Undergrad alum Gabrielle Valentic (BA 2015) accompanied Carmel O'Shannessy on a fieldwork trip to Northern Australia last summer. They visited several Warlpiri communtiies, attended community events, and continued Carmel's documentation of Warlpiri and Light Warlpiri. We hand over to Gabrielle below to describe the experience in her own words:
"Last summer, I had the incredible opportunity of joining Carmel O’Shannessy on her annual field study of Light Warlpiri and Warlpiri in the Warlpiri communities of the Australian Northern Territory. During the first week of our trip, I had the privilege of visiting the Warlpiri community of Yuendumu where we participated in the Warlpiri Triangle, a workshop for teachers on two-way language education in Warlpiri and English. After, we travelled to Lajamanu, Carmel’s primary field site, where I was finally able to meet many speakers of Light Warlpiri and Warlpiri whose data I have worked on for years as one of Carmel’s research assistants.
In Lajamanu, I spent time working with the now adult speakers of Light Warlpiri who originated the language and the children who now speak Light Warlpiri as their L1. I assisted in collecting more data for documentation of the language. I also assisted Carmel with her phonetics research, analyzing VOT of the speakers. Aside from data collection, a true highlight of the trip for me was the opportunity I was given to participate in many Warlpiri cultural activities and traditions. The people of Yuendumu and Lajamanu were unbelievably welcoming, even including me in the Warlpiri kinship system by giving me the Warlpiri name 'Nampijinpa'. Our friends also taught me traditional Warlpiri singing and dancing on visits to the Warlpiri ‘Jukurrpa’ sites (see this link for more information), took me on hunting trips for bush fruit with the elder women, and taught me about painting in their local style. These were crucial for my further understanding of the sociocultural aspects of the language, and I look forward to applying this knowledge to future research.
Now graduated, I am extremely thankful to continue working with Carmel on her Light Warlpiri research as time and schooling permits. The Warlpiri people and their languages are truly a beautiful example of how language embodies rich history, culture, and a great capacity for unique language-specific thought and emotion. Hopefully I will be able to return to Lajamanu one day in the future! My thanks to the Linguistics Department for funding support for this experience."