Carmel O’Shannessy

Carmel O’Shannessy is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics at the Australian National University, and affiliate of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL).

She completed her PhD in Linguistics at the University of Sydney (Australia) and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (The Netherlands) in 2007, with documentation of the genesis and development of Light Warlpiri, a new mixed language. Within the areas of language contact and change and language acquisition, her research continues to document children’s bilingual acquisition and maintenance of Light Warlpiri and Warlpiri. She is especially interested in the roles of children and adults in contact-induced language change. She has been involved with languages and education in remote Indigenous communities in Australia since 1996, in the areas of bilingual education and her current research. She is co-author of Loss and Renewal: Australian Languages Since Colonisation

She currently holds an ARC Future Fellowship, Tracking language development of Indigenous children in Central Australia.

Dr O’Shannessy can be contacted via email.

Research area/theme
Ontogeny, Culture and Socialisation
Local Diversification
Media coverage
Relevant publications

Other works

O’Shannessy. C. (2022). Ketyeye akweke angkentye akaltye-irreme | Kurdu-kurdu kuja kalu yimi pina-jarrimi  Little Kids Learning Languages app.

Japanangka, M. W. T., & O’Shannessy, C. (2020). Kaja-warnu-jangka ‘From the bush.’


O’Shannessy, C. (2004). The monster stories: A set of picture books to elicit overt transitive subjects in oral texts. Unpublished series. Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

Edited Books

Angelo, Denise Disbray, Samantha, Singer, Ruth, O’Shannessy, Carmel, Simpson, Jane , Smith, Hilary, Meek, Barbra, and Wigglesworth, Gillian. 2022. Learning (in) Indigenous Languages: Common Ground, Diverse Pathways. OECD Education Working Papers, No. 278. Paris: OECD.

Meakins, F., & O’Shannessy, C. (2016). Loss and Renewal: Australian Languages Since Colonisation (Vol. 13). Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.

Book Chapters

O’Shannessy, C. (2021). Code-switching as a way of speaking – from language shift to language maintenance. In Babel, Anna and Mark Sicoli (Eds.) Contact, structure, and change: A festschrift in honor of Sarah G. Thomason. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing. pp36-42.

O’Shannessy, C, & Davidson, L. (2020). Language contact and change through child first language acquisition. In R. Hickey (Ed.), Handbook of Language Contact. 2nd edition. Wiley Blackwell. Pp. 67-91.

O’Shannessy, C. (2020). Language contact in Warlpiri and Light Warlpiri. In A. Grant (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Language Contact. Oxford University Press.

O’Shannessy, C. (2019). Why do children lead contact-induced language change in some contexts but not others? In E. Doron, M. Rappaport Hovav, Y. Reshef, & M. Taube (Eds.), Linguistic Contact, Continuity and Change in the Genesis of Modern Hebrew (pp. 321–335). John Benjamins.

O’Shannessy, C. (2016). Entrenchment of Light Warlpiri morphology. Loss and Renewal: Australian Languages Since Colonisation, 13, 217.

O’Shannessy, C., & Meakins, F. (2016). Australian language contact in historical and synchronic perspective. Loss and Renewal: Australian Languages Since Colonisation, 13, 3–26.

O’Shannessy, C. (2011). Young children’s social meaning making in a new mixed language. In U. Eickelkamp (Ed.), Growing Up in Central Australia: New anthropological studies of Aboriginal childhood and adolescence (pp. 131–155). Berghan Books.

O’Shannessy, C. (2009). Language variation and change in a north Australian Indigenous community. In D. Preston & J. Stanford (Eds.), Variationist Approaches to Indigenous Minority Languages (pp. 419–439). John Benjamins.

Journal Articles

O’Shannessy, C. & D. Angelo. 2023.  Insights from the perspective of language ecologies and new contact languages in Australia. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism.

O’Shannessy, Carmel, Carter, Amelia, and Kaylan, Siva. 2022. Transitivity Marking in Light Warlpiri, an Australian Mixed Language. Languages. 7(3): 235.

O’Shannessy, C. (2020). How ordinary child language acquisition processes can lead to the unusual outcome of a mixed language. International Journal of Bilingualism.

O’Shannessy, C. (Ed.). (2016). Acquisition in Contact. Frontiers in Psychology. Special issue.

O’Shannessy, C. (2016). Distributions of case allomorphy by multilingual children. Linguistic Variation, 16(1), 68–102.

O’Shannessy, C. (2015). Multilingual children increase language differentiation by indexing communities of practice. First Language, 35(4–5), 305–326.

O’Shannessy, C. (2015). Typological and social factors influencing a new mixed language, Light Warlpiri. Code-Switching between Structural and Sociolinguistic Perspectives, 289–304.

O’Shannessy, C. (2013). The role of multiple sources in the formation of an innovative auxiliary category in Light Warlpiri, a new Australian mixed language. Language, 89(2), 328–353.

O’Shannessy, C. (2012). The role of code-switched input to children in the origin of a new mixed language. Linguistics, 50(2), 328–353.

O’Shannessy, C., & Meakins, F. (2012). Comprehension of competing argument marking systems in two Australian mixed languages. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 38(4), 763–792.

O’Shannessy, C. (2011). Competition between word order and case-marking in interpreting grammatical relations: A case study in multilingual acquisition. Journal of Child Language, 38(4), 763–792.

O’Shannessy, C. (2008). Children’s production of their heritage language and a new mixed language. In J. Simpson & G. Wigglesworth (Eds.), Children’s language and multilingualism: Indigenous language use at home and school (pp. 261–282). Continuum International Press.

O’Shannessy, C. (2005). Light Warlpiri: A New Language. Australian Journal of Linguistics, 25(1), 31–57.

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