Are super-complex words represented like sentences in speakers' minds?

Many Australian languages defy a seemingly straightforward distinction between 'words' and 'phrases' (groups of words acting as a unit of meaning) by having very complex words with meanings that English would require a sentence to express. This project aims to examine speakers' knowledge of ‘super-complex’ words in the Australian language Wubuy, using innovative 'low tech' experimental approaches suited for remote field research. The results will experimentally investigate what a 'word' is in Wubuy, and thereby inform not only language description/typology but also likely challenge current models of speech processing and language acquisition, which are built on this fundamental distinction.

Chief Investigators: Brett Baker, University of Melbourne & Rikke Bundgaard-Nielsen, Western Sydney University