All posts by Caitlin April Ellen Halfacre

Speech Signal Processing in R – student experience

Abdulrahman Dallak (IPhD Phonetics & Phonology)

In this two-day workshop we covered some of the state-of-the-art techniques in processing and visualising acoustic and ultrasound data in R. Chris started the workshop talking about how he has been using these advanced techniques in his own research. The workshop was divided into two parts (i) processing and visualising acoustic data, and (ii) processing and visualising ultrasound data. The first parts covered a wide array of techniques such as best practices in data explorations, visualising spectrograms, resampling acoustic signals, formant analysis, windowing, playing sound files within R, plotting spectral slice, plotting acoustic space, plotting formant tracks, etc.

As for the second part of the workshop, it addressed advanced techniques in processing and visualising ultrasound data. Chris presented three ways of analysing ultrasound data (i) through contour fitting, (ii) through analysing the ultrasound images themselves based on ‘line of interest’, and (iii) through analysing the changing pixel intensities in ultrasound images. He started this part of the workshop by exploring the data. Then, he showed us how to fit tongue and palate contours dynamically. Next, how he moved on to how to read and interpret tongue contour plots. Chris also addressed some crucial aspects with measuring tongue contours. That is, he explained in detail the differences between Cartesian and polar coordinate systems and how to transform the coordinates of the spline data from cartesian to polar and vice versa. Similarly, how showed us how to calculate angular coordinate (known as theta θ) and radial coordinate (known as r). One interesting aspect of this part is the fact that dimensionality reduction techniques such as PCA can be applied to ultrasound data. This is a robust addition to the analysis along with the ability of plotting PC scores in order to unpack the nuance of the dynamic articulation.

The plot shows that the vowel in ‘hard’ is more retracted than that in ‘heed’; the higher the value the more retracted the tongue.

Yes, it was an intense, but exceptionally enjoyable, workshop. Some aspects of the workshop that I found very helpful include using functions as this helps make the analysis quicker and save time instead of repeatedly copying and pasting the same codes. The presenter went through many functions that he has created and showed us how to incorporate them in our own analysis. Another aspect that I found entertaining is when doing the exercises in groups. This helps us learn closely from each other and crucially consolidate our understanding of the codes being presented. I can’t finish this reflection without talking about the ‘locator()’ function. It is amazing how interactive this function is. It makes it so easy to index the points of interest in any ultrasound image for further analysis. I’ll definitely adapt it in my own research. Thanks to Chris for such a great workshop and to the organising team for making it possible.

Job: Lecturer in Phonetics and Phonology

Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics is looking to appoint a full-time lecturer in Phonetics and Phonology.

For current researchers in this area at the university you can see the Phonetics & Phonology research groups people page.

More Information

Full job description can be found at or

The Role

You will have a completed PhD in Linguistics or English Language, and have experience in teaching the phonetics and phonology of English and other languages at undergraduate level. Proficiency in the collection, analysis and handling of empirical language data in English and other languages is essential. Also essential is the ability to teach and research in one or more of these additional strengths of the Language and Linguistics subject group: language acquisition and evolution, language and cognition, language variation and change, syntax. You will have an excellent publication record for your career stage. You should also be able to demonstrate clear potential for making a significant contribution to the School’s and Faculty’s collaborative teaching and research culture, which includes a capacity for academic and societal impacts.

The Department

The School of English Literature, Language & Linguistics (SELLL) currently has 64 members of academic staff (55FT and 9PT) working across the fields of English Language, Linguistics, English Literature and Creative Writing. 13 Research Associates and Fellows work alongside these staff. Together with our 750 undergraduates and over 200 postgraduates (registered on both taught and research programmes), we form a thriving, highly motivated intellectual community, dedicated to excellence and innovation in teaching and research. Over 80% of our research was deemed ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, and our teaching was rated as ‘excellent’ in the last QAA audit.

The Language and Linguistics subject group in SELLL has particular research and teaching strengths in: linguistic theory; language acquisition, evolution and development; language and cognition; and language variation and change. Funded projects over the past few years have addressed issues across these sub-disciplines, including topical research on language, migration and identity and work on language learning by immigrant adults. Considerable funding has been attracted for research into and the development of a ‘big data’ corpus of North Eastern English. Funding has been won too for research in language and cognition as well as in formal linguistics, most recently through a project with colleagues at Cambridge on novel approaches to parametric variation in syntax. In addition to the wide range of undergraduate teaching and learning offered by the Language and Linguistics subject group in SELLL, the group also lead the MA in Linguistics and IPhD in English Language and Linguistics. We have had considerable success too in supporting PGR student research via the UKRI funded doctoral training partnerships known as ‘Northern Bridge’ and ‘NINE’. Newcastle University also has a very active Phonetics and Phonology research group, and a very well-resourced Linguistics Laboratory supporting experimental and quantitative linguistics research.


Professor Jo Robinson, Head of School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics (Jo.Robinson2[at], or Dr Heike Pichler, Head of the Language and Linguistics subject group (Heike.Pichler[at]

R Workshop on Speech Signal Analysis: Dr Chris Carignan #SpeechSignalR

updated 12 July 2021

We are very happy to announce that Dr Chris Carignan will be leading a workshop on speech signal analysis in R. The workshop will take place remotely via Zoom on 13th and 14th July 2021. Please find the workshop description below:

Workshop Description

In phonetics and speech science research, the R programming environment is commonly used for curating data and performing a vast array of statistical analyses. However, given the history and focus on statistics using the R language—”R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics” (—it is not often used as an environment for primary data analysis. A typical workflow might consist of analyzing data in another language such as MATLAB or Python and subsequently importing the processed data into R for statistical treatment. In this two-day workshop, you will learn how R can be used as an environment for primary analysis of a variety of speech signals, including acoustics, articulatory.

Pre-requisites & Materials

Have working knowledge of the R programming environment. This includes having RStudio installed on your computer as well as the ability to install the requisite libraries (to be emailed with the Zoom details) and understanding base R syntax.

This workshop will likely not be suitable for R beginners.

Please install the following R packages:

  • “RCurl”
  • “sound”
  • “phonTools”
  • “raster”
  • “ggplot2”

Materials can be downloaded from

Timing & Format

The workshop will be held on Zoom (details have been emailed to those registered). Please join with the name you registered with so that we can admit you from the waiting room.
The timings for both days will be approximately (with flexibility for breaks):

10am-12.10pm: Morning Session
12.10-12.40pm: Lunch Break
12.40-4pm: Afternoon Session


Registration is now closed, any issues please get in touch.

Please register using this form by 12pm BST (GMT+1) on 9th July. The workshop will be capped at 50 people and we will let you know if you are on a waiting list.


See here for contact information

We’re Hiring! Professor of Linguistics

Many of you will know that long-standing Newcastle phonologist, SJ Hannahs, retired in January last year. However, it’s not all bad news, the School of English are hiring for a Professor of Linguistics.

Closing Date: 12/02/2020
Interview Date: 26/03/2020

More information (including Candidate Information Pack):
Informal enquiries:
Professor James Annesley (Head of School OR
Dr Geoff Poole (Head of the Language & Linguistics Subject Group

The School of English Literature, Language & Linguistics at Newcastle University seeks to appoint an outstanding researcher and teacher to the post of Professor of Linguistics. The appointee will make a major contribution to research and learning & teaching in Language and Linguistics, and provide strategic leadership for the Language and Linguistics Subject Group.

We invite applications from individuals with an outstanding record in research (including outputs, external grant income, and PhD supervision), successful research and academic leadership experience, an established international reputation, and a record of excellence in teaching and impact.

The School welcomes applications from specialists in any field of language and linguistics who can contribute to and enhance the existing strengths of the Language and Linguistics Subject Group in the School. We particularly encourage candidates with a collaborative orientation whose expertise connects with diverse sub-disciplines of Language and Linguistics.

19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences – Caitlin Halfacre

Post originally appeared on the PhilSoc Blog

In August 2019, I was supported by a PhilSoc travel bursary to attend the 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, to present a poster. The conference was in Melbourne, hosted by The Australasian Speech Science and Technology Association and had 422 oral presentations and 397 poster presentations. The poster I presented was based on my MA and was also included in the Congress proceedings papers. My title was North-South Dividers in privately educated speakers: a sociolinguistic study of Received Pronunciation using the foot-strut and trap-bath distinctions in the North East and South East of England.

There is a model of accent variation in England that demonstrates the interactions between regional variation and variation based on social class. The high level of regional variation found in working class speakers seems to reduce going up the socio-economic spectrum, see, with the top of the triangle forming the accent called Received Pronunciation (RP – popularly known as BBC English). However, this model has not been updated for almost 40 years. My research involves recording speakers from different regions whose socio-economic status would place them near the top of this triangle and investigating a variety of accent features that would general display regional variation.

The paper I presented discussed what are known as the FOOT-STRUT and TRAP-BATH splits, descriptions of what vowels speaker uses. The FOOT-STRUT split is whether the two words (and those in the same sets) rhyme or not, and the TRAP-BATH split is whether words like bath have the same vowel as TRAP, generally found in the North, or the same vowel as PALM, generally found in the South. In 10 privately educated speakers from the North East and South East I found that they all behaved the same as each other in the FOOT-STRUT split, demonstrating that this feature acts in a non-regional manner. However, regarding the TRAP-BATH split, I found that the speakers reflected the patterns found in their local region. This is likely due to the social salience of the feature; non-linguists have a strong awareness of how people in different regions pronounce words in the BATH set (e.g. glass, path, mast) and see it as a regional identity marker.

Presenting this poster gave me the opportunity to gain feedback on both my methods and results, invaluable information for data collection for my PhD. I also was able to meet and discuss my findings with leading researchers in the field, whose work has greatly influenced mine. Including the researcher who illustrated the above model, and another who is the only other person currently publishing sociophonetic research on RP.

I would like to thank PhilSoc for awarding me the travel bursary, I used it to supplement the funds my department were able to give in order to make up the required amount. This congress only happens once every four years and I could have missed out on the opportunity to attend without their support.

My poster and proceedings paper can be found on my website.

Introduction to Ultrasound Tongue Imaging

Training in the usage and analysis of UTI (Ultrasound Tongue Imaging) with Natasha Zharkova

by Andreas Krug

Over the course of two sessions, Natasha introduced us to the use of ultrasound tongue imaging in linguistics research. We learned about data collection with the ultrasound machine as well as the subsequent manipulation and analysis of the data. Natasha showed that ultrasound techniques are fruitful not only in clinical settings but can be used in sociolinguistics to quantify, for example, the distribution of clear and dark /l/.

We learned that the ultrasound tongue images are created by placing a probe behind a participant’s chin. When adjusted correctly, this probe creates an image of the tongue that can be time-aligned with what the participant’s utterances. The tongue images can further be used in conjunction with spectrograms to get ‘the best of both worlds’: images from a comparably non-invasive articulatory method and acoustic data.

The tongue images, which take up a considerable amount of memory space, are analysed as splines. The coordinates of these splines depend on the relative position of the tongue in the mouth and can be imported into R for further analysis. In our workshop, we took a first attempt at this and successfully visualised two individual splines of Ghada’s productions of /l/.

Graph showing ultrasound splines of /l/ in two different environments. The pharangylised shape is bunched at the back compared to the non-pharyngealised position
Plot of pharyngealised vs non-pharyngealised Arabic /l/ (credit: Caitlin Halfacre)

It was great to learn some of the basics of ultrasound tongue imaging from one of the experts in the field in a hands-on manner. There are now more studies in clinical and non-clinical linguistics that use ultrasound techniques and understanding how it works makes it easier to follow many of the papers. I personally plan to use it at some point to look into the articulatory properties of TH-fronting more closely.

Lecturer Position in Phonetics & Phonology

The School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics wishes to appoint an outstanding scholar and teacher as a Lecturer in Phonetics and Phonology.

Deadline – 7th July 2019


You will have a PhD, either in hand or near completion, in Linguistics or English Language, and have undergraduate teaching experience in these areas. The ability to analyse experimental results from the perspective of linguistic theory is essential, as is knowledge of variation in English and quantitative methods.
We particularly encourage candidates with a collaborative bent, who can envision themselves working with theoreticians and experimentalists in a variety of disciplines, and who can situate their research on language in the wider study of cognition and/or other social science and scientific fields.
Applicants will have an excellent publication record for their career stage and will demonstrate the clear potential to make a significant contribution to the School’s research and teaching culture.


For further inquiries please contact Dr Geoff Poole, Head of the Language/Linguistics Subject Area ( or Dr James Annesley, Head of School (

Further information can be found here or on LinguistList .


£30,395 – £43,266 per annum (Grade F Lecturer)
£40,792 – £54,765 per annum (Grade G Lecturer)

Teaching Fellow Position in Phonology

The School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics wishes to appoint an outstanding scholar and teacher as a full-time teaching fellow in phonology for 12 months fixed-term, to start 15th January 2019.


You will have a PhD, either in hand or near completion, in a relevant subject area and proven experience in undergraduate teaching of phonetics and phonological theory. Experience in a further sub-field, such as sociolinguistics or English historical linguistics, or a familiarity with quantitative methods would be an advantage. We would expect evidence of active engagement in the research in your subject area, in the form of publications appropriate to the stage of your career.

The successful candidate will be expected to contribute to Stage 1 modules in phonetics, phonology and morphology, as well as honours-level modules in phonological theory and other areas of their expertise. Lecturing staff, in addition, participate in the School’s thriving postgraduate culture by teaching on MA programmes as well as the IPhD programme in Phonetics and Phonology and supervising PhD students.

Newcastle University

The University holds a silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of our good employment practices for the advancement of gender equality, and the School is one of only very few units in our subject area in the UK to hold a Bronze award in its own right. The University also holds the HR Excellence in Research award for our work to support the career development of our researchers. We are also a member of the Euraxess network.

Contact Information

Informal enquiries can be made to: Dr Geoff Poole, Head of the School’s Language/Linguistics Subject Group: or Dr James Annesley, Head of School,

Applications can only be accepted through the Newcastle University Job Vacancy website,
Contact Dr James Annesley

Application Deadline: 25 November 2018

Research Group Meeting 08 Nov 2018 – Ebtehal Asiry & Jane Stuart Smith

Last week we were very privileged to host Ebtihal Asiry and Jane Stuart-Smith at our research group meeting.

Ebtihal presented on “Investigating phonological variation in the English of Iraqi Arabs in two UK cities: London and Glasgow” (slides here), her PhD project, which is fascinating work on contrasting Iraqi immigrants in London who are two communities, a large longstanding (1960s) middle class community and more recent (2003) refugees/asylum seekers; and those in Glasgow who are a small, recent community (1999).

Jane presented on her current project, SPADE, which “aims to develop and apply user-friendly software for large-scale speech analysis of existing public and private English speech datasets.”

PhD Studentships

Applications are invited for PhD studentships in linguistics and speech sciences at Newcastle University. We encourage applicants who are interested in all aspects of speech perception, production and learning. Studentships, to start in October 2019, will be awarded via open competition for two doctoral training partnerships:

  • AHRC Northern Bridge Consortium, deadline Wednesday 9th January 2019.
  • ESRC Northern Ireland and North East Doctoral Training Partnership (NINEDTP), deadline Friday 18th January 2019.

Please contact the following supervisors if you are interested in their broad research areas:

Ghada Khattab

PhD supervision interests: Monolingual and bilingual phonological acquisition, accent/dialect acquisition, L2 phonology, and bilingualism and cognition.
For more details, see:

Jalal Al-Tamimi[at]
PhD supervision interests: L1/L2 phonology, speech production and perception, laboratory phonology, speech classification and recognition.
For more details, see:

Laurence White

PhD supervision interests: Prosody in speech perception and production, first and second language acquisition, developmental and acquired language disorders. For more details, see:

Danielle Turton

PhD supervision interests: Phonological variation, diachronic phonology, language variation and change, ultrasound tongue imaging, phonetics-phonology interface, laboratory phonology.
For more details, see:

The AHRC Northern Bridge Consortium for Doctoral Training Partnership

(NBCDTP) offers tuition fees and £14,777 per annum funding for 42 months ( Award-holders may extend their studentship to pursue an approved research training programme or to undertake a placement by a further 6 months, and successful applicants can apply for additional funding during their studentship to support their research costs and individual training needs. In addition to the standard PhD pathway, students can apply under the collaborative doctoral pathway, through which applicants develop a research project in collaboration with a partner organisation, and spend a substantial portion of their doctoral study at the partner organisation.

The ESRC Northern Ireland and North East Doctoral Training Partnership

(NINEDTP) offer +3, +3.5, 1+3 and, for Language Based Area Studies only, 2+3 awards ( The awards cover tuition fees and a stipend of £14,770 per year for the duration of the degree. Award-holders may also apply for research training support grants, internships and placements, and overseas fieldwork and difficult language training, as well as overseas institutional visits. However, these need to be laid out clearly at the application stage and are considered on a case-by-case basis. In addition to the standard PhD pathway, students can apply under the collaborative doctoral pathway, through which applicants develop a research project in collaboration with a partner organisation.