Dr Michael Franjieh

Dr Michael Franjieh

Conjoint Fellow

School of Humanities and Social Science

Career Summary


Michael Franjieh is a linguist based at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Mike is an Oceanic language specialist with a specific focus on the languages of Vanuatu. Mike is collaborating with the Endangered Languages Documentation Theory and Application research group based in the linguistics department at UoN.

Endangered Languages in Vanuatu

Mike’s current project is an Endangered Language Documentation Project (ELDP) funded Post Doc working on a documentation and description of the highly endangered language of Fanbak. With around 100 active speakers of varying fluency, Fanbak was originally spoken in the two villages of Fanbak and Orkon on the eastern coast of Ambrym Island, Vanuatu, and comprised of two dialects. These villages are no longer inhabited and the speech community is now highly fragmented and dispersed throughout the dominant North Ambrym language area. The documentation will consist of a grammar sketch, a corpus of texts from different speech genres, and a detailed sociolinguistic study of social networks and language shift/loss, focusing on how competing background languages affect language use. 

Research Expertise

Mike specialises in Oceanic classifier systems and their similarities and differences to noun class/gender systems. Mike is interested in grammar writing and lexicography and morphosyntax.

Mike also works on language maintenance and has initiated vernacular language education in the North Ambrym language, Vanuatu. Mike, together with community members and local teachers developed a vernacular language curriculum and developed forty different reading books and a trilingual dictionary. North Ambrym is now being taught at the kindergarten and primary level.

Teaching Expertise

At the University of Surrey I have lectured the UG module in Language Diversity and the PG module in Global Diversity in Language and Communication as well as the PG module, Introduction to Research Methods: Answering Questions with Evidence. 

At the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London Mike convened the following courses: Field Methods (PG), Morphology (UG.PG), General Linguistics (UG). Mike was also the Graduate Teaching Assistant for Intermediate Syntax (UG)

Administrative Expertise

Convening courses; creating and marking assignments and exams; marking PG dissertations; helping students during office hours, providing both pastoral and academic advice; participating in departmental and exam scrutiny meetings.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of London
  • Bachelor of Arts - German, Linguistics & Computer, University of London
  • Master of Arts in Language Documentation, University of London


  • Field Methods
  • General Linguistics
  • Language Description
  • Language Documentation
  • Literacy Development
  • Morphology
  • Oceanic Languages
  • Research Methods
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Syntax


  • German (Fluent)
  • Bislama (Fluent)
  • English (Mother)

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
200408 Linguistic Structures (incl. Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics) 60
200406 Language in Time and Space (incl. Historical Linguistics, Dialectology) 20
200405 Language in Culture and Society (Sociolinguistics) 20


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

Book (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Franjieh M, The languages of Vanuatu: Unity and diversity, Asia Pacific Linguistics, Canberra (2015) [A3]

Chapter (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 François A, Franjieh M, Lacrampe S, Schnell S, 'The exceptional linguistic density of Vanuatu', The languages of Vanuatu: Unity and Diversity, Asia-Pacific Linguisitcs, Canberra 1-21 (2015) [B1]
2015 Franjieh M, 'The construct suffix in North Ambrym', The languages of Vanuatu: Unity and Diversity, Asia-Pacific Linguistics Open Access, Canberra 91-116 (2015)

Journal article (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2016 Franjieh M, 'Indirect possessive hosts in North Ambrym: Evidence for gender', Oceanic Linguistics, 55 87-115 (2016) [C1]

© by University of Hawai¿i Press. All rights reserved. Indirect possessive hosts (IPHs) in Oceanic languages are normally described as relational classifiers, whereby the classifi... [more]

© by University of Hawai¿i Press. All rights reserved. Indirect possessive hosts (IPHs) in Oceanic languages are normally described as relational classifiers, whereby the classifier characterizes the real world semantic relation between the referent of the possessor and the possessed. The IPHs in the language of North Ambrym (Oceanic, Vanuatu) do not function as relational classifiers but instead match several of the criteria established for markers of gender. First, the IPHs in North Ambrym act as agreement markers in anaphoric possessive constructions. Second, the IPHs are specified in the lexical entry of the noun, and a noun only occurs with one IPH, unlike a classifier system where a possessed noun can occur with different IPHs. Evidence from different linguistic experiments will be presented that support the analysis of IPHs as gender markers. The experiments test different uses of possessed nouns and show that IPHs in North Ambrym do not change dependent upon interactional contexts, as expected in a fluid classifier system. Instead, each possessed noun is restricted to occur with just one IPH.

DOI 10.1353/ol.2016.0011

Conference (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2011 Franjieh MJ, Von Prince K, 'Classifying nouns vs. classifying relations: a case study from Ambrym', Proceedings of Conference on Language Documentation & Linguistic Theory 3 (2011)

Grants and Funding


Number of grants 1
Total funding $25,000

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

20131 grants / $25,000

Literacy Development of North Ambrym$25,000

A project focusing on developing vernacular literacy materials for use in early years education in the school system in North Ambrym. This included 40 books, a tri-lingual dictionary, teacher training workshops and the development of a vernacular language component for the curriculum

Funding body: Christensen Fund

Funding body Christensen Fund
Project Team

Michael Franjieh

Scheme International - Competitive
Role Lead
Funding Start 2013
Funding Finish 2014
Type Of Funding External
Category EXTE


ELDP Grants

Researchers work to save languages from extinction

October 2, 2014

UON has been awarded three UK research grants from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme, to help preserve a threatened Vanuatu language

Dr Michael Franjieh


Conjoint Fellow
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Contact Details

Email michael.franjieh@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4921 6031


Room MC125
Building McMullin