R. M. W. Dixon
Robert Malcolm Ward Dixon (Gloucester, England, 25 January 1939) is a Professor of Linguistics at The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, Queensland, and formerly Director of the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.
In 1996, Dixon and another linguist, Alexandra Aikhenvald, established the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology at Australian National University in Canberra. On 1 January 2000, the center relocated to La Trobe University in Melbourne.
Both Dixon (the Director of the centre) and Aikhenvald (Associate Director) resigned their positions in May 2008. In early 2009, R. M. W. Dixon and Alexandra Aikhenvald established the Language and Culture Research Group (LCRG) at the Cairns campus of James Cook University.
Dixon has written on many areas of linguistic theory and fieldwork, being particularly noted for his work on the Aboriginal languages of Australia. He has published grammars of Dyirbal and Yidiny as well as non-Australian languages such as Boumaa Fijian and Jarawara.
The vast majority of linguists who have studied Australian Aboriginal languages would consider Dixon and his views, to use a term he is fond of, "an isolate". Dixon's views began to depart "rather radically" from accepted views about four decades ago. Although Australian Aboriginal languages show greater similarities than the universally accepted Indo-European family of languages, Dixon in his "isolate" view rejects the concept of Pama–Nyungan languages. He also feels that the standard "family-tree" model of linguistic change is only applicable in some circumstances, thinking that a "punctuated equilibrium" model, based on the theory of the same name in evolutionary biology, is more appropriate for the Australian languages. Dixon puts forth his theory in The Rise and Fall of Languages. This work is not, however, widely accepted amongst Australianists.
In addition to scholarly works, Dixon also published, in 1983, a memoir of his early fieldwork in Australia titled Searching For Aboriginal Languages. The book provides a glimpse at linguistic fieldwork as it was done in that era as well as an interesting historical look at the appalling treatment of Aboriginal peoples of Australia that continued right into the 1960s. Additionally, Dixon is the co-author, with John Godrich, of the definitive discography of American prewar blues and gospel recordings, Blues and Gospel Records: 1890–1943.
(The list below is incomplete; for a full publication list, see R.M.W. Dixon's CV)
- Research Centre for Linguistic Typology: Ten Years' Achievements (2006)
- Robert Malcolm Ward Dixon – Curriculum Vitae. http://www.latrobe.edu.au/rclt/StaffPages/dixonCV.pdf
- Professor R. M. W. Dixon (information page at the James Cook University site)
- RCLT Newsletter, 2009
- News from the newly established LCRG at James Cook University (ALS newsletter, February 2009)
- Dixon, R.M.W. 1972. The Dyirbal language of North Queensland ( Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, 9). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Dixon, R.M.W. 1977. A grammar of Yidiny (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, 19). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Dixon, R.M.W. 1988. A grammar of Boumaa Fijian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Dixon, R.M.W. 2004. The Jarawara language of southern Amazonia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Wurm S.A. 1972 Languages of Australia and Tasmania p.36
- Dixon, R.M.W. 1997. The rise and fall of languages, Cambridge University Press.
- Bowern, Claire and Harold Koch (eds) 2004. Australian Languages: Classification and the Comparative Method. Amsterdam: John Benjamins
- Dixon, R.M.W. 2002. Australian languages: their nature and development, Cambridge University Press.
- Dixon, R.M.W. 1994. Ergativity (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, 69). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Edward Komara. 1998. Review of: Blues and Gospel Records, 1890–1943 by Robert M. W. Dixon; John Godrich; Howard Rye. Notes, Second Series, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Dec., 1998), pp. 361–363