Dr Carmel O'Shannessy

PhD., M.A., Post grad Dip., Dip Teach
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, SLLL
College Arts & 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 a Senior Lecturer 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. 

Link to personal webpage: https://sites.google.com/view/carmeloshannessyanuhomepage/home?authuser=0

Researcher's projects

ARC Future Fellowship 2019

ANU Futures Scheme grant 2018 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 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:

Emma Browne: The Value of First Language Education: Teaching and Learning in Warlpiri in Three Bilingual classes at Yuendumu School

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

David Osgarby: Grammatical variation in Wik-Mungkan, an Australian language of Cape York Peninsula (Co-supervised by jean-Cristophe Verstraete, University of Leuven)

Lauren Reed: Growing language in the Highlands:A study of a two-generation-old sign language of rural Papua New Guinea

Joshua Roberts: Acquisition of Arrernte phonetics & phonology. 

Member of PhD panels:

Lesley Woods: A learner's guide to Ngiyampaa

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

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

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

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

James Gray: Information structure in Pintupi-Luritja

Honours students:

Gina Welsh: Computational challenges of automatic morphosyntactic glossing of two Australian languages

Past student projects


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

Committee member: 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 variaion 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

Undergraduate Honors theses

2019  Caroline Hendy: An acoustic analysis of fricatives in Light Warlpiri

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

2014 Gabrielle Valentic: The Influences ofTeacher Multilingual Linguistic Response of 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



Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  24 September 2020 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers