Associate Professor Carmel O'Shannessy

PhD., M.A., Post grad Dip., Dip Teach
Assoc. Professor in Linguistics, SLLL
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Linguistics 2004
  • Linguistic Structures (Incl. Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics) 200408
  • Language In Culture And Society (Sociolinguistics) 200405
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Languages 200319

Research interests

Language contact and change, language acquisition, bilingualism, sociolinguistics, code-switching, mixed languages, Australian languages, endangered languages


Carmel O’Shannessy is Associate Professor in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics at the Australian National University. In the 1990s her background as an ESL teacher and Applied Linguist took her to work in remote Indigenous schools in Australia’s Northern Territory, in the areas of Indigenous language maintenance and education. While working in the Warlpiri-English bilingual education program in the Warlpiri community of Lajamanu she noticed what sounded like extensive code-switching by younger speakers, and with the community’s approval was keen to investigate how young people were speaking. She subsequently completed her PhD in Linguistics at the University of Sydney (Australia) and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (The Netherlands) in 2007, with documentation of the genesis and development of Light Warlpiri, a mixed language that had recently emerged in the community. Within the areas of language contact and change and language acquisition, her research continues to document children’s bilingual acquisition and maintenance of Light Warlpiri and Warlpiri. She is especially interested in the roles of children and adults in contact-induced language change. She also documents traditional Warlpiri songs. Carmel has been involved with languages in remote Indigenous communities in Australia since 1996, in the areas of bilingual education and her current research. 

Personal webpage:

Researcher's projects

ARC Future Fellowship 2019  Tracking language development of Indigenous children in Central Australia (Primary Investigator)

Traditional Warlpiri songs documentation project 2021 - 2024

Evaluation of English Language Learning for Indigenous Children program, DESE 2020 - 2022

ANU Futures Scheme grant 2018 - 2024 for 'Language Contact and Acquisition'

PI (Principal Investigator) on USA National Science Foundation Project/Grant #1348013  ‘Documentation and acquisition of Light Warlpiri and Warlpiri’.  Duration 2015-2019 


Available student projects

Aspects of acquisition of Light Warlpiri

Aspects of acquisition of multilingual repertoires in Central Australia - Eastern & Central Arrernte, Western Arrarnta, Warlpiri, English

Aspects of documentation of Light Warlpiri and Warlpiri

Phonology of Light Warlpiri, Warlpiri and English spoken by Light Warlpiri speakers

Current student projects

PhD students, primary supervisor:

Megan Wood: Ideological and implementational learning spaces for students in a remote Northern Territory bilingual school 

Member of PhD panels:

Lesley Woods: A learner's guide to Ngiyampaa

Li Chen: The language contact situation of Kaxabu and Southern Min

James Gray: Information structure in Pintupi-Luritja

Past student projects

PhD primary supervisor

2022  Emma Browne: Linguistic Innovation and Continuity: Teaching in and of Warlpiri Language at Yuendumu School 

2013 Erica Beck: The Role of Socio-indexical Information in Regional Accent Discrimination by 5-7 Year Old Children 

PhD Panel or Committee member:

2023 Maho Fukuno: Translator ideology and norms: The intersection in the habitus of English-Japanese translators in a community translation setting

2022 Susan Poetsch: Children's learning of Arrernte in Central Australia

2021 Denise Angelo: Misrecognising contact languages and the effects on education and policy, with a focus on Australia

2010 Christopher V. Odato: Children's Development of Knowledge and Beliefs About English Like(s) 

Qualifying Research Papers (QRP) (equivalent to a Masters Thesis)

2016 Ariana Bancu: Contact-induced variation in Viscri Saxon verb clusters 

2015 David Ogden: The effects of experience on second-language consonant detection: Non-native vowel context speeds identification of non-native consonant categories 

2012 Tridha Chatterjee: Bilingual compound verbs in Bengali-English codeswitching 

Masters theses

2018 Xiaoyue Yang: A corpus-based study on Mandarin child-directed speech (ANU)

Undergraduate Honours theses

2020 Gina Welsh: Computational challenges of automatic morphosyntactic glossing of two Australian languages (Winner, Reginald de Bray award for ANU Linguistics Honours thesis)

2019  Caroline Hendy: An acoustic analysis of fricatives in Light Warlpiri (Winner, Reginald de Bray award for ANU Linguistics Honours thesis)

2019  Amelia Carter: Historical comparative analysis of Yuin-Kuric languages

2014 Gabrielle Valentic: The influences of teacher multilingual linguistic response on Spanish-English bilingual student linguistic output

2013 Frances Morton: The Sex Trade: Language ideology behind "Sex Work" and "Sex Trafficking"

2013 Julia Bogen (2nd reader): Corrective feedback in L2 learning

2012 Amy Hemmeter: Gender and formality effects on the production of vocal fry



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Updated:  17 June 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers