Prehistory of the Boab

Patrick McConvell, Thomas Saunders and Stef Spronck: Linguistic Prehistory of the Australian boab.

Boabs, a close relation of the African baobabs, are found only in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and a region close by in the Northern Territory. Here several of the words for the boab tree and its parts are examined with special emphasis on loanwords which cross language family boundaries going in a west-east direction. It is proposed that this linguistic diffusion may reflect dispersal of the tree into new areas on the east, in relatively recent times. On the other hand another recent diffusion from the west of new salient functions of the boab fruit spread a new term to central Kimberley where boabs are known to have been present and used by humans for many thousands of years

The lexicography of indigenous languages in Australia and the Pacific

Affiliation: School of Languages and Linguistics
Source Title: International Handbook of Modern Lexis and Lexicography
Publisher: Springer-Verlag
Date: 2015
Access Status: Open Access
ARC Grant code : ARC/FT140100214
ARC Grant code : ARC/FT140100214
Citation: THIEBERGER, N, The lexicography of indigenous languages in Australia and the Pacific, International Handbook of Modern Lexis and Lexicography, 2015, pp. ? – ? (16)

The lexicography of indigenous languages in Australia and the Pacific

by Nick Thieberger.

Read Dr. Thieberger’s paper here. The following is its abstract:

The Australia and Pacific region is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s languages. Wordlists of a few of these languages date back to the first European explorers, while detailed dictionaries have been prepared for somewhere less than 5 % of them. Where an indigenous language is the official language of a country of this region it is more likely to have a dictionary and ongoing administrative support for lexicographic work, and, in a few cases, a corpus from which terms can be sourced. For most indigenous languages dictionaries are prepared in the course of language documentation efforts by researchers from outside of the speech community, using modern lexicographic database tools and resulting in structured lexicons. As a result, it is possible to produce various output formats of these dictionaries, including print-on-demand, multimodal webpages, and mobile devices as increasingly popular methods of delivery. A major use of these dictionaries can be to support vernacular language programs in schools. This region was a test bed for computational bilingual lexicography, and is home to the two largest comparative lexical databases of indigenous languages.

Kaytetye Flora and Fauna

Myf Turpin: Semantic extension in Kaytetye flora and fauna terms. AJL 33/4

Flora and fauna play a vital role in Indigenous cultures and their nomenclature reveals much about the society from which they belong. This article identifies the lexical structures and types of metaphor and metonymy that are used for naming plants and animals in Kaytetye, a language of central Australia. By linking semantic analysis to detailed ethnography this paper elucidates the cultural connections that underlie polysemous biota terms. Various types of semantic extension are found, including ‘sign metonymy’, where two or more species share a name because one signals the availability of the other. A subtype of this is what I call ‘meaningful call’ metonymy. This is where an onomatopoeic bird name has lexical content, and thus the bird ‘says’ the signalled phenomena. The paper also finds that alternate register terms turn up in everyday words for biota. The aim of this paper is thus twofold: to demonstrate the importance of investigating socio-cultural practices, multiple speech registers and ecological phenomena for understanding patterns of polysemy and diachronic semantics; and to identify the range of semantic extensions that give rise to biota nomenclature in Kaytetye, where we find the previously undescribed ‘meaningful call’ metonymy.

Is pain a human universal?

Anna Wierzbicka, ANU

doi: 10.1177/1754073912439761

Emotion Review 

July 2012 vol. 4 no. 3307-317

(Includes data from Australian languages)

Pain is a global problem whose social, economic, and psychological costs are immeasurable. It is now seen as the most common reason why people seek medical (including psychiatric) care. But what is pain? This article shows that the discourse of pain tends to suffer from the same problems of ethnocentrism and obscurity as the discourse of emotions in general. Noting that in the case of pain, the costs of miscommunication are particularly high, this article offers a new paradigm for communicating about pain. It shows how the use of natural semantic metalanguage (NSM) techniques developed in linguistic semantics can help in this area, as in other areas concerned with human subjectivity, and can lead to a greater understanding between psychologists, psychiatrists, medical practitioners, social workers, and ordinary suffering mortals.