Region 2: Pacific

Welcome to the Pacific!

Welcome to TraveLING, our Around the World Fund Drive! Our students have put in a lot of hours this past year, so we'd like to ask our readers for help in sending them on a tour of our planet.

Along their journey, they'll meet local linguists, take in the sights, and host a wide array of contests and games for you to participate in (and win fantastic prizes!).

To help them get started and fuel this leg of their journey, donate now!

Hello, today the LINGUIST List crew will be exploring Australia. Let’s get started! Australia has so much to offer from breathtaking landscapes to a variety of wildlife species. What some of you may not know is that Australia is also rich with linguistic diversity. There are over 200 Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia today

To learn more about some of the Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia you can visit the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre located in South Hedland. At the centre you can learn about the preservation of aboriginal languages and production of aboriginal language materials at the centre. In 2012 they celebrated 25 years of working with the speech communities of the Pilbara.

If you are in the Newcastle area you can visit the Miromaa Aboriginal Language & Technology Centre. they create materials and provide education in the Awabakal language. Our own LINGUIST Lister Anna Belew visited Miromaa in 2012.

Off the eastern coast of Australia we find the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef system. If diving is something you love or have always wanted to try this is the place to go! The Great Barrier Reef is home to many marine animals you can explore while you dive.

Why don’t we stop by the Australia Zoo. I have always wanted to hop around with the kangaroos and cuddle some koalas. The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is home to Uluru a huge red sandstone that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Uluru reaches 348 meters into the sky and is quite a sight to see.

Thank you so much for adventuring around Australia with us. We only saw a small portion of what Australia has to offer us so we recommend that you do some exploring on your own. Don’t forget to stay tuned, there might be some exciting day trips in our future!

To jump ahead to our next destination, donate today!

While our plane refuels, we're going to explore some of what the Pacific has to offer. You'll meet linguists who are either from this region or who work in this region, and you'll travel with us on day trips to local sights.

Day Trip 1: New Zealand

Where to land:

Auckland, New Zealand


Good morning my TraveLING companions! Today we are off to New Zealand to visit the Maori, but first we must land in Auckland.

The Auckland Museum houses the largest and most valuable collection of Maori taonga (treasures) in the world.

The museum also has a Maori Cultural Performance that includes the opportunity to meet, talk and take photos with the Maori.

Time to eat! Hangi food or ‘kai’ was traditionally wrapped in leaves, but a modern hangi is more likely to substitute with aluminium foil and wire baskets. This traditional Maori cooking method involves burying the food is in the ground for about three to four hours and waiting till everything is smoke infused and tender!

Stay tuned for our next exciting day trip!

Day Trip 2: Hawai`i

Where to land:

Honolulu, Hawai`i


Hello again! LINGUIST list writing to you from the beautiful island of Oʻahu. There is so much to do on Hawaiʻi’s third largest island. First we should stop by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM).

UHM has the Hawaiʻinuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, which houses a language center and a Hawaiian studies center and Ka Papa Loiʻi o Kanewai (Kanewai), a Hawaiian cultural research and outreach program.

If you decide to go visit the campus be on the lookout for LINGUIST List Alumnus Andrea Berez. She is currently an assistant professor of Linguistics at UHM and some of her latest work was with speakers of Kuman (Papua New Guinea).

From Oʻahu, it’s just a 45-minute flight to the neighboring island of Hawaiʻi, a.k.a., the Big Island. After touching down in Hilo, it’s time to explore some national parks. While at the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, let’s take a drive. Crater Rim Drive is an 11-mile road that goes past the caldera summit and has access to many short walks along the many trails in the park. To learn more about Hawaiian history we will visit Pu`ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site. Here we can see the temple of King Kamehameha the Great.

Stay tuned for our next exciting day trip!

Featured Linguists

Nick Thieberger, Featured Linguist

University of Melbourne

I was brought up in a multilingual setting, with parents who between them spoke Italian (Standard and Veneto and Triestin), German, Friulian, Polish, Russian, and Uzbek, so I developed an ability and interest in languages that I just followed when I began my studies. My first linguistics degree in the late 1970s was based entirely on Chomsky's Aspects of the Theory of Syntax and at first I enjoyed the calculus of phrase structure grammar and transformations. However, I was also interested in Australian languages and could see a mismatch between theoretical constructs based on ideal examples and the use of language by speakers.

My first experience of working with Aboriginal people came when I was a volunteer at Friends of the Earth and we organised a demonstration against a uranium mine site near Broken Hill in South Australia. I got to know some Paakanji Aboriginal people from Wilcannia who were the traditional custodians of the country there and then in the early 1980s went up there to see what use a new linguist could be. I ended up writing some introductory materials in the language based on Luise Hercus's grammar and recorded speakers to use in an audio guide to the language.

I tutored in linguistics at La Trobe University and after my honours year I got a short contract to teach at the University of Western Australia. My next job was at the School of Australian Linguistics, an institute set up (partly by Ken Hale) to train indigenous Australians in language work. Having that experience encouraged me to apply for a job to prepare a survey of Aboriginal languages of Western Australia that led to writing a handbook of those languages, and, in 1988, to setting up a language center in Port Hedland (Wangka Maya). This involved a long process of consultation with local Aboriginal people who formed the management committee of the Centre. A trained teacher and Banjima/Yinhawangka woman, Lorraine Injie, started work with me as we recorded local speakers, prepared new material, and set up a resource center for the 25 or so local languages. I made friends with a family of Warnman speakers and spent some time with them, recording the language from the Great Sandy Desert.

The task of preparing new materials based on older materials taught me the value of regular expressions and text conversion in those early days of personal computers. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies advertised for someone with these kinds of skills to build an archive of texts related to Aboriginal languages and I moved to Canberra to set up this collection. I had two children in the early 1990s and we wanted to go somewhere where they would be immersed in another language and culture, so we went to live in Vanuatu as Australian Volunteers Abroad (like Peace Corps) where I worked at the National Museum. I got to know the local language (South Efate) which then became the topic of my PhD dissertation. It was of concern to me that, in the course of doing a PhD at a university linguistics department, I got no training in the methods for recording, transcribing, or using new tools for analysing the materials in the language, and that there were no tools available for accessing recordings via text, nor for citation of primary recordings in the analysis. In those (pre-Elan) days I wrote some software (Audiamus) to allow me to create a text/media corpus and then to link examples and texts in my grammar of South Efate to the media so that they could be verified by readers. The corpus continues to be extremely useful in my ongoing work with South Efate.

This all drove home to me the value of making good records, and coincided with the development of language documentation as a stream within linguistics. With Linda Barwick I established the Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC), in order to look after field recordings, and we located a number of collections of tape recordings that we digitised, created a catalog for, and made accessible for ongoing research. PARADISEC has been going for ten years and we have digitised nearly 4,000 hours of recordings that would otherwise have been lost. In order to support sharing expertise on new methods I (with Margaret Florey) set up the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity ( as a mailing list and website.

I was an assistant professor in the department of linguistics at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa from 2008-2010 and taught in the language documentation stream there. That program attracts great students and, under the leadership of Ken Rehg, we started the journal Language Documentation & Conservation (LD&C) and hold the first international conference on LD&C. I now have an Australian Research Council grant to work at the University of Melbourne and this lets me continue to develop PARADISEC, and to work on South Efate and Warnman.

Language documentation allows us to be scholarly researchers and, at the same time, to create records for the people we record. I have been lucky that my interest in this work has coincided with the realisation within linguistics that field-based research and resulting corpus-creation are valuable activities that are necessary for the scientific foundation of linguistics.

Why do we have a Fund Drive?