Dr Sam Kirkham


Research Overview

I am interested in the interdisciplinary study of speech, sound and language. My research focuses on how people produce the sounds of speech, how this varies between languages and dialects, and what this means for our understanding of human culture and identity. I do fieldwork and laboratory research to address descriptive and theoretical questions in these areas, using methods such as acoustic analysis, vocal tract imaging, statistical modelling, and ethnographic fieldwork. Much of my research is cross-linguistic and cross-dialectal, focusing on languages such Twi, Sylheti, Punjabi, Scottish Gaelic, and varieties of English across the UK and beyond. My interests cluster into the following areas:

Acoustic-articulatory dynamics of speech production My current research investigates the dynamic aspects of speech production using acoustic analysis, ultrasound tongue imaging and electromagnetic articulography. I am particularly interested in the relationship between dynamic vocal tract kinematics and phonological contrast and how this varies between different linguistic systems. This includes work on the articulatory basis of vowel targets, dynamic acoustic-articulatory relations, and the articulatory exponents of phonological contrast. I also have a soft spot for lateral consonants.

New accents, bilingualism and language contact I am also interested in the development of new accents out of bilingualism and language contact. My PhD investigated phonetic variation and social practice in a multiethnic school in northern England. Since then, I have worked with South Asian communities in the UK and studied language contact in West Africa. My research in this area increasingly focuses on child bilingualism in large immigrant communities.

  • Acquisition of liquids by Sylheti-English bilingual children (with Kathleen McCarthy, QMUL)
  • Intergenerational phonoological transmission in a Punjabi-English bilingual community in Blackburn, Lancashire (with Maya Zara, Lancaster)
  • Articulation of [ATR] contrasts in West Africa (with Claire Nance, Lancaster)

Sociophonetics and dialect variation In addition to the above, I work on various aspects of sociophonetics and dialect variation, including segmental and intonational variation in northern Englishes, the social meanings of variation, and new methods for analysing dialect variation.