My research interests lie in three intersecting domains: semantic and structural typology; the relationship between language, culture and cognition; and the documentation and analysis of endangered languages, especially those of the Australian continent. It explores questions like:
1) How much (and what) is common to all human languages (and why)?
2) How much (and why) do languages differ from one another?
3) To what extent do the differences and similarities between languages reflect and/or shape how we think about the world?
Much of my research builds upon collaborations with speakers of Paman languages (e.g. Kuuk Thaayorre) spoken in and around the community of Pormpuraaw (Cape York Peninsula, Australia). The knowledge they have shared has impressed on me the importance of language documentation, especially in contexts of language obsolescence. It has also given me an appreciation of how linguistic analysis can be enriched by acknowledging that grammatical structures are part of a larger communicative system, encompassing multiple languages, registers and modalities.
Current research interests include:
- the role of cultural and physical environment in shaping spatial language and thought (with Bill Palmer, Jonathon Lum and Jonathan Schlossberg);
- cultural, gestural and conceptual representations of geo-centric directions (north, south, east, west) and viewpoint-bound directions (left/right) in the absence of such directional language (with Joe Blythe and Hywel Stoakes);
- the cross-cultural representation of time in terms of space in both language and thought (with Lera Boroditsky);
- the indirect expression of desire in Australian languages;
- Indigenous names for places in contemporary Australia;
- kinship semantics and manual kin signs (with Jenny Green, Anastasia Bauer and Elizabeth Marrkilyi Ellis);
- representing knowledge, beliefs and emotions in Australian Aboriginal languages.
- DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
- Institution: University of Melbourne
- Year awarded: 2006