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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

Research Expertise
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. 


Qualifications

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

Keywords

  • Language
  • Linguistic structures

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
200499 Linguistics not elsewhere classified 100

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Senior Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia

Academic appointment

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

Awards

Recognition

Year Award
1994 Frank Coaldrake Scholarship
University of Sydney
1993 Peter Lawrence Memorial Scholarship
University of Sydney
1992 Peter Lawrence Memorial Scholarship
University of Sydney
1992 Australian 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)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2017 Palmer WD, The Languages and Linguistics of Island Southeast Asia and the Pacific. A Comprehensive Guide, de Gruyter Mouton, Berlin (2017)
2016 Palmer WD, The Languages and Linguistics of the New Guinea Area. A Comprehensive Guide, de Gruyter Mouton, Berlin (2016)
2009 Palmer WD, Kokota Grammar, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, Hawai'i, 422 (2009) [A1]
2001 Palmer B, Syntax and typology, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Viti Levu, Fiji (2001) [A1]
2000 Palmer 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)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Palmer 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)
2012 Palmer WD, 'Kokota', The Oceanic Languages, Routledge, London 498-524 (2012)
2007 Palmer 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]
2002 Palmer B, ''Absolute spatial reference and the grammaticalisation of perceptually salient phenomena.'', , Pacific Linguistics, Canberra, ACT, Australia (2002) [B1]
2002 Palmer B, ''Kokota.'', , Curzon Press, London, UK (2002) [B1]
Show 2 more chapters

Journal article (8 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 Palmer WD, 'An innovated possessor suffix and category in central Choiseul', Oceanic Linguistics, 53 155-169 (2014) [C1]
DOI 10.1353/ol.2014.0007
2011 Evans B, Palmer WD, 'Contact-induced change in Southern Bougainville', Oceanic Linguistics, 50 489-529 (2011) [C1]
DOI 10.1353/ol.2011.0020
Citations Scopus - 1
2011 Palmer WD, 'Subject-indexing and possessive morphology in Northwest Solomonic', Linguistics, 49 685-747 (2011) [C1]
DOI 10.1515/ling.2011.022
Citations Scopus - 1
2009 Palmer WD, 'Clause order and information structure in Cheke Holo', Oceanic Linguistics, 48 213-249 (2009) [C1]
DOI 10.1353/ol.0.0038
Citations Scopus - 3Web of Science - 2
2008 Palmer WD, 'Passive possession in Oceanic', Studies in Phillippine Languages & Cultures, 18 119-141 (2008) [C1]
Citations Scopus - 3
2007 Palmer B, Brown D, 'Heads in Oceanic indirect possession', Oceanic Linguistics, 46 199-206 (2007) [C1]
DOI 10.1353/ol.2007.0022
2007 Palmer B, 'Imperfective aspect and the interplay of aspect, tense and modality in Torau', Oceanic Linguistics, 46 499-519 (2007) [C1]
1999 Palmer B, ''Voiceless sonorants - phonemes or underlying clusters?'', Australian Journal of Linguistics, 19 77-88 (1999) [C1]
Show 5 more journal articles

Conference (18 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Palmer, 'Typologizing linguistic expressions of spatial Frame of Reference.', Not yet, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (2015)
2015 Palmer WD, 'Marked-absolutive? Case, topic and clefts in Mono-Alu.', Not yet, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (2015)
2015 Palmer WD, 'Case, topic and clefts in Mono-Alu.', Not yet, McGill University, Montreal (2015)
2015 Palmer WD, 'Putative morphological ergativity in Mono-Alu: the problem particle ga.', Not yet, Academia Sinica, Taipei (2015)
2012 Palmer WD, 'Nominal number in Meso-Melanesian', Proceedings of the LFG12 Conference, Bali, Indonesia (2012) [E1]
2010 Palmer WD, Evans B, 'Austronesian-Papuan contact in southern Bougainville', Australian Linguistics Society Annual Conference ALS 2010: Programme and Abstracts, St Lucia, Qld (2010) [E3]
2010 Palmer 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]
2009 Palmer WD, 'VSO order and the VP in Oceanic', 11 ICAL: Eleventh International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics: Abstracts, Aussois, France (2009) [E3]
2009 Palmer 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]
2009 Palmer WD, 'VSO clause order and the VP: The case of Oceanic', ALT8 Abstracts, Berkeley, CA (2009) [E3]
2009 Palmer WD, 'Non-morphological reduplication in Torau', MOWL: Morphology of the World's Languages 2009: Program, Leipzig, Germany (2009) [E3]
2008 Palmer WD, 'Clitic doubling and the Hoava VP', Directions in Oceanic Research. Abstracts, Ourimbah, NSW (2008) [E3]
2008 Palmer 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]
2008 Palmer B, 'Drinkable skirts, edible spears and inalienable bathwater: hierarchies of non-canonical possession' (2008) [E3]
2006 Palmer B, 'Passive and characteristic possession in Oceanic', Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, Palawan, the Philippines (2006) [E3]
2003 Palmer B, 'Linguistic Frame of Reference reconsidered', Proceedings of the 2002 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society, Macquarie University, Sydney (2003) [E1]
2003 Palmer B, 'Linguistic Frame of Reference reconsidered' (2003) [E1]
1997 Palmer B, ''Notes on mood and aspect in Simbo (Mandeghusu, Solomon Islands).'' (1997) [E1]
Show 15 more conferences

Other (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2013 Palmer WD, 'Many languages in danger of extinction.', . Newcastle (2013)
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 12
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 body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer, Doctor Mark Harvey, Doctor Aashild Naess, Doctor Catriona Malau
Scheme Research Programme 2014
Role Lead
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1400925
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

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 body The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer
Scheme Small Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2013
GNo G1300992
Type Of Funding International - Competitive
Category 3IFA
UON Y

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

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

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2013
GNo G1300646
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

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 body ARC (Australian Research Council)
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer, Dr Alice Gaby
Scheme Discovery Projects
Role Lead
Funding Start 2012
Funding Finish 2012
GNo G1100293
Type Of Funding Aust Competitive - Commonwealth
Category 1CS
UON Y

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 body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2012
Funding Finish 2012
GNo G1200562
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

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 body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer
Scheme Near Miss Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2011
Funding Finish 2011
GNo G1001036
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

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 body University of London School of Oriental and African Studies
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer
Scheme The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project
Role Lead
Funding Start 2010
Funding Finish 2010
GNo G0190543
Type Of Funding International - Non Competitive
Category 3IFB
UON Y

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 body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2009
Funding Finish 2009
GNo G0190243
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

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 body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer
Scheme Pilot Project Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2008
Funding Finish 2008
GNo G0189384
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

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

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer
Scheme Pilot Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2008
Funding Finish 2008
GNo G0189054
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

Northwest Solomonic Materials$5,750

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2008
Funding Finish 2008
GNo G0189027
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

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 body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Bill Palmer
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2008
Funding Finish 2008
GNo G0189317
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed3
Current5

Total current UON EFTSL

PhD2.9

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2014 PhD Investigating Ergativity in Roviana
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2014 PhD Morphosyntactic Alignment in Mono-Alu (North West Solomonic)
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2013 PhD Thinking and Talking About Atolls: Spatial Reference in Marshallese
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2010 PhD Documentation and Description of a Highly Endangered Northwest Solomonic Language
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2010 PhD Topics in a Grammar of Nehan
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor

Past Supervision

Year Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2015 PhD Topics in the Grammar of Zahrani Spoken Arabic
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2015 PhD A Grammar of Papapana with an Investigation Into Language Contact and Endangerment
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2014 PhD Effects of Acculturation Factor on Saudi Arabian English Language Learners: A Contextual Comparison Study
Linguistics, Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
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

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

Office

Room MC116
Building McMullin Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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