Category Archives: Other

Spelling conventions in 19thC Australian wordlists

I’m getting together the documentation for my research students to start work next week. I thought it might be useful to post my compilation of common features in non-phonemically spelled Australian wordlists. It’s not comprehensive and there is more or less internal consistency within the wordlists.

Checklist for common tendencies in old sources.

  • British/Australian English, not American English.
    • therefore syllable-final r usually (although not always) marks length
    • a is further back
    • vowel length might be meaningful
  • Voicing not usually marked – usually in free variation at the start of words, voiceless at the end
  • English spelling conventions very strong, e.g.
    • <ck> for /k/ at the ends of words,
    • <bate> likely to be /bayit/ rather than /bati/
    • <biggle> likely to be /bigal/, not /bigli/
    • <y> at ends of words is usually /i/
    • <-ine>, <-ane>, etc for /-ayin/
  • “Random” letters added under influence of English orthography:
    • Wriggle /rigal/
  • /a:/ is often signaled by <ar> (remember, Australian/British English!)
  • You cannot assume internal consistency within wordlists, although this varies a great deal.
  • They almost never make a difference between /r/ and /ɻ/ – if you see <r> versus <rr> you can’t assume it’s marking a rhotic difference
  • They often use consonant doubling to mark a short vowel, especially after the initial stress
  • Hyphenation is usually meaningless
  • Substitutions:
    • sh, s for tj
    • c/k alternations
    • gn, g, w, m, n, or nothing for ŋ initially
    • They are better at ŋ intervocalically but <ng> could be either /ŋ/ or /ŋg/
    • nk could be /nk/ or /ŋk/
    • e for i, or for schwa in second vowel of word (English etymological spellings)
    • u as schwa: <butcha> probably /patja/ or /patha/
    • u in initial syllable often /a/
    • th can mean /t/, /th/ or an actual fricative
    • ee for /i/
    • oo for /u/ [check within the list whether they seem to use <u> and <a> or <oo> and <u/a>
    • y for /ay(i)/ in initial syllables, for /i/ finally
    • random capitalisation


This is a public service announcement.

Proquest have digitised a lot more of the UMI dissertation holdings and many are available for downloading.

Happy searching…

Some pictures from the library

James asked for some pictures of the stacks and the library. I’ve included a bunch over the fold.

Continue reading

New Haven again

Even New Haven’s rubbish bins are in the Ivy League. There can’t be too many places in the US that have Latin on the bins. In this case, it’s the seal of New Haven:

sigill. civitat. novi. port. in repub. connecticutensi. 1784
seal of the city of New Haven in the Republic of Connecticut, 1784.


(The recycling bins are somewhat less well-educated; they simply report “because it all adds up”)

New Haven: first impressions

Certain people of my acquaintence have been known to speak slightingly of New Haven and its environs. The noun “hole” has come up from time to time, as has the adjective “dead”.

I am pleased to report that Havers is, at least so far (about 3 weeks now) turning out to be a very pleasant place to live. It’s biggest drawback so far is that it doesn’t have many names that lend themselves to hypocoristics. How on earth would we form a clippie on Quinnipiac? East Rock? Temple St?

I went to the library a few days ago to check out (literally and metaphorically) their Australian grammar collection. It’s definitely an Ivy League library. There’s no sign for the entrance to the stacks, it’s inferred from the presence of the security guard in front of a dark doorway. Once beyond the guard station, one is confronted by a dimly lit box-like room, with an elevator at one end and unmarked doors on all sides. A perusal of the 8-point shelf guide approximately 6′ from the floor (I am 5’4″) tell me that I want floor 2M for PL7000-. I’m guessing that this is what I want, because like all true Ivy League libraries, there are at least two call number systems and I don’t know exactly when they switched form whatever they used before to Library of Congress (at Harvard I once worked out it must have been about 1958).

I go to the second floor and the elevator* lets me out into a corridor with numbered (but otherwise mostly unmarked) doors. Eventually I find a door with no numbers on it at all, and on opening it come into a just about completely dark room with biggestmob books. This is the stacks. Harvard’s stacks are pretty dim but there are some actual windows. None of the hazards of natural lighting for Yale’s books though! Your intrepid Lara Croft: Verb Raider finds the light switch at the end of the stack row and proceeds to claim the treasure. There is one last piece of evidence that I’m in an Ivy Leage library… the shelf planks are sufficiently close together that the A4 Australian language centre produced dictionaries don’t fit upright, so they’ve been put on the shelves spine-down, so it’s impossible to work out what they are unless you take them off the shelves (or unless, like my Classics friend who could recognise all the AFL club songs from the preliminary applause patterns, you can recognise them by their thickness).


*No, I wouldn’t normally take the lift to go one floor, but I couldn’t find the stairwell.


I couldn’t get a ticket to my dhuway Gurrumul’s concert in Canberra, but I did buy his CD. It’s great. All the reviewers talk about the etherial and spiritual nature of the music. But that’s missing so much. You need to know Dhuwala to really get it. Here’s one example. In one song he’s calling out the Ḻikanbuy ancestor names (at least, that’s what I assume they are, they aren’t names I know but they have exactly that structure). He says Ŋarrandja dhuwala XXXI‘m this X’, but in doing so he’s quoting the tune I come from a land down-under. It’s a great piece of intertextuality. 

Archi Dictionary

Grev Corbett from the Surrey Morphology Group was handing out whizz-bang Archi dictionary CDs at the LFG conference. It’s an English-Archi-Russian dictionary, with the Archi in IPA and Cyrillic. It’s a souped-up dictionary in that it’s got sound and a lot of pictures, and they illustrate the headword clearly. It has a random word+picture viewer, and it’s possible to save entries, print them, copy them, etc. There’s a lot of paradigmatic information in the entries. For anyone learning or studying Archi, this is a really great resource. 

There are a few things that it would be nice to have. One is a search function where you type in part of the word. There’s a look-up function (like a printed dictionary) but I’m keen on fuzzy searching. Maybe that’s not necessary for Archi, though. Another thing is that the Cyrillic Archi headwords lead to a new window with Romanised  Archi.