UON Linguistics researchers awarded prestigious scholarships

Tuesday, 9 May 2017


Three Endangered Languages Documentation, Theory and Application (ELDTA) research program PhD students from the University of Newcastle have been successful in winning scholarships from the Australian Linguistics Society (ALS). The funding will be used to research and help maintain some of the world’s most endangered languages in Australia, Indonesia and the Solomon Islands.

Sabrina Meier
PhD candidate Sabrina Meier in the field.

Glenn Windschuttel has been awarded$4,250 under the Jalwang Scholarship that supports linguists to give back to the community by converting some of their research into materials of benefit to the language speakers. Glenn’s PhD is on Kui, a Papuan language spoken on the island of Alor in eastern Indonesia. Kui is highly endangered - younger speakers are switching to Malay, the local lingua franca, and older speakers are concerned about loss of the language. The funding will allow Glenn to work with the community to publish and distribute a bilingual collection of stories to encourage interest in the language and provide opportunity for its use. This project was developed in consultation with local community members on previous fieldtrips.

Sabrina Meier has beenawarded $3,100 under the Gerhardt Laves Scholarship that supports fieldwork expenses for postgraduate researchers in indigenous languages of Australia or its immediate region. This will support her ongoing research in the Mono-Alu language of the western Solomon Islands, focusing on word class flexibility and on grammatical alignment, two areas where this language has wider scientific significance. The scholarship will fund Sabrina to make her second required field trip later this year.

This is Sabrina’s second year running to win this scholarship. In 2016 she was one of two joint winners of the same scholarship. This year she has won again as the sole winner.

Forrest Panther has been awarded $2,500 under the Susan Kaldor Scholarship that supports ALS student members to attend an international summer school or institute. The funding will support his attendance at the 2017 Linguistics Society of America Institute in Lexington, Kentucky, from 5 July – 1 August, where he will receive specialist training that will be of significant benefit to his PhD research on the scientific implications of syllable structure in Kaytetye, an indigenous Australian language of the Northern Territory. Forrest is one of two joint 2017 winners of this award.

Director of the Endangered Languages Documentation, Theory and Application research program, and member of the Centre for 21st Century Humanities, Dr Bill Palmer said it’s great to see so many University of Newcastle PhD students represented in 3 of the 4 scholarships offered by the ALS.

“The fact that 3 of the ALS’s 4 scholarships were awarded to UoN students is indicative of the standard of research that is happening within the ELDTA research program. Research into endangered languages has a real impact on the communities whom are in danger of losing their languages. The loss of a language also pre-empts a loss of culture, historical stories and a sense of cultural identity. As linguists we are working to preserve those important cultural elements along with the language,” Dr Palmer said.