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MSc Projects with Rachael-Anne Knight

General research interests

My research falls into two main areas of phonetics: prosody and rhotics.  Prosody concerns stress, intonation and rhythm including how these features are used by atypical populations (e.g. in people with right hemisphere damage / aphasia).  'Rhotics' is a term which refers to 'r' like sounds.  I am particularly interested in the acquisition of rhotics, including how they are produced and perceived by typically developing children of various ages.  I am also happy to supervise any projects that concern phonetics and phonology, such as phonological descriptions of a language, or  phonetic descriptions of disordered speech.

Suggested MSc projects

  • Normalising the Pairwise Variability Index (PVI)
    The PVI is a measure of rhythm that has been applied to many languages.  To date studies have not looked at how much variation exists in the normal population for any language.  The student would conduct the PVI on a large number of speakers from a single language and examine the variability found in the measures.  The student may also wish to compare a number of varieties and languages.  This work will allow researchers to compare atypical populations to a norm, and state whether a person's rhythm is typical or disordered.  
  • Rhythm and Intonation in speakers with aphasia
    The student would investigate the intonation of speakers with aphasia using an autosegmental approach. This approach is not commonly used with disordered populations even though it is currently the most popular method for describing typical intonation.  The student would compare normal speakers to those with aphasia on a number of tasks, including the PVI which is a measure of rhythm.  This is part of a larger study to which a PhD student will also be attached. 
  • Listeners' judgements of rhotic  ('r'-like) soundsMany younger speakers of English now use a labiodental approximant for the sound /r/ (like Jonathon Ross).  However, there are a variety of different types of sounds that a speaker may use when they say /r/, and some are more acceptable to listeners than others.  The student would investigate the different type of /r/ sounds used by speakers and conduct perceptual experiments to determine which features are responsible for a sound being perceived as acceptable or disordered.  The student may also wish to work with children to identify what features make an /r/ sound acceptable at different stages of development.  This is part of a larger study funded by the ESRC, which investigates the link between production and perception in British English rhotics.

Previous MSc projects

  • Speech intelligibility in a client with velopharyngeal insufficiency pre- and post-surgery to augment the posterior pharyngeal wall.
  • A single case study into the efficacy of using intra-oral sensory feedback therapy with a 6 year old child with a severe speech disorder as a result of a cleft palate.

Key words

Phonetics, phonology, speech, /r/ sounds, intonation, rhythm, rhotics.