The Language Lab
The Language Lab is a hub for the study of human language and its connection to history, community, and culture.
Language is the ultimate social glue. It allows us to communicate with each other, highlighting our nature as social beings.
The Language Lab explores how human language is co-designed, understood, and used in context. The Lab also examines the implications of these dynamics in the everyday lives of people and communities.
The Language Lab is home to a rich collection of language materials including:
- Corpus of Aboriginal English in Nyungar country, The University of Western Australia and Australian Research Council (DE170100493).
- UWA Corpus of English in Australia, The University of Western Australia (2011-2020).
- Ian Malcolm’s Western Australian corpus of oral narratives in Aboriginal English, The University of Western Australia (1973-1977).
- Stephen Muecke’s corpus of Australian Aboriginal narratives in English (1981).
- Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro (Director)
Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro is Director of the Language Lab, Linguistics Discipline Chair, and Australian Research Council fellow in Linguistics at The University of Western Australia (UWA). She is also Editorial Board Member for the Australian Journal of Linguistics, and area consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. She is a member of UWA's Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Working Party, and presenter of the award-winning radio show Language Lab, a weekly Linguistics segment on RTRFM 92.1. Celeste works with the Heart Foundation to decolonise the production of medical media for First Nations communities. She has also recently partnered with Google on a multi-million-dollar project which will ensure inclusive AI-operated technology for First Nations people in Australia.Trained in Argentina, the USA and Australia, Celeste’s research tracks language change across time. Her work deals with macro sociolinguistic issues including standard language ideologies, language contact, and multilingualism. Underpinned by the sociolinguistic principle of linguistic gratuity ("giving back"), Celeste is interested in decolonisation and in ways to create sustainable work and planetary health. Her recent focus is on making AI-operated technologies inclusive and equitable, underscoring the crucial role of humans in creating language models. Her publications have appeared in high-ranking international journals. Her work has featured in more than 100 peer-reviewed conferences, including multiple invited international plenaries and panels. She has won several research and teaching awards and has a strong media presence, a testament to her commitment to making linguistics available to a wide audience.
- Dr Luisa Miceli
Dr Luisa Miceli is Lecturer in Linguistics at UWA. Her research program involves three interrelated strands: language evolution/reconstruction of the linguistic past, language processing in bilinguals, and Australian Indigenous languages. Her research on bilingual processing provides novel insights on mechanisms of language change which then inform reconstruction. These insights are particularly relevant in understanding the linguistic past of languages that have evolved in predominantly multilingual contexts, such as the Indigenous languages of Australia.
Luisa teaches across a wide range of units in the Linguistics major. She is also in charge of the Work Integrated Learning program which gives Linguistics students the opportunity to gain valuable experience as professional linguists in different organisations, including community language centres, the WA Department of Education, and RTRFM radio.
Luisa is a consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary, advising on etymologies that have origins in Australian Indigenous Languages.
- Professor Clint Bracknell
Clint Bracknell is a Noongar song-maker, composer, and Professor of Music at The University of Western Australia.
He investigates connections between song, language, and landscapes while working on projects to improve Indigenous community access to cultural heritage collections.
Clint received the 2020 Barrett Award for Australian Studies and has co-translated world-first Indigenous language works in film and theatre. He serves as Deputy Chair of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Council and maintains a significant creative research agenda, leading development of the Mayakeniny Noongar performance resource and releasing music under the name Maatakitj. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
- Dr Mitch Browne
Dr Mitch Browne completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Linguistics at UWA in 2016. He was a Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language PhD student at the University of Queensland, graduating in 2021. He is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at Macquarie University, Sydney and an Adjunct Researcher at UWA.
Mitch’s work focuses on the documentation of traditional Australian languages, especially Warlmanpa. Warlmanpa is presently spoken in and around Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, and Mitch has conducted extensive fieldwork in remote communities, working collaboratively with speakers of the language. Beyond the documentation of endangered languages, Mitch is interested in the grammatical structures of language and what they can tell us about language as a cognitive system.
- Dr Iryna Khodos
Dr Iryna Khodos specialises in bilingualism, additional language education, language processing, and language behaviours in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) communities.
She was awarded her PhD at the University of Newcastle for her innovative investigation of the ways language experiences interplay with language and non-language outcomes in CaLD bilinguals.
In acknowledgement of her expertise, she was competitively selected by the University of Oslo to apply for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship. She was also invited to join the Australian Association for Research in Education and Cognition and Emotion Group. As their member, she engages in providing targeted language support for CaLD communities in Australia and improving language use experiences of a wide range of bilinguals.
Iryna is passionate about teaching. She has a strong record of teaching in the areas of English Language, TESOL, and Applied Linguistics. She also has ample experience fostering culturally inclusive education across Australia.
- Dr Jess Kruk
Jess Kruk is a sociolinguist and lecturer in Indonesian Studies at UWA. Her research focuses on identifying and addressing the exclusion of marginalised people from social, economic, and cultural life in Indonesia and Australia.
Her current projects include an investigation of how ethnic minority groups are impacted by the movement of Indonesia's capital, an exploration of how extreme metal musicians in the Asia Pacific write 'metal' lyrics using non-English languages, reimagining, and reinvigorating Indonesian language teaching and enhancing language communication to fight prejudice in the general public.
- Glenys Collard
Glenys Collard is a Nyungar scholar who has been working for and with the Nyungar people across WA for over 30 years. She is Honorary Research Fellow in Linguistics at UWA and area consultant for The Oxford English Dictionary. She has contributed extensively to understanding history, language and culture in Nyungar country and beyond.
Glenys was the first to record the Nyungar language with elders Mr Humphries and Mr Bennell and has chaired multiple state-level and national committees.
Glenys is a published author and has taught workshops to thousands of teachers and university students in WA. She is currently working with Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro (UWA) on several projects examining change and identity in Aboriginal English. Glenys has recently collaborated with the Heart Foundation to produce two original medical videos fully scripted in Aboriginal English.
- Sharon Davis
Sharon is a non-binary person from both Bardi and Kija peoples of the Kimberley, and until recently was the inaugural Director of Education at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).
Sharon is an accomplished education specialist with a Bachelor's degree in Education, and a Master's in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition from the University of Oxford. Sharon has steered educational change across complex state and national organisations, including previous work leading Aboriginal Education across Catholic Education Western Australia.
Sharon is also a proud board member of both Reconciliation Australia and The Stronger Smarter Institute.
- Amanda Hamilton-Hollaway
Amanda Hamilton-Hollaway's research interests centre on language structure, language shift, and connections between the two.
While all languages change, those that are endangered can do so in ways that are particularly rapid and profound. Amanda works to describe the kinds of grammatical changes that minority languages undergo when they are in intense contact with larger, more socially-dominant languages. She has been collaborating with speakers of Mudburra, a language of the central Northern Territory in Australia, since 2016, and she bases most of her investigations on the wealth of data that this partnership affords.
Amanda is interested in the practical as well as the theoretical implications of her research. In addition to authoring works for academic journals and conferences, she has helped create language resources for the Mudburra community such as storybooks, posters, and videos. She also co-authored the 2019 Mudburra to English Dictionary and co-designed a series of workshops for educators on how to incorporate this dictionary in the local school curriculum.
- Dr Maïa Ponsonnet
Dr Maïa Ponsonnet is a Researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, Dynamique Du Langage, Lyon), and an Adjunct with UWA’s School of Social Sciences.
Maïa’s research concerns expressive language, how emotions are linguistically encoded across the world’s languages, and whether emotional language may channel people’s experience and management of emotions. She has extensive experience working with speakers of Indigenous Australian languages in northern Australia, including Dalabon, Rembarrnga, Kune, and Kriol, all spoken in central Arnhem Land and around the town of Katherine.
She is the author many articles and books, in particular a 2014 monograph on the encoding of emotions in Dalabon (Gunwinyguan, northern Australia) and a 2020 monograph on a comparison between Dalabon and Kriol, the creole that has replaced Dalabon.
- Connor Brown
Connor Brown is a PhD candidate whose research is centred on the semantics, pragmatics, and sociolinguistics of contact languages in Australia. He has previously worked on the interface between morpho-syntax, semantics, and pragmatics in an eastern variety of Australian Kriol and the mixed language, Light Warlpiri.
His PhD research is concerned with the temporal semantics of an East Kimberley variety of Kriol, and he has been collaborating with Kriol speakers in Kununurra since 2019. Community engagement has informed a large part of Connor's work, and since beginning his research in Kununurra, Connor has worked closely with the local language centre, Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring. This work has included helping to facilitate the revitalisation program for one of the local languages, Miriwoong, as well as the development of an orthography for the local Kriol variety, at the request of the community.
- Madeleine Clews
Born in Canada, Madeleine Clews completed her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the University of Saskatchewan in 1983 where she focused on Old English, Middle English, Old Norse and the History of English under the tutelage of Professor Richard Harris. She completed a D.Phil. qualifying year at Linacre College Oxford in 1984, mentored by Vigfússon Reader in Norse Antiquities Ursula Dronke, before taking a gap year to travel to Australia.
The ‘gap’ ended up lasting for nearly 30 years, during which Madeleine forged a career working as journalist for ABC and eventually spent more than a decade managing corporate communications for various state Government agencies. She left the public service to return to academia in 2015 and is now a PhD candidate in Linguistics at UWA. Her main interest is historical sociolinguistics, with a particular focus on English in Western Australia. She is currently exploring state colonial records for evidence of early dialect formation in the context of ‘history from below’.
- Lucia Fraiese
Lucía began a PhD in Linguistics at UWA as a fully funded international student in 2022.
Her research explores how First Nations teens use language to create, contest, and maintain bonds in the boarding school. She is interested in how individuals form social styles and social identities through language.
Lucía also currently works as a remote Social Media Assistant for the Australian Linguistic Society and is the Social Sciences Higher Degree by Research Student Representative at the Board of Graduate Research.
- Alex Stephenson
Alex Stephenson is a PhD candidate whose research explores post-digitisation socialisation processes for the storage, management, and dissemination of heritage language collections held in language centre archives across Western Australia. His current research is inter-disciplinary, sitting in the cross-section between Linguistics and Archaeology. His previous research focused on a typological investigation of reflexive expressions having lexicalised an emotional meaning in a sample of languages across Europe, Australia, and Asia.
Alex has previously worked with the Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring Language and Culture Centre in Kununurra, the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre in Kalgoorlie, and the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre in Port Hedland.
Work with us
Scholars interested in researching language and linguistics may join existing projects or propose their own with input from supervisors. Prospective researchers must be willing to complete a PhD by publication. If you would like to get involved, please get in touch through the details below.
Quotation in earlier and contemporary Australian Aboriginal English
Language Lab Director, Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro, has just had a major ARC DECRA output, an article titled 'Quotation in earlier and contemporary Australian Aboriginal English' published in top linguistics journal Language Variation and Change (Cambridge University Press). This work shows that Aboriginal English is significantly different from mainstream Englishes, including Australian English. This is the first-ever article on Australian Aboriginal English published in this major international journal and the first work co-authored with a First Nations scholar -- Nyungar scholar Glenys Collard.
Celeste is now working on a sequel paper where First Nations youth are further evidenced to sustain traditional cultural frameworks in the face of relentless globalisation.
- Aboriginal English Voices
Automation and voice interactions can make life easier, but First Nations people struggle because the existing technology does not accurately recognise and understand their speech. This project is the first to support First Nations people in Australia by allowing them to use Aboriginal English, the variety of English spoken by 80% of First Nations people in Australia, when interacting with technology. It squarely addresses lack of inclusion in Google's Automated Speech Recognition products such as voice search, video search, message dictation, automated captioning, and speech APIs. To achieve this, the partnership will build rich datasets of Aboriginal English using culturally appropriate processes and protocols.
To achieve these outcomes, Google has partnered with Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro, Director of UWA's Language Lab. The Language Lab will be responsible for culturally appropriate data management and collection, and for setting up culturally appropriate data governance. A Steering Committee made up of a majority of First Nations people has been established to oversee the project.
This sponsored research project will demonstrate leadership in showing how academic and tech company partners can work ethically with First Nations communities and their data. We will share best practices and deliver more inclusive technologies.
This partnership builds on Dr Rodriguez Louro's and Ms Glenys Collard's longstanding collaboration. In addition to strengthening UWA as an internationally recognised hub for the study of Aboriginal English, First Nations languages and cultures, and decolonial linguistic practice, this project will create rich opportunities to train and build capacity for promising First Nations youth across Australia. These youth will be hired as research assistants, fieldworkers, and where appropriate recruited as Honours / HDR students. The project will also provide employment opportunities for First Nations consultants, scholars, and communities.
- Aboriginal English in the Global City: Minorities and language change
The Aboriginal English in the Global City: Minorities and language change project, funded through an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship to Dr Rodriguez Louro, examines how Aboriginal English is used and how it is changing.
A Research Impact Story, 'Aboriginal English: It's all in the yarning' has recently been released.
- Decolonising the Introductory Linguistics Curriculum
Too often, introductory linguistics courses unintentionally present languages as unitary and unchanging. Students are, for example, only asked to analyse data from a single “standard” variety; data from minoritised varieties, non-native speakers, Deaf language users, and neurodiverse populations is either not presented or is reserved for “variation” or “pathology” sections. Additionally, the voices of diverse language users themselves rarely feature directly in introductory courses.
This unintended bias toward the speech of “ideal native speaker-hearers” results in students receiving an inaccurate picture of language in use. To combat this, we are restructuring the introductory linguistics units offered at The University of Western Australia, changing their content and approach so they more accurately reflect the complex linguistic reality of our world.
This project is funded by a 2023-2024 Modern Language Association Humanities Innovation Grant to Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro and Amanda Hamilton-Hollaway.
- Monitoring as a driver of differential language change
When languages share speakers one observed outcome is that their vocabulary differentiates while their structure converges. A monitoring process in bilingual speakers has been proposed as the mechanism responsible for vocabularies becoming more distinct over time. Words shared across a bilingual’s languages are selected less often than language distinctive words because they are ambiguous in their language membership and may be avoided in favour of an unambiguous synonym. Could monitoring also explain convergence in structure? In this study we test the hypothesis that different change outcomes for form/structure result from differences in a bilingual’s ability to monitor for these two levels.
This project is funded by an ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language Transdisciplinary and Innovation Grant, and carried out by Dr Luisa Miceli in collaboration with Professor Paola Escudero (Western Sydney University), Dr Bethwyn Evans (Australian National University), and Dr T. Mark Ellison (Universität zu Köln).
- Domestic uses of fire in past and present Australia: What language can tell us
Bringing together linguists, First Nations language experts, and archaeologists, this project innovates a style of collaboration where language knowledge and lexicography play a pivotal role in understanding Australian cultures past and present. The project explores an under-researched aspect of Australian Indigenous life: domestic uses of fire. Despite their cultural centrality, everyday practices and techniques around fire in ‘camps’ (i.e., hearths) have not been systematically documented, perhaps because they typically pertain to traditionally ‘female’ knowledge. Building upon a pilot study that involved 10 Australian languages, this project investigates an additional 30 languages from across the continent, extracting frequent lexical categories for functions and techniques related to fire, including potential regional contrasts and historical developments.
This project is funded through a 2022 Australian Linguistic Society Research Grant, and carried out by Dr Luisa Miceli in collaboration with Dr Maïa Ponsonnet (Laboratoire Dynamique du Language, CNRS), Dr Ingrid Ward (Archaeology, UWA) and Dr Emilie Dotte (Archaeology, UWA).
- Decolonisation, diversity, and inclusion in academic research
A decolonial approach to academic research is key to ensuring that work with people of minoritised backgrounds is actively reparative or, at the very least, inflicts the least possible harm. Working with minoritised communities raises important questions about inequality and privilege because settler colonialism is a structure, rather than an isolated event, and because the structure of settler colonialism is steeped in histories of dispossession and cultural erasure.
This project explores the use of participatory research models, including cross-cultural co-design, which, we argue, offer the best possible candidate to begin to decolonise academic research. These questions have recently received attention in Glenys Collard’s and Dr Rodriguez Louro’s publication titled ‘Working together: Sociolinguistic research in urban Aboriginal Australia’ which was published in Journal of Sociolinguistics in 2021 and in the Language on the Move blog piece ‘Decolonising sociolinguistic research’.
- Grand Challenges: Language, diversity, and inclusion
- PhD candidates Lucia Fraiese, Madeleine Clews and Connor Brown have been awarded a UWA Making a Difference Grant to write a bespoke online course for educators. The team are currently collecting survey data, reading through the literature, and preparing content. The online course, titled ‘Language, diversity and inclusion: A classroom toolkit for teachers’ will be offered in late August 2022. Watch this space!
- Heart Foundation
Glenys Collard and Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro are working with the Heart Foundation in the production of medical videos fully scripted in Aboriginal English. To learn more about this project, read their article 'Yarns from the heart: the role of Aboriginal English in Indigenous health communication'.
Watch the videos here:
This work has recently been nominated for a Health Consumer Excellence Award – for excellence in the provision of health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health consumers.
- Oxford English Dictionary
Glenys Collard, Dr Luisa Miceli and Language Lab Director Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro are consultants to the Oxford English Dictionary. They are working on updating entries for Aboriginal English and for original Australian languages. The Aboriginal English entries have been updated to reflect ways in which Aboriginal English can be weaponised (i.e. used against) Aboriginal English speakers, especially in non-Indigenous contexts such as schools and legal settings.
Listen to a lecture by Glenys Collard and Dr Rodriguez Louro, delivered as part of the Oxford World English Symposium 2022.
- Sustainability in Academia
Dr Rodriguez Louro moderated an online panel in 2020 and recently delivered a keynote presentation titled ‘Sustainable Linguistics: Inclusion, collaboration and making our field a safer place’. She also recently wrote an invited contribution to the Helsinki sustainability blog.
She also recently wrote an invited contribution to the Helsinki sustainability blog.
- Variation and change in Australian Aboriginal English – contracted to Cambridge University Press
Glenys Collard and Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro are currently writing a book for the Language Variation and Change Series edited by Professor Sali Tagliamonte, Cambridge University Press. The book is titled ‘Variation and change in Australian Aboriginal English’. Keep an eye out for updates.
In the meantime, read an article written by Glenys Collard and Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro about Aboriginal English.
- Work Integrated Learning
The Language Lab is pleased to host Ms Billie Pitman who is completing a Work Integrated Learning unit in Linguistics in collaboration with RTRFM 92.1 radio. Billie is working with the Lab Director on producing Language Lab, a weekly segment on The Agenda, RTRFM 92.1.
Past interns include Ms Lydia Tan (2022).
- Educational resources on Aboriginal English
- Lab Director, Celeste Rodriguez Louro, has recently won a public tender to review and redesign materials for the teaching of linguistics and Aboriginal English to school educators across Western Australia. The work, completed for Catholic Education Western Australia, will be completed by December 2023. Stay tuned!
Sociolinguistics Symposium 2524-27 June 2024
Curtin University, Perth
Language Lab Director Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro and her Nyungar collaborator, Glenys Collard, have been invited to present a Colloquium at the international conference Sociolinguistics Symposium 25 which will take place at Curtin University, Boorloo / Perth in late June 2024.
Stay tuned for further details!
Raising the Bar 2022 | Tuesday 25 October 2022
Lost (and found?): Language endangerment in the global century
Our collective linguistic heritage is in crisis. More than half — and perhaps up to 90% — of all currently-spoken languages face a real risk of ceasing to be spoken by the year 2100. Join linguist Amanda Hamilton-Hollaway for a discussion on language endangerment, loss, renewal, and the surprising ways these affect all of us — whether we speak small or majority languages, are mono or multilingual, or are anywhere in between.
Two to tango: Language as a gateway to championing diversity | Sunday 11 September 2022
Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro discussed how language, the ultimate social glue, can help you become a diversity champion. Attendees learnt about new gender pronouns in English, cross-cultural differences in communication, and how accents may be stopping you from getting what you want.
Raising the Bar 2021
Aboriginal English and the language police | Ms Glenys Collard and Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro
The language police will insist that we should only care about 'authentic' or 'good' languages when -- in reality -- all languages are equally worthy of our attention. Australian Aboriginal English, spoken by an estimated 80% of Aboriginal Australians and the first and only language for many Aboriginal children, is frequently described as ‘rubbish’ or ‘broken’. Such negative attitudes can have devastating consequences for Aboriginal children in the mainstream educational system who may question, "If my language is ‘rubbish’, am I too?” Let’s raise the bar to discuss, challenge and re-invent how we relate to language ideologies. The language police will insist the language you speak is substandard. It is most definitely not.
The Oxford Guide to Australian Languages
Language Lab members Dr Mitch Browne, Dr Luisa Miceli, and Amanda Hamilton-Hollaway have contributed chapters to The Oxford Guide to Australian Languages, a brand-new book about the Aboriginal languages of Australia.
Amanda wrote the chapter 'Code-switching,' which explores the systematic ways in which multilingual speakers use more than one language within a single conversation or even within a single sentence.
Mitch and Amanda, along with Felicity Meakins, Thomas Ennever, and David Osgarby, contributed to the chapter 'Ngumpin-Yapa languages,' which discusses the structures of the languages within the Ngumpin-Yapa subgroup. Ngumpin-Yapa is a group of related languages spoken in the central Northern Territory; its members include Warlmanpa, Mudburra, Warlpiri, and Gurindji, among others.
Luisa, along with Dr Claire Bowern, authored the chapter 'Australian languages and interdisciplinary approaches to the past,' exploring methods by which we can learn more about the deep history of, and connections among, Australian languages.
The Oxford Guide to Australian Languages is edited by Dr Claire Bowern and is one of the most comprehensive examinations of Australian languages to date. Find it here.
Language Lab wins Talkley Award
Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro's weekly radio segment on RTR FM 92.1 has received the 2023 Talkley Award by the Australian Linguistic Society. This award acknowledges the contributions of Australian linguists who promote language awareness in the public arena. This award also recognises the work of Language Lab member Amanda Hamilton-Hollaway who presents Language Lab once a month.
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