When Virginia Beavert received her Ph.D. in linguistics at the age of 90, it was the culmination of almost eight decades of work preserving the Ichishkiín language. A member of the Yakama Nation, she had started doing language documentation at the age of 12, when she served as an interpreter and transcriber for researchers studying languages of the Pacific Northwest's indigenous groups. As an adult, Beavert worked on the first-ever Ichishkiín dictionary, recorded Yakama myths, and contributed to grammars and word lists of her mother tongue. Earlier this summer, when she addressed fellow language activists from around the world via Zoom at a conference, she struck a determined tone. "I want to let you know that we are here," she said to the camera at one point, "and we are supportive."
BRASíLIA - Brazil's new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has stripped an agency of the responsibility to demarcate indigenous lands in a move that has unsettled native rights groups and even some farm businesses that will benefit. The decree published late Tuesday marked Bolsonaro's first order since taking office earlier that same day. It stipulates that the FUNAI agency in charge of indigenous affairs will no longer have a say over creating and defining the boundaries of lands occupied by indigenous people in Brazil. Instead, the agriculture ministry will take over those functions. Bolsonaro has said he intends to loosen regulations holding back farming and mining interests in Brazil, including those relating to nature preservation and indigenous lands.
SYDNEY – All indigenous languages in Australia descend from a single common tongue, a study revealed Wednesday in findings that shed new light on the country's cultural history. More than 250 languages were spoken at the time of British settlement in 1788 and after three years investigating their origins, researchers said they had finally proven a long-held theory that they all derive from so-called Proto-Australian. The existence of a common parent language gives further weight to the idea that all Aboriginal Australians descend from a single group that landed on the continent at least 65,000 years ago, and spread out over the following millennia, becoming ethnically and linguistically distinct. The project used a standard method in historical linguistics to establish whether similarity between languages was due to inheritance from a common ancestor, as opposed to transfer from one language to another through human contact. Western Sydney University chief investigator Robert Mailhammer said the findings repeatedly revealed similarities between languages that were not in contact.
The South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) is organizing a workshop (originally expected to be held at the LREC 2020 conference in Marseille, France) in the field of African Indigenous Language Resources. This workshop aims to bring together researchers who are interested in showcasing their research and thereby boosting the field of African indigenous languages. This provides an overview of the current state-of-the-art and emphasizes availability of African indigenous language resources, including both data and tools. Additionally, it allows for information sharing among researchers interested in African indigenous languages as well as starting discussions on improving the quality and availability of the resources. Many African indigenous languages currently have no or very limited resources available and, additionally, they are often structurally quite different from more well-resourced languages, requiring the development and use of specialized techniques.
Opie itself could be more sophisticated, says Wiles, but the available speech-to-text technology that could be used to dictate and store the language is not as advanced as people may believe when they hear the word "robot," she says. The main artificial intelligence-based transcription services provided by Google or IBM support around 100 languages and don't include indigenous dialects in Australia. Local researchers would need to develop a technology for transcribing an indigenous language, but such an approach is time consuming and expensive to implement.