Dr 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.

My PhD at the Australian National University was a historical typological project, looking at change in relative clauses constructions cross-linguistically. While this uncovered some interesting trends in grammatical change, and the following project on which I worked, collating and mapping kinship terms in Australian languages, uncovered interesting connections between social and linguistic change, these findings made me curious to look more closely at the mechanisms of change in a detailed case study. For this I chose the small island of Palmerston, in the Cook Islands, as it is a small isolated community that speaks an unusual English dialect or creole. I have spent the past three years trying to understand the history of this variety and the island that has created it, analysing the social networks of the present and past, and the variation in the language, both diachronically and synchronically.
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)


  • Academic course advisor for Master of Digital Humanities
  • Digital Humanities Research Group executive
  • 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