Phonetic or phonemic fricatives? An instrumental production study of stop-fricative variation in the mixed language Gurindji Kriol


Leah McPherson’s thesis is a production study of stop-fricative variation in the mixed language Gurindji Kriol (North Australia). It also contributes to the broader mixed language literature on phonological convergence in contact languages. Gurindji Kriol’s major lexifiers are: Gurindji, a member of the Ngumpin-Yapa subgroup of the Pama-Nyungan family; and Kriol, an English-lexifier Creole.

Using an automated method developed by Erich Round, the production study first identifies 6000 intervocalic consonant tokens as ‘Gurindji like’ stops, /b/ and /ɟ/, or ‘English like’ fricatives /f/, /s/ /ʃ/. The method involves manually segmenting the target consonants, then automatically detecting the presence or absence of frication. The thesis then asks why some speakers prefer to use stops or fricatives. Using a mixed effects model, the thesis models stop/fricative variation against a number of phonological variables, social variables (e.g., age, gender, exposure to Gurindji, exposure to English), contextual variables (whether the speech is child-directed), and grammatical variables (e.g., whether the segment occurs in a function word or a lexical word).

Linguists rarely get the chance to study the genesis of a mixed language due to the paucity of data, however, Gurindji Kriol is well documented due to the successful land rights case pertaining to the Gurindji Walk-Off (1966-1975). Because it is spoken in a highly multilingual environment, it is changing rapidly (both inter and intra-generationally). This thesis not only contributes to broader studies on the future landscape of Australian languages, but on mixed and contact language varieties and how phonologies converge at their genesis.

About the presenter

Leah McPherson studied at the University of Sydney between 2014 – 2019, where they completed a Bachelor of Arts with three majors: Linguistics; French Studies; and Arabic Language and literature. Between 2015-2019, they worked as a research assistant for Gwendolyn Hyslop working with PRAAT on voice onset time and tonogenesis, indexing Hyslop’s Grammar of Kurtöp (Bhutan) (Brill, 2017), and as a fieldwork assistant (L’Îles des pins, Nouvelle-Calédonie / New Caledonia). In 2018, Leah interned at Appen for four months (Mentorship for credit) where they developed a new language resource. Leah also trained in vim, terminal, and regular expressions. Between 2018 – 2020, they worked as a research assistant for Professor Umberto Ansaldo as an editorial assistant for The Routledge Handbook of Pidgin and Creole Languages (eds. Umberto Ansaldo and Miriam Meyerhoff, 2020). Their previous degrees include a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours, Class 1) (2006), and a Master of Fine Arts (2013).

Identity Framing as a Weapon: How 2010s Russo-Ukrainian Identity Discourse in the Media Laid the Groundwork for Invasion


Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine destroyed the long-held hope that interstate conflict, yet alone one in Europe, was relegated to the pages of 20th century history (Fukuyama, 2022). As a result, debate has raged within the field of political science not only as to what its effects will be on global security, but also as to what caused the invasion. Traditionally, international relations discourse has focused on geopolitics and political strategy rather than identity considerations (Schmidt, 2008). That said, it appears that the 2022 invasion as well the 2014 Russo-Ukrainian War has led many (although not all) to reconsider the role that identity can play in post-Soviet international relations (D’anieri, 2019; Fukuyama 2022; Comity for the Republic, 2022). However, the actual gathering of data about identity lies beyond the scope of traditional international relations scholarship, so we must employ other methods in conjunction with international relations analysis to gain a complete picture. 

While still recognizing the key role of geopolitical considerations, I place identity at the centre of my narrative to argue that culturally rooted identity discourse in Russia over the last decade lies at the core of the 2022 invasion. In particular, I seek to understand the specifics of how two peoples which have for centuries seen each other as being ‘fraternal’ (Laitin, 1998) have come to fight one another in one of the bloodiest conflicts of this century . To gain an insight into how this came to be, I look back to the beginnings of contemporary conflict between Russia and Ukraine in 2013-2016. I conduct a discourse analysis on pro- and anti-government Russian print media to see how themes established back then have relevance to contemporary events.

In particular, my analysis focuses on in-group and out-group framing and I propose that in contrast to what may seem intuitive, Ukrainians were generally not framed as the ‘out-group’ for Russians. Instead, I propose that a careful and deliberate policy of manipulation through propaganda and drawing on historically rooted identity frames has allowed for many Russians to genuinely view the 2022 invasion as a humanitarian affair, albeit with heavy paternalistic undertones. Surprisingly, even some Russian outlets which are deemed ‘oppositional’ are found to reiterate pro-government talking points at times, outlining the truly complex information landscape that Russians have found themselves in. Ultimately, my findings help to qualify the extent to which the invasion can be understood through the lens of Russian culture and national identity and suggest that media discourse over the last decade has laid the groundwork for many Russians to see the invasion as justified. 


Comity for the Republic. (2022, March 4). Putin's Invasion of Ukraine Salon | Ray McGovern, John Mearsheimer . YouTube.

D’anieri, P. (2019). Ukraine and Russia: From Civilised Divorce to Uncivil War. Cambridge University Press.

Fukuyama, F. (2022, March 4). Francis Fukuyama: Putin’s war on the liberal order. Financial Times 

Laitin, D. (1998). Identity in Formation: The Russian Speaking Populations in the Near Abroad. Conell University.

Schmidt, B. (2008). International relations theory: Hegemony or pluralism? Millennium36(2), 295-304.

About the presenter

Carl Janz completed a Bachelor of International Studies at UQ in 2021 with majors in international relations and Russian language and is currently completing his honours in Russian. He has a strong interest in the intersection between culture, history and international affairs as well as in the way that media and popular discourse can influence the way an issue is perceived and acted upon. Over the 2022 winter break Carl interned at the Central European Digital Media Observatory in Prague where he deepened his understanding of the cross section between culture, media discourse and international security particularly in the European context.

About Linguistics Seminar Series

The Linguistics Seminars are an opportunity to hear from guest speakers, UQ staff and HDR students working on topics of interest in Linguistics, Language Revitalisation and Applied Linguistics. If you would like to present in our series, please contact Linguistics Cluster Co-ordinator, Samantha Disbray.

Seminars are generally held fortnightly during semester on Friday afternoons, and are free to attend. UQ staff and students, staff and students from other universities, and members of the general public are welcome to attend. If you would like to receive invitations to our Linguistics Seminar Series, please complete this form.


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