Professor William Foley

AB (Brown), MA (UC Berkeley), PhD (UC Berkeley), FAHA
Professor

A20 - John Woolley Building
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9351 4569

Biographical details

I have quite a wide range of interests. I have worked in syntactic theory from a lexicalist approach and the role of semantics in syntax and have published extensively on this topic (Functional Syntax and Universal Grammar, Cambridge, 1984). I am particularly interested in the usefulness of modern syntactic theories in the insightful description of the Austronesian and Papuan languages of the Pacific, which is my main area of specialization. This focus is evident in publications like The Papuan Languages of New Guinea (Cambridge, 1986) and The Yimas Language of New Guinea (Stanford, 1991). Over the last 20 years I have conducted extensive periods of fieldwork in Pacific area languages, specifically in the Papuan languages of the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea, such as Yimas, Watam and Mambuwan, as well as some Austronesian languages like Palauan, Fijian and Tagalog. This fieldwork is the discipline which guides my continuing development of syntactic theories, so that for me theory and description constantly reinforce each other synergistically.

My other main area of interest, again one forged ultimately out of my interest in fieldwork, is anthropological linguistics, reflected in my most recent major publication, Anthropological Linguistics: An Introduction (Blackwell, 1997). I am strongly committed to the view of linguistics as ultimately a branch of anthropology and believe that language can only really be adequately understood when it is conceived as both a psychological and a social skill. Within the very wide field of anthropological linguistics, I am specifically concerned with the Boasian/Humboldtian question of the relationship between language and thought and recent empirical approaches to investigate this and also ethnopoetics, the specific linguist practices cultures use to create various verbal genres like narratives, proverbs, songs, poetry, etc and the aesthetic value and social role speakers ascribe to these.

Research interests

  • Syntactic theory from a lexicalist approach
  • The role of semantics in syntax
  • The usefulness of modern syntactic theories in the insightful description of the Austronesian and Papuan languages of the Pacific
  • Fieldwork in Pacific area languages, specifically in the Papuan languages of the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea, such as Yimas, Watam and Mambuwan, as well as some Austronesian languages like Palauan, Fijian and Tagalog.
  • Anthropological linguistics
  • The Boasian/Humboldtian question of the relationship between language and thought and recent empirical approaches to investigate this
  • Ethnopoetics, the specific linguist practices cultures use to create various verbal genres like narratives, proverbs, songs, poetry, etc and the aesthetic value and social role speakers ascribe to these

PhD and master's project opportunities

Selected grants

2009

  • Promoting Writing Across the Curriculum and the First-Year Experience Through the WRIT Program; Thomas S, Foley W; University of Sydney/Teaching Improvement and Equipment Scheme (TIES).

2005

  • Sharing access and analytical tools for ethnographic digital media using high speed networks; Thieberger N, Simpson J, Barwick L, Wigglesworth G, Rumsay A, Bowden F, Buchhorn M, Hungerford N, Foley W, Marett A, Corn A, Nordlinger R, Evans N, Hajek J, Johnston H, Schembri G, Pfeiffer S, Hunter J, McConvell P, Gumbula J, Austin P, Holton G; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Special Research Initiatives (SRI).

2004

  • Digital archiving equipment for PARADISEC research archive of Asia-Pacific region audio recordings; Marett A, Foley W, Simpson J, et a; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF).

2003

  • Quadriga system for research archive of Asia-Pacific region audio recordings; Marett A, Foley W, Simpson J, Barwick L, et a; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF).

2002

  • Papuan Descriptive Linguistics of the West Sepik Region; Foley W; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).

2001

  • Grammatical representation of events in languages of the Pacific; Foley W; DVC Research/Research and Development Scheme: Research and Development (R&D).

Selected publications

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Book Chapters

  • Foley, W. (2013). Yimas-Arafundi Pidgin. In S. M. Michaelis, P. Maurer, M. Haspelmath, M. Huber (Eds.), The Survey of Pidgin and Creole Languages: Volume 3: Contact Languages Based on Languages from Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas, (pp. 105-113). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Foley, W. (2010). Clause linkage and Nexus in Papuan languages. In Isabelle Bril (Eds.), Clause Linking and Clause Hierarchy: Syntax and Pragmatics, (pp. 27-50). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Foley, W. (2010). Events and serial verb constructions. In Amberber, Mengistu; Baker, Brett; Harvey, Mark (Eds.), Complex Predicates: Cross-Linguistic Perspectives on Event Structure, (pp. 79-109). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Foley, W. (2010). Language contact in the New Guinea region. In Hickey, Raymond (Eds.), The Handbook of Language Contact, (pp. 795-813). West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • Foley, W. (2008). The notion of 'event' and serial verb constructions: arguments from New Guinea. In Wilaiwan Khanittanan and Paul Sidwell (Eds.), SEALS XIV: Papers from the 14th Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society 2004, (pp. 129-155). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Foley, W. (2008). The place of Philippine languages in a typology of voice systems. In Peter K. Austin and Simon Musgrave (Eds.), Voice and Grammatical Relations in Austronesian Languages, (pp. 22-44). Stanford: CSLI Publications.
  • Foley, W. (2007). A Typology of Information Packaging in the Clause. In Timothy Shopen (Eds.), Language Typology and Syntactic Description, (pp. 362-446). Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Foley, W. (2005). Do Humans Have Innate Mental Structures? Some Arguments from Linguistics. In Susan McKinnon & Sydel Silverman (Eds.), Complexities: Beyond Nature & Nurture, (pp. 43-63). Chicago (USA) & London (UK): University of Chicago Press.
  • Foley, W. (2005). Linguistic prehistory in the Sepik-Ramu basin. In Andrew Pawley; Robert Attenborough; Jack Golson; Robin Hide (Eds.), Papuan pasts: Cultural, lingustic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples, (pp. 109-144). Canberra (ACT): Pacific Linguistics.

Journals

  • Foley, W. (2011). Gender and Language in Ethnographic and Evolutionary Perspectives. Reviews in Anthropology, 40(2), 82-106. [More Information]
  • Foley, W. (2006). Universal constraints and local conditions in Pidginization. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, 21(1), 1-44.
  • Foley, W. (2005). Semantic parameters and the unaccusative split in the Austronesian language family. Studies in Language, 29(2), 385-430.

Conferences

  • Foley, W. (2007). Reason, understanding and the limits of translation. Meaning and Translation in Language Documentation, London UK: Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project.
  • Foley, W. (2005). Personhood and language identity, purism and variation. Language contact and Variation in Language documentation, London: Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project.
  • Foley, W. (2004). Language Endangerment, Language Documentation And Capacity Building: Challenges From New Guinea. Archiving Language Materials / Training and Capacity Building for Endangered Languages Communities, London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
  • Foley, W. (2003). Genre, register and language documentation in literate and preliterate communities. Endangered Languages: Charting the Way Forward, london: Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project.

2013

  • Foley, W. (2013). Yimas-Arafundi Pidgin. In S. M. Michaelis, P. Maurer, M. Haspelmath, M. Huber (Eds.), The Survey of Pidgin and Creole Languages: Volume 3: Contact Languages Based on Languages from Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas, (pp. 105-113). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2011

  • Foley, W. (2011). Gender and Language in Ethnographic and Evolutionary Perspectives. Reviews in Anthropology, 40(2), 82-106. [More Information]

2010

  • Foley, W. (2010). Clause linkage and Nexus in Papuan languages. In Isabelle Bril (Eds.), Clause Linking and Clause Hierarchy: Syntax and Pragmatics, (pp. 27-50). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Foley, W. (2010). Events and serial verb constructions. In Amberber, Mengistu; Baker, Brett; Harvey, Mark (Eds.), Complex Predicates: Cross-Linguistic Perspectives on Event Structure, (pp. 79-109). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Foley, W. (2010). Language contact in the New Guinea region. In Hickey, Raymond (Eds.), The Handbook of Language Contact, (pp. 795-813). West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

2008

  • Foley, W. (2008). The notion of 'event' and serial verb constructions: arguments from New Guinea. In Wilaiwan Khanittanan and Paul Sidwell (Eds.), SEALS XIV: Papers from the 14th Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society 2004, (pp. 129-155). Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Foley, W. (2008). The place of Philippine languages in a typology of voice systems. In Peter K. Austin and Simon Musgrave (Eds.), Voice and Grammatical Relations in Austronesian Languages, (pp. 22-44). Stanford: CSLI Publications.

2007

  • Foley, W. (2007). A Typology of Information Packaging in the Clause. In Timothy Shopen (Eds.), Language Typology and Syntactic Description, (pp. 362-446). Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Foley, W. (2007). Reason, understanding and the limits of translation. Meaning and Translation in Language Documentation, London UK: Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project.

2006

  • Foley, W. (2006). Universal constraints and local conditions in Pidginization. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, 21(1), 1-44.

2005

  • Foley, W. (2005). Do Humans Have Innate Mental Structures? Some Arguments from Linguistics. In Susan McKinnon & Sydel Silverman (Eds.), Complexities: Beyond Nature & Nurture, (pp. 43-63). Chicago (USA) & London (UK): University of Chicago Press.
  • Foley, W. (2005). Linguistic prehistory in the Sepik-Ramu basin. In Andrew Pawley; Robert Attenborough; Jack Golson; Robin Hide (Eds.), Papuan pasts: Cultural, lingustic and biological histories of Papuan-speaking peoples, (pp. 109-144). Canberra (ACT): Pacific Linguistics.
  • Foley, W. (2005). Personhood and language identity, purism and variation. Language contact and Variation in Language documentation, London: Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project.
  • Foley, W. (2005). Semantic parameters and the unaccusative split in the Austronesian language family. Studies in Language, 29(2), 385-430.

2004

  • Foley, W. (2004). Language Endangerment, Language Documentation And Capacity Building: Challenges From New Guinea. Archiving Language Materials / Training and Capacity Building for Endangered Languages Communities, London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

2003

  • Foley, W. (2003). Genre, register and language documentation in literate and preliterate communities. Endangered Languages: Charting the Way Forward, london: Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project.

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