages are.

I prepared a FAQ for the Australian section that explains some of the choices of for including languages, as well as other things to do with Australia. It got overlooked in the original launch, so I’m copying it here. It will hopefully answer some of the questions that linguists and the general public will immediately ask when they see data like this.

Another thing I need to say, since it also didn’t make it into the launched database, is that there *is* source material in the underlying database for language names, speaker numbers, work on the language, and so forth. In fact, there’s a huge bibliography behind this project that the ElCat team compiled over the last year. Linguistic aficionados will recognize data from, as well as other sources. Hopefully that will be more clearly acknowledged before too long.

Finally, many thanks to everyone who gave me feedback earlier in the year. I did submit changes based on your comments, however it seems that many of those changes are not reflected in the current dataset; the changes are still being worked through. Same deal with all the resources I was sent; I’m sorry that so few of them appear to have made it into the launched version, but they are there and should hopefully appear soon. The map data is, however, mostly my responsibility: so if it’s wrong, do tell me directly or submit a comment on the site.


Who compiled this list?

The Australian section was a joint effort between the LinguistList and Claire Bowern, using data from many sources. Claire’s work was funded by NSF grant 844550 “Pama-Nyungan and Australian Prehistory”, though any opinions expressed in those parts of the site do not reflect opinions of the NSF.

I thought Australian languages were just dialects. Why are so many languages listed?

There are 27 different language families in Australia, and about 380 languages. (By way of comparison, Europe has about 250 languages in 4 families.) Some of the languages are quite similar to each other, while others are as different from each other as Chinese and Hebrew, or English and Japanese.

Some languages have no speakers listed – why are they “endangered”? Aren’t they “dead”?

For some languages, we haven’t been able to confirm speaker numbers. In other cases, there isn’t anyone who has grown up speaking the language, but there are still people who identify with the language, and who are working to revitalize their languages.

What does it mean to say a language is “sleeping”?

Some languages aren’t spoken daily anymore, but there are community groups who are working to bring their languages back into use. Some of those communities refer to their languages as “sleeping” rather than “dead”, since those languages are still an important part of the life and identity of the community, even if they aren’t regularly used.

Why are so many Australian languages endangered?

There are a lot of reasons, many of which date back to the early years of European settlement. Introduced diseases killed many Aboriginal people, along with hunger from reduced access to hunting grounds. In some cases, it’s because of massacres. At the Mindiri massacre at Kooncherie Point in the mid-1880s, well over 100 people were killed, including most of the speakers of Wadikali, Pirlatapa, Yarluyandi, and Malyangapa. Later, other groups were disproportionately affected by Stolen Generations policies [link:]. Social and economic reasons have also led to many Aboriginal people shifting to English, Kriol [link:], and other Aboriginal languages.

My language is strong! Why are you calling it “endangered”?

There are many different ways that a language can be endangered. Because the number of speakers of Aboriginal/TSI languages is small overall, it doesn’t take much for some languages to come under threat. Children find it hard to resist the pressure from the media, schools and the internet to switch to speaking English most of the time. Once children have made that switch, the language is severely endangered.

Some communities don’t realize at first that their languages are under threat. For example, they might think that the language is healthy because it’s still used in the community, but it might be only the elders who are using it – that’s a sign that the language is endangered.

We recognize that some languages in the catalogue are still strong, that children are learning them and they are actively used in the community, and we want to support that work. Let us know what you’re doing, and we’ll make sure we update the catalogue.

Where can I find out more information about Aboriginal/TSI languages?

New South Wales: [Koori Centre, Universirty of Sydney]


Western Australia:

South Australia:

General: [a recent report on language use in Aboriginal Australia]

I want to learn an Aboriginal language: where can I find more information?

For starters: for Pitjantjatjara publishes books on Aboriginal languages for the Kaurna language of the Adelaide Region Charles Darwin University’s Yolŋu Studies unit

I want to find out more about my language – where do I go?

Try for published sources, and for the archives of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (they have a lot of unpublished information about language and culture).

I’m a speaker of an Aboriginal/TSI language and I’d like to work with a linguist – who should I contact?

Submit a comment on the language with your contact details and we’ll put you in touch with local people – we’d love to hear from you!

The Documenting and Revitalizing Indigenous Languages (DRIL) Program team may be able to help you:, or

Or if you live in South Australia the Mobile Language Team may be able to help:

My mum/dad/grandparents speak some Language and I’d like to record them. Do you have any advice?

Have a look at the links at, or the tutorials at

We have good ideas for helping maintain Aboriginal/TSI languages but it needs some funding and support – where can we get it from?

If you live in an area with an Indigenous language centre, ask them. The Federal Government funds some language work through the Indigenous Language Support program:

Elan and Sendpraat redux

I has an earlier post on sendpraat and praat with Elan. Here’s an update from Han Sloetjes (via Ruth Singer).

It’s possible that there’s an issue with the file permissions, and this needs to be fixed in the terminal window:

  • open a Terminal window (Applications/Utilities/Terminal)
  • type “cd ” (without the quotes) and drag the folder where sendpraat is into the Terminal window. This copies the path to the folder. With the Terminal window active, press enter.
  • You should now be “in” the right folder and you can type “ls -al” followed by enter.
  • The output should be something like this:

dhcp68:sendpraat han$ ls -al
-r-xr-xr-x@  1 han  admin  17400 27 mrt  2008 sendpraat
-r-xr-xrwx@  1 han  staff  17400 11 mrt  2008 sendpraat_intel
-rw-r–r–@  1 han  staff  21900 13 jan  2006 sendpraat_ppc

  • If there are no “x” (executable) characters in the first part of the sendpraat line, you can do the following command

chmod 557 sendpraat

  • followed by enter, then try ls -al again to see the changes. If there is an  “x” try again from within ELAN.