Described by Ken Hale as 'nothing less than a masterpiece' and by P. H.
Matthews as 'absolutely clear, astonishingly complete, factually
fascinating', "The Languages of Australia" (first published in 1980 and now
reissued) was a landmark in Australian linguistics. This pioneering work of
synthesis covered more than two hundred Aboriginal languages, and
stimulated the next generation of scholarship in the field. The author's
subsequent search for an overarching theoretical model to explain the
unusual properties of Australian languages finally led him to adopt a
'punctuated equilibrium' model of language development. Dixon proposed
this in "The Rise and Fall of Languages" (1997), which provided the framework
for his major work "Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development"
(2002). "The Languages of Australia" is still sought after, however, as a
benchmark in the discipline and because its first four chapters provide a
valuable non-technical introduction that does not appear in the 2002 volume.