Orthography, speech production and perception

Our first Linguistics Research seminar this semester will focus on links between how we write (orthography) and how we perceive and produce speech (phonology).

It will be a fascinating talk so do come along if you are in or near Newcastle and you can make it.

The speaker is Dr. Rebecca Ishaku Musa from Newcastle University.

The talk will take place at 2-3pm in the Lipman Building Room 121

There is a campus map and directions to the campus here:


Here is further information:

The effect of L2 English orthographic representations on L1 Tera speakers’ production and perception

Dr Rebecca Ishaku Musa


Studies in L2 acquisition of phonology and orthographic input have provided evidence about L2 learners’ phonological development due to orthographic input (e.g. Young-Scholten 2002 and Young-Scholten and Langer 2015). Also, the effects of grapheme-phoneme correspondences leading to non-target like productions (e.g. Rafat 2011 & 2016); and the effects of orthographic representation on pronunciation (e.g. Bassetti 2008 and Bassetti and Atkinson 2015). Studies have also looked at the effect of orthographic exposure leading to epenthesis to resolve complex clusters (e.g. Young-Scholten, Akita and Cross 1999). In this regard, a study was conducted involving L1 Tera (bilingual speakers of Tera/Hausa in Nigeria) learners of L2 English in an experimental study which looked at whether providing L2 English orthographic input would affect the learners underlying representations and in turn their productions.

Data was collected among 73 Tera speaking secondary school students in pre-test and post-test in picture-naming, dictation, ABX epenthesis and reading tasks. Qualitative analysis was conducted using linear phonological operations and rules based on six error categories as follows: vowel epenthesis, consonant cluster reduction, phone substitution, metathesis, loan-word transfer, and orthographic-based errors.

The results revealed transfer from the learners L1 structures which were less complex than the L2 structures resulting in epenthesis of vowels [u] [o] [ɪ] to resolve complex consonat clusters not permitted in their L1, e.g. ’bench’ /benʧ/ → [benʧɪ]; or deletion of segments e.g. ‘lamps’ /lamps/ → [lams]. Also, there was increased effects of orthographic forms due to the complexity of the L2 English grapheme-phoneme correspondences resulting in what Bassetti and Atkinson (2015) refer to as ‘orthography-induced-epenthesis’ e.g. ‘knife’ /naɪf/ → [kinaɪf]. Also metathesis occurred, which is the reordering of words in order to resolve clusters that constitute L1 specific constraints, e.g. ‘desk’ /desk/ → [deks].


Induction, quizzing and the new year


We’ve had a great start to the new academic year. Lots of lovely and lively students joined us during induction week. Here are some photos from the Humanities Induction Quiz which was great fun.

We were impressed by the general and specific knowledge of the students, and especially by the incredibly high scoring winning team.  Here they are already enjoying their weetabix (other cereals and food groups are available):

quiz 3

We’re looking forward to working with our new and returning students this year!

‘The Freedom of Speech: Talk and slavery in the Anglo-Caribbean world, 1625-1824’

Miles Ogbron QueenMarywebpage

We are very excited by the line-up for this semester’s Institute of Humanities seminar series at Northumbria.

All of these events are free and open to all.

Here’s information on this Wednesday’s talk:

Miles Ogborn (Queen Mary University of London)

will talk on:

‘The Freedom of Speech: Talk and slavery in the Anglo-Caribbean world, 1625-1824’

3 October, 2018, 4-5.30pm, Lipman Building, room 121

You can find directions to the campus and a campus map at:


We’ll share information on the full series soon.




The language of the lake


Today’s puzzle from Alex Bellos in The Guardian requires a range of skills which can be developed in English Language programmes (and in other subjects, including maths).

As Alex says, today’s puzzle is ‘hard, but not impossible’. He also suggests that working on puzzles like this can help you develop the skills needed to find a job with technology firms such as google. That suggestions is based on this article by Sam Gibbs in which he reports thoughts from google’s head of search, Ben Gomes.

Alex’s puzzle is one that has been used in the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad, one of several linguistics olympiads held around the world which then select teams to enter the International Linguistics Olympiad. The UK Linguistics Olympiad has been  very successful with lots of school students taking part each year.

You have until 5pm UK time today to solve it before Alex reveals the answer . . .


Clearing Day 2018

It’s clearing day at Northumbria. Several colleagues are helping answer calls from applicants for our BA courses in English Language, Literature and Creative Writing and also our Foundation Year in Humanities.

The clearing hotline number here is 0800 085 1085

If you’re not involved in clearing and/or would like to read some thoughts from colleagues in English at Northumbria, here are some recent articles which appeared in The Conversation:

Tony Williams on the story Cat Person and #metoo

Claire Nally on graphic novels

Katy Shaw on why the novel is not dead

Sarah Duffy on how we think about time

Claudine van Hensbergen on Hamilton

Here also is a piece by colleagues at Bradford and Swansea on how students use social media in making decisions about university applications