Professor Nick EvansProf Nicholas Evans


Program: Shape (and Evolution)

The Australian National University

Nicholas (‘Nick’) Evans is the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language. His central research focus is the diversity of human language and what this can tell us about the nature of language, culture, deep history, and the possibilities of the human mind. He is especially interested in the ongoing dialectic between primary documentation of little-known languages, and induction from these to more general questions about the nature of language. His 2010 book Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us sets out a broad program for the field’s engagement with the planet’s dwindling linguistic diversity.

Nick has carried out fieldwork on several languages of Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea, particularly Kayardild, Bininj Gun-wok, Dalabon, Ilgar, Iwaidja, Marrku and Nen, with published grammars of Kayardild (1995) and Bininj Gun-wok (2003), and dictionaries of Kayardild (1992) and Dalabon (2004).  Among his many (co)edited volumes, one on The Dynamics of Insubordination (with Honoré Watanabe; John Benjamins) and The Oxford Handbook of Polysynthesis (with Michael Fortescue and Marianne Mithun) .

Currently, Nick is collecting data from the diverse and little-studied region of Southern New Guinea. His ARC Laureate Project The Wellsprings of Linguistic Diversity examines how microvariation at speech community level relates to macro-diversity of languages and language families, and he is leading a team in a cross-linguistic study of how diverse grammars underpin social cognition. 

Prof Jane Simpson

Prof Jane Simpson

Deputy Director

Program: Shape (and Learning)

The Australian National University

Jane Simpson has carried out fieldwork on Indigenous Australian languages since 1979. She received a PhD in linguistics from MIT in 1983 for a study of Warlpiri in the Lexical-Functional Grammar framework. She then worked in Central Australia on Warumungu language and language maintenance, helped set up a language centre in Tennant Creek, carried out various consultancies and worked on the Warumungu land claims. In 1986-1988 with David Nash she worked as lexicography fellow at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, helping set up a digital archive of Aboriginal language material, which became ASEDA.  In 2011 she moved to ANU as the inaugural chair of Indigenous linguistics and head of the School of Language Studies.  In 2014 she stepped down as head of school and is working with Patrick McConvell and Harold Koch on AUSTKIN (a database of Indigenous Australian kinship terms), with Inge Kral, Jenny Green and Lizzy Ellis on a Ngaanyatjarra speech register, with Rob Amery and Maryanne Gale on a Ngarrindjeri text project, as well as on the University Languages Portal of Australia.

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