zum Inhalt springen

Current Events

In concert with the UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages, the Centre for Australian Studies presents a series of interviews with prominent figures working with indigenous Australian languages and communities. The interviews can be found on the CAS website here

New Publication: Papua New Guinea Sign Language Dictionary. Vol. I.

We are proud to announce the release of the first volume of the Papua New Guinea Sign Language Dictionary, compiled by Prof. Dany Adone and Dr. Melanie Brück, in collaboration with John-Paul Hemine, Noah Agino, Michael Lulu, James Knox, and Brent Macpherson in Papua New Guinea. You can order the dictionary from Lincom Europa using the attached form or from the publisher's website here

We are proud to announce the publication of a new open access publication in conjunction with the UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages, "Fire, Water and Land in Indigenous Australia", edited by Marie Carla D. Adone and Melanie A. Brück from the Centre for Australian Studies. Available cost-free online via the Cologne University Publication Server

Past Events

Guest Lecture Series by Associate Professor Anne Lowell

1 / 3
"Communication challenges in Indigenous health care."

"Challenging the deficit discourse in Indigenous early childhood: the value of video reflexive ethnography as a decolonising methodology."

"Ethics and processes in intercultural research."

Guest Lecture Dr. Piers Kelly

On Thursday, 15th November 2018, Dr. Piers Kelly from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena gave a guest lecture entitled “Message Sticks: A long-distance communication practice in Indigenous Australia”.


Message sticks are tools of graphic communication, once used across the Australian continent. While their styles vary, a typical message stick is a flattened or cylindrical length of wood, tapered at one or both ends with motifs engraved on all sides. The hand-sized objects were carried by special messengers over long distances and their motifs were intended to complement a verbally produced communication such as an invitation, a declaration of war, or news of a death. It was only in the late 1880s that message sticks first became a subject of formal anthropological enquiry at a time when the practice was already in steep transition; almost no original research has been published since 1918. As a result, many questions concerning the full scope, function and significance of message sticks remain unanswered. In this presentation I will review colonial efforts to understand these objects, as recorded in surviving documentary and museum archives, and describe transformations or revitalisations of message stick communication that have emerged in contemporary settings. In so doing I will identify the still-unanswered questions concerning their origins, adaptations and significance, and present a case for a renewed cross-disciplinary approach to the subject.

Book Launch Miriwoong Sign Language Dictionary

Prof Dany Adone, Dr KJ Olawsky together with the Miriwoong community launched the first dictionary of Miriwoong Sign Language on Wednesday, 29th August 2018. This dictionary is the first step in the documentation of the Miriwoong Sign Language project. It is the outcome of a longstanding collaboration between the Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring Language and Culture Centre in Kununurra and University of Cologne.

Kriol Workshop at Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring Language and Culture Centre, Kununurra

Delivered by Prof Dany Adone and Dr Melanie Brueck at the Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring Language and Culture Centre in Kununurra, 29-31 August 2018. The main goal of the workshop was to raise awareness on Creole languages, especially Kununurra Kriol.

Guest Lecture Dr. Miriam Meyerhoff

On the 17th May, 2018, Dr. Miriam Meyerhoff presented a guest lecture titled "The Aesthetics of Variation"


It is well-accepted that studies of language variation contributes to linguistic theory, theories of human cognition and the historical relationships between languages. However, the aesthetic and ludic functions of language have largely been ignored by variationists. Linguists have largely ceded the discussion of these functions to anthropology or stylistics. While it is true that most of the variation observed in my fieldwork on Nkep is constrained by linguistic or attentional (cognitive) factors, in this paper I turn my attention to constraints that cannot so readily by explained by linguistic theories. Instead, they seem to be motivated by considerations of euphony, playfulness or aesthetic value. While these are seldom the focus of our analytic attention, they are clearly a function of human language and perhaps should not be excluded so systematically from variationist research.

Guest Lecture Dr. Carol Dowling

On 27th June, 2017, Dr. Carol Dowling gave a guest presentation titled "Melbin & the power of Aboriginal stories: Experiences, Challenges and Methodologies"


Badimaya/Yamatji academic, Dr Carol Dowling has worked in the field of Aboriginal Cultural Studies for over 28 years. Dr Dowling is visiting Cologne to represent her twin sister, Dr Julie Dowling who is one of Australia’s prominent portrait artists for her solo exhibition at Gallarie Seippel. This exhibition is about the untold history of Aboriginal slavery in Australia.  In her own right, Dr Carol Dowling is an Anthropologist having studied her doctorate on autoethnography of five generations of women in her maternal family. This study goes back to her great great-grandmother, Melbin, who was the first woman to have contact with white people in her family. One of the many stories passed down to the Dowling twins was that Melbin was taken to England as an exhibit in 1883. Dowling has come to Cologne to share her family story and to talk about the work she is doing at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia.

Guest Lecture Dr. Angela Nonaka

On 22nd November, 2016, Dr. Angela Nonaka presented a guest lecture titled "New ‘DEAF-initions ‘of Linguistic Diversity in Southeast Asia". 


Southeast Asia is a linguistically and culturally heterogeneous region. Among scholars as well as the general public, however, understanding and appreciation of the full extent of that diversity has yet to be fully realized because an entire class of languages—sign languages—have been overlooked and excluded from most documentary anthropological linguistic accounts. This is certainly the case in Thailand, a highly multilingual society with a complex language ecology that includes numerous spoken languages and signed languages.

Using Thailand as a case study, this presentation demonstrates both the need and the potential for broadening ‘DEAF-initions’ of linguistic and cultural diversity through the study of languages expressed in the manual modality. This presentation identifies examples of different types of extant sign languages found in the country; describes typical characteristics of their respective speech communities; and assesses each language’s current state of vitality or endangerment. Furthermore, by examining unusual features of those signing varieties, this lecture illustrates the ways in which research on un(der)documented manual-visual languages contributes to our collective understanding of language typologies, language universals, historical comparative linguistics, and so forth.

Guest Lecture Dr. Ghil'ad Zuckermann

On 10th November, 2016, Dr. Ghil'ad Zuckermann gave the guest lecture titled "Language Reclamation and Social Wellbeing: Revivalistics - A New Trans-Disciplinary Field of Enquiry."


This lecture will explain why language revival and diversity are (1) right, (2) beautiful, and (3) beneficial. In our globalized world, more and more groups are losing their heritage. Language revival is becoming increasingly relevant as more and more people seek to reconnect with their ancestors, recover their cultural autonomy, empower their spiritual and intellectual sovereignty, and improve their wellbeing and mental health. There is an urgent need to offer comparative insights, for example from the Hebrew revival, which is so far the most successful known linguistic reclamation. For example, Israeli, ‘Reclaimed Hebrew’, demonstrates that some linguistic components are more revivable than others.

Given capricious governmental policies, this lecture will propose compensation (for linguistic activities) for peoples whose mother tongue was killed (linguicide), making Indigenous tongues the official languages of their region, and erecting multi-lingual official signs. Australia, for example, ought to learn from New Zealand.

The lecture will introduce Revivalistics, a new trans-disciplinary field of enquiery, and provide examples from all over the globe, e.g. from the reclamation of the Barngarla Aboriginal language in South Australia.


Guest Lecture Dr. Bentley James & Laurie Baymarrwanga

On 27th September, 2016, Dr. Bentley James and Laurie Baymarrwanga presented a guest lecture titled "Ancestral Voices in the Wind :Strategies for the Intergenerational Transmission of Yan-nhangu."


This paper refocuses attention on the metaphysical nature of drivers for the intergenerational transmission of the Yan-nhangu language. On his return from Murrungga in 1938 Dr Thomson records that: ‘Tradition, handed on in mythology, furnishes ... the motive, the driving force, in all behaviour and practice, even in matters of material culture’ (Thomson 1938: 195). I show evidence of the continuing force and motivation for Yan-nhangu language use on the Crocodile Islands as directed by Baymarrwangga. Using archival examples and more recent work I show how we translated urging ancestral precedent into strategies for linguistic, cultural and biological engagements for all ages. Through ‘Language Nests’, Ranger Programs, Heritage programs and the development of resources continuities with local practices are encouraged

Guest Lecture Dr. Doug Marmion

On the 10th December, 2015, Dr. Doug Marmion gave a guest lecture titled "Language revival in Australia: bringing back Ngunawal"


According to the 2014 National Indigenous Languages Survey, of Australia’s 250 Indigenous languages over 100 no longer have any speakers. Nevertheless, many communities in this situation are very keen to attempt to bring their languages back into daily usage. In this talk I will outline the status of Australia’s Indigenous languages and describe my work with the Ngunawal language community of Canberra to rediscover their language and return it to the descendants of the last speakers.