La Trobe Future Fellow linguists

Future Fellowships is an Australian government scheme used to promote research and attract the best and brightest mid-career researchers.  La Trobe University linguists and Bayside residents, Dr Stephen Morey and Associate Professor Marija Tabain, were each awarded a four year Future Fellowship valued at around $700,000 to finance their research.

Marija TabainDr Morey and Associate Professor Tabain are a rare occurrence. There are only six Future Fellows in Linguistics in all of Australia, with three at La Trobe. Dr Morey and Associate Professor Tabain are living in close proximity at Sandringham and Hampton.

Dr Morey and Associate Professor Tabain are a rare occurrence. There are only six Future Fellows in Linguistics in all of Australia, with three at La Trobe. Dr Morey and Associate Professor Tabain are living in close proximity at Sandringham and Hampton.

‘Linguistics is so important to study as the human language is one of our most important cultural artefacts and much of its diversity is likely to disappear in the present century. There is a huge amount of linguistic information that is about to be lost’, says Dr Morey.

Dr Stephen Morey - North Eastern Indian languages

Dr Morey is currently recording, translating and determining the origin of North Eastern Indian languages. ‘I've been working on minority languages - usually called tribal languages here - in the Northeast Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh since 1996.

‘Most of my work now is on ‘Tangsa’ officially regarded as one language but has 70 sub-tribes who all have different speech varieties, many of which are completely unintelligible to each other. I have made recordings and translated stories and songs of 10 of them,’ says Dr Morey.

Dr Morey also works on deciphering languages that are no longer spoken and only survive in the form of thousands of manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Associate Professor Marija Tabain - Australian Indigenous languages

Closer to home, Associate Professor Tabain is researching the phonetics of Australia's Indigenous languages to provide the first large-scale acoustic analyses of Aboriginal languages.

‘Australia's Indigenous languages contain many sounds which do not exist in other languages of the world, and they are particularly rich in consonants produced by the tongue tip,’ says Associate Professor Tabain.

‘There were about 200 Aboriginal languages at the time of English settlement, but of those that remain, only about a dozen are relatively thriving, with the remainder highly endangered. So there is a great need to study these languages before it’s too late, and maybe even contribute
to their revival.

‘As speakers of English we can only produce a limited range of sounds, so by studying other languages we can learn more about the capabilities and limitations of human speech.

‘Through this research we can help people who have speaking difficulties, as we will have a better understanding of how human speech works,’ says Associate Professor Tabain.

Contact:

Dr Marija Tabain
Associate Professor, Linguistics
T:  +61 3 9479 1521 | e: M.Tabain@latrobe.edu.au

Dian Lipiarski
Media and Communications Officer
T:  +61 3 9479 5517 | e: d.lipiarski@latrobe.edu.au

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