Professor Nicholas Evans
Areas of expertise
- Comparative Language Studies 200322
- Language In Time And Space (Incl. Historical Linguistics, Dialectology) 200406
- Translation And Interpretation Studies 200323
- Studies Of Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Society 169902
- Language In Culture And Society (Sociolinguistics) 200405
- Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Languages 200319
- Linguistic Structures (Incl. Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics) 200408
- Linguistics 2004
Australian languages, Papuan languages, linguistic typology, historical and contact linguistics, semantics, the mutual influence of language and culture
My central research interest 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. My research pursues an ongoing dialectic between primary documentation of little-known languages, and induction from these to more general theoretical issues. My recent crossover 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.
I have carried out detailed fieldwork on several languages of Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea, particularly Kayardild, Bininj Gun-wok, Dalabon, Ilgar, Iwaidja, Marrku and Nen, with major published grammars of Kayardild (1995) and Bininj Gun-wok (2003), dictionaries of Kayardild (1992) and Dalabon (2004, with Francesca Merlan and Maggie Tukumba), and several other grammars and dictionaries at various stages of preparation, in addition to numerous article-length treatments of specific problems. All up I have spent around six years living in the above speech communities, learning and recording their languages, as well as working with them on various broader issues including Native Title claims, vernacular language literacy, and the promotion of indigenous art and music. Training young scholars interested in carrying out language documentation and analysis with fragile languages, within a broad ethos of reciprocal engagement with speech communities, is one of our key goals as a Department.
Specific current projects include a cross-linguistic study of how diverse grammars underpin social cognition, new fieldwork projects on the diverse and little-studied region of Southern New Guinea, and ongoing fieldwork on various Aboriginal languages of Northern Australia.