Katharina Froedrich
Through my research and the generous support of the Forrest Research Foundation, I seek to contribute new insights into Australia’s linguistic landscape. I am grateful for the talented, inspiring, and kind-hearted people that I get to live and work with!

Katharina is a PhD candidate in the Discipline of Linguistics and a member of UWA’s Language Lab. She has a strong background in sociolinguistics, the study of the connection between language and society. Katharina’s PhD explores Aboriginal English as spoken in the Pilbara, where she will examine the language repertoires of Indigenous communities using a participatory approach. Aboriginal English is an indigenised variety of English spoken by about 80% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and many Indigenous people in Australia use it as their first and only language of communication. Nevertheless, research on Aboriginal English in the Pilbara, and how speakers use it to encode identity, remains scarce. Further studies will contribute insights into regional language variation, facilitate a better understanding of the linguistic practices of First Nations people, and paint a more extensive picture of Australia’s current linguistic landscape.

Through a participatory approach, Katharina seeks to contribute to decolonisation in linguistics and the social sciences by engaging with communities in meaningful and culturally safe ways. She seeks to form sustainable relationships, build capacity for community members, and engage Aboriginal English speakers throughout all stages of the research, challenging prevailing power relations between the researcher and the researched, and reflecting on her positionality. She will work with Aboriginal English speakers to (1) consult with communities about the types of language-related topics they seek to learn more about; (2) discuss culturally suitable methods of data collection, transcription, and analysis; and (3) document how Aboriginal English is used in the Pilbara.

Katharina’s fieldwork will result in a corpus of Aboriginal English in the Pilbara, the first of its kind in Australia. This corpus will allow Katharina to identify features of Aboriginal English unique to the Pilbara, patterns of language contact with regional heritage languages, linguistic devices used to express identity and group-belonging, and linguistic variation across age groups.

The participatory framework used by Katharina will be enriched by Language Lab’s partnership with Google, which uses participatory models in the creation of culturally inclusive technology for Indigenous people in Australia. Importantly, Katharina’s focus on Aboriginal English and culturally safe fieldwork methods will give her the necessary know-how to provide input on ways that First Nations data may be collected ethically and transcribed appropriately.

AffiliatedUniversity of Western Australia|
Focus areaSociety