Last changed 1 August 2000

Some comments arising ...

From: Christina Birdsall <>
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 10:29:41 +0800
 I'd be overjoyed to go
 to a Laves workshop.  Another thing I'd like to see is an internet
 chat room for the likes of us, but I've no idea how to set one up.
    Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 12:45:08 +1000 (EST)
    From: David Nash <>

      Another thing I'd like to see is an internet chat room for the likes
      of us, but I've no idea how to set one up.
    Hmm, setting it up isn't so hard, managing one, however, is an ongoing
    hassle.  There is very little traffic in and so I'd suggest any
    Laves discussion could happen there (to start with anyway) -- or else
    just do a "Reply to all" from my first msg, eh?

Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 12:08:32 +1000 (EST) From: Mary Laughren <> David this sounds like a very good idea. I have a student who is typing in some of Laves notes on Nyungar variety basically following the same format that Alan Dench had been using. Mary
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 00:08:48 -0400 From: Peter Sutton <> An excellent idea. [...] From: Peter Sutton <> Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 03:42:08 -0400 [...]                                                     A digitised version of the south-western Laves material would be an ideal aid to [understanding kinship in SW WA], but as I understand it only the directly linguistic stuff is being keyed in. I need all the genealogies and other notes as well, which I have just in photocopy form. Maybe some granting institution could fund the keying in, but it has to be done by someone who knows about the language and about fonts, anthropological conventions etc., and who can look out for that little dot under the marriage sign which means something like  'non-preferred union'! [...] The Laves notes are infinitely better than those of Radcliffe-Brown or Elkin, from the point of view of the posthumous noodler. He recorded things for posterity, not just for jogging his memory later that evening  I am most interested and supportive re your suggested project, needless to say. [...]
    Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 18:33:31 +1000 (EST)
    From: David Nash <>

    [... how about] digitised *page images* of the Laves notes. [That] would
    have some advantages over photocopies -- maybe a CD-ROM with links
    between page images and a "sheaf catalogue" [...]

Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998 15:47:09 From: William McGregor <> Gday David -- a great idea, but what a cop-out: why not volunteer yourself to organise such a conference/workshop. i would be interested in being involved, naturally, as i have a [...] pile of Laves' stuff on K languages which i intend one day to examine. [...]                i reckon it is really worth following up. Bill
[Letter 3/9/98 from Isabel McBryde] [...] It is great to see a revival of concern with the historical, especially when it means Laves' excellent work will not only be used in current research, but get the recognition it deserves.
[Letter 12/10/98 from Amanda Lissarrague] [...] 'A Dhangadi dictionary' was compiled and finished in 1994 as part of the AIATSIS Dictionaries project.
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 100 04:02:03 GMT
From: Amanda Lissarrague <>
I am writing up my Honours thesis on a sketch grammar of Dunghutti
language and I have used the Laves material
extensively, including a discussion on his orthography. I have all of Laves
Dunghutti materials in electronic form using SIL Doulos IPA font for the Mac and
wouldn't mind making this available to others.

Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1999 13:46:42 +1100 From: Cliff Fogarty <> Subject: From Steve Morrelli re Laves Christian Brothers Community Strathfield Private Mail Bag 1 Strathfield 2135 22/01/99 David Nash re Gerhardt Laves Dear David Iíve recently left the Muurrbay Language Centre, Nambucca Heads and regret that I didnít establish contact with you in regard to Laves. He is of vital interest to me since he has collected a huge amount of stuff to do with Gumbaynggir language. Though he worked with people of a different Gumbaynggir dialect to the one we have been reviving, his mine of linguistic, story and ethnographic material is invaluable to us. I have been using much of his material in compiling a Gumbaynggir dictionary, and we have been using his story collection for years. Apropos of that, I wrote to Laves in about 1990 and received a reply from his wife giving our language group permission to publish his Gumbaynggir stories. At that time I promised to send a copy of our edited texts. However we have only individual typescript stories, not a published book. The visit of Lavesí daughter may coincide with such a publication and we would be happy to send her a copy. [...]               However I would love to be notified and may be able to participate in any workshop you may arrange. I will be contactable at the above address. Yours sincerely  (Br) Steve Morelli cfc

Date: Wed, 7 Apr 1999 06:23:37 EDT
Subject: Gerhardt Laves

Dear David Nash

My niece, Susan Laves, recently located your circular dated 25 September 1998
and forwarded it to her father, Ted Laves, who forwarded it to me today. I am
the third of the four children of Gerhardt Laves. The eldest is Jean Hellie
with whom you have apparently been in contact and Ted is the youngest.
Barbara, the second, died two years ago and our mother this January.

I am most interested in what you have to say about Father's research. As
children, we knew that he had spent timebefore he was in Australia and had
studied under Edward Sapir (indeed, Ted - or Edward - was named after him)
but that everything came to a full stop when he apparently failed his viva
voce for his PhD. We knew there were "papers" in the attic and from time to
time Mother would urge him to "write them up". Otherwise his research was a
taboo subject and hung like a black, unmentioned cloud over the family. Dad
did not enjoy his job with International Harvester and felt demeaned by it.
He never actually said as much but it was pretty obvious to all of us that he
was neither happy nor fulfilled. I do not know if he lost his grant when he
failed his "orals" or exactly what happened but there were four children to
support and I guess he had no option. The fact that his work is being
recognised - albeit posthumously - gives me untold pleasure. I can well
imagine that his research was meticulous. He gave attention to detail almost
to the point of obsessiveness in everything he did.

I would be most interested in hearing more about the meeting you have
suggested. If I can possibly attend (my home is in England) I certainly
shall. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Elizabeth Marcuson

Date: Thu, 8 Apr 1999 17:16:01 EDT
Subject: Re: Gerhardt Laves
Yes, I have browsed the website. I have printed off the draft Introduction
Father wrote and a few other bits. It was all most interesting. I had no idea
that there was such a goldmine in our attic.

I agree that it is quite extraordinary that someone could be allowed to
disappear "into the sunset", as it were, after simply failing his orals.
Although it is extraordinary by today's standards, I suspect that it was not
so strange at the time. My feeling is that society in general and
universities in particular were not as kind then as now. If a student chose
to give up, that was that. We always understood that Father actually wanted
to be an architect but his father (who had come from Germany in his early
post-doctoral years to help establish the department of mathematics at the
University of Chicago) disapproved of such an "uncertain" profession and
"encouraged" him to follow his older brothers in an academic career. One
brother was a research geologist for an oil company in Oklahoma and the other
a professor of political science at the U. of Indiana. Father was a gentle,
rather self-effacing man and I can well imagine him being "talked into"
studying linguistics by a somewhat forceful, rather Germanic father in an era
when elders knew better. Having decided to follow this path, it would have
been in his nature to pursue it meticulously. There is no doubt in my mind
that on the few occasions when he referred to his trip to Australia it was
with happy memories but maybe the enormity of writing up the research into a
dissertation was too much for him. Maybe there were other distractions such
as my mother and the four of us who followed between 1936 and 1947. Maybe his
funding came to an end. It was the depression and money would have been
tight. Maybe there were other agendae that I don't even know about. You are
correct that my information is entirely hearsay and family lore. Nonetheless,
I am pretty confident about the legend that he failed his orals and "gave up"
at that stage. More than that I do not know because these things were not
spoken about [...] Over the
years, when I saw or spoke to my parents, conversations were about the "now"
and probably mostly about the children.

It may interest you to know that before he went to International Harvester,
Father spent several years working on the Navajo Indian Reservation in New
Mexico where my two sisters were born (1936 and 1939). He was involved with a
project run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to foster cultural preservation
and autonomy of indigenous peoples. He taught in the schools and prepared
educational materials in the Navajo language and was also involved in
preparation of a handbook on the language. I think he enjoyed his time there
but he and Mother returned to Chicago in 1942. The living conditions were
pretty primitive and Mother had had a very difficult time with her second
pregnancy. I think they returned when she became pregnant with me.

I am sorry that the proposed meeting is on hold but perhaps it is no bad
thing [as EM may be able to visit Sydney after 2000]


Elizabeth Marcuson

Date: Tue, 18 May 1999 14:05:26 +1000
From: Nick Reid <>
Organization: University of New England
Subject: Lavesfest

Hi there !  I didn't get to respond to your call earlier in the year for
a possible workshop on Gerhardt Laves, but I'd like to belatedly signal
my interest. This year I have an Honours student, Franklin Zandvoort,
who is using Mark Harvey's contemporary Matngele fieldnotes and Laves
1931 Emdil notes, to produce a sketch grammar with a diachronic
perspective, and accompanying texts and dictionary. The dictionary
includes words recorded by Laves and Hoddinott and Tryon in addition to

We've recently spent hours getting our hands dirty in Laves' materials,
and developed a real sense of his developing approach to the language.
Both Frank and I would like to contribute to any Lavesfest.

Once Frank has submitted his thesis and given a copy to AIATSIS, I'll
post you details to add to the site.

all the best


Comments welcome

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