Western Desert Special Speech Styles Project

The Endangered Language Documentation Programme (ELDP) provides grants worldwide to for the linguistic documentation of endangered language and knowledge. Grantees create multimedia collection of endangered languages. These collections are preserved and made freely available through the Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR) housed at the library of SOAS University of London.

In the Australian Western Desert Aboriginal people use a rich repertoire of special speech styles incorporating speech, song, sign language, gesture and drawing. These speech styles, used in secular and ceremonial contexts, are a highly valued yet endangered part of the traditions of desert people. This project will take a multidisciplinary approach to the documentation of verbal art forms from the Western Desert family of languages – specifically Ngaanyatjarra, Ngaatjatjarra and Pitjantjatjara – spoken by approximately 2000 people in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands region of south-east Western Australia. It will provide a significant record of these oral practices and provide rich data sets for analyses that will enhance our understandings of how multimodal communication systems work across Australian desert communities. It will also shed light on the relationship between traditional multimodal communication forms and multimodal computer mediated communication. ng Primary investigator: Inge Kral

Project Details


Location: Australia, Australia and New Zealand, Oceania Organiser(s): Endangered Languages Documentation Programme Project partner(s): Australian National University Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £9,634.00 Commencement Date: 01/2008
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