Courses and Instructors

For information on how to pursue courses for credit, see our Information about taking courses for credit

Experimental research on language learning and processing

6 hours

Paola Escudero, Heather Kember, Marina Kalashnikova , Karen Mulak 

Learning: This section of the course will focus on the types of research design, methods, and practices commonly employed to investigate the processes of early language acquisition in the first years of a child’s life. We will present recent infancy research studies that have employed preferential looking and eye-tracking paradigms to assess infants’ ability to discriminate linguistic and non-linguistic sounds, normalise speech perception across different speakers and accents, and map novel word forms to novel referents. In addition, the practical implications for the study of early language development in the lab will be discussed.

Processing: In this part of the course, we will present several studies that compare processing of prosody across languages. Prosody is the phrasing, rhythm, and melody of speech and provides a wealth of linguistic information, yet it is poorly integrated into models of speech processing. In our experiments we present speech stimuli to participants that vary different aspects of prosodic structure and collect behavioural measures such as recognition memory for words or sounds previously heard, and speed at responding to a specific sound within a spoken utterance. The goal is to develop a model of speech processing that can account for the wide structural variation that exists across different languages.

Course material

Akker & Cutler (2003) Prosodic cues to semantic structure in native and nonnative listening (153KB)
Hirsh-Pasek & Golinkoff (1996) The intermodal preferential looking paradigm (2.6MB)
Marslen-Wilson & Zwiterserlood (1989) Accessing spoken words (1.2MB)
Paola EscuderoPaola Escudero is Associate Professor in the MARCS Institute at the University of Western Sydney. She is a Chief Investigator within the Language Learning program of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language. Her research focuses on speech and visual development in diverse populations, including human infants, children and adults, and song birds.
Maria KalashnikovaMarina Kalashnikova is a postdoctoral researcher in infancy studies and leader of the MARCS BabyLab in the MARCS Institute for Brain and Development at the University of Western Sydney, and an affiliate member of the ARC Centre of Excellence Dynamics of Language. Her research interests are focused on the process of early language acquisition in monolingual and bilingual typically developing infants and infants who are at risk for cognitive or sensory disorders.
Heather KemberHeather Kember is a postdoctoral fellow at the MARCS Institute and in the speech processing program in the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language. Her research focuses on the role of prosody in speech production and perception, and cross-linguistic differences in speech processing. 
Karen MulakKaren Mulak is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the MARCS Institute, at the University of Western Sydney. She works within the Language Learning program of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language under Chief Investigator Paola Escudero. Her research focuses on language learning and processing in both infants and adults.

History of Australian Languages I: The Proto-Australian hypothesis, and the sociolinguistics of language contact

6 hours

Mark Harvey,  Robert Mailhammer

This course module addresses two central questions in Australian historical linguistics: (1) Is there sufficient evidence to support the Proto-Australian [PA] hypothesis - that all the languages of Australia are related to one another? (2) Which social factors show the clearest correlations with the outcomes of language contact?

Addressing (1) requires a focus on the Non-Pama-Nyungan [NPN] languages of northern Australia. The NPN languages are the locus of linguistic diversity in Australia, and are likely to represent an older state of affairs. Current reconstructions provide evidence for many small families and for a number of isolates. The PA hypothesis proposes that the NPN languages, and the Pama-Nyungan [PN] family all derive from one common proto-language.

This module will review the most recent research on the PA hypothesis, and its implications for general theories on the evaluation of hypotheses on remote relationships. This necessarily involves examination of the bases for reconstructing sociality, and the correlations between sociality and language change.

After this module students will be able to:

  1. Present the principal components in the reconstruction of sociality and the nature of their potential correlations with language change;
  2. Present and evaluate the principal components of the PA hypothesis

Course material

Lecture 1 History of Australian languages (2.3MB)
Lecture 2 Principles of reconstruction (4.7MB)
Lecture 3 Issues in reconstruction (19KB)
Lecture 4 Proto-Australian noun class prefixation (2.7MB)


Mark HarveyMark Harvey is a Senior Lecturer in linguistics at the University of Newcastle. He has been working on a number of the Non-Pama-Nyungan languages of the Darwin area since 1980. He has published extensively on both the diachronics and synchronics of Australian languages.
Rob MailhammerRobert Mailhammer is Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and The MARCS Institute at the University of Western Sydney. He has published widely in historical linguistics, and has been working on Non-Pama-Nyungan languages and their history, especially the Iwaidjan languages, since 2007.

History of Australian Languages II: The Pama-Nyungan language family

6 hours (follows on from HAL-I)

Harold Koch

Pama-Nyungan is one of the major language families of the world—consisting of some 200 languages spread over the greater part of the Australian mainland. The coherence of the family, widely assumed since the 1960s, has been controversial, but is now generally accepted. This module will present the main evidence.



      • Brief history of ideas on Pama-Nyungan (PN)

Pama-Nyungan phonology

      • Synchronic typology
      • Diachronic within selected subgroups
      • Phonological correspondences and the establishing the phonology of Proto-PN

Pama-Nyungan morphology (each involving synchronic typology, recurrent changes, cognate material, proto-PN reconstruction)

      • Case suffixes
      • Personal pronouns
      • Interrogatives
      • Verb inflection


      • Appropriate methods
      • Comparative vocabulary of selected domains, e.g. kinship


      • Methodology
      • Evidence for particular subgroups
      • Recent proposals
      • Open questions

General issues

      • Questions of time, place, expansion method of PN and
      • Relation to nPN languages.

Assumed knowledge

Some familiarity with Australian languages and/or historical linguistics would be helpful, but is not necessary. Relevant concepts and methods will be introduced along with the data being discussed.

Learning outcomes

  • Understanding the main evidence supporting the status of the Pama-Nyungan language family, reconstruction of the features of its proto language, and the subgrouping of languages within the family
  • Understanding the key methods for establishing language families, reconstructing proto-features, and determining subgroups


Course material

Blake (1990) Languages of the Queensland/Northern Territory border (934KB)
Bowern & Atkinson (2012) Computational phylogenetics and the internal structure of Pama-Nyungan (966KB)
Dixon (2002) Languages and language groups (582KB)
Dixon (2002) Interrogatives/indefinities (616KB)
Evans (2005) Australian languages reconsidered (634KB)
Koch (1997) Archaeology and linguistics (1.1MB)
Koch (2001) Basic vocabulary of the Arandic languages (1MB)
Koch (2003) Morphological reconstruction as an etymological method (1MB)
Koch (2003) The case for Pama-Nyungan (298KB)
Koch (2004) The Arandic subgroup of Australian languages (1.3MB)
Koch (2009) On reconstructing pronominal proto-paradigms (1.4MB) 
Koch (2013) The etymology of a paradigm (1.8MB)
Koch (2013) The reconstruction of kinship terminology in the Arandic languages of Australia (2.2MB)
Koch (2014) Language change in the languages of Australia (761KB)
Koch (2014) Historical relations among the Australian languages (4.4MB)
Koch (2014) The reconstruction of inflectional classes in morphology (1.6MB)
Koch (2015) Advances in western Pama-Nyungan classification based on shared innovation (552KB)
O'Grady & Klokeid (1969) Australian linguistic classification (766KB)
SUtton & Koch (2008) Australian languages (236KB)
Harold KochHarold Koch was trained in Indo-European linguistics at Harvard University. He has been involved with research and teaching (at ANU) on Australian linguistics for 40 years, with descriptive work on Kaytetye and historical-comparative work on the Arandic languages of Central Australia and Pama-Nyungan languages in general. His publications include issues of methodology with respect to historical morphology, etymology, and subgrouping.

Making Friends with Your Corpus Data

6 hours

Greg Dickson, Rachel Hendery, Caroline Jones, Felicity Meakins, Sophie Nicholls

Language corpora can be powerful resources to document language diversity, measure language change, chart language learning, support experimental approaches, and build language technologies. Yet language corpora bring many challenges in data management. In this course, attendees will learn some key skills and best practices:

  • How to annotate media files using ELAN (Module 1)
  • Functionality in CLAN (CHILDES), including how to use a .cut file for morphological analysis (Module 2)
  • How to export and explore corpus data to find items of interest using regular expressions (Module 3)
  • Metadata essentials in COEDL research, and options for interfacing corpus data with other software (Module 4)

This course is hands-on. All attendees should bring their own laptop and will be advised which software and datasets to install before the course starts. For those taking this course for credit, assessment tasks will comprise hands-on tasks relating to each of the four modules.

Course material


Greg Dickson

Sophie Nicholls

Download and install the current version of ELAN:

Download and browse through User Guide for ELAN Linguistic Annotator – Max Plank Institute:

Download the pdf files:

Notes on the Ngandi orthography (55KB)

Heath (1978) Ngandi grammar, texts, and dictionary (1.7MB)

Download the sound file:

Bush medicine (9.7MB)

CLAN Felicity Meakins

Workflow for CLAN files (120KB)

The CHILDES Project (Part 1) (1.25MB)

The CHILDES Project (Part 2) (2MB)

CLAN class material zip (49MB)

Kri material zip (55KB)

Regular expressions Rachel Hendery   
Metadata and interfacing with other programs Caroline Jones

Entering metadata to ExSite9 (2.1MB)

Files for:

F4 files for PC (21.8MB)

F5 files for MAC (20.4MB)

Greg DicksonGreg Dickson is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Queensland node of the Centre of Excellence in the Dynamics of Language. His research investigates geographic variation in Kriol speaking communities east of Katherine, Northern Territory. He previously completed PhD research that examined language shift from Marra to Kriol in Ngukurr and has worked as a community linguist, trainer and interpreter in the Katherine Region for over a decade.
Rachel HenderyRachel Hendery is the Senior Lecturer in Digital Humanities at UWS. Her research interests are primarily language change and linguistic typology, and she has worked on several large interdisciplinary projects using digital technologies to enable visualisation and correlation of patterns of linguistic and social change. She has conducted linguistic fieldwork in East Timor, Indonesia and the Cook Islands, and also has carried out archival research on Australian Indigenous languages. She is the author of  Relative clauses in time and space: a case study in the methods of diachronic typology (Benjamins 2012) and co-editor of the volumes Grammatical change: theory and description (Pacific Linguistics 2010) and Change in kinship systems (University of Utah Press 2013).
Caroline JonesCaroline Jones is an ARC Future Fellow at MARCS Institute, University of Western Sydney and Deputy Leader of the Future Technologies Thread in CoEDL. Her current research focuses on phonetic variation in north Australian Kriol and varieties of Australian English, and its acquisition by children. Prior to joining UWS in 2013, Caroline taught in Education at UNSW and University of Wollongong, and has several applied interests: Aboriginal languages revitalisation in New South Wales, teachers’ understandings of language, and effectiveness of language programs for different populations including young children with hearing impairment.
Felicity MeakinsFelicity Meakins is a Research Fellow (DECRA) at the University of Queensland who specialises in the documentation of Australian languages in the Victoria River District of the Northern Territory. She has worked as a community linguist as well as an academic over the past 15 years, facilitating language revitalisation programs, consulting on Native Title claims and conducting research into Australian languages. She has compiled a number of dictionaries and grammars of traditional Australian languages and has written numerous papers on language change in Australia.
Sophie Nicholls is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the MARCS Institute, University of Western Sydney. Her postdoctoral research program is part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language. Her research interests include semantics, language socialisation, intercultural communication and language description. She works primarily on North Australian Kriol in the Ngukurr and Barunga communities, Arnhemland, NT, Australia. She is passionate about Indigenous language revitalisation and has worked in community based Language Centres in NSW and NT, Australia.

Statistics for language research: An introduction to R

12 hours

Evan Kidd and Christopher Carignan

Quantitative methods and analyses are increasingly necessary for understanding and presenting data in the language sciences, and so language researchers must be familiar and competent with statistical analyses. R is a free (and powerful) software environment for statistical computing and graphics (available from This course will provide a gentle introduction to the R statistics package for language researchers. No previous knowledge of statistics will be assumed, although through a mixture of lectures and tutorial activities we will rapidly move through the basics so that students can make use of many common functions in their research. It is anticipated that by the end of the course you will:

  • Be familiar with the R environment.
  • Understand different data distributions.
  • Be able to visualise your data using graphs.
  • Run some of the more frequent statistical tests used in the humanities and social sciences (e.g., correlations, t-tests, ANOVA, regression).

Course material

Evan KiddEvan Kidd was awarded a BBSc(Hons) in 2000 and PhD (Psycholinguistics) in 2004, both from La Trobe University. He worked at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology as a postdoctoral research associate between 2003 – 2005, and as a Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer in Psychology at The University of Manchester (UK) between 2005 - 2012. From 2008 - 2011 Evan was also a Charles La Trobe Research Fellow at La Trobe University. He started his current position at ANU in February 2012. 

 Christopher Carignan is a Research Lecturer in the Speech and Language program at the MARCS Institute at Western Sydney University. His research focuses on the relationship between physical articulatory gestures and the corresponding acoustic output, how this relationship varies between speakers of a given language, and how this relationship can help explain sound pattern evolution as languages develop over time.

Making Language Visible: The why and how of video recording

12 hours

Mandana Seyfeddinipur

The linguistic study of language began with the study of ancient written text. This has shaped and is still shaping our practices in language research and documentation.  The way we conceptualize language and language use has implications for our research practices. We still focus on what we think can be written down and often disregard what we think cannot be written down. In practice this results in heavy reliance on audio recording solely.

But, typically, when we speak, we cannot only hear each other but also see each other and use gestures and gaze and facial expression to communicate. Language is grounded in face-to-face interaction and speaking is a joint activity (Clark 1996). Language acquisition is a process that takes place in face-to-face contexts and our cognitive system automatically integrates both what we hear and what we see (McGurk & McDonald 1976).  When we speak, we use our hands to gesture and the information provided in this visual, gestural modality is also integrated automatically in our mind. The gestures we use contribute crucially to our understanding of what speakers are communicating (Kendon 2004). Communities have developed alternate sign languages used in e.g. mourning practices (Kendon). Deaf people develop fully-fledged sign languages in the manual modality (Meir et al. 2012).  

This course embeds the technical training of video technology and recording within a theoretically grounded understanding of language use. Participants will learn the central role of video recording in language research and documentation and about the way language use needs to be video recorded to provide useable material for e.g. linguistic and ethnographic documentation and analysis. Participants will apply their theoretical understanding of language use in a hands on session where they will use video equipment and record different conversational situations. The results of the recording sessions will then be reviewed and ways forward suggested so participants can integrate what they have learned into their research and documentation practices right away.

Mandana SeyfeddinipurMandana Seyfeddinipur is the director of the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme at SOAS, University of London. She has worked on the on multimodality and language use with a focus on the interplay of manual gesture and speech in conversation. Her trainings focus on the visual modality of language use and the related methodologies to record and analyse multimodal language use.
  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University

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