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 and an Australian Research Council fellow in Linguistics at The University of Western Australia (UWA). She is also Vice-President of the Australian Linguistic Society, Editorial Board Member for the Australian Journal of Linguistics, and area consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. She is a member of the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Working Party at UWA and presenter of ‘Language Lab’, a language and diversity segment on The Agenda, RTRFM radio. Celeste has recently worked with the Heart Foundation to produce two original medical videos fully scripted in Aboriginal English.
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. Celeste is also interested in decolonisation and in ways to make academic work sustainable, inclusive, equitable and collaborative. Her publications have appeared in high-ranking international journals. Her work has featured in more than 80 peer-reviewed conferences, including recent invited international plenaries and panels. She has won multiple research and teaching awards and has a strong media presence, a testament to her commitment to making linguistics available to a wide audience.
Celeste is currently writing, in collaboration with Nyungar scholar Glenys Collard, a monograph titled ‘Variation and change in Aboriginal English’ – contracted to Cambridge University Press for publication in 2024. This work is funded through a highly competitive Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship.
Celeste has also recently been commissioned to edit the Routledge Handbook of Australian Linguistics, currently in preparation.
With her PhD students, Celeste is developing a bespoke online course for primary and secondary school educators in Australia. Funded through a UWA Impact Grant, this offering will go live soon.
- Dr Luisa Miceli
Dr Luisa Miceli is Lecturer in Linguistics and Linguistics Discipline Coordinator 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.
- 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, before taking up his Associate Lecturer position at UWA in 2022.
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.
- 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 proud Bardi Kija person and the acting Executive Director of Research and 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 her previous work leading Aboriginal Education at Catholic Education Western Australia. At AIATSIS, Sharon leads, engages in, and delivers high quality interdisciplinary research by, for and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Sharon is 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.
- 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.
- Troy Reynolds
Troy Reynolds is a PhD candidate working on variation and change in Australian Aboriginal English prosody.
Troy completed his undergraduate degree in Linguistics with Communication and Media Studies and Honours in Linguistics at UWA before working for a year at the Goldfields Aboriginal Language Centre in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. In the Goldfields, he worked closely with speakers to document and analyse the Kaalamaya language and co-compiled the Kaalamaya dictionary.
His current research focuses on prosody, acoustic phonetics, and variation in varieties of English spoken in Australia, including Aboriginal English.
- Eleanor Yacopetti
Eleanor Yacopetti is a PhD candidate at UWA. Her research focuses on the dynamics of spatial reference in the Kune language, a variety of Bininj Kunwok. She is a contributor to the OzSpace project, which aims to investigate how landscape interacts with language, culture and social diversity in various Australian Indigenous contexts.
Eleanor also has an interest in semantic typology, particularly the semantics of emotion (in Australian languages). Eleanor consults and works with the Kune community based in Central Arnhem Land, NT, and has previously worked with the Miriwoong community in Kununurra, WA, as an intern with Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring.
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.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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 Lydia Tan who is completing a Work Integrated Learning unit in Linguistics in collaboration with RTRFM 92.1 radio. Lydia is working with the Lab Director on producing Language Lab, a weekly segment on The Agenda, RTRFM 92.1. Through this internship, Lydia is successfully combining her background in Linguistics and Communication and Media Studies.
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.