The Top End Linguistic Circle (TELC) is an informal association of linguists and other language workers in the ‘Top End’ of the Northern Territory of Australia. It has held a couple of meetings or workshops almost every year since it began in the 1970s. Meetings are organised by local TELC members, often scheduled to enable visitors to give presentations. Visitors doing fieldwork in the top end, or local NT linguists and language workers wanting to share, can contact topendlingcircle@gmail.com if they would like to present at TELC.

TELC is also on social media. You can find us at:

NEXT TELC SEMINAR: 13th November 2023

Time: 2.00-3.30pm, Monday 13 November 2023

Location: Charles Darwin University, Casuarina campus, Northern Institute, Yellow 1, level 2, room 48 (the Savannah Room). Campus map.


  • 2.00-2.45pm: Awni Etaywe, “Analysing identity in violent extremist discourse through systemic functional linguistics: An appraisal analysis”
  • 2.45-3.30pm: Rebecca Amery & Julie Gungunbuy Wunungmurra, “Collaborative development of aided Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems for Yolŋu living with Machado-Joseph disease”

After the presentations there is time for networking and sharing updates about what’s happening in the language space around the Top End.

Abstracts and Speaker Biographies

Awni Etaywe, “Analysing identity in violent extremist discourse through systemic functional linguistics: An appraisal analysis”


Identity attacks are prevalent in terrorist threatening communication. That said, little is known about how extremists use language to perform identity attacks. Contributing to the mechanisms used for interrogating offenders’ performance of identity attacks and understanding clues to offensive language and precursors of violence, this paper explores the primary victims as well as the aspects of victims’ identities that are attacked in the violent extremist discourse of the far-rightist Brenton Tarrant, and two jihadists – Boko Haram leader, Abu Bakr Shekau, and former ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi. The seminar will focus on evaluative couplings (i.e. attitude + attitudinal target or ideation) as the unit of analysis. The evaluative coupling approach to identities in terrorist discourse (e.g. Etaywe & Zappavigna, 2021, 2023) is grounded in the Appraisal framework (Martin & White, 2005) which enables a systematic description of the pattern of the extremists’ attributing of particular values to their victims. To generate a list of repeated, attitudinally loaded lemmas, AntConc (a corpus analysis tool) is used, and the lemmas are examined for their evaluative load in their concordance lines. This concordance-line examination also allows us to identify what or who is being evaluated or attacked (i.e. attitudinal targets). To systematically describe the categories of attitudinal targets, they are categorised based on (van Leeuwen, 2008): functionalisation (i.e. in terms of an activity social actors do, e.g. government, immigrants); and identification (in terms of what social actors are, e.g. White, men, brothers). Then, the victims’ attacked aspects of identity are described (Tracy & Robles, 2002): personal (e.g. scum), relational (e.g. enemy), interactional (e.g. tyrant), and master aspects (e.g. apostate). These evaluative lemmas and attitudinal targets are taken as ‘evaluative textbites’ that move us closer to the ‘extremist appraisal signature’ (Etaywe, 2023), and serve as a diagnostic for characterising the performative nature of identity attacks.


  • Etaywe, A. (2023). Language as evidence: A discourse semantic and corpus linguistic approach to examining written terrorist threatening communication. The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 29(2), 230–238. https://doi.org/10.1558/ijsll.24678
  • Etaywe, A., & Zappavigna, M. (2022). Identity, ideology and threatening communication: An investigation of patterns of attitude in terrorist discourse. Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict, 10(2), 315–350. https://doi.org/10.1075/jlac.00058.eta
  • Etaywe, A., & Zappavigna, M. (2023). The role of social affiliation in incitement: A social semiotic approach to far-right terrorists’ incitement to violence. Language in Society, 1-26. https://doi:10.1017/S0047404523000404
  • Martin, J. & White, P. (2005). The language of evaluation: Appraisal in English. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Tracy, K. & Robles, J. (2002). Everyday talk: Building and reflecting identities. London: The Guildford Press.
  • Van Leeuwen, T. (2008). Discourse and practice: New tools for critical analysis. London: Oxford University Press.

About the speaker:

Awni Etaywe is a linguistics lecturer and forensic linguistics researcher in terrorism, incitement to hatred and violence, and digital deviance. He is also interested in the semiotics of compassion in digital activist discourse. His actionable insights feature in various public media, publications and esteemed journals, such as Language in Society (Cambridge) and Routledge International Handbook of Online Deviance.

Rebecca Amery & Julie Gungunbuy Wunungmurra, “Collaborative development of aided Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems for Yolŋu living with Machado-Joseph disease”


Rebecca and Julie will share about their research process and findings related to developing alternative communication systems for Yolŋu first language speakers living with MJD, a progressive genetic disease, which impacts people’s ability to speak. Julie will share her Yolŋu family’s experiences of living with MJD across the Top End, and its impact on communication and participation. Rebecca will present some theory from the field of speech pathology related to multi-modal communication and development of communication systems in languages other than English. Together they will raise key cultural and linguistic considerations for First Nations families, speech pathologists and linguists’ collaborating in the Top End.

About the speakers:

Julie Gungunbuy Wunungmurra is a Dalwaŋu woman, from Galiwin’ku community. Julie is a senior Yolŋu cultural advisor at the MJD Foundation, where she has worked since 2011. Julie is the primary contact and support person for Yolŋu clients with MJD and their families in Darwin, Galiwin’ku and Yirrkala. Julie provides support to MJD Foundation community services, research and education programs and projects, providing cultural advice and support, as well as translation and interpreting for research, medical and genetic concepts. She has been the primary Yolŋu researcher for the MJD Communication research project and has also been involved in genetics and sleep research with the MJD Foundation.

Rebecca Amery is a lecturer and clinical education coordinator in speech pathology at Charles Darwin University. She completed her PhD in 2023, involving collaborative development of aided augmentative and alternative (AAC) systems with Yolŋu families living with Machado-Joseph disease. She also has a Graduate Certificate in Yolŋu Studies from Charles Darwin University and a Bachelor of Speech Pathology from the University of Newcastle. Rebecca has experience working as a speech pathologist across the lifespan with people living with complex communication needs in Melbourne and across the Northern Territory, as well as in Vietnam and Indonesia. She has clinical and research interests in collaborative, intercultural and culturally responsive speech pathology, communication access, and augmentative and alternative communication.

Last modified 7th November 2023