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Dr Catriona Malau

Lecturer in Linguistics

School of Humanities and Social Science (Linguistics)

A matter of record

Documenting small, regional languages can help them to not only survive, but thrive.

a matter of record

Research locations don't come much more attractive than Vanuatu. But it is not the crystal waters and palm-fringed beaches that continue to draw Dr Catriona Malau back to the archipelagic nation in the South Pacific.

Malau, a researcher with the Endangered Languages Documentation, Theory and Application Group within the Faculty of Education and Arts, is a linguist with a special interest in island languages spoken in Vanuatu. For her, the allure of the country is its linguistic diversity - with approximately 100 languages spoken by a population of about 255,000 - and the challenge presented by learning, understanding and deciphering those languages.

"It is the excitement of discovering how a language works, and being the first to document and grammatically analyse it," Malau says. "The island languages of Vanuatu are all related but there is surprising variation between each of them, which makes them quite fascinating to study."

For her PhD studies, undertaken through the Australian National University, Malau wrote and published a grammatical description of the North-east Ambae language, spoken on the island of Ambae in the north of Vanuatu. For the past 10 years she has been systematically documenting another of the country's languages, Vurës, which is spoken by about 1,500 people on the island of Vanua Lava.

Since 2006, her research has been supported by Germany's Volkswagen Foundation, which funds studies of minority languages through a philanthropic program called DoBeS (an acronym for Dokumentation Bedrohter Sprachen or Documentation of Endangered Languages).

Malau deposits her data and translations in a publicly available digital archive on the DoBeS website and is progressively writing a web-based multimedia dictionary of the language. The multidisciplinary research project has also involved a marine biologist, botanist, anthropologist and ethnomusicologist, who have contributed their expertise to identifying and describing aspects of the island environment and culture. A German researcher works in partnership with Malau, documenting Vera'a, another language spoken by a smaller collective of people on the same island.

To learn and understand a language in its cultural context, linguists must immerse themselves in the communities they study.

"Most of the data from field trips comes from recordings of people telling traditional stories or speaking in different situations," Malau says. "To hear the language as they use it you need to be an active observer by participating in village activities, going to their ceremonies, working alongside them and generally living as they do."

Malau met her husband on Vanua Lava, so her field trips these days have a personal as well as academic purpose, but she says the people on the island have always welcomed her and supported her work.

"While English and French are the languages of education in Vanuatu, the Indigenous languages are a vital part of their cultural identity and research of this nature gives credibility to the language and lifts its status," she says.

"Linguists can make a real contribution to communities by encouraging maintenance of their language and helping to ensure its longevity."

a matter of record

A matter of record

Documenting small, regional languages can help them to not only survive, but thrive.

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Career Summary

Biography

Research Expertise

Language description and documentation of Oceanic languages

Vanuatu languages



Administrative Expertise

Head of Discipline, Linguistics: July 2013 - present

Director of Student Experience, School of Humanities and Social Science: 2012 - present


Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Australian National University
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours), Australian National University

Keywords

  • Grammatical description and documentation
  • Introductory Linguistics
  • Language Typology
  • Language Typology
  • Lexicography
  • Linguistics
  • Linguistics for Education
  • Oceanic Languages
  • Vanuatu Languages

Languages

  • Bislama (Fluent)

Fields of Research

CodeDescriptionPercentage
200499Linguistics not elsewhere classified100

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

DatesTitleOrganisation / Department
1/01/2014 - Lecturer in LinguisticsUniversity of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia

Academic appointment

DatesTitleOrganisation / Department
1/02/2009 - LecturerUniversity of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia
1/06/2006 - 1/01/2009LecturerUniversity of the South Pacific
Pacific Languages Unit
Vanuatu
1/02/2002 - 1/06/2006Postdoctoral FellowLa Trobe University
Research Centre for Linguistic Typology
Australia
1/01/1994 - 1/06/1994Research AssistantAustralian National University
Department of Linguistics
Australia

Professional appointment

DatesTitleOrganisation / Department
1/01/1998 - 1/01/2002Project ManagerVanuatu Cultural Centre
Oral Traditions Project
Vanuatu

Awards

Recipient

YearAward
2012Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
Office for Learning and Teaching
2011Vice-Chancellor's Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
University of Newcastle
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Book (2 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2012Malau CL, Malau A, Malau EF, Leo J, Holmes K, The Language and Life of Vanua Lava, Catriona Malau, Vanuatu, 139 (2012) [A2]
2001Hyslop C, The Lolovoli Dialect of the North-East Ambae Language, Pacific Linguistics, Canberra, 476 (2001)

Chapter (5 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2011Malau CL, 'Sustaining vures: Making products of language documentation accessible to multiple audiences', Documenting Endangered Languages: Achievements and Perspectives, De Gruyter Mouton, Berlin 305-320 (2011) [B1]
DOI10.1515/9783110260021.305
2006Hyslop C, 'Bislama', Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Elsevier, Oxford 53-54 (2006)
DOI10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/04493-X
2006Hyslop C, 'Vurës', Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Elsevier, Oxford 494-495 (2006)
DOI10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/04494-1
2004Hyslop C, 'Adjectives in North-East Ambae', Adjective classes: a cross-linguistic typology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom 263-282 (2004) [B1]
2002Hyslop C, 'Hiding behind trees on Ambae: spatial reference in an Oceanic language of Vanuatu', Representing space in Oceania: culture in language and mind, Pacific Linguistics, Canberra 47-76 (2002)
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Journal article (2 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2007Malau C, 'Review of 'A grammar of South Efate: an Oceanic language of Vanuatu', Oceanic Linguistics, 46 613-617 (2007) [C3]
1999Hyslop C, 'The Linguistics of Inhabiting Space: Spatial Reference in the North-East Ambae Language', Oceania, 70 25-42 (1999)

Creative Work (1 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2010Malau CL, Le Kal Vurës: Sustaining Vurës, -, Hannover, Germany (2010) [J1]
Supanova
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants5
Total funding$291,465

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20141 grants / $90,000

Endangered Languages Documentation, Theory and Application$90,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer, Doctor Mark Harvey, Doctor Aashild Naess, Doctor Catriona Malau
SchemeResearch Programme 2014
RoleInvestigator
Funding Start2014
Funding Finish2014
GNoG1400925
Type Of FundingInternal
CategoryINTE
UONY

20121 grants / $14,369

Documentation of Matavat (Nese): A highly endangered Northern Vanuatu language$14,369

Funding body: The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project

Funding bodyThe Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project
Project TeamDoctor Catriona Malau, Ms Lana Takau
SchemeSmall Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2012
Funding Finish2012
GNoG1100489
Type Of FundingInternational - Competitive
Category3IFA
UONY

20102 grants / $43,750

Documenting biocultural diversity in the languages of Vures and Vera'a$40,000

Funding body: VolkswagenStiftung

Funding bodyVolkswagenStiftung
Project TeamDoctor Catriona Malau
SchemeResearch Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2010
Funding Finish2010
GNoG1000480
Type Of FundingInternational - Non Competitive
Category3IFB
UONY

A grammatical description of the Vures language, Vanua Lava, Vanuatu$3,750

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle
Project TeamDoctor Catriona Malau
SchemeNew Staff Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2010
Funding Finish2010
GNoG1000336
Type Of FundingInternal
CategoryINTE
UONY

20091 grants / $143,346

Documentation of Vures and Ver'a, the two surviving endangered languages of Vanua Lava, Vanatu$143,346

Funding body: VolkswagenStiftung

Funding bodyVolkswagenStiftung
Project TeamDoctor Catriona Malau
SchemeResearch Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2009
Funding Finish2009
GNoG0190440
Type Of FundingInternational - Non Competitive
Category3IFB
UONY
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Research Supervision

Current Supervision

CommencedResearch Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2014Documenting the Manihiki Language
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Co-Supervisor
2014Valence and Argument Structure in Nalogo
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Co-Supervisor
2014A Grammar of Kui
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor
2013Thinking and Talking About Atolls: Spatial Reference in Marshallese
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Co-Supervisor
2011What Plants Can Say About Language Shift: An Investigation of Language Ecology in Ikpana, An Endangered Language of Ghana
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor
2011A Grammar of Nese
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor

Past Supervision

YearResearch Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2015A Grammar of Papapana with an Investigation Into Language Contact and Endangerment
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Co-Supervisor
2012Social Factors Affecting the Acculturation of Young Saudi Children in the Australian Context
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Co-Supervisor
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Dr Catriona Malau

Position

Lecturer in Linguistics
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Focus area

Linguistics

Contact Details

Emailcatriona.malau@newcastle.edu.au
Phone(02) 4921 6687
Fax(02) 4921 6933

Office

RoomMC124
BuildingMcMullin Building
LocationCallaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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