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Publications: CV


Interactional Linguistics 2(2). 190–224.

Participants in conversation have a range of options for referring to coconversationalists – lexical, grammatical, embodied – regardless of their language. Personal pronouns have been described as the most unmarked way of achieving reference, where little else is accomplished other than the action of referring. We demonstrate that speakers in a multi-party conversation whose language distinguishes between second and thirdperson pronouns, or between inclusive and exclusive pronouns, are constantly attributing and managing participation roles when referring to co-participants, even when using the default reference forms. Grammatical contrasts within pronoun inventories are recruited, often in conjunction with points and gaze, to indicate which co-participants are being addressed and which are being referred to. Address is constantly recalibrated through practices of reference. Speakers also draw on more marked referential expressions in order to emphasise the attribution of participation roles more explicitly. This study is based on a corpus of casual multi-party conversations in Jaru, an endangered Australian language with a dual pronominal system which encodes three grammatical numbers (singular, dual, and plural) and specifies whether the referents of first-person dual and plural pronouns exclude or include the addressee(s).

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Canberra, Aboriginal Studies Press.

Gija is a traditional language of the East Kimberley in the north-west of Australia. It is a landscape of weathered hills hugged by spinifex, startling rocky outcrops, hidden waterholes and dry riverbeds that turn to raging torrents in the wet season. Gija country extends north of Warmun (Turkey Creek) in the upper reaches of the Ord and Dunham rivers, south to Halls Creek and west to Lansdowne and Tableland stations. The Purnululu (Bungle-Bungle – Boornoolooloo) National Park sits in Gija country.

From the late 1800s, Gija people suffered devastating losses: invading pastoralists brought cattle that damaged waterholes and devastated the ecosystem; fortune hunters chased gold at Halls Creek; and government rounded up and forced people onto cattle stations. In the late 1960s when Aboriginal stockmen were granted equal wages, many were thrown off the land. This second wave of dispossession saw Gija people move to Wyndham and Halls Creek and later Warmun (Warrmarn), where most Gija people still live today. Many contributed to this dictionary including many well-known artists who use painting to pass on their linguistic knowledge.

Despite this tragic history of loss, Gija people remain on their country, living their culture and speaking language. This new dictionary of Gija, the most comprehensive ever published, is a testament to their resilience.

Available here

Journal of Pragmatics, 191, 175-193.

We present a comparison of practices of person reference in three different Australian Aboriginal language communities and discuss how the selection of referring expressions contributes to an ‘epistemics of social relations’. In all three communities, while names and nicknames are common ways of referring to non-present referents, kinterms serve to position referents within communal space, and thus within the epistemic domain of the participants. Conversely, we find that generic descriptors (e.g. whitefella, policeman) are commonly used for outsiders, even when their names are known. As highly specific relational descriptors, kinterms thereby accentuate participants' relative rights and responsibilities to know about the referents and their concerns. As non-relational terms generic descriptors do not place referents within the communal epistemic domain and they do not provide information about participants' rights and responsibilities with respect to those referents. We show here how the selection of kinterms and generics are locally managed in conversation to position referents with respect to a communal epistemic domain.

A contribution to a special issue on Turn design and epistemic management in small communities.

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Journal of Pragmatics, 187, 90-114.

In this article we examine displays of epistemic status and stance among long-term Anglo-Australian residents of remote communities through a case study of a 2-h interaction by four men who have demonstrated sophisticated knowledge of locations in their region. We show how equal access to knowledge of places is oriented to, as well as how differences in rights to authoritatively claim knowledge emerge in disputes over details of locations which are resolved when it is established that one member can provide more specific or up-to-date knowledge. This study not only contributes to understanding epistemic management practices in contexts where there is a high degree of shared knowledge, but also grounds the exploration of new insights into the ways in which the epistemics of referring to places appear to diverge from what has been described for referring to persons.

A contribution to a special issue on Turn design and epistemic management in small communities.

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It has been suggested that the gestural accuracy used by speakers of Australian Aboriginal languages like Guugu Yimidhirr and Arrernte to indicate directions and represent topographic features is a consequence of absolute frame of reference being dominant in these languages; and that the lackadaisical points produced by North American English speakers is an outcome of relative frame being dominant in English. We test this claim by comparing locational pointing in contexts of place reference in conversations conducted in two Australian Aboriginal languages, Murrinhpatha and Gija, and in Australian English spoken by non-Aboriginal residents of a small town in north Western Australia. Pointing behaviour is remarkably similar across the three groups and all participants display a capacity to point accurately regardless of linguistic frame of reference options. We suggest that these speakers’ intimate knowledge of the surrounding countryside better explains their capacity to accurately point to distant locations.

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Language Documentation and Description 20, 313-351

This paper presents a geospatial framework for the documentation and analysis of naturally-occurring locational points in interaction. This novel approach aims to provide a set of methods and procedures for interrogating geographically-enriched interactional data. GPS and GIS metadata and satellite imagery are brought to bear on video-recorded multiparty interactions to situate pointing gestures within the broader topographic setting, allowing the directionality of points to be determined to within a few degrees. The methods illustrated in this paper primarily aim to assist research on the relationship between language, gesture, and spatial cognition. By examining and comparing naturally-occurring locational points produced by speakers of typologically different languages (namely English, Gija, Murrinhpatha, and Jaru) this paper demonstrates how a geospatial approach may facilitate systematic comparisons of pointing styles across languages, contexts, and cultures, and support investigations into universals of human conduct.

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International Journal of Bilingualism, 1-27.

Language contact in the Yaruman community of Western Australia has led to prevalent bilingual practices between the endangered language Jaru and the creole language Kriol. This study examines ordinary conversations in the community and investigates whether the observable bilingual practices are interactionally relevant, and whether codemixing has led to the emergence of a conventionalised mixed language. The research is based on a qualitative analysis of bilingual speech in natural conversation. The approach combines the methodological framework of interactional linguistics with an analysis of the grammatical structures of conversational data. The analysed data consist of two hours and thirty minutes of transcribed video recordings, comprising 13 casual multi-party conversations involving all generations in the Yaruman community. The recordings were made using lapel microphones and two high-definition cameras. Bilingual Jaru–Kriol speakers use codeswitching as an interactional resource for a range of conversational activities. In many cases, however, speakers’ code choices are not interactionally relevant. Instead, codemixing is often oriented to as a normative way of speaking and participants exploit their full linguistic repertoire by relatively freely combining elements from both languages. There are also signs of morphological fusion in the mixed speech of younger Jaru speakers, who more frequently combine Kriol verb structure and Jaru nominal morphology. However, this morphological split is not fully conventionalised and variation is still substantial.

In Ono, Yoshi & Sandy Thompson (Eds) (eds.), The pragmatics of ‘Noun Phrase’ across languages: an emergent unit in interaction, 211–235. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Noun phrases have long been a contested category in studies of Australian language grammars. In this chapter I use a corpus of conversations in the Northern Australian language Garrwa to show how the syntactic and prosodic design of referring expressions consisting of a demonstrative nominal and a common nominal is highly sensitive to the place in and relevance to the unfolding interactional sequence in which the referring expression occurs. In particular, I show that the design of referential nominal expressions in Garrwa conversations display a systematic relationship between more phrase-like constructions and smooth, progressive talk, and less phrase-like formulations and sequential and

topical boundaries.

In Simeon Floyd, Giovanni Rossi & N.J. Enfield (eds.), Getting others to do things: A pragmatic typology of recruitments, 231–280. Berlin: Language Science Press.

This chapter presents a first survey of recruitment moves and their responses in informal face-to-face conversation conducted in the Australian Aboriginal language Murrinhpatha. The systemic nature of the survey reveals a hierarchically governed array of responses, including structurally preferred compliant responses, as well as a range of dispreferred refusal formats, which either overtly or implicitly reject the recruitment proposal. 

Language Documentation and Description 17. 134–141.

Language Documentation and Description 17. 142-149.

Joe Blythe, Rod Gardner, Ilana Mushin, Lesley Stirling (2018)

Research on Language and Social Interaction, 51(2), 145-170. 10.1080/08351813.2018.1449441

Building on earlier Conversation Analytic work on turn-taking and response mobilization, we use video-recorded multiparty conversations to consider in detail how Australian Aboriginal participants in conversation select a next speaker in turns that are grammatically designed as questions. We focus in particular on the role of a range of embodied behaviours, such as gaze direction, body orientation and pointing, to select – or avoid selecting – a next speaker. We use data from four remote Aboriginal communities to also explore the claims from ethnographic research that Aboriginal conversations typically occur in non-focused participation frames. Data are in Murrinhpatha, Garrwa, Gija and Jaru with English translations.

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