Research Unit for Indigenous Language staff
- Associate Professor Rachel Nordlinger, Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
- Professor Gillian Wigglesworth, Chief Investigator on the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
Teaching and research staff
- Professor Janet Fletcher, Professor of Phonetics
- Dr Rebecca Defina, Postdoctoral researcher with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
- Dr Anna Stephen, Postdoctoral researcher with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
- Brighde Collins
2016-2017 Steering Committee members
The Research Unit for Indigenous Language is guided and advised by an external Steering Committee that includes experts from a range of organisations across the country, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
Professor Marcia Langton
Marcia Langton has held the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne since February 2000. An anthropologist and geographer, she has made a significant contribution to Indigenous studies at three universities, and to government and non-government policy and administration throughout her career. Her research has concerned Indigenous relationships with place, land tenure and environmental management, agreement-making and treaties in the Northern Territory and Cape York Peninsula. Her work in anthropology and the advocacy of Aboriginal rights was recognised in 1993 when she was made a member of the Order of Australia. She became a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 2001 and was awarded the inaugural Neville Bonner Award for Indigenous Teacher of the Year in 2002.
Ms Ellen Koshland
Ellen Koshland has worked in education, philanthropy and the arts since her arrival in 1973 from USA. In 1989 she founded Education Foundation to support innovation in public education. The foundation brought the resources of business, trusts, communities and individuals to pioneering programs affecting student lives nationwide. Ellen served as Board Director of the Foundation for Young Australians until 2014. In this role Ellen was a visionary in commissioning leading research on education equity and on new school funding models. Her work had a major influence on the school funding model adopted in Australia in 2013.
One thing that defines Ellen is her passion for implementing new measures of education success. To move beyond tests of basic skills, to measuring the suite of capabilities required by all young people to thrive in the 21st Century. Capabilities like collaboration, creativity and intercultural and ethical understanding. Her commitment to new measures for learning success extends to all young people - here in Australia and globally. Her investment in the Global Education Leaders Program brings together education system leaders from Australia and across the world to work on the transformation required to equip young people for their future.
In the realm of literature Ellen has served as a Judge for the Victorian Premier Literary Awards 2007-8, and a member of Melbourne Writers Festival Program Committee. She established The Poets Voice to bring poetry into the public realm and is a Foundation Donor of The Stella Prize.
Dr Inge Kral
Inge Kral is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at The Australian National University. As an ethnographer of language and literacy she has explored how youth in remote Indigenous Australia are using digital technologies in non-formal learning spaces. She is currently researching the socio-cultural and linguistic consequences of communication technologies in remote communities and the implications for communication, language socialisation and the development of multimodal literacies. Inge previously worked in Aboriginal education for some 20 years as a teacher linguist, literacy educator, curriculum developer and consultant.
Mr Paul Paton
Paul Paton is an Aboriginal man from the Gunnai and Monaro tribes of south eastern Australia. As the Executive Officer of the State Language Centre in Victoria, Paul has a very good understanding of the issues and priorities facing communities in reviving their local languages. Paul is involved at various levels in all the language projects running through the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, supporting various communities in Victoria and responding to their needs in regards to accessing resources, program guidance, advocacy and technical support. Paul is also a Director of First Languages Australia, Committee Member of RNLD, the Victorian Placenames Committee and part of the Victorian Department of Education Languages Advisory Group.
Dr Jakelin Troy
Professor Jakelin Troy is the Director, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research, Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Services, the University of Sydney. Professor Troy is a Ngarigu woman whose country is the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. Her academic research is diverse but has a focus on languages and linguistics, anthropology and visual arts. She is particularly interested in Australian languages of New South Wales and ‘contact languages’. Her doctoral research was into the development of NSW Pidgin. Since 2001 Prof Troy has been developing curriculum for Australian schools with a focus on Australian language programs. Dr Troy has lived and studied in Mexico and Japan where she was able to develop her interest in the art, culture and languages of those countries.
Her areas of expertise are: Australian languages and linguistics, Anthropology, Visual arts, Education - particularly languages curriculum studies, Contact history, Indigenous Studies, Native Title, Japanese language and studies, and Archaeology.
Dr Melanie Wilkinson
Melanie Wilkinson is a Senior Language Resource Officer with the NT Department of Education. Her linguistic PhD/research focused on the Yolŋu clan language, Djambarrpuyŋu. She has been with the Department since 1991 and for 18 years was based in East Arnhem, but is currently in Darwin. Her role has been to support school programs. These have included bilingual programs, revitalization programs, and language and culture programs. She has seen the challenges these programs present as well as the joys of their success.
Her collaboration with educators and Indigenous linguists in the East Arnhem context has encompassed work on resources for primary to secondary programs, supporting delivery of secondary Stage 1 and 2 Australian Languages, development and delivery of adult training especially through language/literacy units in education courses, collaboration in identifying home language appropriate as metalanguage for instruction in maths and literacy and support for non-Indigenous people learning or working with Yolŋu and other languages in the region. She has been involved in the school reviews that were conducted of bilingual programs and in curriculum and policy development in relation to language in remote indigenous contexts. She has been actively involved in projects in clan languages from 5 of the 8 larger Yolŋu language groups as well as two of the non-Yolŋu languages in the region - Wubuy and Ngandi.
Brigitte Agnew is working on the grammatical description of Mangarla (north Western Australia).
As an unusual blend of technologist and linguist, Mat Bettison's academic focus is two fold: social web approaches to language endangerment initiatives and broader linguistic issues relating to the rise of social media in China. In 2014 he became a PhD student at the University of Melbourne. Mat's research is aimed at scalable methods in documenting endangered languages, or to put it another way, using mobile technology to crowdsource language from speaker communities at risk of language loss. In such a way Mat hopes to play a part in ensuring that future generations have access to the rich cultural knowledge of the dwindling number of languages in the world.
Lucy Davidson majored in foreign languages in her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne, coming to linguistics after completing graduate coursework at Melbourne and then an MPhil at the University of Cambridge. In 2013 she joined the ARC funded project, LAMP (Language Acquisition in Murrinhpatha), as a PhD candidate. This has involved extended fieldwork in Wadeye, a remote Aboriginal community in Northern Territory, to collect linguistic data both for her own research and for the broader project’s corpus. Lucy’s PhD research tracks the linguistic development of seven young children who are acquiring Murrinhpatha, the polysynthetic Australian language spoken in this area. Wadeye is a highly unique context; geographically, linguistically and socioculturally. Lucy’s research focuses on how the children use language to express the ways in which they themselves belong in this society, how others fit within it, and how this changes over the course of 22 months.
Daniela Diedrich completed a Bachelor with Honours at La Trobe University in 2013. Her Honours dealt with the phonology of Tombulu, an endangered Minahasan language of Sulawesi. Her interest in Austronesian languages and documentary linguistics then led her to start a PhD at The University of Melbourne. Daniela's PhD research focuses on the grammatical structures of Paku, an endangered South East Barito language spoken in Borneo where she is working with speakers to complete a grammatical description and a dictionary. She is also collecting recordings of stories in order to preserve not only the language, but also as much of the cultural heritage as possible, for future generations.
Kate is a PhD student at The University of Melbourne who is documenting and describing Wubuy (also referred to as 'Nunggubuyu'), an endangered Australian language spoken around Numbulwar in south-east Arnhem Land, NT. She has been working on this language since her Honours degree at the University of New England Armidale, where she considered interactions between possession, noun incorporation and verb agreement in Wubuy and proposed a new empirically-based classification of the possessive constructions that more clearly accounted for their distribution.
Her research is currently focused on the interfaces between syntax, morphology and semantics in Wubuy, particularly in relation to the expression of verbal arguments and the ways in which this can be affected by verb derivational processes. She is also teaching undergraduate courses within the department and is involved in the ARC funded project 'Doing great things with small languages', where she is enriching earlier recordings of Wubuy mythological and ethnographic texts collected in the 1970s. This same research project has also funded four months of her PhD fieldwork.
Katie Jepson is a PhD candidate in the Phonetics Laboratory at the University of Melbourne. Katie completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honours at the ANU in 2013. In her Honours research, she worked on segmental and intonational phonology and its’ relationship to focus and topic in Torau, an Oceanic language spoken on the east coast of central Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Her doctoral research is an acoustic phonetic study of prosodic phenomena in Djambarrpuyŋu, a Yolŋu Matha variety spoken in north east Arnhem Land. Using experimental phonetic and laboratory phonology methods, Katie is examining prosodic prominence at the level of the word – i.e. stress – and the phrase – i.e. intonation – and how these acoustic prominences contribute to meaning, such as by encoding information structure. There is also a perception component to investigate how Djambarrpuyŋu people perceive and use these illusive prosodic phenomena in processing speech. The study will be both qualitative and quantitative, to account for what is observed. A particular area of interest is the rising intonation contour which has been anecdotally reported for Djambarrpuyŋu, and is uncommon among the Yolŋu languages, and Australian languages more widely.
Ivan has worked with a couple languages so far, mostly Adyghe (Northwest Caucasian), but also Imbabura Quichua (Quechuan) and Kalmyck (Turkic). Adyghe is a language with fascinatingly complex morphosyntax characteristic of the polysynthetic type. Ivan's PhD will be on a grammatical description of Kunbarlang (Gunwinyguan), a polysynthetic language indigenous to Australia's Northern Territory. With less than 20 speakers remaining, it is on the brink of extinction, and there's little time left to capture and document it.
Maria Karidakis completed her undergraduate degree in 2015 at the University of Melbourne graduating with Honours in Linguistics. In her Honours research she worked on language and metaphor in end-of-life discussions. She is currently doing a PhD that investigates the challenges Aboriginal Liaison Officers and interpreters of Australian Indigenous languages face when English medical terminology and concepts have no or minimal equivalent in Indigenous languages or vice versa. Another aim of this study is to examine what interpreters and Aboriginal Liaison Officers perceive as the major language-related challenges and opportunities in interpreter-mediated interactions, and what strategies they employ to ensure the communication works. This research project highlights the need to raise awareness of the importance of culturally-sensitive interpreting between medical clinicians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. Maria is also employed as a research assistant assisting with the Yipirinya School data transcription.
Gemma Morales is working on a PhD research project investigating the development of Yolngu Matha (home language) literacy skills in Indigenous children from remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, Australia. The project involves the creation of iPad apps designed to assess and train phonological awareness and letter knowledge in Yolngu Matha. Gemma is investigating whether these resources will facilitate the acquisition of early literacy for these communities, which come from oral traditions. Gemma is also working as a research assistant on the Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition Project (ACLA2), which is being conducted by researchers from The University of Melbourne and the Australian National University. ACLA2 documents the languages that Indigenous children use and hear at home and in school.
Professor Linda Barwick
Linda Barwick (Associate Dean (Research) at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney), is a musicologist specialising in the study of Australian Indigenous and immigrant musics and in the digital humanities (particularly archiving and repatriation of ethnographic field recordings as a site of interaction between researchers and cultural heritage communities). She has studied community music practices through fieldwork in Australia, Italy and the Philippines. Collaborations with Australian linguists have been particularly important for Linda's work on documenting songs in a number of Australian communities. She has collaborated with several RUIL members over the years, including Nick Thieberger (especially through involvement in PARADISEC), Rachel Nordlinger and Jenny Green (with whom she collaborates on a current ARC Linkage Project with the Central Land Council), Joe Blythe and John Mansfield (Murrinh-patha song) and Ruth Singer (Mawng song). Linda is also an associate investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.
Associate Professor Steven Bird
Steven Bird is Associate Professor in Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne, and Senior Research Associate at the Linguistic Data Consortium. His research focusses on formal and computational models for linguistic information, with application to human language technologies and to the description of the world's 7,000 languages. He lead the University of Melbourne team which developed Aikuma, an android app for preserving the last words of the world’s endangered languages, which won the Grand Prize in the Open Source Software World Challenge 2013. Before coming to The University of Melbourne he did doctoral and post-doctoral research at the University of Edinburgh (1987-94). From 1995-97 he conducted linguistic fieldwork on the languages of western Cameroon, published a dictionary, and helped develop several new writing systems. From 1998-2002 he was Associate Director of the Linguistic Data Consortium at the University of Pennsylvania, where he led an R&D team working on open-source software for linguistic annotation.
Emeritus Professor Barry Blake
Barry Blake is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at la Trobe University. He is author or joint author of descriptions of three languages of western Queensland based on fieldwork undertaken in the period 1966-1976 and of several descriptions of Victorian languages based on nineteenth century sources. His most recent work has been to produce a consolidated account of Yartwatjali, Tjapwurrung and Djadjawurrung, three closely related dialects of Western Kulin. He is currently an adviser to the Boandik community in the production of a resource volume on Bunganditj.
Recent publications include:
- Blake, B.J. 2010. Secret Language. Oxford: OUP
- Blake, B.J. 2007. Playing with Words: Humour in the English Language. London: Equinox
- Blake, B.J. 2007. All about Language. Oxford: OUP
- Breen, J. G. and Blake, B. J. 2006. A Grammar of Yalarnnga. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics
Dr Joe Blythe
Joe is Lecturer of Linguistics and Research Fellow (DECRA) at Macquarie University. Joe has conducted field research on the Kija and Jaru languages of northern Western Australia and continues fieldwork with speakers of the Murrinh-Patha language of Australia's Northern Territory.
As an interactional linguist, Joe is interested in the relationships between linguistic structure and social action, and what these relationships reveal about social cognition and culture. He is concerned with how interlocutors coordinate with each other in making themselves understood, and in how they package their talk, gaze and gestures, etc., as moves directed towards interactional goals. He is especially interested in what social interaction reveals about why words and constructions are structured the way they are. Thus, do particular structures reveal affordances for delivering particular actions? Are these structures better adapted than alternative structures for delivering the desired actions? Can constraints on language use be observed to be driving structural and semantic change?
Cathy Bow is the project manager for the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages at Charles Darwin University, which is collecting and digitising Indigenous language materials from the Northern Territory and making them available via an open access website (www.cdu.edu.au/laal). Previously she was involved with training Indigenous linguists for a language revival project in Bourke, NSW, and also with analysis and preparation of data collected at Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre for dictionary publication. Outside of her work in Indigenous languages, Cathy has described the sound system of an African language, investigated language development in children with impaired hearing, explored endangered language documentation, and researched the language and communication needs of international medical graduates. She has worked as a teacher of English as an Additional Languages, a trainer and coach for language learners, and is the NT representative for OzCLO.
Margaret has extensive experience in adult education with Indigenous adults, having taught in both Higher Education and VET programs in the area of linguistics and Indigenous language documentation. She has also worked collaboratively with linguistic colleagues and other organisations on a range of projects, including cross-platform creative projects which combine print, media and online components. She maintains websites for various language projects as part of her current role as project linguist at Batchelor Institute for Indigenous Tertiary Education. Please see the NT Central Language Centre Support Program website and Maningrida NT Language Support Program website.
Dr Alice GabyEmail Alice Gaby
Alice Gaby is Senior Lecturer in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University. Since 2002, she has collaborated with speakers of various Paman languages in the Cape York community of Pormpuraaw. She has published on a range of topics in grammatical description, typology, semantics, pragmatics, and the relationship between language, culture and cognition (many of which are available for download). Ongoing research interests include how the classificatory kinship systems is implicated in the grammatical expression of politeness in Pormpuraaw and elsewhere. Another current research project explores how people around the world draw on metaphor--of strikingly different kinds--to understand ineffable concepts such as time, as well as the cognitive impact of these metaphors. A third thread of research seeks to disentangle the respective contributions of language, culture, local geography, and communicative context in shaping how spatial relationships are conceptualized and described.
Dr Robert Mailhammer
Robert Mailhammer is a Senior Lecturer affiliated with the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and The MARCS Institute at the University of Western Sydney. Since 2007 Robert has been involved in the documentation and linguistic analysis of Iwaidjan languages, traditionally spoken in Northwestern Arnhem Land. His interest focuses especially on Amurdak, which is critically endangered, and Iwaidja as well as Aboriginal English. Robert has conducted fieldwork on Croker Island and Goulburn Island, working on Amurdak, Iwaidja, Mawng and Aboriginal English. He has published on Amurdak and Iwaidjan languages and is the co-author of Amurdak Inyman (2009), the first published collection of Amurdak texts with translations into Iwaidja and English as well as grammatical notes. Robert's work on Australian Indigenous languages has been funded by a number of organisations, such as the Australian Research Council, the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, the Volkswagenstiftung and the Endangered Languages Project.
Associate Professor Angela Morgan
Angela is Head of the Neuroscience of Speech group at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and Director of Research and Teaching for Speech Pathology at the University of Melbourne. Angela's research focuses on the neurobiology of child speech and language disorders. Her vision is to bring neuroscientific evidence to everyday practice in Speech Pathology to optimise outcomes for children affected by speech and language disorders. She is focused on speech and language development in indigenous children as part of her wider program.
Dr Stephen Morey
Dr Stephen Morey is a senior Lecturer in the Department of Languages and Linguistics, La Trobe University. His principal research since 1996 has been languages of the Tai-Kadai and Tibeto-Burman families of Northeast India (and more recently neighbouring Myanmar), but he have also worked extensively on the Indigenous Languages of Victoria, in conjunction with Barry Blake (La Trobe), Heather Bowe (Monash) and Luise Hercus (ANU). This work has mostly involved the transcription and analysis of 19th century sources for the languages of Victoria, comparing them with the recordings from the fluent native speakers made by Luise Hercus in the 1960s. Publications have included grammars of Yorta Yorta (Bowe and Morey 1999), and Wati-Wati and Letyi-Letyi languages (in Blake, Hercus, Morey with Ryan 2011). Other publications have been on the Woiwurrung language (Morey 1999), Place names of Western Victoria (Morey 2005), negation in languages of Southeast Australia (Hercus and Morey 2008) and Gippsland (Morey in print). Together with Luise Hercus, Ted Ryan and Grace Koch, Stephen is currently preparing a monograph on the traditional Indigenous songs of Victoria, from linguistic, musicological, historical and ethnographic perspectives. He is also president of the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity Inc.
Dr Sally Treloyn
Dr Sally Treloyn joined the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in 2010 as a recipient of an inaugural John McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, having received her PhD in ethnomusicology from The University of Sydney in 2007. Her research focuses on recording and documenting of song and dance traditions in the Kimberley region of northwest Australia, and on developing strategies to support Indigenous stakeholders and organizations in their efforts to sustain their highly endangered musical practices and the knowledge systems to which they are attached. Sally is also an Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Sydney, PARADISEC, and is Coordinator of the National Recording Project for Indigenous Performance in Australia. A list of Sally's current projects is available on her Music, Mind & Wellbeing page.
Dr Jill Vaughan
Jill is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She works at the intersection of the fields of sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology and is interested in questions about language ideology and the social meanings of language use in both the Indigenous and migrant languages of Australia. She is currently conducting research on code-mixing, multilingualism and dialect contact in Maningrida, Arnhem Land. Jill's doctoral research took a multi-sited ethnographic approach to investigating the social meanings of Irish-language use in Ireland and the Irish diaspora. Jill also works on communicating language-related issues to a non-academic audience, high-school students especially, through her work with the Linguistics Roadshow.
RUIL's associate students are studying an Indigenous language beyond the Asia-Pacific region.
Rosey's main research interest is the intersection of experimental phonetics and language documentation. Her PhD project is on the phonetic and phonological description of Lopit, an Eastern Nilotic language of South Sudan, with a particular focus on the acoustic characteristics of vowel and tonal contrasts in the Dorik dialect. Together with Jonathan Moodie, she is also contributing to the development of Lopit language materials for community use.
Jonathan is studying the Lopit language, spoken by around 50,000 people living in the Lopit Mountains north-east of Torit in Eastern Equatoria province in South Sudan. Lopit is an Eastern Nilotic language belonging to the Nilo-Saharan family. He is working with the Lopit communities in Melbourne and in the Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya. He is writing a grammar of the language and working with Rosey Billington.
Brighde completed her MA with RUIL in 2015, with a thesis entitled 'Ngandi aspectual expression: past and present'. This thesis was based on a language, Ngandi, from Arnhem Land, Northern Territory (Australia). Brighde is now working as the Project Officer for RUIL as well as taking on a training and development role within the Research Unit. Her interests include the documentation and revitalisation of Australian Indigenous languages, specifically with respect to involving and empowering community members in the process of working on their own languages.
Bill completed his PhD with RUIL in 2016. His thesis Little kids, big verbs: The acquisition of Murrinhpatha bipartite stem verbs provided an account of children's acquisition of bipartite verb structures in Murrinhpatha, an Australian language of the Northern Territory. This research included assisting in the collection of a longitudinal corpus of Murrinhpatha children's speech as part of the LAMP project. Since completing his study Bill has been employed as a linguist at OLSH Thamarrurr Catholic College in Wadeye, a bilingual school with bi-literacy instruction in Murrinhpatha and English.
Isabel O'Keeffe (née Bickerdike) has a Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Arts (with honours in linguistics) and in 2016 completed her PhD in linguistics at the University of Melbourne with a thesis titled Multilingual manyardi/kun-borrk: Manifestations of Multilingualism in the classical song traditions of western Arnhem Land. The thesis examines the public dance-songs of Indigenous communities in western Arnhem Land and how they reflect and contribute to the region's linguistic diversity and multilingual practices.
She is currently a Research Associate at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music collaborating with Dr Ruth Singer and Prof Linda Barwick on a Major Documentation Project funded by the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP): Empowering Indigenous youth to create a comprehensive pan-varietal, ethnobiological, anthropological record of Kun-barlang through training in low-cost language documentation technology (2016-2019). This project will produce a comprehensive documentation of the remaining varieties of Kun-barlang, a highly endangered language spoken in northwestern Arnhem Land, which has fewer than 60 speakers. Particular emphasis will be on documenting the full range of varieties and registers, including the undocumented 'widow's language'; and language in the domains of kinship, ethnobiology, music and public ceremony. Younger people in the Warruwi and Maningrida communities will be trained and supported in the use of low-cost language documentation technology and will be an integral part of the documentation team.
Isabel is also working with descendants of Wayilwan Ngiyambaa speakers to create language revival materials based on her honours thesis sketch grammar of Wayilwan Ngiyambaa, a 'sleeping' Indigenous language from northern NSW.
His research interests include morphology and syntax, lexicography and dictionaries, digital humanities, as well as the use of technology in field linguistics. Aidan works as an archivist with the Pacific and Regional Archive of Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC), where he has been a member of the team since 2005.
He recently completed his MA in RUIL with the thesis title Tiwi Revisited: A reanalysis of Traditional Tiwi verb morphology.
- Wilson, A. (2010). "Electronic dictionaries for language reclamation", in Hobson et al. (eds.,). Re-awakening languages: theory and practice in the revitalisation of Australia's Indigenous languages. Sydney: The University of Sydney Press
- Wilson, A. (2006). Negative Evidence in Linguistics: The case of Wagiman complex predicates. The University of Sydney, Sydney