Current research projects

The academic staff of The School of Languages and Linguistics undertake many research projects and have been awarded many research grants. Details of current funded research can be found in this section.


Dr Deborah Loakes, Professor Janet Fletcher, Professor John Hajek

AusTalk will be a large state-of-the-art database of spoken Australian English from all around the country. Starting in June 2011, a thousand adults of all ages from 15 different locations in all states & territories are being recorded, representing the regional and social diversity and linguistic variation of Australian English, including Australian Aboriginal English. Each speaker is recorded on three separate occasions so that we can sample their voice in a range of scripted and spontaneous speech situations at various times. Later, this database will be expanded to include more age groups including children, more accents and more ways of speaking.


Digital Daisy Bates (2013-)

Dr Nick Thieberger

In collaboration with the National Library of Australia (NLA), this project has made accessible this extremely valuable collection of several hundred wordlists of Australian languages, originally recorded by Daisy Bates in the early 1900s. This will enable reuse of the collection by Aboriginal people searching for their own heritage languages and by other researchers.

Digital Daisy Bates

EthnoER online presentation and annotation system (EOPAS) (2013- )

Dr Nick Thieberger, Professor Rachel Nordlinger

EthnoER online presentation and annotation system: Preparation of an open-source streaming server with time-aligned text: towards a distributed international language museum using EOPAS, the EthnoER online presentation and annotation system. This project provides an open-source framework for delivery of media in an application addressing the problem of how to make language data more generally available than it currently is.


Huysmans and Prose Poetry (2011- )

The First Critical Annotated Edition

Dr Bertrand Bourgeois
Early Career Researcher Grants Scheme, The University of Melbourne

Language documentation

Linguistics at the University of Melbourne has a long tradition of supporting fieldwork-based research on endangered languages. Topics range from descriptive grammars of little known languages to more specific investigations of phonetics, morphology, semantics, discourse, lexicography, language acquisition and language documentation.

Language documentation

Learning to talk whitefella way

Dr Brett Baker and Dr Rikke Bundgaard-Nielsen (UWS)
ARC Discovery Project DP130102624

Learning to speak a new language requires the learner to notice the difference between his/her own speech sounds and those of the new language. But what if the learner already uses most of the words of the new language? This is the case for 20,000 remote Indigenous children and adults, speaking Kriol, a language historically based on contact between Indigenous people and English-speaking newcomers, producing a language different to both. The words are mostly derived from English, but many of the grammatical meanings mirror those in the Indigenous languages. There have also been effects on the way that Kriol is pronounced: it has inherited features of both English and the Indigenous languages' sound systems. This project will provide the first description of the sound system of Kriol based on rigorous phonological and acoustic analysis. Based on what we find out about its sound system, we will go on to study Kriol speakers' perception of sounds and words of English and Kriol. In the short term, this will enable us to pre-empt problems that Kriol-speaking children might have in learning Standard Australian English, because of the differences between the two languages. More generally, the study will help us to understand the cognitive mechanisms involved in learning new languages and in particular the role of the lexicon in this process.

Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC)

Dr Nick Thieberger

PARADISEC offers a facility for digital conservation and access to endangered materials from all over the world. Our research group has developed models to ensure that the archive can provide access to interested communities and conforms to emerging international standards for digital archiving. A primary motivation for this project is making field recordings available to those recorded and their descendants. More information can be found on the PARADISEC website.


Small Stones Can Break Big Canoes (2014-2018)

Securing Records Of The World's Indigenous Languages

Dr Nick Thieberger
ARC Future Fellowship

Sublime Manipulation (2011- )

Uncovering the Mystery of Early Modern Simulacra Reception

Professor Vicente Pérez de León
Early Career Researcher Grants Scheme, The University of Melbourne

The Power Of The Translator (2014-2019)

A New History Of Cultural Change And Communication

Dr Andrea Rizzi
ARC Future Fellowship

The wellsprings of linguistic diversity (2014-2018)

Laureate Professorship awarded to Professor Nicholas Evans, ANU; Dr Ruth Singer, Research Fellow

The project will move the field in a bold new direction likely to mark a turning point in the way we study language, variation, diversity and change. Australia has had a world-leading reputation as the "dawn-land of today's linguistics" for its work on little-known languages, but by now the approaches it grew famous for in the 1980s and 1990s have been widely adopted worldwide and it is time to innovate in new ways. This project will renew Australia's leading reputation in linguistics by asking questions which are at the same time central and neglected, about the causes of linguistic diversity and disparity and why they vary sporadically in different parts of the world. To answer them, we will expand the methods and foci of language documentation to look at variation, and combine them with powerful computational modelling to see how actually attested variation and change across individuals scales up to the diversification of whole languages under different patterns of intermarriage and multilingual engagement.

Towards improved quality of written patient records (2013-2016)

Language proficiency standards for non-native speaking health professionals

Assoc. Professor Ute Knoch and Professor Tim Mcnamara et al

ARC Linkage Project LP130100171

This project will focus on the quality and safety of healthcare in Australia by improving the screening of written communication of overseas trained non-native English speaking health professionals. Strong written communication skills among overseas trained doctors and nurses are critical to the quality of patient records and safe patient care. In Australia, these skills are assessed using the Occupational English Test (OET), administered by the OET Centre, our partner organisation. This study will research the writing practices in hospitals, identify doctors' and nurses' criteria to evaluate effective records, and apply these criteria to the OET to set more profession-oriented passing standards on the OET written assessment. This will be achieved by bringing together a multi-disciplinary team including applied linguists, clinical educators, the OET Centre, and three partner hospitals.

What makes a multilingual community? (2014-2017)

The life of languages at Warruwi community

Dr Ruth Singer

ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) DE140100232

This project will improve our understanding of the social and cultural practices that support multilingualism. It will also contribute to the development of methodologies that do not make a priori assumptions about the relevance of particular social categories and language ideologies. The book will be the most detailed account of egalitarian multilingualism yet, adding to the slim literature on this type of societal multilingualism. Together with journal articles, it will provide evidence urgently needed for debates around the creation and maintenance of linguistic diversity. The 100 hours of carefully collected, annotated and archived data from the project will be a significant record of at least four endangered Australian Indigenous languages.

Please note: For details on other related research projects please visit the Research Unit for Multilingualism and Cross-Cultural Communication website.