People & Projects


Prof Alexandra Aikhenvald


Building D3, Cairns Campus

Telephone: +61 (07) 4232 1117

James Cook University, PO Box 6811, Cairns, Queensland 4870, Australia

Alexandra (Sasha) Aikhenvald

Prof R.M.W (Bob) Dixon

Deputy Director

Building D3, Cairns Campus

Telephone: +61 (07) 4232 1461

James Cook University, PO Box 6811, Cairns, Queensland 4870, Australia

(Access Dyirbal Song Poetry, Traditional songs of an Australian Rainforest People here)

See more LCRC profiles here: Language and Culture Research Centre People


ARC Linkage Project, Speaking Hmong in diaspora: language contact, resilience, and change. Project dates are 7 December 2020 to 30 June 2024. The project aims to investigate how the Hmong language survives in the diaspora, with special focus on how the language transforms itself depending on the environment it finds itself in. Read more about the project here.

Evidentiality is a grammatical category with source of information as its primary meaning—whether the speaker saw the event happen, did not see it but heard it, made an inference based on general knowledge or visual traces, or was told about it. Read more about our Evidentiality project here.

In June 2014, Kasia Wojtylak and Kristian Lupinski were awarded a Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research Fellowship for the documentation of oral literature among the Murui people in Colombian parts of the Amazon. Read more about the project here.

Ways of talking about diseases, ailments, convalescence, and well-being vary from language to language. In some, an ailment 'hits' or 'gets' the person; in others, the sufferer 'catches' an ailment, comes to be a 'container' for it, or is presented as a 'fighter' or a 'battleground'. In languages with obligatory expression of information source, the onslaught of disease is treated as 'unseen', just like any kind of internal feeling or shamanic activity. Do the grammatical means of  talking about diseases and ailments reflect traditional attitudes and thoughts about the origins of adverse conditions? How are diseases inflicted and spread? And what are the patterns involved in describing traditional healing practices and 'getting better'? Our special focus is on languages from hot-spots of linguistic diversity and diseases of all sorts — especially Amazonia, and PNG. Access project and resource material here.

Chief Investigators; Alexandra Aikhenvald, R. M. W. Dixon, Nerida Jarkey Partner Investigators: Anne Storch (the U of Cologne), Maarten Mous (U of Leiden)


All human societies show pervasive similarities and all languages share recurrent features. Reaching beyond these, the project aims to study (a) substantial social and life-style differences, and (b) particular features of language structure, seeking associations between these. Viewing society and language
as an integrated whole, the project team will focus on areas in PNG, Africa, East Asia, Amazonia and Australia, studying related groups in contrasting physical and social environments. Inductive generalisations concerning significant associations between societal and language parameters (eg varying techniques
of address relating to articulated kin systems, and social hierarchy) aim to provide insight into the human dynamic. Access project and resource material here.

The Yalaku language is one of the least known indigenous languages of the East Sepik Province in PNG, a locus of extreme linguistic diversity. Yalaku is spoken by about a 1000 people in three villages – Yalaku, Kumajuwi and Hambakaini (or Hambuken)  – in the Middle Sepik area. It is one of the smallest languages of the Ndu language family (whose larger members include Manambu, Iatmul, and Boiken). The current project focuses on documenting grammar, vocabulary, discourse patterns, and the history of the Yalaku people. Alexandra Aikhenvald (whose Yalaku name is Holengitakwa) is working in close collaboration with the speakers, especially Joel Ukaia, the village councillor. Access project and resource material here.

The project aims for the collection and analysis of Tiang oral literature in the form of traditional stories, songs and procedural descriptions, as well as notes on environmental and cultural knowledge. This will result in a comprehensive grammar of the Tiang language within the framework of Basic Linguistic Theory. Additional study materials will be produced, such as a Tiang–English dictionary and story books, which will make a contribution to preserving the language for future Tiang speakers in generations to come. Access project and resource material here.

The Doromu-Koki language is one of the smaller languages of Central Province, Papua New Guinea. It is a Papuan language in close proximity to the much larger Sinauḡoro Oceanic language. Doromu-Koki is spoken by about 2,000 people, half of whom are now residing outside of the language community area in the capital, Port Moresby. The language area is approximately 80 kilometres east-southeast of Port Moresby, in the inland Rigo district. Access project and resource material here.

Brokpa is a Trans-Himalayan (Tibeto-Burman) language belonging to the Central Bodish (Tibetic) subgroup. Brokpa is spoken in Eastern Bhutan and in small parts of Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India. In Eastern Bhutan, the Brokpa language is spoken in the highlands of Merak and its nearby tiny villages of Gengo, Khashateng, and Khiliphu, and in Sakteng and its outlying villages of Thrakthri, Joenkhar, and Moorbi. Access project and resource material here.