Lawyer gets award for documenting local language

Youth & Careers

GERTRUDE Tamade Elai hails from Taemigidu village, Nawaeb, in Morobe.
A lawyer by profession, she completed a masters in law at the University of Melbourne in 2015 together with her husband, a fellow alumni and is currently working as the senior legal counsel with Barrick (Nuigini) Ltd.
It was Elai’s passion that proved to be outstanding and worthy of recognition for the Papua New Guinea Australia Alumni Association’s 2018 alumni of the year award, presented in Port Moresby on July 19.
While undertaking studies in Melbourne, Elai took up a part-time job to assist the field methods class of the language department at the University of Melbourne under the guidance of Prof Rachel Nordlinger.
From this engagement, and with the assistance of the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, they were able to complete a children’s book, Songgoleng Kom Kumwa Nei (Frog Where Are You) in her local language, Taemi.
After returning to PNG, Elai presented the children’s book written in her language to the people of Taemigidu.
She also presented to them the work done with the University of Melbourne which resulted in a Taemi dictionary containing basic Taemi words.
The Taemi digital language dictionary is now stored on the PARADISESEC (The Pacific Regional Archive for Digital Source in Endangered Cultures) website which was also possible with the assistance of Associate Prof Nick Thiebeger at the University of Melbourne.
This method enables students abroad to record a language in Papua New Guinea, helping to inspire others in the country to preserve their languages and cultural identities on an online platform that can be accessed by future generations.
The online database also enables Taemi speakers to constantly add to the database new or old words and phrases in Taemi.
Elai was happy that the project on recording her language had also inspired one of the field methods class to write her thesis on the study of the Taemi language.
She thanked Catherine Zisserman for helping with her thesis, “Mood and tense in Taemi” which further documented the language for academic use.
Elai said she maintained links with Australia through engagement with the University of Melbourne’s language department and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.
Elai said the Taemi project would not have been possible without the support and interest of the 2015 field methods class at the University of Melbourne and dedicated the award to “all the small feet running around on the white sand of Taemigidu village”.

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