Dr Hannah Sarvasy - Australian National University
"Primary description as basis for advanced linguistic investigation: the case of Nungon (PNG)"
Biography: Hannah Sarvasy is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language at ANU. She has conducted immersion fieldwork on Nungon (Papuan), Kim and Bom (Atlantic; Sierra Leone), and Tashelhit Berber and ran a pioneering longitudinal study of children’s acquisition of Nungon. Her publications include A Grammar of Nungon: A Papuan Language of Northeast New Guinea (Brill, 2017), Word Hunters: Field Linguists on Fieldwork (John Benjamins, 2018), and articles and book chapters on topics in Nungon grammar, fieldwork methodology, Bantu linguistics, and ethnobiology, as well as Kim and Bom language primers. She has taught at UCLA, served as a Research Fellow at the Australian National University, and currently holds an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award for the study of clause chains from typological, acquisition, and psycholinguistic angles.
Abstract: With 600-800 languages, Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the most linguistically diverse nation. Though over 10% of all the world’s languages are spoken in PNG, PNG’s languages have had minimal impact on linguistic theory. Even for languages with primary grammatical descriptions, most researchers retain no lasting connections with speech communities for follow-up experiments or language acquisition studies. The Nungon language of the Saruwaged Mountains, PNG is an exception. Building on a published reference grammar and articles analyzing Nungon morphosyntax, a two-year longitudinal study of five children acquiring Nungon concluded in 2017. The first psycholinguistic experiment among Nungon speakers trialed in 2017; an EEG study, detailed acoustic analysis, and further psycholinguistic experiments are in preparation.
This talk presents aspects of Nungon linguistic systems that differ dramatically from those of more familiar languages, and are central to current lines of experimental and corpus-based investigation. The new projects promise to build on descriptive foundations to enable profound understanding of how language, culture and cognition interrelate in an electricity-less society.