Alice Gaby

Assoc Professor


Research activity per year

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Personal profile


Please visit my personal website for more information about current projects, downloadable papers and more.


My research interests lie in three intersecting domains: semantic and structural typology; the relationship between language, culture and cognition; and the documentation and analysis of endangered languages, especially those of the Australian continent. It explores questions like:

1) How much (and what) is common to all human languages (and why)?

2) How much (and why) do languages differ from one another?

3) To what extent do the differences and similarities between languages reflect and/or shape how we think about the world?

Much of my research builds upon collaborations with speakers of Paman languages (e.g. Kuuk Thaayorre) spoken in and around the community of Pormpuraaw (Cape York Peninsula, Australia). The knowledge they have shared has impressed on me the importance of language documentation, especially in contexts of language obsolescence. It has also given me an appreciation of how linguistic analysis can be enriched by acknowledging that grammatical structures are part of a larger communicative system, encompassing multiple languages, registers and modalities.

Current research interests include:

  • the role of cultural and physical environment in shaping spatial language and thought (with Bill Palmer, Joe Blythe, Maia Ponsonnet, Tom Ennever, Dorothea Hoffmann, Eleanor Yacopetti, Jonathon Lum and Jonathan Schlossberg);
  • cultural, gestural and conceptual representations of geo-centric directions (north, south, east, west) and viewpoint-bound directions (left/right) in the absence of such directional language (with Joe Blythe, Hywel Stoakes, Juergen Bohnemeyer, Jonathon Lum);
  • the cross-cultural representation of time in terms of space in both language and thought (with Lera Boroditsky, Gede Primahadi Wijaya Rajeg, Poppy Siahaan);
  • the indirect expression of desire in Australian languages;
  • Indigenous names for places in contemporary Australia;
  • kinship semantics and manual kin signs (with Jenny Green, Anastasia Bauer and Elizabeth Marrkilyi Ellis);
  • representing knowledge, beliefs and emotions in Australian Aboriginal languages;
  • the ethics of collaboration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous linguists and language workers in Australia (with Lesley Woods, Tonya Stebbins, Vicki Couzens, Margaret Carew).

Research area keywords

  • Australian Aboriginal languages
  • Linguistic Typology
  • Grammatical description
  • Semantics
  • Pragmatics
  • Language & Cognition
  • Language & Culture
  • Language reclamation and revitalisation
  • Ethical collaboration in linguistic research


Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or