Applications for PhD candidature commencing in early 2022 close on 31 October 2021. Please make contact in advance to discuss project ideas and prepare a strong application.
We have PhD projects for students with backgrounds in computer science, human-computer interaction, machine learning, linguistics, language acquisition, anthropology, and other language-related fields. We have relationships with several Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and Western Australia which may serve as field sites. We have the possibility of scholarships for domestic and international students who are based in Australia.
To discuss possible research topics please email Steven Bird or any of our staff (listed here). Please include information about your research interests and any prior research experience. (More about the application process and scholarships.)
We list indicative project topics below. We welcome and encourage other topics in our areas of expertise, particularly projects at the interface of language, education, technology and design.
- Pedagogical grammars. Codesigning a learner’s grammar for an Indigenous language in partnership with an established language program. (Collaboration with Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring in Kununurra, or Warddeken Aboriginal Rangers in West Arnhem, or Larrakia Nation in Darwin)
- Transmitting ecological knowledge. Investigating digital technologies to support transmission of ecological knowledge across generations, concerning bush medicine, healthy eating, and protecting significant places from environmental threats. (Collaboration with Warddeken Aboriginal Rangers)
- Machine-assisted composition. Investigating custom digital appliances for supporting Aboriginal authors to use the standard orthography for their language, with the support of word recognition algorithms. (Collaboration with Mat Bettinson and Warddeken Aboriginal Rangers)
- Efficient processing of oral languages. Exploring new methods in transcribing and analysing speech recordings, to provide useful functionality in Indigenous languages, such as text input, spell checking, and language learning.
- Designing Indigenous language programs. Studying the efficacy of formal language programs for revitalising and maintaining Indigenous languages. (Collaboration with an Aboriginal language centre in the north or west of Australia)
- Storytelling and language vitality. Investigating the connection between public storytelling, pride in linguistic identity, and the impact on language use and transmission. (Collaboration with Larrakia Elders and Melaleuca Refugee Centre, and languageparty.org)
- Technology and wellbeing. Investigating the processes of designing, implementing and evaluating digital technologies for use in remote communities, with applications to material culture, land management, food practices, health messaging, and so on.
- Indigenous languages and STEM education. A project to investigate pathways from Indigenous knowledge practices to mathematical and algorithmic problem solving. (Collaboration with Cris Edmonds-Wathen)
- Decolonising technology design. Developing intelligent tangible technologies to support intergenerational transmission of Aboriginal languages and cultural practices, while strengthening STEM education in remote schools. (Collaboration with Jennyfer Lawrence Taylor)
- Approximate name matching for Aboriginal languages. Exploring algorithms for indexing and searching for hospital patient records which is robust to different pronunciations and spellings of Aboriginal names, clan names, and skin names. (Collaboration with Royal Darwin Hospital)
- Computational processing of polysynthetic languages. Incorporating morphological processing into teaching and learning of Indigenous languages in the north of Australia.