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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

Code Description Percentage
200499 Linguistics not elsewhere classified 100

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer in Linguistics University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/02/2009 -  Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia
1/06/2006 - 1/01/2009 Lecturer University of the South Pacific
Pacific Languages Unit
Vanuatu
1/02/2002 - 1/06/2006 Postdoctoral Fellow La Trobe University
Research Centre for Linguistic Typology
Australia
1/01/1994 - 1/06/1994 Research Assistant Australian National University
Department of Linguistics
Australia

Professional appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/01/1998 - 1/01/2002 Project Manager Vanuatu Cultural Centre
Oral Traditions Project
Vanuatu

Awards

Recipient

Year Award
2012 Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
Office for Learning and Teaching
2011 Vice-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)

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

Chapter (5 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2011 Malau 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]
DOI 10.1515/9783110260021.305
2006 Hyslop C, 'Bislama', Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Elsevier, Oxford 53-54 (2006)
DOI 10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/04493-X
2006 Hyslop C, 'Vurës', Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, Elsevier, Oxford 494-495 (2006)
DOI 10.1016/B0-08-044854-2/04494-1
2004 Hyslop C, 'Adjectives in North-East Ambae', Adjective classes: a cross-linguistic typology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom 263-282 (2004) [B1]
2002 Hyslop 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)

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

Creative Work (1 outputs)

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

Summary

Number of grants 5
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 body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer, Doctor Mark Harvey, Doctor Aashild Naess, Doctor Catriona Malau
Scheme Research Programme 2014
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1400925
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

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 body The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project
Project Team Doctor Catriona Malau, Ms Lana Takau
Scheme Small Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2012
Funding Finish 2012
GNo G1100489
Type Of Funding International - Competitive
Category 3IFA
UON Y

20102 grants / $43,750

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

Funding body: VolkswagenStiftung

Funding body VolkswagenStiftung
Project Team Doctor Catriona Malau
Scheme Research Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2010
Funding Finish 2010
GNo G1000480
Type Of Funding International - Non Competitive
Category 3IFB
UON Y

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

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Catriona Malau
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2010
Funding Finish 2010
GNo G1000336
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

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 body VolkswagenStiftung
Project Team Doctor Catriona Malau
Scheme Research Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2009
Funding Finish 2009
GNo G0190440
Type Of Funding International - Non Competitive
Category 3IFB
UON Y
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed2
Current6

Total current UON EFTSL

PhD2.2

Current Supervision

Commenced Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2014 Documenting the Manihiki Language
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Co-Supervisor
2014 Valence and Argument Structure in Nalogo
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Co-Supervisor
2014 A Grammar of Kui
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor
2013 Thinking and Talking About Atolls: Spatial Reference in Marshallese
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Co-Supervisor
2011 What 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
2011 A Grammar of Nese
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor

Past Supervision

Year Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2015 A Grammar of Papapana with an Investigation Into Language Contact and Endangerment
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Co-Supervisor
2012 Social 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

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

Office

Room MC124
Building McMullin Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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