Associate Professor Rob Pensalfini

Associate Professor

School of Languages and Cultures
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Associate Professor

School of Communication and Arts
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+61 7 336 52245


Dr Rob Pensalfini received his PhD in theoretical linguistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1997, with research based on his fieldwork in the Barkly Tableland of Australia's Northern Territory. He then worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago for two years prior to commencing as a Lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Queensland in 1999. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and Drama in 2003, and to Associate Professor in 2016. He has published several books and numerous articles in both linguistics and drama, including ground-breaking work on the performance of Shakespeare in prisons. He leads Australia's only ongoing Prison Shakespeare program and is the Artistic Director of the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble.

Research Interests

  • Australian languages
    The structure and use of Australia's indigenous languages, particularly morphology, phonology and syntax. Language documentation and description. Language endangerment and maintenance.
  • Prison Shakespeare
    The performance or study of Shakespeare's dramatic works in prisons, typically faciliated by external artists. The impacts and challenges of such projects and the history and development of the phenomenon.
  • Shakespeare in Performance
    Particularly in Australia.
  • Actor training
    Use of the voice and body in acting. Performing rhetoric and verse.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours1), The University of Western Australia


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Featured Publications


Book Chapter

  • Meakins, Felicity and Pensalfini, Rob (2016). Gender bender: Disagreement in Jingulu noun class marking. In Felicity Meakins and Carmel O'Shannessy (Ed.), Loss and Renewal: Australian Languages Since Colonisation (pp. 425-450) Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter Mouton.

  • Pensalfini, R. (2015). Jingulu. In Nicola Grandi and Livia Kortvelyessy (Ed.), Edinburgh Handbook of Evaluative Morphology (pp. 416-422) London, United Kingdom: Edinburgh University Press.

  • Pensalfini, Rob, Guillemin, Diana and Turpin, Myfany (2014). Editors' introduction. In Rob Pensalfini, Myfany Turpin and Diana Guillemin (Ed.), Language description informed by theory (pp. 1-13) Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing.

  • Pensalfini, Rob (2014). Verbs as spatial deixis markers in Jingulu. In Rob Pensalfini, Myfany Turpin and Diana Guillemin (Ed.), Language description informed by theory (pp. 123-152) Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing. doi:10.1075/slcs.147.07pen

  • Pensalfini, Rob (2013). Shakespeare of the oppressed. In Kate Flaherty, Penny Gay and L. E. Semler (Ed.), Teaching Shakespeare Beyond the Centre: Australasian Perspectives (pp. 225-236) Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1057/9781137275073.0025

  • Pensalfini, R. J. (2006). Configurationality. In K. Brown (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics 2nd ed. (pp. 23-27) UK: Elsevier Ltd.

  • Laughren, Mary, Pensalfini, Rob and Mylne, Tom (2005). Accounting for verb-initial order in an Australian language. In Carnie, Andrew, Harley, Heidi and Dooley, Sheila Ann (Ed.), Verb First: On the syntax of verb-initial languages 1st ed. (pp. 367-401) Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

  • Pensalfini, R. J. (2005). Kriol (Roper River Creole). In P Stranzny (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Linguistics 1st ed. (pp. 585-587) New York: Fitzroy Dearborn.

  • Pensalfini, Robert (2001). On the Typological and Genetic Affiliation of Jingulu. In Simpson, Jane, Nash, David, Laughren, Mary, Austin, Peter and Alpher, Barry (Ed.), Forty Years on: Ken Hale and Australian languages (pp. 385-399) Australian National University, Canberra: Pacific Lingustics.

  • Pensalfini, R. J. (2000). Encyclopedia-lexicon distinctions in Jingulu grammar. In Bert Peeters (Ed.), The Lexicon-encyclopedia interface (pp. 393-431) Oxford: Elsevier.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Pensalfini, Rob (2011) Re-imagining the actor’s quartet. Mosaic : A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, 44 1: 65-87.

  • Pensalfini, R. J. (2000). Optional disagreement and the case for feature hierarchies. In: Sabrina Billings, CLS35-2 The Panels. The Chicago Linguistics Society's 35th Meeting, Chicago, University of Chicago, (343-353). 22-24 April, 1999.

  • Pensalfini, R. J. (1999). Suffix Coherence and Stress in Australian Languages. In: John Henderson, Proceedings of the 1999 Annual Conference of the Australian Linguistics Society. 1999 Annual Confernce of the Australian Lingiustics Society, University of Western Australia, Perth, (). 28th September - 2nd October, 1999.

  • Pensalfini, Rob (1998). The Development of (Apparently) Onsetless Syllabification: A Constraint-Based Approach. In: Proceedings of the Chicago Linguistics Society. Chicago Linguistics Society Annual Meeting 1998, Chicago, (167-178). 1998.

Edited Outputs

Other Outputs

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision