Plenary Speakers

Confirmed plenary speakers for the joint conference of the Applied Linguistics Association of Australia (ALAA) and Australian Linguistic Society (ALS) are:

Joint ALAA/ALS Plenary Speaker

Asif AghaUniversity of Pennsylvania

ALAA Plenary Speakers

Rod GardnerUniversity of Queensland
Tim McNamaraThe University of Melbourne
Ilana MushinUniversity of Queensland
Howard NicholasLa Trobe University
Ema UshiodaUniversity of Warwick

ALS Plenary Speakers

Greville CorbettUniversity of Surrey
Nick EnfieldThe University of Sydney
Jane SimpsonAustralian National University

Joint ALAA/ALS Plenary Speaker

Asif Agha University of Pennsylvania

Money talk and conduct from Cowries to Bitcoin

What role do forms of money play in social life? What kinds of sociocultural variation do they exhibit? What variety of things do people do with varieties of money? How are activities involving money differentiated into registers of money-conduct in specific times and places? How are specific forms of money-conduct recognized and differentiated from other cultural routines by those who encounter them? It has long been understood that money is intimately linked to varied forms of discursive semiosis (whether oral, written, numerical, algorithmic, customary, or law-based; whether manifest as fiscal policy, computer code, or common sense) through which distinct forms of money are created and endowed with distinct use characteristics; that specific forms of money are readily linked to (or appropriated by) group-specific interests or ideologies; and that differences in types of money-conduct readily differentiate social roles and relationships among persons and groups in social history. Yet the role of discursive semiosis in the existence and use of money is not well understood, a lacuna that links most descriptions of “money” to voicing structures (or discursive positionalities) that are not grasped for what they are by those who offer such descriptions (e.g., “speaking like the State” without knowing it). The paper clarifies the role of discursive semiosis in the social life of money. It shows that such clarification is a prerequisite on ethnographic answers to the questions listed at the beginning of this abstract. It presents a comparative framework for reasoning about forms of money in forms of life.



Asif Agha is professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. He previously taught at the University of Chicago, Vassar College and UCLA. His research interests include:

Linguistic and cultural anthropology; sociolinguistics; semiotics; language and social relations; metaphor and tropes; registers of language; speech style; rhetoric; language ideologies.

Mediatization in complex societies; bureaucracies, legislatures, and the State as discursive installations; the making and unmaking of institutions; mass media, advertising and the public sphere; public relations and consumer-citizens; electoral campaigns and candidate-politicians.

Language structure and function; grammatical and indexical categories in language; language typology and universal grammar; discourse analysis; meaning and reference; language and cognition; speech as action; deference systems; evidential categories; modality and deixis; animal communication; Sino-Tibetan and Indo-Aryan linguistics.

Professor Agha has published extensively in these areas including his 2007 volume on ‘Language and Social Relations’.

ALAA Plenary Speakers

Tim McNamara
The University of Melbourne

Mapping applied linguistics – Inaugural Christopher N Candlin Memorial Lecture
The Christopher N Candlin Memorial Lecture has recently been instituted by ALAA as a tribute to the memory of Professor Candlin and his profound and ongoing contribution to the field of applied linguistics. It is to be delivered at the ALAA conference every second year in the form of a named plenary lecture and to focus on a theme of relevance to his work. The presenter is invited by the executive of ALAA in consultation with the conference organisers and the Candlin family.

What does a mapping of the field of Applied Linguistics look like? It has a chronological as well as a spatial dimension, providing a guide to the evolution of thinking in the field as well as tracing its contemporary breadth, in terms of the topics it deals with, the professions to which it is relevant, its methodologies, and the disciplines from which it draws. The portrait is many faceted; no single perspective can do justice to the reality of applied linguistics. It proposes five mutually reflective vantage points for understanding the character and development of the field: Individuality, Interpersonality, Identity, Institutionality and Interculturality.


mcnamaraTim McNamara is Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor in the School of Language and Linguistics at The University of Melbourne, where he was closely involved in the founding (with Terry Quinn) of the graduate program in applied linguistics and (with Alan Davies) of the Language Testing Research Centre. He is best known for his work in language testing, where his research has focused on performance assessment, theories of validity, the use of Rasch models, and the social and political meaning of language tests. He developed the Occupational English Test, a specific purpose test for health professionals, and was part of the research teams involved in the development of both IELTS and TOEFL-iBT. His work on language and identity has focused on the impact of poststructuralist approaches. His other research interests include the teaching of languages for specific purposes, and the scope and history of applied linguistics as a field. He has published extensively in each of these areas, including three books in the area of language testing, and most recently edited a Special Issue of Applied Linguistics on poststructuralism in relation to applied linguistics; his book on Language and Subjectivity with De Gruyter is due to appear in 2017. Tim is currently 1st Vice-President of the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) and is the Conference Chair for AAAL 2017 in Portland, Oregon.

Rod Gardner and Ilana Mushin
University of Queensland

Classroom interaction research for the early years

Historically, the dominant concern in Applied Linguistics has been language learning and teaching, especially of English. Language, however, plays a crucial role in all classrooms and education settings. In the Australian context, recent studies have focused on language issues facing Indigenous children (e.g. ACLA Projects 1 and 2, and the ARC COE for Dynamics of Language). This research has exposed a range of ways in which Indigenous children who speak a language variety other than English (traditional, a creole, or a variety of Aboriginal English) may be impacted in classrooms where teachers are non-Indigenous and the classroom language is Standard Australian English.

In this talk we will focus on our work in early years classrooms – Indigenous, multicultural and ‘mainstream’ – in which we are investigating aspects of epistemics and learning using the tools of Conversation Analysis to better understand how children from different language backgrounds develop ways of engaging with the school curriculum. Evidence is emerging not only of the importance of language, but also embodied actions of children that reveals their level of their engagement with learning. These observations provide us with evidence for when children may be additionally challenged by their home language environment in successfully demonstrating curriculum understanding, and where other factors may be more important.


Gardner, RodRod Gardner is Honorary Associate Professor at the University of Queensland. His major field of research is conversation analysis, in particular of response tokens and second language conversation. He is author of When Listeners Talk (John Benjamins, 2001) and co-editor (with Johannes Wagner) of Second Language Conversations (Continuum, 2004). More recently he has collaborated with Ilana Mushin in ARC funded investigations of early years classroom interaction and engaging with the curriculum using CA methodology, with a major focus on Indigenous learners.

Mushin, IlanaIlana Mushin is Associate Professor and Director of Research in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Queensland. Her research focuses on the role that the status of knowledge plays in the way people design their conversational turns in ordinary social interaction and in early years schooling. Her major fields of research include Australian Aboriginal languages, especially Garrwa, interactional linguistics and language typology. She is author of A grammar of (Western) Garrwa (De Gruyter Mouton, 2012), and Evidentiality and Epistemological Stance (John Benjamins, 2001) and is co-editor (with Brett Baker) of Discourse and Grammar in Australian Languages (John Benjamins, 2008).

Howard Nicholas
La Trobe University

Critically connecting the complexity of communicative repertoires, curriculum and (national) culture.

Making connections between applied linguistic research, language education research and practices in classrooms, educational jurisdictions and nations requires thoughtful engagement with ideas of ‘the nation’, ‘the individual’ and ‘language’. Applied Linguistic writing is redolent with critical analysis of each of these constructs. It is easy to find claims that each construct has passed its use-by date. Yet nations continue to fund education, individuals continue to learn and teach (or reject) their and others’ language(s) and these same languages are used as gatekeepers in the negotiation of power and privilege. In this paper I will explore the potential of the Multiplicity framework of the communicative repertoire (Nicholas & Starks, 2014) as a means of addressing some of these tensions and indicate some of its consequences for research and teaching practices as well as curriculum.


Nicholas, HowardHoward Nicholas is Associate Professor in the School of Education at La Trobe University where he teaches in the areas of applied linguistics and language education. His particular expertise is in different aspects of language development and multilingual education. His research includes the areas of child and adult second language acquisition (German and English) and the acquisition of German as a first language, as well as the use of mobile technologies in education.

He has worked in Germany on various research projects and has undertaken Visiting Professorships at various institutions internationally. He has consulted to State and Commonwealth agencies on issues of teacher supply, languages and bilingual education as well as curriculum and funding for languages education and English as an additional language.

Howard was Vice-President, President and Immediate Past President of the Applied Linguistics Association of Australia between 2000 and 2008.

His recent publications include:
Ng, Wan. & Nicholas, Howard. 2016. Sustaining innovation in learning with mobile devices: Key challenges. In W. Ng & T. Cumming (Eds) Sustaining Mobile Learning: Theory, Research and Practice (pp. 1-25). London and New York: Routledge.
Nicholas, Howard. 2015. Shaping Australian policy for Australian adult migrant English language learning. In J. Simpson & A. Whiteside (Eds). Challenging Agendas: Policy and Practice in Language Learning and Migration (pp. 19-34). London: Routledge.
Nicholas, Howard. 2015. Losing bilingualism while promoting second language acquisition in Australian language policy. In Y. Slaughter & J. Hajek (Eds). Challenging the Monolingual Mindset (pp. 165-181). Bristol: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Nicholas, Howard and Starks, Donna. 2014. Language Education and Applied Linguistics: Bridging the Two Fields. London: Routledge.

Ema Ushioda
University of Warwick

Motivation and making connections across the multilingual mind

Ten years ago, David Graddol (2006) observed that ‘Global English’ might mean the end of ‘English as a foreign language’. As he predicted, numbers of EFL learners would start to decline through the second decade of this century, as more and more countries introduce English as a basic educational skill (alongside literacy, numeracy and ICT skills) at primary level. As he further noted, in a global job market where English language skills have thus become common place, monolingual and even bilingual English speakers may lose out to multilingual competitors. Such a scenario would seem to provide a strong rationale for developing skills in additional languages. However, the extent to which the global spread of English may motivate people to diversify their language skills seems limited. The research evidence within Anglophone and non-Anglophone settings appears rather mixed, with global English impacting in complex and often negative ways on motivation to learn other languages, even within our increasingly pluralist and culturally and linguistically diverse societies.

In this talk, I will review this research evidence and explore the tensions among language globalization, multiculturalism and multilingualism in today’s changing social world. I will examine the mixed messages communicated for language education in general and for language learners in particular. I will then consider whether the impact of Global English on motivation to learn other languages might be more positively construed by shifting away from its traditional SLA frames of reference, grounded in a deficit view of L2 learning as a less successful enterprise than L1 learning. Drawing on the concept of the multilingual mind, I propose instead an alternative approach to framing this motivation in the context of ‘linguistic multicompetence’, defined by Cook (2016) as the overall system of a mind (or community) that uses more than language. As I will conclude, such an approach may lend itself to more positive and constructive messages for motivating language learning. This talk is based on a paper-in-progress for a forthcoming special issue of The Modern Language Journal.


Ushioda, EmaEma Ushioda is Director of Graduate Studies and an associate professor at the Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick, where she has responsibility for the PhD programme and for overseeing postgraduate provision. She has been working in language education since 1982, has taught English in Japan, Ireland and the UK, and has conducted workshops on motivation and autonomy for language teachers from many countries. Her main research interests are motivation for language learning and intercultural engagement, learner autonomy, sociocultural theory and teacher development, and she has published widely in these areas. Recent books include International Perspectives on Motivation: Language Learning and Professional Challenges (2013), Teaching and Researching Motivation (co-authored by Z. Dörnyei, 2011) and Motivation, Language Identity and the L2 Self (co-edited by Z. Dörnyei, 2009). She is currently co-editing a special issue of The Modern Language Journal focusing on motivation for learning languages other than English.

ALS Plenary Speakers

Greville Corbett
University of Surrey

The typology of nominal classification: Australian perspectives and a Canonical Typology approach

Depending on the research tradition, there are types of data which are handled by some as representing a single (complex) system and by others as two systems operating side by side. Nominal classification, including gender and classifiers, is one such domain. However, particular analyses are often assumed rather than argued for, which can leave important questions unanswered. Instances of explicit argumentation for one system versus two include Goddard (1982) on case and Round & Corbett (2016) on tense-aspect-mood. Our aim is a general typology of nominal classification, and a crucial component will be the application of explicit arguments for determining the number of systems involved in a given language. Hence a focus of the talk will be interesting languages which – arguably – have more than one system of nominal classification.

The idea of an opposition between gender and classifiers was articulated clearly by Dixon (1982, 1986). He used a set of criteria to oppose gender systems and classifier systems, (his terms were ‘noun class’ and ‘noun classification’, respectively), and this approach was adopted in, for instance, Corbett (1991). While some of his criteria have stood the test of time, others have to be jettisoned or at least revised. Seifart’s (2005) account of Miraña presented a system with clear characteristics of gender and of classifiers, making it harder to maintain a divide between the two. And Reid (1997) on Ngan’gityemerri provided another reason against maintaining a clear gender-classifier divide, since classifiers can grammaticalize into gender systems, giving rise to a range of intermediate types. And recent research has uncovered more and more languages that combine gender and classifiers. These languages can be found mainly in South America, for example Tariana (Arawakan; Aikhenvald 1994, 2000), and Ayoreo and Chamacoco (Zamucoan; Bertinetto 2009, Ciucci 2013). A key language for us will be the Papuan language Mian, which is analyzed as having four genders as well as six classifiers that appear as prefixes on a subset of verbs (Fedden 2011, based on a Melbourne PhD). All this suggests that the sharp divide between gender and classifiers that seemed reasonable and attractive cannot be maintained.

Once we see nominal classification like this, then we can get a clearer picture of the range of possible systems. If we pull apart the characteristics we traditionally associate with gender systems, and those of classifier systems, we see that they combine in many ways. This is a cue to adopt a canonical perspective, in which we define the notion of canonical gender, and use this as an idealization to calibrate from. This allows us to situate the interesting mixes present in some of the languages of Australia, for instance in Ngalakgan (Baker 2002) and Mawng (Singer 2016). It also leads to a typology of concurrent systems, like that of Mian.


CorbettGreville Corbett is Distinguished Professor of Lingustics at the University of Surrey and a member of the Surrey Morphology Group. His research attempts to bring together the remarkable variation we find across languages with the sense that they are deeply similar and covers three broad areas of interest: typology, including the development of the Canonical Typology framework; morphosyntactic features, such as number, gender, person and case; and inflectional morphology, especially using the Network Morphology framework. He has published monographs on gender (1991), number (2000), agreement (2006) and morphosyntactic features (2012) amongst other book length studies and numerous journal articles.

Nick Enfield
University of Sydney

Polar Answers: a cross-linguistic study

How are polar questions answered? A received view is that there are two basic types of system. ‘Echo/Repetition systems’ confirm by repeating part or all of the question. Q: Are they asleep? A: They are asleep. ‘Interjection systems’ confirm by saying ‘yes’ or equivalent. Q: Are they asleep? A: Yes. This typology is flawed, on empirical grounds: All languages provide both ways of answering. I present a reappraisal of this typology, based on results of a multi-authored study of how polar questions are answered in conversational corpora in 14 languages. We find the following. First, speakers of all languages use both the interjection and repetition type, so the issue is not which type is used in a language, but rather the relative frequency, and distinct function (if any) of each type. Second, we find that in most languages the repetition type is by far the minority choice, occurring very infrequently (as little as 4% of the time). Even in the languages that rely on the repetition strategy most, it is only used around half the time. We propose to explain this asymmetry with reference to the semantic/semiotic difference between the two strategies. The account explains why the interjection strategy is better fitted to the function of answering polar questions, and hence why it is globally and locally dominant.


EnfieldNick Enfield is Professor and Chair of Linguistics at The University of Sydney, and a research associate in the Language and Cognition Group at the Max Planck Institute in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. His research on language, culture, and cognition is part of a long-term project aimed at understanding the foundations of human sociality. Nick’s research addresses the intersection of language, cognition, social interaction, and culture, from three angles: Semiotic structure and process; Micro-macro relations in semiotic systems; and Social cognition and social action. His empirical specialization is in the languages of mainland Southeast Asia, especially Lao and Kri. Lao is the national language of Laos, spoken by over 20 million people in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and elsewhere. Kri (Vietic sub-branch of Austroasiatic) is spoken near the Laos-Vietnam border in Khammouane Province by an isolated community of around 300 people.

Jane Simpson
Australian National University 

Alternate world languages:  Constrained creativity and folk linguistics

Any fiction writer creates an alternate world, but in some genres, the alternate world is intended to be different from the novelist’s own society. This is most noticeable in science fiction, historical novels, fantasy novels, steampunk, and novels set in non-English speaking countries.  The question of languages arises at the moment when characters speak to each other. Do the characters speak the same language as the readers?  Part of world-building is indicating that the characters do speak different languages ((‘alternate world languages’, AWLs, a type of ‘conlang’). Clearly, most of what the characters say or think must be expressed in the language of the readers.  However, within this limit, writers have some freedom to invent new words, phrases and sentences.  These have communicative and symbolic functions.  The symbolic functions are most obvious – marking the world-building by showing that this world has a different geography and ecology (and so has different place-names, plant and animal names), that there are different groups speaking different languages, that people in this world have different social structures, different practices and material culture. But the communicative functions are also important – the invented words of the AWL name these unfamiliar things and practices, and the reader must notice them.

AWLs are a window on folk linguistics – how do we expect strangers and foreigners to talk, how would supernatural beings and aliens talk, what languages and what writing systems would they have, and what would they use them for?  This papers addresses the questions of how English writers use words and phrases from other languages (actual or invented) in building alternate worlds, what these invented words look like, how writers help their readers to understand the AWLs (and how readers receive them), what sub-genre distinctions there are, how the AWLs relate to English, to other languages, to conventions used by other authors, and to folk stereotypes of ways of talking. Data comes from a survey of 60 novels, with more detailed study of three novels, along with consideration of parodies of fantasy novels, and discussion of reader reviews on Amazon and Good Reads.


Jane-Simpson-IMG_engmaJane Simpson studies the structure and use of several Australian Aboriginal languages: Warumungu, Kaurna and Warlpiri, and the morpho-syntax of English. She is interested in documenting languages, from place-names, to kinship systems, to dictionary-making to land tenure,. She is involved in longitudinal study of Aboriginal children acquiring creoles, English and traditional languages which has led to an interest in education. She is Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.