Department of Linguistics
University of Michigan
home research publications teaching fieldwork

  • documentation of Light Warlpiri and Warlpiri
  • studies of language contact, including
    • the genesis, development and structure of mixed languages
    • language acquisition in multilingual communities
    • language change, and
    • language variation.


Broad theoretical questions:
  • Which kinds of contact situation produce which kinds of results?
    • Do the same language contact processes occur in different sociolinguistic contexts?
    • Can a particular process, e.g. code-switching, lead to multiple results?
    • What is the role of children and adults in contact-induced change?
    • Which local and nonlocal social and political forces influence language maintenance in one community and language shift in another?
  • To what extent are types of contact language, e.g. pidgins, creoles and mixed languages, discrete types?
Case study questions:
  • What kinds of changes are taking place in the speech community?
  • What are the motivations for those changes?
  • How are they produced by each generation of speakers?
  • To what extent is each generation regularizing emergent patterns?


Although many children in the world learn more than one language from birth or from a very young age, few studies have examined children's language learning in contexts in which the children receive language input in several codes or languages from the same interlocutors or in the same settings. The ways children deal with varied input sheds light on children's processing strategies. Viewed from another perspective, it can provide information about language maintenance, shift or attrition, especially in contexts in which the languages or codes differ in their status in the local and wider communities.
Children's language learning in contexts in which several codes or languages are spoken to and around children, and generational changes in linguistic patterns, can inform theories of language acquisition and change.
  • When are children innovators?
  • What motivates innovation by children?
  • Which of the several codes present in the speech community do children produce and at what point in their language development?
  • Who are the children's main speech models?
  • To what extent is each generation regularizing emergent patterns?

  • Documentation of Warlpiri, including traditional songs.
Traditional love songs, called Yilpinji in Warlpiri, are archived at The Endangered Languages Archive (ELAR).

  • Video recordings of naturally occurring interactions in families, ie. adults and children talking; children playing with each other.

  • Elicited production of stories told from picture stimulus. Three picture books -
    • The Monster Story (pdf)
    • The Bush Coconut story (pdf)
    • The Hunting Story (pdf)
    - are designed to elicit overt transitive subject nominals, so that there is the opportunity for ergative case-marking to be applied to the nouns.

    Another is designed to elicit locatives - The Bike Story (pdf).

    Sample: The Monster Story
The other picture books are general in theme with no particular structural aim. These are:
  • The Guitar Story (pdf)
  • The Crocodile Story (pdf)
  • The Sick Woman Story (pdf) and
  • The Story of the Boy Who Runs Away (to be added).

  • A comprehension task in which children and adults saw two events each with two animate participants. In each event one participant performed an action on the other. The children heard a sentence and pointed to one of the events. These stimuli are available on request.
    • Comprehension stimulus 1 (swf) Light Warlpiri sentence heard (wav)
    • Comprehension stimulus 2 (swf) Light Warlpiri sentence heard (wav)