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Dr Bill Palmer

Senior Lecturer

School of Humanities and Social Science (Linguistics)

The power of words

A dedicated team of Newcastle linguists is committed to studying the practical, scientific and cultural significance of dying local languages.

the power of faith 

"Understanding language is important to understanding what characterizes us as humans," says Palmer, the leader of the Endangered Languages Documentation, Theory and Application research program and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science.

"Language is something all humans are born with a capacity to develop - children learn language without effort - so it is fundamental thing that is unique to humans."

Palmer and his colleagues are interested in the 94 per cent of the world's 7,000 languages that are spoken by just six per cent of the global population.

"The big languages will still be around in 100 years' time but many of the thousands of very small languages may well not be around, so we are in a race against time to document them and study their significance," he says.

"It is estimated that between 50 and 90 per cent of languages spoken today will die in the next century. Basically, if children don't acquire a language then it dies in that generation.

"In Australia it is believed there were about 260 indigenous languages at the time of white settlement. There are still over 100 but only about 18 of them are spoken by the current generation of children. So in the space of one generation we face the loss of more than 80 of those remaining languages."

Why should we worry about the loss of languages spoken in some cases by only a single village in a small country? Palmer says there are several reasons, apart from the overarching scientific value of studying language.

"Some researchers are interested in language endangerment for what you might call the philanthropic reason that it is an important cultural thing, that there is cultural identity and ethnic identity invested in language, so they should be at least documented for future generations of the community, even if the language cannot be preserved," he says.

"Another reason is that there is a lot of traditional knowledge enshrined in local language that risks being lost when the language dies.

"I have read that something like 75 per cent of plant-based pharmaceuticals were discovered by people talking to traditional healers and drawing on the terminology in their indigenous languages.

"So another good reason to study endangered languages relates to the sum total of human knowledge, which is impoverished by the loss of human languages."

Palmer says researchers often spend up to a year living with villagers in areas where languages are endangered. That attention can itself elevate the status of local languages and convince people that they have something worth saving.

He says many villages where there are endangered languages have to balance the competing interests of preserving local culture and fostering a more global outlook that will give their children a greater chance of success in the wider world.

The Endangered Languages research program now has more than 15 researchers now working across Australia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, Central Asia and Saudi Arabia.

Find out more about the Endangered Languages Documentation, Theory and Application research program

The Power of Words

The power of words

A dedicated team of Newcastle linguists is committed to studying the practical, scientific and cultural significance of dying local languages.

Read more

Career Summary

Biography

  • Linguistics Discipline Convenor * Program Leader, Endangered Languages Documentation, Theory and Application Group * Linguistics Research Higher Degree and Honours coordinator<br /><br /><strong>Research Expertise</strong><br />Austronesian and non-Austronesian Pacific languages- particularly the Oceanic languages of the Solomon Islands and Bougainville, Linguistic typology, Syntax- particularly argument structure and coding, Linguistic and nonlinguistic spatial behaviour and spatial cognition and the relationship between language and thought, Phonology- particularly reduplication and stress.&nbsp;<br /><br />

Qualifications

  • PhD, University of Sydney
  • Master of Arts, University of Sydney

Keywords

  • Language
  • Linguistic structures

Fields of Research

CodeDescriptionPercentage
200499Linguistics not elsewhere classified100

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

DatesTitleOrganisation / Department
1/01/2015 - Senior LecturerUniversity of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia

Academic appointment

DatesTitleOrganisation / Department
1/01/2011 - Editorial Board - Mouton de Gruyter series Pacific LinguisticsMouton de Gruyter series Pacific Linguistics
Australia
1/01/2008 - LecturerUniversity of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia
1/01/2007 - Membership - Linguistics Society of AmericaLinguistics Society of America
United States
1/01/2005 - Membership - The Association for Linguistics TypologyThe Association for Linguistics Typology
Australia
1/01/2004 - Membership - Linguistics Association of Great BritainLinguistics Association of Great Britain
United Kingdom
1/01/2003 - 1/01/2004LecturerUniversity of Leeds
Department of English Language & Linguistics
United Kingdom
1/01/2002 - 1/12/2002Research Fellow/LecturerThe University of New South Wales
Department of Linguistics
Australia
1/01/2001 - 1/12/2001Research Fellow/LecturerThe University of Melbourne
Department of Linguistics
Australia
1/01/2000 - 1/12/2000LecturerUniversity of Western Sydney
Division of Languages & Linguistics
Australia
1/01/1997 - 1/12/1999LecturerUniversity of the South Pacific
Pacific Languages Unit
Vanuatu
1/01/1993 - 1/01/1997LecturerThe University of Sydney
Department of Linguistics
Australia
1/01/1990 - Membership - Australian Linguistics SocietyAustralian Linguistics Society
Australia

Awards

Recognition

YearAward
1994Frank Coaldrake Scholarship
University of Sydney
1993Peter Lawrence Memorial Scholarship
University of Sydney
1992Peter Lawrence Memorial Scholarship
University of Sydney
1992Australian Postgraduate Award (APA)
University of Sydney
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Book (5 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2017Palmer WD, The Languages and Linguistics of Island Southeast Asia and the Pacific. A Comprehensive Guide, de Gruyter Mouton, Berlin (2017)
2016Palmer WD, The Languages and Linguistics of the New Guinea Area. A Comprehensive Guide, de Gruyter Mouton, Berlin (2016)
2009Palmer WD, Kokota Grammar, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, Hawai'i, 422 (2009) [A1]
2001Palmer B, Syntax and typology, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji (2001) [A1]
2000Palmer B, Geraghty P, SICOL Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Oceanic Linguistics, Pacific Linguistics, Canberra, ACT, Australia (2000) [A3]
Show 2 more books

Chapter (5 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2015Palmer WD, 'Topography in language: Absolute Frame of Reference and the Topographic Correspondence Hypothesis.', Language Structure and Environment. Social, cultural, and natural factors, Benjamins, London 177-226 (2015)
2012Palmer WD, 'Kokota', The Oceanic Languages, Routledge, London 498-524 (2012)
2007Palmer B, 'Pointing at the lagoon: directional terms in Oceanic atoll-based languages', Language description, history and development : linguistic indulgence in memory of Terry Crowley, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam, Netherlands 101-118 (2007) [B1]
2002Palmer B, ''Absolute spatial reference and the grammaticalisation of perceptually salient phenomena.'', , Pacific Linguistics, Canberra, ACT, Australia (2002) [B1]
2002Palmer B, ''Kokota.'', , Curzon Press, London, UK (2002) [B1]
Show 2 more chapters

Journal article (8 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2014Palmer WD, 'An innovated possessor suffix and category in central Choiseul', Oceanic Linguistics, 53 155-169 (2014) [C1]
DOI10.1353/ol.2014.0007
2011Evans B, Palmer WD, 'Contact-induced change in Southern Bougainville', Oceanic Linguistics, 50 489-529 (2011) [C1]
DOI10.1353/ol.2011.0020
2011Palmer WD, 'Subject-indexing and possessive morphology in Northwest Solomonic', Linguistics, 49 685-747 (2011) [C1]
DOI10.1515/ling.2011.022
CitationsScopus - 1
2009Palmer WD, 'Clause order and information structure in Cheke Holo', Oceanic Linguistics, 48 213-249 (2009) [C1]
DOI10.1353/ol.0.0038
CitationsScopus - 3Web of Science - 2
2008Palmer WD, 'Passive possession in Oceanic', Studies in Phillippine Languages & Cultures, 18 119-141 (2008) [C1]
CitationsScopus - 3
2007Palmer B, Brown D, 'Heads in Oceanic indirect possession', Oceanic Linguistics, 46 199-206 (2007) [C1]
DOI10.1353/ol.2007.0022
2007Palmer B, 'Imperfective aspect and the interplay of aspect, tense and modality in Torau', Oceanic Linguistics, 46 499-519 (2007) [C1]
1999Palmer B, ''Voiceless sonorants - phonemes or underlying clusters?'', Australian Journal of Linguistics, 19 77-88 (1999) [C1]
Show 5 more journal articles

Conference (18 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2015Palmer, 'Typologizing linguistic expressions of spatial Frame of Reference.', Not yet, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (2015)
2015Palmer WD, 'Marked-absolutive? Case, topic and clefts in Mono-Alu.', Not yet, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (2015)
2015Palmer WD, 'Case, topic and clefts in Mono-Alu.', Not yet, McGill University, Montreal (2015)
2015Palmer WD, 'Putative morphological ergativity in Mono-Alu: the problem particle ga.', Not yet, Academia Sinica, Taipei (2015)
2012Palmer WD, 'Nominal number in Meso-Melanesian', Proceedings of the LFG12 Conference, Bali, Indonesia (2012) [E1]
2010Palmer WD, Evans B, 'Austronesian-Papuan contact in southern Bougainville', Australian Linguistics Society Annual Conference ALS 2010: Programme and Abstracts, St Lucia, Qld (2010) [E3]
2010Palmer WD, 'Landscape in language: Integrating topography in linguistic spatial reference', The Shaping of Language: The Relationship between the Structures of Languages and their Social, Cultural, Historical, and Natural Environments 2010 International Workshop, Melbourne (2010) [E3]
2009Palmer WD, 'VSO order and the VP in Oceanic', 11 ICAL: Eleventh International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics: Abstracts, Aussois, France (2009) [E3]
2009Palmer WD, 'External objects and phrasal incorporation: Two apparent typologically unusual phenomena in Oceanic', ALL4: 4th Conference on Austronesian Languages & Linguistics: Programme, London, UK (2009) [E3]
2009Palmer WD, 'VSO clause order and the VP: The case of Oceanic', ALT8 Abstracts, Berkeley, CA (2009) [E3]
2009Palmer WD, 'Non-morphological reduplication in Torau', MOWL: Morphology of the World's Languages 2009: Program, Leipzig, Germany (2009) [E3]
2008Palmer WD, 'Clitic doubling and the Hoava VP', Directions in Oceanic Research. Abstracts, Ourimbah, NSW (2008) [E3]
2008Palmer WD, 'Imperfective aspect and the interplay of aspect, tense and modality in Torau', Linguistics Association of Great Britain Meeting 2008. Programme and Abstracts, Colchester, UK (2008) [E3]
2008Palmer B, 'Drinkable skirts, edible spears and inalienable bathwater: hierarchies of non-canonical possession' (2008) [E3]
2006Palmer B, 'Passive and characteristic possession in Oceanic', Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, Palawan, the Philippines (2006) [E3]
2003Palmer B, 'Linguistic Frame of Reference reconsidered', Proceedings of the 2002 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society, Macquarie University, Sydney (2003) [E1]
2003Palmer B, 'Linguistic Frame of Reference reconsidered' (2003) [E1]
1997Palmer B, ''Notes on mood and aspect in Simbo (Mandeghusu, Solomon Islands).'' (1997) [E1]
Show 15 more conferences

Other (1 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2013Palmer WD, 'Many languages in danger of extinction.', . Newcastle (2013)
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants12
Total funding$641,262

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20141 grants / $90,000

Endangered Languages Documentation, Theory and Application$90,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer, Doctor Mark Harvey, Doctor Aashild Naess, Doctor Catriona Malau
SchemeResearch Programme 2014
RoleLead
Funding Start2014
Funding Finish2014
GNoG1400925
Type Of FundingInternal
CategoryINTE
UONY

20132 grants / $9,241

IGS0220 Materials in Ratsua and the dialects of Hahon, two virtually undocumented endangered Oceanic language of northern Bougainville.$7,741

Funding body: The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project

Funding bodyThe Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer
SchemeSmall Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2013
Funding Finish2013
GNoG1300992
Type Of FundingInternational - Competitive
Category3IFA
UONY

Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association 20, Arlington USA, 17-19 May 2013$1,500

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer
SchemeTravel Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2013
Funding Finish2013
GNoG1300646
Type Of FundingInternal
CategoryINTE
UONY

20122 grants / $292,500

Thinking and talking about atolls: the role of environment in shaping language and our understanding of physical space.$291,000

Funding body: ARC (Australian Research Council)

Funding bodyARC (Australian Research Council)
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer, Dr Alice Gaby
SchemeDiscovery Projects
RoleLead
Funding Start2012
Funding Finish2012
GNoG1100293
Type Of FundingAust Competitive - Commonwealth
Category1CS
UONY

Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association XIX, Academia Ninica, Taipei, Taiwan, 26 - 30 June 2011$1,500

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer
SchemeTravel Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2012
Funding Finish2012
GNoG1200562
Type Of FundingInternal
CategoryINTE
UONY

20111 grants / $25,000

Using spatial language on atolls to understand how the environment shapes the way humans think about the physical world and their place in it. $25,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer
SchemeNear Miss Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2011
Funding Finish2011
GNoG1001036
Type Of FundingInternal
CategoryINTE
UONY

20101 grants / $195,698

Documenting Ririo and Papapana: the two most highly endangered Northwest Solomonic languages$195,698

Funding body: University of London School of Oriental and African Studies

Funding bodyUniversity of London School of Oriental and African Studies
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer
SchemeThe Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project
RoleLead
Funding Start2010
Funding Finish2010
GNoG0190543
Type Of FundingInternational - Non Competitive
Category3IFB
UONY

20091 grants / $1,500

Eleventh International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, Aussois, 22-26 June 2009$1,500

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer
SchemeTravel Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2009
Funding Finish2009
GNoG0190243
Type Of FundingInternal
CategoryINTE
UONY

20084 grants / $27,323

Expressing spatial relations in atoll-based communities: findings from Kiribati and the Marshall Islands$10,761

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer
SchemePilot Project Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2008
Funding Finish2008
GNoG0189384
Type Of FundingInternal
CategoryINTE
UONY

Expressing spatial relations in atoll-based communities: findings from Kiribati and the Marshall Islands$9,112

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer
SchemePilot Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2008
Funding Finish2008
GNoG0189054
Type Of FundingInternal
CategoryINTE
UONY

Northwest Solomonic Materials$5,750

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer
SchemeNew Staff Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2008
Funding Finish2008
GNoG0189027
Type Of FundingInternal
CategoryINTE
UONY

Linguistics Association of Great Britain Meeting 2008, University of Essex, Colchester, UK, 10/9/2008 - 13/9/2008$1,700

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle
Project TeamDoctor Bill Palmer
SchemeTravel Grant
RoleLead
Funding Start2008
Funding Finish2008
GNoG0189317
Type Of FundingInternal
CategoryINTE
UONY
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Research Supervision

Current Supervision

CommencedResearch Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2014Investigating Ergativity in Roviana
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor
2014Morphosyntactic Alignment in Mono-Alu (North West Solomonic)
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor
2013Thinking and Talking About Atolls: Spatial Reference in Marshallese
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor
2010Topics in the Grammar of Zahrani Spoken Arabic
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor
2010Documentation and Description of a Highly Endangered Northwest Solomonic Language
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor
2010Topics in a Grammar of Nehan
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor

Past Supervision

YearResearch Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2015A Grammar of Papapana with an Investigation Into Language Contact and Endangerment
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Principal Supervisor
2014Effects of Acculturation Factor on Saudi Arabian English Language Learners: A Contextual Comparison Study
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts
Co-Supervisor
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News

ELDP Grants

Researchers work to save languages from extinction

October 2, 2014

The University of Newcastle has been awarded three grants from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP), UK, to assist in the documentation of endangered Pacific languages.

ELDP Grant success

UK grants to assist severely endangered languages

September 26, 2014

The University of Newcastle (UON) has been awarded three grants from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme (ELDP), UK, to assist in the documentation of endangered Pacific languages.

University of Newcastle linguistics in top 100 world-wide

Linguistics breaks into world’s top 100

March 25, 2014

Three Faculty of Education and Arts disciplines have climbed in the most recent QS World University Rankings by Subject list. Linguistics is the star performer, increasing its ranking by 21 places to break the top 100 and rank at 88 in the world.

Stephen Logan

Linguistics, Education and Sociology star in the QS World Rankings

March 18, 2014

If you want to be at the forefront of linguistics study and research in Australia, the University of Newcastle is the place to be.

Dr Bill Palmer

Position

Senior Lecturer
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Focus area

Linguistics

Contact Details

Emailbill.palmer@newcastle.edu.au
Phone(02) 4921 5157

Office

RoomMC116
BuildingMcMullin Building
LocationCallaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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