Friday, June 29, 2007


This is getting to be a habit, but I am really trying to kick it, we are moving again. This time to Los Altos Hills where I will be going to uni for a month at the Linguistics Institute. It is hard work, even in this year I collected all kinds of bits and pieces, and I feel a bit like a bent old sieve after spending all day sorting through paperwork, old notes and class work, small gifts, hairpins and old perfume...

It is good to throw a mountain of things away and pack what is left. It reminds me to keep discarding what I don't need or use any more even if it is still in working order. In a few hours or days we will be just back to what we can fit into our suitcases, the house will be dismantled and redistributed amongst the Santa Barbara population.

August will see us back full circle- to Armidale and the University of New England, Australia.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tucson, Arizona

Here I am back in Tucson. It is hot- really hot- somewhere around 100- 110 Fahrenheit, which I suppose is around 40 Celsius. Flying into Tucson from Phoenix, looking at the red desert stretched in every direction, and some places carefully carved into patchwork squares- you get a sense of Arizona. Big, red and filled with beautiful surprises and uncompromising landscape.

I am here for the American Indian Language Development Institute at the Uni of Arizona. I went along today to have a look and meet some people. It is my first time visiting a conference/institute as an invited speaker, and it reminds me I need to have confidence in myself and say what I came to say clearly. I am still not sure what I really came to say yet. I think I won't know until i am there standing in front of all the people and trying to think about what they already know and what I could say that would be interesting and informative.

I have put together some slides, with beautiful photos of people I love and work with in Ngukurr, of big fish, deserts and floods, colourful maps of the languages of Australia, facts about Arnhem Land and Australian languages. But I know really I am here to talk about my own story really, of what I do, and what I am interested in - because I think when it comes to it- you can't honestly say much more than that.

I have hired a car, and I feel so adult (!) moving from one air-conditioned space to the next, navigating university halls, watching the university life unfolding around me. I drove around in circles a bit getting my bearings, the flat grid of Tucson, the adobe mud square houses with cactus gardens, and endless sky, screeching crickets and dust. I like it here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A few photos from the shoebox...

Tent Rocks, New Mexico
Emily visit Santa Barbara
Me and Auxi in Madrid
Playing guitar in the sun- Moab UT
Big spider gets philosophical (Elands obviously)
Not long until we pack up our Santa Barbara life and head across
the Pacific.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Language Issues

Further to the Occupation 101 post, I wanted to add a couple of language things. As far as I know, in Israel, Hebrew is the language most spoken, these days I bet there is a lot of Russian, some Arabic and maybe some languages Bedouin people speak (? anyone know?!). And in the occupied territories the main language is Arabic. The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic, and although there are many road signs etc with both- English is more clearly a second language, certainly in terms of prestige. For more info on this check out the work of Elana Shohamy.

One of the most significant and overwhelming government buildings in Israel is only English and Hebrew, I am talking about Yad Vashem the Holocaust Museum, documentation and research centre. Which is a must see if you ever visit Israel (but not if you only speak Arabic!). On the other side of the coin is this fantastic documentary Occupation 101, that interviews academics in Israel, Noam Chomsky, Human rights groups and Palestinian people, presents facts and stories- and yet is not available with Hebrew subtitles, and there for basically inaccessible to Israeli population.

We wrote to the directors about this and they said they were doing their best to get it done soon. The Holocaust museum on the other hand are rumoured to have said they 'catered to demand' and therefor Arabic was not relevant.

The other thing I don't like much are phrases like the 'Palestinian problem' or the 'Arab problem' - it sounds a little like Hitler's rhetoric of the 'Jewish problem', and it makes it sounds as though the the ethnicity of a group of people is the problem. Which is not true, the problem isn't that some people are Jewish Israeli and others are Muslim/Christian Arabs, the problem is all the fear, hype and lack of education, poverty, violence, corruption and hatred that is aimed at creating and maintaining conflict. Haven't Jewish people lived peacefully in Iran, Syria, Jordan for centuries...?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Indigenous Language SPEAK

So when I first went to University of New Mexico, I was excited to think I was going to a university where the concerns of the indigenous community members of different languages, were very important to the linguistics department.

Though this is certainly the case for the group that Melissa Axelrod has worked hard to bring together, it also became clear that the relationship between language speakers and researchers in the region (and maybe lots of the USA) was not a positive one. Unfortunately the benefits to language revitalisation and documentation lie in these two groups forming positive trusting relationships.

To get some dialogue going about this, and about other issues that come up between language speakers and researchers, I started this blog with some UNM grad students, Indigenous Language SPEAK, Susan just wrote a great post, so go check it out! And if you would like to contribute please let me know!!!

As a result of this, some/much of my linguistic-y stuff I will post there.