Linguistics is the study of language, the phenomenon that is the basis for much of human communication. It includes the study of the features of specific languages, seeking to understand the diversity of human language in terms of form, meaning and context; and the historical process of how such diversity evolves over time. Linguistics also seeks to understand the nature of language more broadly as human faculty and a means of communication in social interaction within a specific culture and across cultures.

There are over 3,200 languages spoken in the Asia Pacific, which belong to 28 separate language families. The region of eastern Indonesia and island of New Guinea is the most linguistically diverse place on earth, with over 1,300 languages spoken in this region alone. Almost half of these are spoken by less than 1,000 people. Many of them are under-documented and endangered, and therefore in urgent need of focused research.

The discipline of Linguistics at the School of Culture, History and Language is concerned with the study and documentation of languages in the Asia and the Pacific. The research and documentation of under-described languages in this region is vital to understanding the radically diverse structures of both human language and human thought, and has wider implications for the understanding of human social interactions and cognitive processes. Research on linguistic diversity is increasingly important and is connected to such diverse fields such as psychology, anthropology, computer science, education and language teaching..

We have expertise in the core areas of linguistics (descriptive linguistics, language typology, theoretical linguistics, and historical linguistics) and in related interdisciplinary fields (anthropological linguistics and forensic linguistics). We also draw upon the expertise of linguists across the ANU at the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language and School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics

Linguistics research projects

Research projects

Our research covers sites ranging from Vanuatu, New Caledonia, PNG, Australia, Indonesia, Timor Leste, the Philippines, Taiwan, India and Japan.


Find contact details for our academic staff, PhD students and visiting fellows.

Linguistics department publications


View a selection of publications from our Academics and PhD students adding to our distinguished body of work.

News and events

Discover events on a range of topics hosted or supported by the department.

Facilities & resources

View information relating to facilities and resources available to students whilst studying within the CHL Linguistics department.

View our newsletter

The CAP Linguistics Newsletter is a regular digest of news and events concerning language research within the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster