Associate Professor Rachel Hendery

Research Program: Speech and Language


I am a linguist who works on language contact and change, particularly in the Pacific, and how new digital tools and techniques allow us to research these in new ways. I am interested in supervising postgraduate projects on historical linguistics, contact linguistics, typology, or in digital humanities areas, especially relating to mapping, simulation, language, virtual reality, and data visualisation. My undergraduate degree was a BA in linguistics and German, at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. I then completed an MA in Comparative Linguistics and German Medieval Literature at the Johann-Goethe University in Frankfurt (Main), Germany, followed by a year in Aarhus, Denmark, where I worked informally with Peter Bakker on several projects.

Since my PhD, which was a historical typological project looking at change in relative clauses constructions cross-linguistically, I have worked on a number of projects to better understand language contact and change, both from a macro and micro perspective. These include an archival and fieldwork-based project on Palmerston English, a creole spoken in the Cook Islands, as well as work on Australian kinship terms as part of the AustKin project at ANU, and, more recently, work on the archives of A. W. Howitt and Lorimer Fison and what they can tell us about languages of Victoria. I also now lead an interdisciplinary project on bringing together linguistic, anthropological and archaeological evidence for pre-colonial contact between the Pacific and Australia. As part of my digital humanities work, I also consult to industry and educational organisations on data visualisation and teaching computational thinking.

In the process of carrying out the research described above, I have developed an interest in digital methods for mapping, modelling, visualising and disseminating linguistic and cultural research. This has led me to the exciting new community of digital humanities, where researchers across the humanities and social sciences meet to cross-pollinate their research with methods and ideas from computer science, the hard sciences, and each other. And where we make fun stuff.

Research Interests

Historical linguistics, typology, sociolinguistics, grammatical change, Australian languages, Pacific languages, East Timor, Cook Islands, creoles, English dialects, data visualisation, simulation, digital mapping.

Qualifications and Honours

  • PhD (ANU,2008)
  • MA (Johann-Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, 2003)
  • BA (Canterbury University, NZ, 2000)
  • Postdoctoral fellowship and lead CI on ARC Discovery Grant DP110103714 'Change in language, culture and identity in a small isolated speech community: Palmerston Island English' (2011)
  • Vice Chancellor's Women's Research Fellowship (2016)
  • Google Research Award (2016)


  • NSW Coordinator for the Australian Computational Linguistics Olympiad (OzClo)
  • Treasurer of the Australasian Association for Digital Humanities


For a full listing of my publications, please click here.(opens in a new window)

Contact Rachel
Phone+61 2 9683 8164
LocationWestern Sydney University Parramatta campus