Nicholas (Nick) Evans


Nick Evans is Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at the Australian National University, and directs the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL).

He has carried out wide-ranging fieldwork on indigenous languages of Australia and Papua New Guinea. More broadly, his driving interests are the interplay between the diversity contained in the world’s endangered languages and the many scientific and humanistic questions they can help us answer about human history, culture, mind and society. He has also worked in Native Title claims,  as an interpreter of Australian Indigenous art, and a translator of traditional oral literature.

Besides book-length grammars and dictionaries of several Australian languages and numerous edited collections, he has published over 200 scientific papers. His popular book Dying Words: Endangered Languages and What They Have to Tell Us, has been translated into French, Japanese, Korean, and German.

Professor Evans is a member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Australian Social Sciences Academy, the British Academy, and a recipient of the Anneliese Maier Forschungspreis, and the Ken Hale Award from the Linguistics Society of America.

Professor Evans can be contacted via email.

Research area/theme
Detecting remote historical signallead
Peopling Sahul
Local diversificationlead
Media coverage
Relevant publications


Evans, N. 2022. Words of Wonder: Endangered Languages and What They Tell Us. 2nd ed. Wiley-Blackwell.

Evans, Nicholas. 2009. Dying Words: Endangered languages and what they have to tell us. (2nd edition contracted to appear 2021; translated into Japanese, Korean, French and German). Maldon & Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. The Language Library. pp. xx + 267

Evans, Nicholas. 2003.  Bininj Gun-wok: a pan-dialectal grammar of Mayali, Kunwinjku and Kune. (2 volumes). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. Pp. xxix + 746.

Edited Books

Barth, Danielle & Nicholas Evans (eds.). 2017. The Social Cognition Parallax Corpus (SCOPIC). Language Documentation and Conservation Special Publication No. 12. http:/

Evans, Nicholas (ed.) 2003.  The non-Pama-Nyungan languages of northern Australia: comparative studies of the continent’s most linguistically complex region. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. Pp. x + 513.

McConvell, Patrick & Nicholas Evans. (eds.) 1997. Archaeology and Linguistics: Global Perspectives on Ancient Australia.  Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Book Chapters

Bulbulia Joseph, Armin W. Geertz, Quentin D. Atkinson, Emma Cohen, Nicholas Evans, Pieter François, Herbert Gintis, Russell D. Gray, Joseph Henrich, Fiona M. Jordon, Ara Norenzayan, Peter J. Richerson, Edward Slingerland, Peter Turchin, Harvey Whitehouse, Thomas Widlok, and David S. Wilson. 2013. The Cultural Evolution of Religion. In Peter J. Richerson & Morten Christiansen (eds.), Cultural Evolution: Society, Technology, Language, and Religion. Strüngmann Forum Reports, Vol. 12. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Pp. 381-404.

Dediu, Dan, Michael Cysouw, Levinson, Stephen C. Levinson, Andrea Baronchelli, Morten H. Christiansen, William Croft, Dan Dediu, Nicholas Evans, Simon Garrod, Russell Gray, Anne Kandler & Elena Lieven. 2013. Cultural Evolution of Language. In Peter J. Richerson & Morten Christiansen (eds.), Cultural Evolution: Society, Technology, Language, and Religion. Strüngmann Forum Reports, Vol. 12. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Pp. 303-332.

Evans, N. 2021. Social cognition in Dalabon. Language Documentation and Conservation Special Publication No. 12 Social Cognition Parallax Corpus (SCOPIC). (22-84 pp).

Evans, Nicholas. 2020. Time, diversification and dispersal on the Australian continent: three enigmas of linguistic prehistory. In Mily Crevels & Pieter Muysken (eds.), Language Dispersal, Diversification and Contact: A Global Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp. 116-141.

Evans, Nicholas. 2019. Linguistic divergence under contact. In Michela Cennamo & Claudia Fabrizio (eds), Selected Papers from the 22nd International Conference on Historical Linguistics, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Pp. 563-591.

Evans, Nicholas. 2019. Coevolutionary approaches to the science of language. In Pierre Pontarotti (ed.) Evolution, Origin of Life, Concepts and Methods.  pp. 195-213. Springer International.  DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-30363-1

Evans, Nicholas. 2018. The dynamics of language diversity. In R. Mesthrie & D. Bradley (eds.) The Dynamics of Language. Capetown: Capetown University Press. Pp. 12-35.

Evans, Nicholas. 2013. Language diversity as a resource for studying cultural evolution. In Peter J. Richerson & Morten Christiansen (eds.), Cultural Evolution: Society, Technology, Language, and Religion. Strüngmann Forum Reports, Vol. 12. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Pp. 233-268.

Evans, Nicholas. 2011. A tale of many tongues: documenting polyglot narrative in North Australian oral traditions. In Brett Baker, Ilana Mushin, Mark Harvey & Rod Gardner (eds.), Indigenous Language and Social Identity. Papers in Honour of Michael Walsh. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. Pp. 291-314. 

Evans, Nicholas. 2011. Semantic Typology. In Jae Jung Sung (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Typology. Oxford: OUP. Pp. 504-533.

Evans, Nicholas, Wayan Arka, Matthew Carroll, Yun Jung Choi, Christian Döhler, Volker Gast, Eri Kashima, Emil Mittag, Bruno Olsson, Kyla Quinn, Dineke Schokkin, Philip Tama, Charlotte van Tongeren and Jeff Siegel. 2018. The languages of Southern New Guinea. In Bill Palmer (ed.), The Languages and Linguistics of New Guinea: A Comprehensive Guide. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Pp. 641-774.

McConvell, Patrick & Nicholas Evans.  1997. Clues to Australia’s human past: pulling together the strands. In McConvell & Evans (eds.) Archaeology and Linguistics: Global Perspectives on Ancient Australia, pp. 1-16.

Journal articles

Skirgard, H., Haynie, H., Blasi, D., Hammarstrom, H., Collins, J., Latarche, J., Lesage, J., Weber, T., Witzlack-Makarevich, A., Passmore, S., Chira, A., Maurits, L., Dinnage, R., Dunn, M., Reesink, G., Singer, R., Bowern, C., Epps, P., Hill, J., … Evans, N., Gray, R. 2023. Grambank reveals the importance of genealogical constraints on linguistic diversity and highlights the impact of language loss. Science Advances. 9(16).

Baird, L., Evans, N. & Greenhill, S. 2021. Blowing in the wind: Using “North Wind and the Sun’ texts to sample phoneme inventories. Journal of the International Phonetic Association.

Coelho, Maro Túlio Pacheco, Elisa Barreta Pereira, Hannah J. Haynie, Thiago F. Rangel, Patrick Kavanagh, Kathryn R. Kirby, Simon J. Greenhill, Claire Bowern, Russell D. Gray, Robert K. Colwell, Nicholas Evans & Michael C. Gavin. 2019. Drivers of geographical patterns of North American language diversity. Proc. R. Soc. B 286: 20190242.

Evans, Nicholas. 2020. One thousand and one coconuts. Growing memories in Southern New Guinea. The Contemporary Pacific 32.1:72-96.

Evans, Nicholas. 2019. Australia and New Guinea: sundered hemi-continents of sound. In Sasha Calhoun, Paola Escudero, Marija Tabain & Paul Warren (eds.) Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Melbourne, Australia 2019. Pp. 16-19.  Canberra, Australia: Australasian Speech Science and Technology Association Inc.

Evans, Nicholas. 2018. Did language evolve in multilingual settings? Biology and Philosophy 32. 10.1007/s10539-018-9609-3.

Evans, Nicholas. 2016. Typology and coevolutionary linguistics. Linguistic Typology 20.3: 505-520.

Evans, Nicholas. 2003. Context, culture and structuration in the languages of Australia. Annual Review of Anthropology 32:13-40.

Evans, Nicholas & Marian Klamer (eds.). 2012. Melanesian Languages on the Edge of Asia: Challenges for the 21st Century. Language Documentation & Conservation Special Issue, Nov. 2012.

Evans, Nicholas & Stephen C. Levinson. 2009. The Myth of Language Universals. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, Target Article with Commentary, plus response (With diversity in mind: freeing the language sciences from Universal Grammar). Behavioral & Brain Sciences 32: 429-448, 472-492. [Reprinted in H. Stam, ed. (2011) Theoretical Psychology – Contemporary Readings. Sage Publications.]

Passmore, S., Barth, W., Quinn, K., Greenhill, S., Evans, N. & Jordan, F. 2021. Kin Against Kin: Internal Co-selection and the Coherence of Kinship Typologies. Biological Theory. 10.1007/s13752-021-00379-6

Seifart, Frank, Nicholas Evans, Harald Hammarström and Stephen Levinson. 2018. Language Documentation 25 Years On. Language 94.4: e324-e345.

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