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Forty Years On. Ken Hale and Australian languages.

Forty Years On. Ken Hale and Australian languages J. Simpson, D. Nash, M. Laughren, P. Austin and B. Alpher (eds) The Australian National University, Canberra (Pacific Linguistics), 2001, xvii+528pp., ISBN 0 858 8352 4X

Forty Years On honours one of the pioneering figures in the study of Australian Aboriginal languages, Kenneth Locke Hale, Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) until his retirement in 1999. As the title suggests, the book marks forty years of his involvement in the documentation and analysis of Aboriginal languages which began with an extended fieldtrip to Australia between 1959-61. Ken Hale's own work is of such great breadth that a book paying tribute to his achievements can only but be expected to cover a wide range of topics in many different languages, and this is indeed the case here. In the introduction we are told that the contributions span such diverse areas as phonology, syntax, semantics, development of linguistic theory, applied linguistics, language policy, lexicography, songs, auxiliary languages, and historical and comparative analysis. We are also given an explanation of the book's structure, which is both interesting and original. Rather than grouping papers by topic the editors have chosen to order them so that they follow Ken Hale's own path in the study of Australian languages, beginning with contributions relating to Central Australia where he spent his first year, moving on to the west, Barkly Tableland, Mornington Island, Cape York, and finishing with continent-wide surveys. The book's cover design by Jennifer Green is well suited and full of character, displaying Ken Hale's handwritten notes of Antekerrepenh.

Immediately following the introduction we find a very useful detailed bibliography of Ken Hale's 'Australian' works, compiled by David Nash. The next two contributions are interview transcripts, one with Sara (Sally) Whitaker Hale, Ken Hale's wife, the other with Ken Hale himself. Sally Hale's interview was recorded by her son Ezra Hale in 1999 and edited for publication by Peter Austin and Jane Simpson, and deals with her reminiscences of their first trip to Australia. Inserted here and there, at the appropriate points in her recounting, are also reproductions of various articles published at the time about Ken Hale that add an Australian perspective. Ken Hale's interview, edited by Jennifer Green, was recorded by her and Jenny Devitt in 1994 and deals specifically with Ken Hale's early days in Central Australia. I really enjoyed reading these personal accounts which nicely set the scene for the journey to come.

The next eleven contributions continue to be 'located' in the 'Centre'. The first is by Gavan Breen and deals with Arandic phonology which, as he writes, has become an important focus of phonological theory thanks to the seeds sown by Ken Hale. Following this we find a paper by Harold Koch on the reconstruction of Arandic basic vocabulary, using data collected by Hale in 1959-60. Jennifer Green and Myfany Turpin describe the comparative approach employed in the Institute for Aboriginal Development's dictionary project as was envisioned early on by Ken Hale. Aram Yengoyan's account provides an insight into Ken Hale's great linguistic talents. He recalls an interesting incident at a petrol station near the MIT where he surprisingly heard Ken Hale speaking fluent Turkish. Hale had apparently picked up the language through his conversations with the attendant. Robert Hoogenraad then discusses bilingual education and Hale's and O'Grady's roles in its implementation. Following this are two contributions that bear witness to Ken Hale's commitment to training language speakers. The first, by Robin Japananka Granites and Mary Laughren, presents some of the work carried out during a trip to Boston by the former; the second by Paul Black and Gavan Breen is on the School of Australian Linguistics. The focus then turns to Warlpiri: Lee Cataldi demonstrates how Warlpiri narratives can be described using the categories of classical rhetoric, Tim Shopen presents evidence of cultural influence in Warlpiri grammatical typology (he argues that Warlpiri narrative styles, which reflect the local culture, in turn motivate a certain organisation of grammatical structure) and Mary Laughren discusses Warlpiri avoidance registers.

With O'Grady's reminiscences of his 1960 fieldtrip with Hale we slowly move westwards. This is followed by a summary of the fieldwork they conducted, written by O'Grady and Nash, and by Margaret Sharpe's evaluation of the great significance of Hale and O'Grady's work. The next section of papers deals with languages recorded either just prior to or during the joint field-trip: Claire Bowern's reclassification of Karnic languages, Luise Hercus and Jane Simpson's paper on Nauo, O'Grady's contribution on Parnkalla and Karlamayi vocabularies which he and Hale collected together, and Peter Austin's paper on Jiwarli word order. Janet Sharpe and Nicholas Thieberger then discuss the Pilbara language Centre, Wangka Maya.

From the Pilbara, the book's path takes us to the Kimberley and Northern Territory: William McGregor writes about non-verbal predicative possession in Nyulnyulan languages, Alan Rumsay about 'try' in Ungarinyin (and the Queensland language Yidiny), while Nicholas Reid's contribution brings the same sort of grin to one's face as the one that he describes in his entertaining story about finding the thirty-first Ngan'gityemerri finite verb. This section on the Hale-O'Grady field-trip ends with Francesca Merlan's paper on Jawoyn placenames.

Ken Hale's work in the Barkley Tablelands is represented by Rob Pensalfini's contribution on the typological and genetic position of Jingulu and Rachel Nordlinger's on associated motion in Wambaya. Barry Blake's account of person marking, focusing on Kalkatungu, takes us across the border to Queensland. Here we also find Stephen Wurm's reminiscences of his work with Ken Hale on Mornington Island, and Norvin Richards' discussion of the differences between Old and New Lardil. The next four papers lead us further north to Cape York. Barry Alpher presents a Yir-Yoront language lesson designed by Ngerr-Thuy, a native speaker, Peter Sutton discusses Ken Hale and the ability to 'talk language', Barry Alpher and Kevin Keeffe write about Cape York song creativity and Ephraim Bani discusses directionals in Kalaw Lagaw Ya. Our journey ends with the last two contributions which, as already mentioned, are continent-wide surveys: Juliette Blevins' paper on initial consonant loss and Nicholas Evans and David Wilkins' paper on the semantics of 'person' words.

Forty Years On is undoubtedly a book that will appeal to a wide range of people. There is a nice balance between academic works and contributions that more explicitly pay homage to Ken Hale, who has sadly since passed away. As well as learning more about the 'ledge' himself (using Nicholas Reid's term) and his important role in the field, the book offers a rare multi-faceted perspective on the progress that has been made in the documentation and understanding of Aboriginal languages over the last forty years. The editors couldn't have done a better job.

Reviewed by Luisa Miceli, School of Humanities, University of Western Australia, <lmiceli@cyllene.>, and Centre for Research on Language Change, The Australian National University, Canberra, <>.
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Author:Miceli, Luisa
Publication:Australian Aboriginal Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2002
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