Tuesday, March 27, 2007


There should be something in the definition of 'geekiness' that includes laughing out loud while reading cartoons that are funny because they use the technical jargon of your discipline to analyse something irrelevant.

Here are two good examples that I am slightly addicted to. One is from HeiDeas blog analysing Simpson's talk with linguistic terminology, click here.

The other example is a cartoon a friend who studies physics directed me to, lots of the jokes are over my head, but still funny, click here.


ELAN (back to Discourse..)

On another note, I have been doing some transcribing using ELAN, which once someone shows you how to make it work and set it up, is fantastic for transcribing natural conversation data. I had found this a bit of a problem for at least two reasons. One was simply getting a program that would link the text to the sound file so that other people (or later myself) could easily and quickly verify the validity of the transcription and ( this is much more important I think in an endangered or lesser spoken language); the second thing is that I wanted the transcription at the end to be 'readable' to be at least partly presentable.

The reason that this was causing problems is because, say I want a line for every Intonation Unit (IU) in Ritharrngu transcription (this includes back channeling, like 'yeah' 'ahuh' etc.), and then for every IU I want to have the Kriol translation as given to me by the speakers at the time we all sat down again together and transcribed, then of course a Ritharrngu gloss- and maybe even an English free translation- add to this any notes ( door opens, music starts, person leaves) or meta-language analysis ( e.g sometimes a speaker may insist on a word that was said and I hear something very different on the recording etc), codeswitching etc. it becomes a mess quickly.

I know because I tried it, using Word ( as taught at UNM), which works well for English, or Spanish, or any well known language- but doesn't handle my data prettily, I also tried using CLAN, which connects the text to sound well, but I couldn't make it good for making a good transcript I could easily search and/or present to others. I also tried Transcriber, but again it had positives, but also many bugs that became tedious.

So! ELAN allows you to connect text to a sound file, and to create tiers, so i have it set up to have 3 speakers, all connected to the sound file ( 3 tiers) and then each of these has three tiers connected to it (Kriol, Gloss and English). Another tier (connected to the sound file) for meta data etc. The good thing is that you can exports any parts of it you want into pretty much anything (though apparently not easily into Tool Box- this is no dictionary making tool)- and it looks pretty!

PARADISEC has lots of other good links too.

Tel Aviv

Here a few photos of Tel Aviv, an interesting mix of 'Europe' feeling and 'Middle East' feeling (and something just of its own!). The beach promenade in Tel Aviv has the old city of Jaffa at one end (you can see it in the distance) and modernises into the Sheraton, bars and clubs as you move along the beach...

Northern Israel

Over the weekend, Eyal and I drove into the far north of Israel. Last time I was here there wasn't much possibility of this because of the war with Hezbollah/Lebanon . Apart from a car with bullet holes all down the side there was no sign of war. It was beautiful, peaceful, rolling hills and valleys, yellow, purple and red wildflowers and old gnarled olive trees and fruit orchards. We drove through Druze villages, ate some sensational baklava and knafe (sp?), which is goats cheese and honey sweet pastry, and drove up into the Golan heights. We stopped at an old bunker overlooking Syria (which looked just like Israel (!!)) and then hired a bike with a friend and rode around a bird sanctuary looking at cranes and pelicans in the valley...

The cancer test results (see below) came back fine, and we have been not quite celebrating but certainly savouring the sweetness of a life relatively free of worries. We stayed the night in the north in a Kibbutz with a good friend, the big eucalypts and the sound of running water reminded me of being home in Elands.

Anyone know what to call this animal in English?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Discourse -y Stuff

I have started writing up the ALS 2006 paper I did on 'det' ( a determiner in Kriol), and then furthered at the New Mexico 'High Desert Linguistics Society' conference. One thing I would never have thought of to do before that I have found has interesting results, is to look at things from a discourse analysis perspective. In this case, I had already looked at and noted an unusually high frequency of occurance in discourse (naturally occuring conversation), but another interesting thing came up, which is to look at its distribution when it is a 'core argument' (subject or direct object) of the verb- (no keep reading!). The interesting thing is that at first glance at least the 'det' Noun construction ( I mean like det fish, det Sophie etc) seems to occur the majority of the time as a subject of a transitive verb, and almost never in the other positions... but this needs a closer investigation.

I am really enjoying learning about new ways of analysing language in its functional context, though I am not a complete convert, I think there is a lot to be said for grammar 'emerging' from , or at least being heavily influenced by how the language is used when people speak it. By this I mean that there are other constraints on language, dyamic ones, other than the grammatical ones, such as how much information a person likes to process at a given time, how much breath you have to say each part etc etc.

One thing I had never thought of before is breaking down conversations into 'Intonation Units' (IU's) as you write them down. This solves my prior problems of 'what is a clause' ( try look at a conversation transcript and find one!), which becomes less relevant as IU's can be a standardised way of quantifying (e.g. it is 350 IU's) and analysing the language data. IU's are relatively easy to identify (a single intonation contour..), though I did take a semester long course to try and get the hang of it...but the interesting thing is is that they appear to be 'universal' across languages (something to do with length of breath? 'thinking for speaking?').

I have learnt so many things since I arrived here and I want to tell anyone who is interested about it all. So if you have any questions (baba?) I will do my best to mine out some references and tell you..

Unfortunately the last ALS (2006) was a bit difficult as N died the day before it started, and it was all a bit of a blur, but I just submitted an abstract to ALS 2007 titled ' Reference in Spoken Discourse in the Ngukurr Aboriginal Community: The Status of Proper Names'- which seems a hot topic these days (cf. Garde, et. al), and I am really enjoying researching it, I think NJ would have too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I realise perhaps a little too much has changed for anyone to make the jump from studying in the USA to desperately trying to reach Israel (fairly often!). The key to this lies in me being fairly newly and very happily engaged :) to an Israeli. We had been friends for some years and due to an interesting and unusual sequence of events met up again after many years and fell in love- proceeded to take the world by storm (Australia-Israel-Vienna-Croatia-Israel-NYC-New Mexico..) we are now fairly settled in Santa Barbara, CA.

And by 'safe is Israel' (see below)- I mean despite from the occasional war, I feel very safe and well taken care of here. And it is easy to feel I have a family (Eyal's) and a home to come back to :). There is something to do with feeling safe which just means you know you will always have someone to eat with, and a hug whenever you need it; somethings I haven't always found in the USA.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


You just never know when you are going to end up in Turkey, Istanbul, like I did yesterday. It started on Friday morning at about 4 am when I received an automated message saying my flight to Tel Aviv (via NYC) had been cancelled. I called and they rerouted me via Cleveland Ohio- but that was just the beginning....

When I landed in Cleveland and made a mad dash for the connecting flight to NYC, I found it, along with all other flights in and out of NY had been cancelled at least for the day and that they had me on another flight leaving Monday night. This was on Friday evening. In Cleveland, in the snow. And just like all the other sweet naive minds stranded at the airport, I thought I could find a way to make a flight to Tel Aviv- catch a grey hound bus- hire a car, catch the train, get on an earlier flight ( just get the hell out of Cleveland). But it was not to be, and hours, on the phone standing in long long lines, tears arguments etc. later. I was still in Cleveland in the snow, now very late Friday night, with hundreds of other stranded frustrated travellers. I stayed up all night trying to get through to the airline to re-book a flight on the phone (they told us this was our only hope), thousands of other people were doing the same, and at 8am the next morning I fell asleep the phone still on my chest ( I never did get to speak to an operator!).

The airport re-opened the next day, and along with a bunch of familiar faces we all waited in the mayhem, trying to get a flight out of Cleveland, I manged to get on standby for two flights, and dance between the two gates, but eventually the attendant told me I had a 'very very slim' chance of getting on, they had three pages of standby- and no spare seats.

At this point I got in another long queue ( just for the fun of it) and by some miracle landed a consultant who really tried to help me (Eyal had a test for cancer the next day and I was desperate to be there to go to the hospital with him). She cancelled my flight to Tel Aviv, rebooked me to Chicago while I simultaneously bought a new ticket over the internet from Chicago to Tel Aviv via Istanbul (Eyal was online and helped me do it). I had to run like a lunatic to make the flight out to Chicago (also overbooked), when I arrived it turned out the pilot was (not) coming in from NYC. They did by some miracle find us another crew, and I very happily landed in the Windy City :) late that night. Where it felt so calm and peaceful.

I had re sharpened my very tired and hungry wits by then (like any good stranded traveller) to ask at every opportunity what the airline could do to help me. They put me up in a very nice luxury hotel, bought all my food and payed for a taxi. When I finally flew out of Chicago the next day to Istanbul, I felt overwhelmingly grateful- and only slightly nervous that we were an hour late and I had to make my connection to Tel Aviv.

But it all ended happily (groggily?) and I arrived in Israel yesterday after three sleepless days, hungry and just a bit high from living off adrenaline and little else :)- as my mum put it : 'thank god you are safely in Israel' ;)

Israel is overcast and peaceful. I am more severely jetlagged than I have ever been, but it is kind of pleasant because I have the luxury to eat and sleep as I please. Not more planes to catch.