Phonetics and Phonology Lab

Boston tongue

'Position of the tongue and soft palate in the English vowels of Boston', from Principes de Phonétique Expérimentale, L'abbe JP Rousselot, 1897. 

Below are lists of current or ongoing research projects in the Linguistics Phonetics Lab by our research groups and people we collaborate with.

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Documentary Linguistics

Phonetics and Instrumental Fieldwork

Recent publications

  • Bowern, C., J. McDonough, K. Kelliher,  2012. "The phonetics of Bardi (Nyulnyulan)"  Journal of the International Phonetic Association, volume 42, issue 03, pp. 333-351.
  • Iskarous, K, J. McDonough, D. H. Whalen.  2012 "A gestural account of velar contrast: the back fricatives in Navajo''  Laboratory Phonology 3.1: 195-210 .
  • J. McDonough, B. Tucker.  2012  "Replicating P. E. Goddard: A contemporary airflow and EGG study of Dene Suline.'' University of Rochester Working Papers in the Language Sciences (WPLS: UR) Volume 4:1. P 45-56.
  • J. McDonough and V. Wood. 2008. "The stop contrasts of the Athabaskan languages" Journal of Phonetics. V36.3, 427-449.
  • J. McDonough, D. Whalen. 2008. "The phonetics of native North American languages" Journal of Phonetics. V36.3, 427-449.
  • McDonough, J. 2003. The Navajo Sound System. Kluwer Academic Press.

Conference papers, talks:

  • "What phonetics tells us about constituency" 18th Workshop on Structure and Constituency in the Languages of the Americas (WSCLA 18), UC Berkeley, April 2013. Invited.
  • "The areal properties of tone in the Mackenzie Basin Dene (Athabaskan) languages". Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation, University of Hawai'i  February 2013.
  • "An investigation of the three tone system in Tsuut'ina (Dene)."  J. McDonough, J. O'Loughlin C, Cox..  "Acoustic Society of America (ASA) Montreal. (June, 2012).
  • Prosody in the Wider World (ProWW)}, Universitat zu Koln, May 2012.
    "Linguistic Diversity, Cultural Identity and the Role of  Small Communities", Rochester Institute of Technology,  Conable Distinguished Lecture Series in International Studies, 2 May 2012. Invited
  • "Paradigmatic variation, morphological processing and the Dene verb"  Carelton University, Ottawa. March 2011. Invited
  • "The Speech Atlas of the Mackenzie Basin Dene: language conservation and identity in the Mackenzie Basin''. Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation University of Hawai'i  (February, 2011)
  • "Reconsidering Dene tonogenesis''. Workshop on Phonetic Universals, Max Plank, Leipzig.  (2010)
  • "The Athabaskan tonogenesis hypothesis'', U Chicago, May 2010. Invited
  • K.Iskarous, J. McDonough, D.Whalen, 2010 "A gestural account of velar contrast in a coronal heavy inventory: the back fricatives in Navajo"LabPhon 12 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
  • "Morphology/phonology interface in the Dene verb'', workshop on the interface between syntax and phonology/morphology, Syracuse University, April 2010. Invited
  • Joyce McDonough, "Language documentation: Experimental and instrumental data collection in the field" Invited Symposium: Documentary Linguistics, LSA, 2010, Baltimore.
  • B. Tucker and J. McDonough, "Experimental field phonetics: Replicating Goddard's 1905 kymographic study of the sounds of Dene Suline" NAAHoLS, LSA 2010, Baltimore

Dene Speech Atlas (DSA) online July 2013

An online speech atlas of the Dene speech communities in the Mackenzie River Basin area (Northwest Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba), funded by the NSF. The Dene Speech Atlas covers the five Dene language groups spoken in this area: Dene Sųłiné (Chipewyan), North Slavey, South Slavey, Tłį Chǫ (Dogrib) and Tsuu T’ina (Sarcee). The Dene Speech Atlas documents and describes the phonetic structure of the sound phonemes of these languages. 

Undergraduate students on the project:

  • Kate Kelliher
  • Jared O'Loughlin
  • Adina Rubinoff
  • Alexander Venuti

Graduate students

  • Christopher Cox (University of Alberta)
  • Gretchen Schlansker


  • Jordan Lachler (University of Alberta)
  • Sally Rice (University of Alberta)
  • Deirdre Black (American Blackshoe Consulting)

Laboratory Phonology

Phonetic Structure and the Lexicon

Publications, conference papers, presentations:

  • Heike Lehnert-LeHouiller, Neil Bardhan and J McDonough, 2010, "The importance of the acoustic realization of pronunciation variation in lexical activation", LSA, 2010 Baltimore.

Ultrasound Project

Lab members Heike Lehnert-LeHouiller and Joyce McDonough in collaboration with colleagues in BMEBioMedical Engineering, are setting up an ultrasound project for collecting and analyzing data on tongue movement during speech. BME collaborators include: Steven McAleavey, Mathews Jacob, Diane Dalecki.

Publications, conference papers, presentations:

  • H. Lehnert-LeHouillier, J. McDonough, 2010 "Is longer also stronger? The relationship between temporal and spatial expansion in domain-initial prosodic strengthening of vowels"'LabPhon 12 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
  • H. Lehnert-LeHouillier, J. McDonough and S. McAleavey, 2010. "Prosodic Strengthening in American English Domain-initial Vowels", Speech Prosody Chicago.
  • Jacob, M., H. Lehnert-LeHouillier, S. Bora, S. McAleavey, D. Dialecki, J. McDonough. 2008. "Speckle Tracking for the Recovery of Displacement and Velocity Information from Sequences of Ultrasound Images of the Tongue", Proceedings of the 8th International Seminar on Speech Production, Strasbourg France, 53-57, Strasbourg, France.

Nasality in Vowels

A research project investigating the perception and production of nasality in vowels. Collaborators include Heike Lehnert-LeHouiller, Joyce McDonough, Neil Bardhan, Michael Berger, Meghan Clayards.

Publications, conference papers, presentations:

  • J. McDonough, H. Lenhert-LeHouiller, N. Bardhan, 2009. "The perception of Nasalized Vowels in American English: An investigation of online use of vowel nasalization in lexical access.''  in University of Rochester Working Papers in the Language Sciences (WPLS: UR) Volume 5:1.
  • Joyce McDonough, Heike Lenhert-LeHouiller & Neil Bardhan, 2009, "The Perception of Cues to Nasality vs Place of Articulation in Vowels", Nasal 2009, Montpellier, France.
  • Michael A. Berger, 2008 "Measurement of vowel nasalization by multi-dimensional acoustic analysis" WLS:UR 4.1
  • M. Berger, M. Clayards, N. Bardhan, & J. McDonough. June 2006. 'An automated measure of nasality over time in vowels'. JASA 119 (5), 3338 (A)

Neural coding of vowels

w Laurel Carney and Tian Hao Li

This project investigates the representation of vowels in the responses of auditory models at the level of the midbrain (inferior colliculus).


  • Carney, L., J. McDonough.  2012. "Predicting discrimination of formant frequencies in vowels with a computational model of the auditory midbrain.'' IEEE-CISS, Princeton.


  • L. Carney, T, Li. S, Li, J. McDonough. (June, 2013) "Using a computational model for the auditory midbrain to explore the neural representation of vowels". Acoustic Society of America (ASA) Montreal.
  • Laurel Carney , J. McDonough, (May, 2012). "Neural representations of vowels and vowel-like sounds ". Acoustic Society of America (ASA) Hong Kong.  Acoust. Soc. Am. 131, 3309


Language and Music

Collaboration between Joyce McDonough and jazz pianist Harold Danko, Eastman School of Music (ESM), investigating the relationship between rhythm in speech and music.

This collaboration is part of the larger Sound and Music Initiative under development at the University, involving College faculty in Engineering, BCS, Linguistics, Music and faculty from the Eastman School of Music, with the intent of developing curriculum and facilitating research among faculty and students in Music Cognition, Music Engineering, Language and Music.

Publications, conference papers, presentations:

  • Keturah Bixby,  E. Marvin, J. McDonough.  "Musical Effects of Perceptual Grouping". 11th Annual Auditory Perception, Cognition and Action Meeting (APCAM 2012)} Minneapolis.
  • McDonough, J., H. Danko, J. Zentz. 2007. ``Rhythmic structure of music and language: an empirical investigation of American jazz masters Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton''. University of Rochester Working Papers in the Language Sciences (WPLS: UR) Volume 3:1. P 45-56.
  • Joyce McDonough, Harold Danko, Jason Zentz Workshop on Speech Rhythm, UCLondon March 2008
  • Joyce McDonough, Harold Danko, Mannes Institute
  • Joyce McDonough, Harold Danko, Provosts lunch

Equipment and Software

Main software on three Macs.

  • Microsoft Office
  • R
  • Matlab
  • Linguistics Department: 2 portable macBooks, portable projector.

Sound and image editing:

  • Photoshop
  • Various freeware from Praat, MPI-PL Tools,
  • recording: portable Marantz PDM 660, Tascam digital, Edirols, microphones
  • ultrasound: housed in Steven McAleavey's lab in BME.
  • equipment for airflow collection: Macquirer SciConRD
  • Data back up, external drives

Rochester Center for Brain Imaging (RCBI). Other special resources, such as MRI machines, are available for research use in the RCBI through the membership of Linguistics in CLS. The RCBI includes a research-dedicated state-of-the-art 3T magnet equipped for conducting fMRI during a wide range of cognitive and perceptual tasks.