My main research interests lie in the areas of language documentation and analysis, linguistic typology, morpho-syntax, language change and the discourse-syntax interface. Some areas I have particularly worked in are listed below.

Language documentation, description and analysis

Narratives, pronouns, reference tracking

Three-participant events

Valence & transitivity

Demonstratives, spatial deixis

Other areas

Language documentation, description and analysis

My general research focus is on the documentation, description and analysis of under-research languages, in particular languages of the Pacific. I have been working on Saliba-Logea (Oceanic, Papua New Guinea) since 1995 when started fieldwork on the grammar and particularly phenomena around valence and transitivity of the language with funding from the Language and Cognition Group at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen. Most of my publications have dealt with describing and analysing this language.

In 2004 I received a grant from the Documentation of Endangered Languages Program of the Volkswagen Foundation, for the Project Towards the Documentation of Saliba-Logea, an endangered Language of Papua New Guinea, working with Carmen Dawuda, Andrew Margetts, Ulrike Mosel, John Hajek and Kipiro Damas. In 2009 we received a second phase of funding for this project.

I also spend some time recording and analysing data from Lau (Oceanic, Solomons) in collaboration with Francis Aruafu, here in Melbourne. I have supervised a thesis which analyses the text data from this project for a discourse-based grammatical description. The data and the thesis are available on PARADISEC.

Some of my publications are on methodological aspects of language documentation, e.g. Margetts (2009), Margetts (2012), Margetts & Margetts (2012).

I am and have been involved in the supervision of a number of research theses in the area of language description and analysis. Currently I am co-supervising theses on Sudest (Oceanic, PNG), and Divehi (Indo-European).

In a previous life I also worked on Cayuga, a Northern Iroquoian language of North America. My MA thesis, was an Analysis of a Cayuga Discourse Particle.


Narratives, pronouns, reference tracking

Recently one of my research foci has been the role of pronouns and other person-based deictics (such as person-based directionals and demonstratives) in narrative discourse. I became interested in this through the use of second person pronouns for third person referents in Saliba-Logea which I stumbled upon during field work as I was trying to place quotation marks in transcriptions of Saliba narratives and I couldn’t quite figure out where direct speech began and ended. Shifts to second person in Saliba narratives indicate high points. (I am grateful to Noni from Bwasitau who first explained the Saliba data to me and to Susy MacQueen who, at a 3rd birthday party, pointed out the functional parallels to the historical present!) I have since found similar strategies in a range of other languages which are discussed in Margetts (2015). Such uses are described as ‘internal evaluation’ (Labov 1972) and ‘narrative peaks’ (Longacre 1983).

Through this study I got interested in narratives and evaluation more generally and have supervised an honours thesis on evaluation in children’s Frog story narratives.

I am currently working on a paper about other discourse functions of person-based deictics and I organised a workshop on Person-based Deictics as Discourse Markers at the meeting of the Australian Linguistics Society in 2013.

I am interested in reference tracking in discourse and in addition to the research on person-based deictics mentioned above I have been involved in a project with Geoff Haig, Stefan Schnell and Howie Manns on Cross-corpus investigations of pronominal reference where I have started to apply Grammatical Relations and Animacy in Discourse (GRAID) annotations to a number of Saliba narratives. The project was funded by the Go8-DAAD exchange scheme in 2012 to 2013.


Three-participant events

My PhD thesis dealt with Valence and Transitivity in Saliba (Oceanic, PNG) and I became interested in three-participant events because the language has a suppletive paradigm of the verb ‘give’ where one of the suppletive stems is ditransitive but the other is transitive. The transitive stem indicates a recipient by a directional suffix (towards speakers, towards addressee). This is described in (Margetts 2008). I found several strategies in the language to express three-participant events showing that there is not a very clear alignment between semantic three-participant events and their encoding in terms of number of arguments.

Within a two-year project on three-participant events from a cross-linguistic perspective in collaboration with Nick Evans and Peter Austin I explored three-participant events in Saliba (Margetts 2002), the Oceanic language group (Margetts 2004, 2007)  and cross-linguistically (Margetts & Austin 2007). The project was funded by the Feodor Lynnen Program of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

I am currently involved in a further project on Cross-linguistic Patterns in the Encoding of Three-participant Events together with Katharina Haude and Nikolaus Himmelmann and in collaboration with Dagmar Jung, John Hajek, Sonja Riesberg, Stefan Schnell, Frank Seifart, and Claudia Wegener funded by the DoBeS Program of the Volkswagen Foundation. In this project we are annotating DoBeS corpora for the occurrence of different types of three-participant events and how they are encoded with a view of establishing the text frequency of different strategies and event types, and correlations between event types and specific strategies. We are also investigating possible correlations between preferred encoding patterns of three-participant events and a language’s classification in terms of Basic Valence Orientation à la Nichols et al. (2004).

I also am and have been involved in the supervision at honours and PhD level in this topic area.


Valence & transitivity

Much of my early research on Saliba was on valence and transitivity, including Margetts (1999, 2007, 2008, 2011a, 2011b) and is interlinked with the research on three-participant events mentioned above.


Demonstratives, spatial deictics, person-based deictics

Currently, I am working on a project on the anaphoric uses of demonstratives in person-based systems and also the discourse structuring functions of such forms.

I have also worked on analysing the exophoric uses of demonstratives in Saliba-Logea (Oceanic, PNG) (Margetts 2004, submitted) and Lau (Oceanic, Solomons) in particular with the research tool developed by Wilkins (1999).



I have also supervised honours and PhD projects focusing on demonstratives and anaphoric markers.


Other areas

Language and Cognition, Child Language, Multilingualism

Through my time at the MPI, fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, and also through my bilingual family situation I have developed an interest in language and cognition, psycholinguistics, first language acquisition, multilingualism and in topics around bringing up children bilingually. I have been involved in honours and postgraduate supervision in some of this areas (e.g. Hilton-Thorp 2008, Stokes 2011, Lu 2012, Vermont 2014, as well as two on-going thesis projects).

Language Change, Discourse, Historical Linguistics, Text-based Typology

I am generally interested in language change (e.g. Margetts 2004, 2007, 2009) and most of my work is based on spoken language data and is grounded in discourse analysis. For example, in my contribution to the Festschrift for Malcolm Ross (Margetts 2009) I investigate the development of the Saliba-Logea plural marker, which as in many Oceanic languages was originally restricted to the class of nouns with human referents. By attaching to some special morphological marking found on lexical modifiers the plural marker has spread to noun phrases which do not have human referents, where is was originally not sanctioned. By annotating the searched spoken-language corpus for the gender, generation and dialect of the speakers it became clear that this is a development lead by Saliba speakers of different generations and that speakers of the Logea dialect use the plural marker more conservatively. In the area of historical Oceanic linguistics have also supervised a thesis in the area of lexical reconstruction (Schlossberg 2012).

I’m interested in the notion of text-based typology and both the DoBeS project on three-participant events and the project with Geoff Haig and Stefan Schnell using the GRAID annotation system are touching on this.

Complex Predicates, Incorporation

I also have an interested in complex predicates such as serial verb constructions (Margetts 2004, 2005) and in noun incorporation (Margetts 2011, Fitzgerald 2001).