Research Unit for Indigenous Language students

Brigitte Agnew

Brigitte Agnew is writing a grammatical description of Mangarla, a Pama-Nyungan language of the Marrngu family, originally spoken in the Great Sandy Desert in north Western Australia.

Mat Bettinson

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 Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) 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.

Katie Bicevskis

Katie Bicevskis completed a BA (Visual) at ANU in 2001 a Graduate (2010) and Postgraduate (2012) Diploma in Linguistics at the University of Melbourne. Her Postgraduate Diploma thesis examined incorporation of modifiers in the Gunwinyguan languages of the Northern Territory. She also completed an MA in Linguistics at the University of British Columbia in 2015 and for her MA thesis she conducted experimental research into the integration of visual and tactile speech information in speech perception. During her time in Canada she also worked on Gitksan, an endangered language of the Tsimshianic family traditionally spoken in northwestern British Columbia. Katie has recently begun her Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) at the University of Melbourne and is working on a grammar of Marri Ngarr, an endangered Australian language of the Daly River region in the Northern Territory.

Lucy Davidson

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 Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) 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

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 Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) 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 Horrack

Kate is a Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) 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

Katie Jepson is a Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) 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 - ie stress - and the phrase - ie 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 Kapitonov

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 Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) 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

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 Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) 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.

Ana Krajinovic

Ana Krajinović is a joint Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) student at the University of Melbourne and Humboldt University in Berlin. Her PhD research focuses on TMA expressions in Nafsan, also known as South Efate, spoken on the island of Efate in Vanuatu. The study of TMA in Nafsan gives special attention to mood and aspect, the most prominent categories of its TMA system. Starting from a more detailed description of grammatical encoding of TMA in Nafsan, the main goal of Ana’s PhD project is to show what a mood-prominent language like Nafsan can clarify when put in typological and theoretical debates. She also intends to rely on different theoretical approaches for a deeper semantic and pragmatic analysis of TMA in Nafsan. The main sources of language data are the Nafsan corpus collected by Nick Thieberger and Ana's fieldwork data.

Gemma Morales

Gemma Morales is working on a Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) 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.

Peter Nyhuis

Peter is conducting Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) research on the phonology of Wubuy, an endangered polysynthetic language of Southeast Arnhem Land, primarily spoken in the remote community of Numbulwar. The language is known for having complex interactions between phonology and morphology, and it is hoped that his research will lead to a clearer understanding of these. Peter also completed his undergraduate and honours studies at the University of Melbourne. His Honours research concerned the morphological integration of English loanwords into Arabic, and he retains an interest in how grammars react to contact with other languages, and in what this can reveal about language in general.

Carly Steele

Carly Steele has started her Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) in 2016 at the University of Melbourne under the supervision of Professor Gillian Wigglesworth. She will be working with Indigenous Kriol speaking children in educational settings. Prior to this, Carly has been employed as a teacher, both Primary and Secondary, in NSW, WA, and QLD and later as a literacy consultant in Cairns. She has worked in Indigenous education in remote WA, Cairns and the Torres Strait. During this time, Carly completed a Master of Arts (Applied Linguistics) at Curtin University. Her Master's thesis investigated whether Indigenous students' literacy levels impact upon the way they process language and, as a consequence, their oral Second Dialect Acquisition (SDA).

Catalina Torres Orjuela

Catalina is a Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) candidate working in the Phonetics Laboratory at the University of Melbourne. Her PhD research focuses on language contact in New Caledonia and the prosodic systems of Drehu, an Oceanic language, and New Caledonian French. A substantial part of her research consists of a detailed description of the acoustic correlates of prosody in both languages. Catalina is interested in bilingualism as a language contact phenomenon and wants to investigate what are the social and psycholinguistic factors influencing bilingual prosody. With her research, she wants to investigate if there exist bi-directional effects related to bilingual prosody acquisition. As part of her project she will visit the University of New Caledonia and conduct fieldwork in Lifou (in the Loyalty Islands).

Catalina holds a BA in French language and literature and a MA in linguistics, both completed at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. In her Master’s thesis, she studied the intonation contours of bilingual Portuguese and German speaking children from a two-way immersion school in Berlin.

Sasha Wilmoth

Sasha's Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) project is a study of intergenerational variation and change in Pitjantjatjara, a Western Desert language spoken in Central Australia. Sasha completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honours at the University of Melbourne in 2014. Her Honours research focused on the distribution of some under-described discourse-marking clitics in Murrinhpatha. Since completing her Honours degree, she has been working in the language technology industry at the Sydney-based company Appen, using computational methods to develop various types of language data for machine learning. She has also been working as a research assistant with Felicity Meakins at the University of Queensland, developing a longitudinal corpus of Gurindji Kriol