The world, through people & languages

The schools of Archaeology and Linguistics were among the most dynamic in Australia, led by people with world-wide interests and connections.

Foundation Professor Jim Allen, a specialist in the archaeology of the South Pacific, helped forge a department with an enviable reputation in studies from deep prehistory to modern times.

Work by Richard Cosgrove, David Frankel and others increased our knowledge of Australian Aboriginal archaeology, while Nicola Stern continues to probe origins of human settlement around Lake Mungo in south-eastern Australia.

Jennifer Webb and David Frankel illuminated the archaeology of Bronze Age Cyprus, Peter Mathews worked on Mesoamerica’s ancient Maya civilization, Li Liu, now at Stanford, focused on old and ancient China while Tim Murray helped place La Trobe to the fore of modern and urban archaeology.

Similarly, in linguistic and language studies La Trobe punched well above its weight.

We are still one of only two Australian universities that teach Hindi (the other is ANU). We also offered studies in Sanskrit. Peter Friedlander and Greg Bailey respectively were enthusiastic scholars and teachers in these fields. Other notable linguists include David Bradley in Tibeto-Burman languages, Barry Blake on Aboriginal grammar and Australian slang, while Kate Burridge, a Germanic languages expert, had a rare ability to make grammar and linguistics popular, even on talk-back radio.

For almost a decade, La Trobe was home to the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology, led by Bob Dixon and Alexandra Aikhenvald. The centre attracted many international scholars pondering common properties and the structural diversity of all languages.  Dr Aikhenvald’s field research took her deep into the Amazon jungle, at times by canoe.

We were also a centre for academic studies and teaching in Australian Sign Language, AUSLAN, led by Jan Branson.