What have I been teaching?

I have taught on a range of modules since 2012, covering primarily the areas of phonetics, phonology, and language variation and change. Since 2017, I have been involved in the following courses at Aarhus University, Denmark:

English Linguistics 2: The history and development of the English language (spring), EL2_HEL_guide

English Linguistics 3: English in its social contexts (spring), EL3_guide

When the music changes, you change too: contemporary variation in English dialects (fall)

Disciplinary Perspectives & Interdisciplinary Analysis (fall)

English Linguistics 1 (fall; phonetics-phonology seminars with minor students)

I have also taught the following, in various forms, since 2015:

– Language and Gender: Conducting a Case Study; Christmas course given at Charles University, Czech Republic (2017)

– Change in Modern English/Language Variation and Change in English Accents; module guide (15/16 version)

Why study phonetics, phonology, and language variation and change?

Reason 1: general curiosity & understanding the world around us – some random examples

Animals produce some very interesting sounds – but so do humans! What are the limits to the sounds we produce in language and why are the sounds of language the way they are? If you are interested in this, then you will be interested in phonetics, phonology, and language variation and change as well.

With some sound changes, the speakers are aware that these are going on: “Hey there Rover, feeling fur-sty?”; but that’s not always the case… many sound changes go on unnoticed. Is there any difference in language variation depending on whether speakers are aware of its existence? If you’re asking yourself this question or feel intrigued by it, then you would enjoy studying phonetics, phonology, and language variation and change.

The soundwave and the spectrogram below suggest that I am quite a breathy speaker (a lot of air is coming through my larynx as I produce, in this case, a prolonged vowel). Why are some speakers breathier than others? Could this be affected by whether I smoke, drink, by the different phases of my cycle, my sex, gender, and by whether I am trying to seduce someone? If you are intrigued by this, then you would enjoy studying phonetics, phonology, and language variation and change.

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But different questions require different methods. Above is an acoustic example of evidence. Below is another one: static palatography in action. Indeed, I am brushing one of my colleagues’ tongue with a mixture of charcoal and oil (and a bit of cocoa). Why (on earth)? To find out which part of her mouth she uses to produce some of her consonants. Sounds exciting? Then you may be interested in phonetics, phonology, and language variation and change. And I haven’t even scratched the surface…

Reason 2: studying language variation and change has many applied uses – some examples that come to a phonetician’s mind (there are more)

a. speech recognition (this may illustrate the point, albeit anecdotally)

b. language teaching (it’s good to understand how different sounds are actually produced in the mouth when you are learning a specific language)

c. speech & language therapy (e.g. this video may shed some light on this)

d. forensic linguistics (this demonstrates what this is about)

e. determining the authorship of a text (not for forensic purposes; here)

f. fighting (linguistic) discrimination (two examples of linguistic discrimination and stigmatisation can be found here and here)

g. text-to-speech (here for a brief informal intro)


Photo: English Linguistics 3 – visit to the Women’s Museum in 2018 in the week on LVC and gender, sex, and sexuality.


Have a look at some of the works by my students:

Jelle, J. 2017. “A study in Scarlett: creaky voice and romantic intention in Spike Jonze’s Her.” Leviathan 1: 35-44. [result of a second-year UG course]

Sommerlund, K. 2017. “Critical overview: gender and language.” Leviathan 1: 16-26. [result of a second-year UG course]

I have published the following with my (former) student:

Hejná, M.; Scanlon, J. 2015. “New laryngeal allophony in Manchester English.” 18th ICPhS, Glasgow.


Student journals at Aarhus University of relevance to LVC:

Language Works

Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English


schwacake2Photo: English Linguistics 2 – History of the English Language – Laura brought schwa cupcakes.