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Foundation for Endangered Languages

FEL Grants: Supported projects

FEL regularly provides small grants to fund projects that revitalize and support the use of endangered languages. On this page you can see reports from a selection of the projects that we have supported. By joining FEL, you can support activities such as these.

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Grants for language: Miriwoong

Title: Documenting Possession in Miriwoong and Providing Training for Transcription

Country: Australia

Language(s): Miriwoong

Grantee: Christina Murmann

Year: 2014

Project summary

The goal of the Miriwoong project is to create audio and video recordings serving as resources for the in-depth description of possession in Miriwoong, thereby contributing to a more extensive description of this highly endangered language. The elicitation materials were developed in such a way that they elicit possessive structures in an almost natural environment but can also be used as language learning resources. They comprise visual stimuli that were used for story-telling, role-play and language games. The aim of the games was to match or collect pairs of pictures using verbal interaction resulting in such sentences as I have one big yellow bag, do you have three small yellow bags? or The didgeridoo belongs to the old man or The fish has many scales. To represent all areas of possession the pictures and drawings for the games were chosen so that they included humans, animals and objects. They also represented different numbers, colours and conditions (such as whole or broken axes). To make the stimuli particularly useful and appealing, photos of local people and artefacts were included and feedback from the community on the cultural adequacy of the stimuli was incorporated.

The second goal of the project consisted in providing training to the language workers at the local language and culture centre. During my field stay they took part in extensive transcription training allowing them to be involved in the project and empowering them to transcribe valuable older recordings by themselves.

Maggie John, Glennis Galbat-Newry and Minnie Lumia (ltr) playing the ‘belong‘-game at Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring language and culture centre
Agnes Armstrong, Minnie Lumia, Ingrid Ningarmara, Maggie John and Sylvia Simon (ltr), playing the have game at the Lake Argyle picnic area
Minnie Lumia telling a dreamtime story about the Spillway area to Agnes Armstrong and others (©Ingrid Ningarmara)
 

Title: Using language games to document Possession in Miriwoong

Country: Australia

Language(s): Miriwoong

Grantee: Christina Murmann

Year: 2015

Project summary

The aim of the project is to spur the documentation of the highly endangered Miriwoong language, which is spoken fluently by no more than 20 elderly speakers in Western Australia. In particular, the project will describe the linguistic structures involved in expressing possession. During a field trip in 2014, data was gathered with the help of tasks and language games which encouraged speakers to produce sentences containing possessive constructions such as I have a big yellow bag, The didgeridoo belongs to the old man or The fish has many scales. The second fieldtrip in 2015 was dedicated to clarify questions arising during transcription and analysis of this data and carrying out revised versions of the games with additional speakers to test hypotheses and allow for possible variation in the language.

The data was mainly gathered during two fieldtrips since especially senior speakers feel much more confident on their traditional country than in an office environment. Younger speakers benefitted from language session with senior speakers as well as two training workshops on transcription and media equipment. Transcription skills were enhanced and the way was paved for engrossed independence.

Some possessive structures in Miriwoong were potentially influenced by Aboriginal English or Kimberley Kriol, the mother tongue of most younger Miriwoong people. Therefore, during this trip presumably relevant sentence where elicited in Kriol.

Jimmy Paddy filming Glennis Galbat-Newry telling a story about herself and her family during a media workshop
Che Kelly transcribing a recording of his grandmother Rosie Gallagher in ELAN
 

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