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The Australian National University

Associate Professor I Wayan Arka

MA (Applied Linguistics), MPhil (Linguistics, Sydney U), PhD (Linguistics, Sydney U)
A/Professor, School of Culture, History & Language
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

Areas of expertise

  • Computational Linguistics 200402
  • Language In Culture And Society (Sociolinguistics) 200405
  • Indonesian Languages 200313
  • Language In Time And Space (Incl. Historical Linguistics, Dialectology) 200406
  • Linguistic Structures (Incl. Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics) 200408
  • Lexicography 200407
  • Linguistics 2004

Research interests

Austronesian and Papuan languages of Eastern Indonesia, language typology, syntactic theory, Indonesian linguistics, Applied Linguistics, language documentation, translation, sociolinguistics and anthropological linguistics.

I incorporate my latest research into my teaching. Here are the courses that I teach at the ANU:

  • Syntactic theory (2010, 2013, and 2016, as Convener)
  • Indonesian 3B (2015, as Converner; 2016,  teaching the translation session)
  • Introduction to syntax (2015 and 2016, as Convener)
  • Graduate reading course (2016, as Convener)
  • Morphology (2015, as Convener)
  • Austronesian languages (2012, as Convener)
  • Indonesian 3A (2016, teaching the translation session)
  • Asia and the Pacific: Power, diversity and change (2016, guest lecture on language policy and globalisation)
  • Indonesian 2B (2014, teaching the translation session)
  • The Study of a language family (2015, guest lecture on voice systems in Indonesian languages)
  • Dictionaries and Dictionary making (2010, guest lecture on corpora)


My contributions to linguistics have spanned different sub-disciplines: from theoretical, formal and computational grammar, to typology and descriptive and documentary linguistics. All of my projects involve international collaborations with institutions in Australia, Indonesia, the UK, US and NZ, and locally with language communities.

My research aims to generate a deep understanding of how grammar works, and to investigate how it can be explicitly modelled so as to produce a precise, empirically well-motivated description or analysis with theoretical, typological, and practical significance. I have immersed myself in linguistic theory, typology, and descriptive and documentary linguistics, with particular focus on the numerous and diverse languages of Indonesia. I have also cultivated skills in corpus development and  data management. 

My theoretical work is mainly within the Lexical-Functional Grammar  framework. My work in this area includes implementing LFG on Indonesian languages, outlining the challenges this poses and developing an LFG-based computational grammar of Indonesian. Funded by a grant from the Indonesian government, I have examined the core properties of eastern Indonesian languages, including Papuan languages. With a follow-up NSF project (2007-2009), I have demonstrated the theoretical implications of the Austronesian voice system in eastern Indonesia, highlighting its gradual demise (Arka, 2009). With grants from the ARC and ELDP, I recently work on the Papuan languages of Merauke and have published papers on a range of topics; e.g, discussing the unusual complexity of the number system in Marori and the possible far-reaching implications it has in linguistic theory. 

I have done fieldwork in remote parts of eastern Indonesia, organising training in Indonesia as part of my capacity-building efforts in Indonesia.

Career Highlights

  • Head of the Department of Linguistics, CHL, CAP (2014 - now)
  • Postdoc Fellow, (Research) Fellow, A/Professor, Linguistics, CHL, CAP (2001 - now)
  • Humboldt Fellow, Cologne University, Germany (2012-2014)
  • Research Fellow, IIAS, Leiden U, the Netherlands (2006)
  • Lecturer, Udayana University, Indonesia (1986-...).

Researcher's projects

Research grants & fellowship awards

  • March-June 2017. The Papuan and Austronesian languages of eastern Indonesia, part of the project on Constructing a research network for documenting minority languages in and around Indonesia. Co-CI with A/Prof. Asako Shiohara, funded by TUFS, Visiting Professor Fellowship.
  • 2016-2017. The Endangered Papuan Languages of Merauke-Indonesia: ethnobiological and linguistic documentation (Primary Investigator, Project Leader), funded by the ELDP Major Documentation Project Grant, London, A$79,949.
  • 2012-2014. The Austronesian Languages of Flores: from Language Description to Linguistic Theory, Georg Forster Humboldt Fellowship (CI), based at the Department of Linguistics, the University of Cologne; funded by Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, $47307
  • 2011-2015. Languages of Southern New Guinea (co-CI with Nick Evans (ANU) and Jeff Siegel (University of New England), funded by ARC Discovery Grant, A$405,000.
  • 2012.  Plurals in the languages of Indonesia (CI) RSAP Small Grant, A$4920.
  • 2011. Equipment and facilities upgrade for Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures. (co-CI, with L Barwick, Thieberger,  Bird, Evans, Simpson, Nordlinger, Corn), ARC LE110100142, $238,000.
  • 2010. Endangered languages of Merauke: workshop and fieldwork (PI), CAP/ANU Small Grant, A$4973,
  • 2008. Understanding Indonesian: developing a machine-usable grammar, dictionary and corpus. (Co-PI with Prof. Mary Dalrymple, Oxford University),  British Academy (small) grant, £4688.
  • 2008-2011. Understanding Indonesian: developing a machine-usable grammar, dictionary and corpus (Co-CI with Jane Simpson, University of Sydney; Avery Andrews, ANU; Mary Dalrymple, Oxford University), ARC Discovery Grant,  $269,000.
  • 2006-2009. Austronesian Voice Systems: an Eastern Indonesian Perspective (Co-CI with  M. Shibatani, US; Fay Wouk, Auckland University NZ), funded by NSF, worth US$299,990 or A$408,573.
  • 2004-2006. Documenting Rongga: a marginalized small language of south-central Flores, Indonesia (CI), funded by the ELDP (Endangered Language Documentation Programme)/Rausing Grant from the SOAS London,  A$245,630. 
  • 2003. Serial verb constructions and related structures in Austronesian languages of Nusantara (Co-CI with Dr. John Bowden, Linguistics RSPAS, ANU), small internal grant from RSPAS, ANU, worth A$15,000  

Professional  service

  • 2013-2014. Chair (elected), Executive Committee, International Lexical-Functional Grammar Association (
  • 2011-2014. Regional Director for Indonesia, the Catalogue of Endangered Languages (ELCat).
  • 2008-2011. Managing Editor, Pacific Linguistics
  • 2008- now. Member, Editorial Board, (Asia-)Pacific Linguistics
  • 2006-now. Member (elected), Steering Committee, ICAL
  • 2007-2011. Panel member (invited), the Panel of the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP), School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
  • 2005-now. Member, editorial board of Linguistik Indonesia, the official journal of the Indonesian Linguistic Association or Masyarakat Linguistik Indonesia (MLI)
  • Organiser of the following international events: ALS conference (2001, Canberra), 9th ICAL (2002, Canberra), AFLA XV (2008 Sydney), LFG08 (2008 Sydney), LFG12/12-ICAL (2012 Bali)
  • Reviewer (invited), grant applications: Research Grant Council, Hong Kong (2013), National Geographic, US (2012), the Leverhulme Turst, London (2010, 2012), the Documenting Endangered Languages (DEL) Program and Linguistics Program at the National Science Foundation (NSF), US (January 2010, December 2008, December 2005); Assessor (invited), ARC (Australian Research Council) (every year since May 2007—present); Endangered Language Documentation Programme (ELDP) (November 2004, and every year since 2008—present).
  • Reviewer (invited), for the submissions of abstracts/papers/book chapters for national/international conferences, journals of linguistics and publishers (Studies in Language, AFLA, LFG, SEAL, ICAL; Lingua, Linguistik Indonesia, Pacific Linguistics, John Benjamins, KITLV …).

Evidence of impact

I have been invited to give a talk in the following international linguistics meetings:

  • August 2016. Plenary Speaker, the 2016 International Conference of the Linguistics Society of Indonesia (KIMLI), Bali-Indonesia, 24-27 August 2016.
  • November 2015: Keynote Speaker, the International Conference on Language, Society and Culture, Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonsia (LIPI, or Indonesian Academy of Sciences), Jakarta.
  • August 2015: Keynote speaker, the 22nd International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 10-14 August 2015,
  • May 2015: Keynote Speaker, the 22nd International Conference of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association, McGill University, Canada, 21-24 May 2015,
  • November 2013: Plenary speaker, the 6th International Conference on Austronesian and non-Austronesian languages of Indonesia, Udayana University, Bali, Indonesia, 6-7 November 2013.
  • November 2012: Keynote speaker, International PACLIC 26 (26th Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information, and Computation) conference, Bali, Indonesia, 8-10 November 2012.
  • February 2011: Plenary speaker, the 2nd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation, University of Hawaii, US.
  • June 2009: Invited speaker, the 4th Conference on Austronesian Languages and Linguistics (ALL4), organized by the UK Austronesian Research Group (UKARG), London, UK, 17-18 June 2009.
  • Aug 2007: Invited speaker, the 4th International Conference on Austronesian languages, Bali, Indonesia.
  • May 2007: Invited speaker, the International Conference on Endangered Austronesian Languages, Taiwan.
  • July 2005: Keynote speaker, the 6th International ALT (Association for Linguistic Typology) conference, Padang, Indonesia.
  • July 2002: Keynote speaker, the 10th National Congress of the Indonesian Linguistics Society, Bali, Indonesia.
  • July 2002: Main speaker, the 16th (international) PELBBA linguistic meeting, Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • July 2000: Keynote speaker, the 4th International Symposium on Malay and Indonesian Linguistics, Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • May 2000: Invited speaker, the 7th meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


Available student projects

I am Chair of the Supervisory Committees of the following PhD students (CAP, ANU):

  • Matthew Carroll. PhD thesis: Sub-Paradigmatic Autonomy: A study of distributed exponence in Ngkolmpu.
  • Tina Gregor. PhD thesis: A Documentation and Description of Yelmek (a Papuan language of Southern New Guinea).
  • Yusuf Sawaki. PhD thesis: A grammar of Wooi (an Austronesian language of west Papua, Indonesia).
  • Chris Wedall. PhD thesis: A Grammar of Sajolang.

I am a member of the Supervisory Committees of these PhD students:

  • Owen Edwards (CAP, ANU). PhD thesis: Metathesis in Uab Meto.
  • Tom Honeyman  (CAP, ANU). PhD thesis: A grammar of Momu, a language of PNG.
  • Christian Doehler (CAP, ANU). PhD thesis: A Grammar of Kómnjo.
  • David Muljadi (NTU, Singapore). PhD thesis: An Indonesian Resource Grammar (INDRA) in the Framework of Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG) and Its Application for Machine Translation.
  • Ari Natarina (University of Iowa, US). PhD thesis: Complementation in Balinese.

Past student projects

I was Chair of the Supervisory Committees of the following former  students in CAP, ANU:

  • Antoinette Schapper. Graduated 2010. PhD thesis: Bunaq: A Papuan Language of Central Timor. She's the ALT Panini Award winner, now working at Leiden University.
  • Meladel Mistica. Graduated in 2013. PhD thesis: An Investigation into Deviant Morphology: Issues in the Implementation of a Deep grammar for Indonesian. She's now working in Intel Corp, the US.
  • Sebastien Lacampre. Graduated in 2014. PhD thesis: Lelepa: topics in the grammar of a Vanuatu Language. He is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at CoEDL, U of Melbourne.

I was a member of the Supervisory Committees of the following former  students:

  • Maia Ponsonnet. Graduated in 2014, CAP-ANU; now a DECRA Fellow at the University of Sydney.
  • Subhan (CASS, ANU) Graduated in 2013.
  • Ira Amstrong (CASS, ANU)


Projects and Grants

Grants are drawn from ARIES. To add Projects or Grants please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  25 October 2016 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers