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Michael Carne

Michael Carne

For any budding linguist, Vietnamese is an intriguing language. There are historical influences from Chinese and French; three major dialects with distinct features; and half a dozen tones that require endless discipline (and patience) to master.

It was during a month-long trip in Vietnam that Michael Carne found himself hooked on the language and its unique phonology.

"It was originally just for a holiday, but I became fascinated with Vietnamese as a tonal language," he said.

"If you’re interested in linguistics, tonal languages like Vietnamese are fascinating. We often think about tone as variation in pitch, but Vietnamese incorporates other dimensions into how tones are realised."

Michael, who graduated with his Bachelor of Arts/Asian Studies in 2010, is currently completing his Honours. He majored in Vietnamese and linguistics, paving the way for his current research into acoustic phonetics, or the study of physical features of speech.

In August 2017, he conducted field work in Da Nang, Central Vietnam, where he collected audio recordings of Vietnamese speakers.

"Using acoustic phonetics, I’ll be measuring speakers’ tones," he explained. "One of the primary features we measure is what we perceive as pitch. I’ll be extracting that data from recordings and applying some statistical modelling to that," he explained.

Michael, who also researches Indigenous Australian languages at ANU under Professor Jane Simpson, said his studies have given him other skills applicable to his career as a data analyst.

"From studying acoustic phonetics, I’ve learned programming and data analysis skills that have been really useful for employment," he said.

Of course, linguistics is just one of the pathways for Vietnamese language majors. Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, with expanding business and trade ties to Australia.

"Geopolitically, Vietnam is becoming an increasingly important country in the region. If you’re interested in development studies and economics, Vietnamese offers many opportunities," said Michael.

As Australia’s sixth-most spoken language, Vietnamese also offers key advantages in other sectors domestically.

"Apart from the scholarships that are available, studying a language that sets you apart from other students can open up unique career pathways," he added.


Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team