The University of Melbourne

Topics working within the Shape program at the University of Melbourne

We are interested in applications from students wishing to work on topics relating to Australia’s Indigenous languages (supervised by Rachel Nordlinger – or languages of Vanuatu (supervised by Nick Thieberger –

Potential topics include the following:

Indigenous languages of Australia (Rachel Nordlinger)

  • Description and documentation of (aspects of) a traditional indigenous language of Australia (possibilities include but are not limited to: Ritharrngu, Arrernte, languages of the Daly River region, languages of the Western Desert region) [could also be undertaken at ANU node]

  • A topic determined in consulation with the community of Yilpara (Baniyala), Eastern Arnhem land, where both Anindilyakwa and Yolngu (Dhuwaya) are spoken.  The community has requested a linguist and would like to negotiate a topic of mutual benefit.

  • A topic on Djinang (requested by the community, co-supervision by Margaret Carew (BIITE)), including building a corpus of previously collected materials.

  • A corpus-based topic on Warlpiri which will include working with the CoEDL team to build a substantial corpus of Warlpiri (co-supervision by Mary Laughren) [could also be undertaken at ANU node]

  • Description and documentation of new Australian varieties, including Kriol [could also be undertaken at ANU or UQ nodes]

  • Multigenerational documentation of an Australian language (e.g. Arrernte, Yolngu, Anindilyakwa), which focuses not so much on a static description of the traditional language, but aspects of language use across generations, preferably as part of a team of researchers all working within the same language community.

Languages of Vanuatu (Dr. Nick Thieberger)

  • Topics in the documentation of languages of Vanuatu, including grammatical description or analysis based in a corpus of textual material

  • Using existing archival materials as the basis for a dissertation, including examining prosody based on existing recordings (co-supervised by Janet Fletcher)

Other topics that tie in with the Shape of Language research program are also possible, through negotiation with Rachel Nordlinger (, or Nick Thieberger (

The School of Languages and Linguistics at the University of Melbourne hosts one of the leading linguistics programs in Australia and is home to the Research Unit for Indigenous Language ( which specialises in the description and documentation of languages of Australia and its region. PhD students will be supervised by Rachel Nordlinger and/or Nick Thieberger and work closely with the team of researchers associated with the Research Unit of Indigenous language, as well as the larger team of researchers associated with ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University