Language and Culture Research Centre News & Events Upcoming Workshops Celebrating Indigenous Voice: Legends and Narratives in Languages of the Tropics

Celebrating Indigenous Voice: Legends and Narratives in Languages of the Tropics


Organizers: Luca Ciucci, Rob Bradshaw, Pema Wangdi, Alexandra Aikhenvald
Dates: 25-27 November 2020, JCU Cairns

Narratives, legends, and stories of various kinds are the key to cultural knowledge and cultural heritage, across languages of the world. How to tell a coherent story? What linguistic devices are employed in narratives of varied genres?

Our aims are:
  • To explore the linguistic devices employed in the astoundingly rich narrative traditions in the tropical hot-spots of linguistic and cultural diversity, and
  • To explore how cultural changes and new means of communication affect genres and structures

The Workshop focuses on linguistic and cultural facets of the narratives in the areas of linguistic diversity across the tropics and surrounding areas —  New Guinea, Northern Australia, Amazonia and the Tibeto-Burman region.

The ways of describing events and of organizing a narrative vary across the world's languages. Many languages of the Asia-Pacific region, Amazonia and Tibeto-Birman region display clause chains — a special type of complex sentence unavailable to English and many familiar Indo-European languages like English. A sequence of subevents will be expressed by a chain of dependent clauses leading up to a main, typically 'final' clause. Numerous means can be employed to ensure cohesion within the story, to make the narrative flow and the audience interested. These may include bridging linkage (formerly referred to as 'head-tail linkage') and summary linkage, each with its own function. The introduction of new means of communication — writing, internet, and social media — results in creating new genres, and new linguistic means for their expression. The plethora of such devices in a cross-disciplinary perspective — spanning linguistics and anthropology — are the focus of the Workshop.

The key issues include —
  • ways and means of talking about events. and framing events
  • kinds of narratives and their correlations with traditional cultural concepts
  • organization of narratives of different types, and linguistic structures deployed
  • historical perspective on the development of narrative genres, cultural perspectives, and recent changes (under the influence of new media)
  • cultural implications and cultural knowledge embedded in specific genres
  • potential impact of language and culture contact on the ways in which narratives are organized and devices employed.
Selected references (note that each of these contains further useful references)

Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. 2015. The art of grammar: a practical guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press, esp. chapter 13.

. 2019. Serial verbs. Oxford: Oxford University Press (especially Chapter 6 and section §7.2-3).

Dixon, R. M. W. 2009. 'The semantics of clause linking in typological perspective', pp. 1-55 of The semantics of clause linking: a cross-linguistic typology, edited by R. M. W. Dixon and A. Y. Aikhenvald. Oxford: Oxford University Press; and other chapters there.

—. 2010. Basic Linguistic Theory. Volume 1. Methodology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, esp. pp. 132-7, 171-5).

Farr, Cynthia J. M. 1999. The interface between syntax and discourse in Korafe, a Papuan language of Papua New Guinea. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.

Guérin, Valérie and Grant Aiton. 2019. 'Bridging constructions in typological perspective', pp. 1-43 of Bridging constructions, ed. by Valérie Guérin. Berlin: Language Science Press, and other papers in this volume.

Gumperz, John J. 1982. Discourse strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sarvasy, Hannah. 2015. 'Breaking the clause chains: non-canonical medial clauses in Nungon'. Studies in Language 39: 664-96.

Strömquist, Sven and Ludo Verhoeven. 2004. Ed. of Relating events in narrative. Vol. 1 and 2. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Prof Alexandra Aikhenvald

Dr Joe Blythe, Macquarie University

Dr Luca Ciucci

Prof R M W Dixon

Professor Rosita Henry

Dr Gwendolyn Hyslop, University of Sydney

Dr Hannah Sarvasy, Marcs Institute, University of Western Sydney

Professor Francesca Merlan, ANU

Emeritus Professor Alan Rumsey, ANU

Dr Dineke Schokkin, University of Canterbury

Dr Michael Wood

Rob Bradshaw

Christoph Holz

Pema Wangdi

Nathan White