Dom Watt
Senior Lecturer in Forensic Speech Science



  • MA(Hons) Linguistics, University of Edinburgh, 1987-92 (inc. semester at University of Helsinki, Finland, 1989)
  • PhD, Newcastle University, 1994-8 'Variation and Change in the Vowel System of Tyneside English' [PDF - 0.4GB]
previous posts
  • Lecturer in Sociolinguistics / Director, Phonetics Laboratory, School of Language and Literature, University of Aberdeen (2002-7)
  • Lecturer in Phonetics and Phonology, Department of Language and Linguistic Science, University of York (2000-2)
  • Research Fellow, Department of Linguistics & Phonetics, University of Leeds (1998-2000)
  • Part-time lecturer/tutor in phonetics, Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, University of Edinburgh (1993-4)
  • Lektor, Englisches Seminar, Universität Flensburg, Germany (1992-3)

I have also held temporary teaching positions at Leeds Metropolitan University, the University of Durham, and University College London. Between my degrees I worked in the University of Edinburgh's Department of Sociology and the Research Centre for Social Sciences on a series of research projects on technology and society, and assisted in the preparation of Donald Mackenzie's award-winning book Mechanizing Proof (MIT Press, 2001).


My main research interests are listed below. I would welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students in any of these areas.

  • sociophonetics, particularly vowel variation, and the development of effective formant frequency normalization algorithms for sociophonetic applications. I have been working on the latter with Anne Fabricius (Roskilde), Tyler Kendall (Oregon) and Daniel Ezra Johnson.
  • forensic phonetics: current projects include the compilation of a database of population statistics on the phonologies of varieties of urban Scottish English, and (with Natalie Fecher, Carmen Llamas and Phil Harrison, JP French Associates) experimental work on the effects on speech acoustics and intelligibility of garments worn over the mouth or the entire face, such as surgical masks, balaclavas, or the niqaab veil worn by Muslim women. These projects have been funded by the International Association for Forensic Phonetics and Acoustics (IAFPA) and by the Marie Curie Actions FP7 Initial Training Network Bayesian Biometrics for Forensics (BBfor2).
  • phonological acquisition (L1 and L2): between 1998 and 2000 I was Research Associate/Fellow with Paul Foulkes and Gerry Docherty on the ESRC-funded project The Emergence of Structured Variation in the Speech of Tyneside Infants (R000237417).
  • language and identity studies. I am Principal Investigator, with Carmen Llamas, Damien Hall, Jen Nycz (York) and Gerry Docherty (Newcastle), on the ESRC-funded AISEB (Accent and Identity on the Scottish/English Border) project, a three-year study of phonological variation in varieties of English spoken in four towns in Scottish/English border area.

PhD students

  • Natalie Fecher: Multimodal speech and speaker recognition: forensic implications of audio-visual integration in speech intelligibility and speaker identification (2010-)
  • Jillian Oddie: Vowel harmony in northeast Scotland: the intersection between phonetics and phonology (2007-)
  • Kim Witten: Computer mediated communication, enregisterment and sociophonetic variation in an online community of practice (co-supervised by Carmen Llamas) (2010-)
  • Xinfeng Zhang: Rhythmic properties of Chinese-English interlanguage (2007 - 2011)

Click here for a list of my publications.

research grants
  • Economic & Social Research Council. Award: £481,843, 'Linguistic variation and national identities on the Scottish/English border' (AISEB; RES-062-23-0525). Principal investigator, with Carmen Llamas (York) and Gerry Docherty (Newcastle). 2008 - 11.
  • Agence Nationale de la Recherche, France. Award: (share of) €48,170. 'Construction des connaissances langagières, diversité des usages, contextes sociolinguistiques'. Principal investigator Jean-Pierre Chevrot, Université Stendhal, Grenoble. Nominated UK participant, with Paul Foulkes (York), Gerry Docherty, Ghada Khattab (Newcastle), James Scobbie (Queen Margaret), Jennifer Smith (Glasgow). 2007 - 2010.
  • Marie Curie Actions FP7 Initial Training Network 'Bayesian Biometrics for Forensics (BBfor2)'. Award: (share of) €3.2m. 2010 - 2014.
  • International Association for Forensic Phonetics and Acoustics (IAFPA). Award: €2,200. 'Compilation of a Phonological Database of Contemporary Scottish English'. 2006 - 2008.
  • International Association for Forensic Phonetics and Acoustics (IAFPA). Award: £1,210. 'Perception of speech produced by individuals wearing garments covering the face'. Principal investigator, with Carmen Llamas (York) and Philip Harrison (York/JP French Associates).
other activities

Professional bodies

Member of

External examinerships

  • MA in Linguistics, University of Edinburgh (2005-9)
  • MA in Phonetics, University College London (2007-10)

Administrative roles

  • Chair, Board of Examiners (Undergraduate)
  • Member of Departmental Research Committee
  • Member of Humanities and Social Sciences Ethics Committee
  • Departmental media liaison contact person



Dom Watt
last update:12.9.11