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Experimental Phonetics


Admission requirements

Basic knowledge of phonetics and phonology is assumed. Students are preferably acquainted with the contents of a general phonetics textbook, such as Rietveld & van Heuven (2009) Algemene Fonetiek [General Phonetics] (Coutinho, Bussum), Ladefoged & Johnson (2011) A Course in Phonetics, or Reetz & Jongman (2020) Phonetics-Transcription, Production, Acoustics and Perception. Students are recommended to take the course Analysis and Synthesis of Speech (5194KTH06) and Methods in Statistics and Linguistic Data Processing (5194KTH30) if they have not completed any course of a similar nature.


The general goal of this course is to introduce theoretical advancements and experimental methods in phonetic research, which concerns sound patterns and their communicative functions in spoken language.
This year, the central theme of the course is speech melody. All languages use melody in speech, primarily via rises and falls of the pitch of voice. Such pitch variation is pervasive, offering a broad spectrum of nuance to sentences – an additional layer of meaning. For example, saying "yes" with a rising pitch implies a question (rather than an affirmation). Melody is essential for speech communication in social interaction. In some languages, speech melody is employed not only to add nuance to sentences but also to differentiate between words.
In this course, you will be introduced to the study of word-level and sentence-level speech melody, with examples from typologically different languages. You will have hands-on exercises to investigate speech melody experimentally. You will critically read and discuss articles to learn about empirical findings and theoretical models concerning the cognitive representation and processing of speech melody. As a final assignment, students will develop, individually or as a group, a research proposal on a specific topic within the theme of speech melody.
Knowledge gained from this course will be relevant for linguistic research beyond phonetics, for language learning and teaching, speech pathology, and technology (such as human-machine interactive systems).

Course objectives

After taking this class, students should be able to

  • Understand the concepts and fundamental questions related to sound (both at the segmental and suprasegmental) representation and processing.

  • Learn how experimental techniques can be employed to answer a question of scientific interest.

  • Critically evaluate original research articles (their goals, methods, findings, and interpretations) in the area of experimental phonetics.

  • Give an oral presentation on a scientific paper to a group of peers and to evaluate peer presentations.

  • Summarize and synthesize the literature so as to identify relevant research questions of their own interest.

And you will also learn to…

  • Design a well-controlled experiment which should include a sound research question supported by a relevant literature review, a detailed description of the research method, an explanation of the hypothesis and predictions, as well as the interpretation of possible outcomes.

  • Write up the experimental design as a research proposal.

For those very motivated, you are also invited to carry out a small experiment based on your research proposal.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

Seminar with lectures, student presentations, as well as problem-based assignments in English.

Assessment Method

  • Homework (40%) including oral presentations and hands-on exercises

  • Class attendance/participation(10%)

  • Final project (50%): poster presentation + a final project proposal


Students who fail the course may resit the final assignment.

Exam Review

Students are entitled to view their marked examination within a period of 30 days, following publication of the results of a written examination.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Students will be required to read original publications published in professional journals.


Enrolment in uSis is obligatory. If you have any questions, please contact the student administration, tel. 071 5272144 or mail: .

When registering, students that are registered for the specialisation that this course belongs to, or the Research Master, take priority.

General information about uSis is available on the website.


Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats

E-mail address Education Administration Office Reuvensplaats:

Coordinator of Studies