Keynote Lecture: Rachel Nordlinger

Rachel Nordlinger

Rachel NordlingerAustralia’s Indigenous languages and their implications for theories of language

Speaker: Professor Rachel Nordlinger FAHA, School of Languages and Linguistics, University of Melbourne.

Australia’s Indigenous languages exhibit many interesting and unique linguistic properties that have contributed greatly to our understanding of how humans perceive, categorise and discuss the world around them. These properties have informed theories of grammatical structure and linguistic diversity and raise questions for theories of language processing, many of which are yet to be addressed in psycholinguistic research. In this talk I provide an overview of Australian Indigenous languages, their grammatical diversity and the ways in which they reflect and encode Indigenous knowledges and worldview. I then discuss recent research focussed on sentence production and comprehension that highlights the importance of these languages for models of cross-linguistic processing and our understanding of the nature of language.

About Rachel Nordlinger

Rachel Nordlinger FAHA is Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Research Unit for Indigenous Language at the University of Melbourne.  Rachel's research focusses on the description and documentation of Australia's Indigenous languages, and their implications for our understanding of language structure and use. She has collaborated with many Indigenous communities, especially the Bilinarra, Wambaya, Gudanji, Murrinhpatha and Marri Ngarr communities of the Northern Territory, to record their languages and support their efforts in maintaining and preserving their linguistic and cultural heritage. She has also published on syntactic and morphological theory, and in particular the challenges posed by the unique and complex grammatical structures of Australian Aboriginal languages, and what they can teach us about the nature of language more broadly. In recent work (in collaboration with Prof. Evan Kidd), Rachel has undertaken linguistic processing research on Australian languages, focussing on the effects of grammatical properties such as free word order and polysynthetic verbal structures on sentence planning and comprehension. She is the author of multiple academic articles in international journals, and seven books, including A Grammar of Wambaya (Pacific Linguistics, 1998), Constructive Case: Evidence from Australian languages (CSLI Publications, 1998), A Grammar of Bilinarra (Mouton de Gruyter, 2014 - coauthored with Prof Felicity Meakins) and Lexical-Functional Grammar: an introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2019 – co-authored with Prof. Kersti Börjars and Prof. Louisa Sadler). She is editor (with Dr. Harold Koch) of The Languages and Linguistics of Australia (Mouton de Gruyter, 2014) and leads (with Assoc Prof. Nick Thieberger) the 50 Words Project (, which aims to provide community-led recordings of Indigenous languages across Australia to increase public awareness and showcase their diversity. Rachel was a Chief Investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (2014-2022) and was elected to the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 2017.

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