Melissa Irvine

After completing her BA (Hons), Melissa Irvine dived into a PhD in Linguistics discovering the emergence and impact of new languages in the Caribbean.

Melissa Irvine sitting in front of the Humanities Building / Te Puna Aronui

Key facts

Programme: PhD
Specialisation: Linguistics

"As I moved through my BA in Spanish and Linguistics, I got to know the Linguistics department staff and felt supported in my transition to postgraduate study, which encouraged me to stay. There is also a good range of postgraduate scholarships, including one specifically for postgraduate Linguistics students, which gave me the financial support I needed to continue.

In the final semester of my BA, during my Summer Research Scholarship project, I discovered a love for research.

"I had been planning to do my honours degree to qualify for an overseas course in Forensic Linguistics the following year. Instead, I stayed here, thoroughly enjoyed my honours year, and then jumped into a PhD.

"I have been documenting and investigating a language variety that emerged in St. Lucia probably in the early 20th century. A French-based creole was already spoken on the island alongside English as an official language imposed from about the mid-1800s. The contact between those two languages has given rise to this third language variety which, until now, has been poorly described. Exciting stuff, and a lot of room for new discoveries!

"Postgraduate study allows you to go deeper. How might a particular aspect of a particular language’s grammar work? How is this different from other languages around the world? What does that tell us about cognition? There is a lot more freedom in postgraduate study to pursue any of the large number of sub-fields in Linguistics and to develop an understanding of new topics that there simply isn’t time or space for at undergraduate level.

"The Linguistics and Language Society here at the university usually put on regular events, which are really great. Both academic events (talks, workshops, etc.) and non-academic events (movie nights, games nights) are good for destressing and socialising with students across different stages of study. The School of Cultures, Languages and Linguistics also put on seminars with other PhD students so we get to see what people are working on and discover things outside of our own sub-fields.

"My favourite thing about postgraduate Linguistics has been the opportunity to do fieldwork documenting a language. My particular area of research has now taken me out into the field both in the Caribbean and in the Pacific.

"I am considering staying in academia as a career and also very interested in the more 'practical' side of my research. I would love to get involved in language policy and planning. I really like that there are teaching and research job opportunities for postgraduate students since teaching experience can be a huge help when it comes to applying for academic jobs."