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Sam Hellmuth



Sam Hellmuth works in phonology, focussing on suprasegmental phenomena such as stress and intonation, and the syntax-phonology interface, with a special interest in the prosodic properties of spoken Arabic dialects, of L2 learners’ English and of regional varieties in the North of England. Sam's first degree was in Arabic and French at the University of Leeds, then, after a period teaching English as a Foreign Language in the Middle East (amongst other things), she undertook her MA and PhD in Linguistics at SOAS University of London.


  • University of Leeds
    BA (Hons) in Arabic and French (1985-1989)
  • School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London)
    MA in Linguistics (Arabic) (2000-2001)
    PhD in Linguistics and Phonetics (2001-2006)
  • University of Potsdam
    Postdoctoral Researcher (2006-2007)
  • University of York
    Lecturer (2007-2013)
    Senior Lecturer (2013-2021)
    Professor (2021- )

University roles

  • Appeals Chair
  • Special Cases Committee 



  • Intonational phonology, including prosodic variation and change
  • Laboratory phonology
  • Second language phonology including loanword phonology

The main focus of my research is the prosody of spoken Arabic dialects, most recently through the Intonational Variation in Arabic project, though I also work on intonation in regional dialects in the North of England and in emergent bilinguals. 

I am interested in:

  • establishing the empirical facts so as to determine the nature and degree of prosodic variation within and between varieties of a language,
  • pursuing the theoretical implications of the observed variation in the context of a general cross-linguistic typology of prosodic variation (including at the syntax-phonology interface), and
  • exploring ways to better substantiate analyses within the Autosegmental-Metrical framework of intonation, using statistical modelling of the F0 contour in parallel with qualitative auditory transcription.


  • Dialectal Variation in the Arabic Levant 'DiVAL' (2021-2022)
    A project funded by the York ESRC Impact Acceleration Account in collaboration with Lancaster University, to collect a corpus of speech data with speakers of Levantine Arabic dialects.  
  • Intonational Variation in Arabic (2012-2017)
    The Intonational Variation in Arabic project adapted methodology previously used to document intonational variation in English, to generate an open-access corpus of Arabic speech, using a parallel set of sentences, stories and conversations, recorded with 18-30 year olds in eight geograpphically defined spoken Arab dialects. In one dialect (Moroccan) additional data from older speakers (40-60 years) and from bilinguals will reveal changes in progress and local variation. Detailed prosodic transcription will yield intonational descriptions of individual dialects and cross-dialectal comparisons, for use by linguists, learners and teachers of Arabic and other users.
  • Towards a better understanding of the needs of English learners of other languages: are English listeners 'stress deaf'? (2012)
    Most people agree that it is hard to learn a new language as an adult, but relatively little research tries to directly link why language learning is difficult with how we can help learners do better. Of the research that there is, most looks at syntax (sentence structure), rather than phonology (speech sounds), and deals with the needs of people learning English, rather than the needs of native English speakers learning other languages. This six month pilot project will contribute to addressing this imbalance by highlighting the need for research on English learners of other languages. The project hosted the Second Language Acquisition of Phonology 2012 conference (SLP2012).
  • Prosodic Variation in Arabic (2008-2010)
    Based on original fieldwork data collected in Yemen, this project resulted in the first description of the intonational patterns of Yemeni Arabic, for comparison with the results of prior work on Egyptian Arabic. The project hosted the Intonational Variation in Arabic workshop in 2009 and served as the pilot study for the larger Intonational Variation in Arabic project.

Research group(s)


  • University of York ESRC Impact Acceleration Account 
    "Dialectal Variation in the Arabic Levant 'DiVAL'" (£22,055; 2021-22)
  • Economic and Social Research Council
    "Intonational Variation in Arabic."  (£324,158; 2008-2010)
  • University of York Research Priming Fund
    "Towards a better understanding of the needs of English learners of other languages: are English listeners 'stress deaf'?" (£9,962; 2012)
  • University of York Research Priming Fund
    "Prosodic variation in spoken dialects of Arabic: a comparative study." (£4,900; 2008-2010)


  • Professor Carmen Llamas
  • Professor Peter French
  • Dr Rana AlHussein Almbark
  • Dr George Brown (Lancaster)
  • Dr Becky Taylor (York St John University)
  • Dr Nabila Louriz (Hassan II University, Casablanca)
  • Dr Nadia Bouchhioua (Manoubé University, Tunis)
  • Dr Anna Bruggeman (Bielefeld University)

Available PhD research projects

I am keen to supervise PhD projects in:

  • Arabic phonetics and phonology, in particular projects designed to make use of parallel cross-dialectal data in the Intonational Variation in Arabic corpus
  • intonational and prosodic phonology, including syntax-phonology interface
  • laboratory phonology
  • second language phonetics and phonology


  • Rana Almbark (Syria): L2 English perception & production of vowels. 
  • Ghazi Algethami (Saudi Arabia): L2 English production of speech rhythm. 
  • Saudi Sadiq (Egypt): Dialect levelling in Minya, Egypt.
  • Shadiya Al-Hashmi (Bahrain): Arabic loanwords in Turkish.
  • Emily Hillison (MA by Research, UK): The role of perception in variable adaptation of English loanwords into German.
  • Mohammed ALQenai (Kuwait): Typology of hypocoristics (nicknames) in Kuwaiti Arabic. 
  • Aws Younus (Iraq): Prosody of Iraqi Arabic political discourse.
  • Sehrish Shafi (Pakistan): English loanwords in Mirpur Pahari.
  • Catherine Pease (MA by Research, UK): Factors affecting intelligibility and comprehensibility of L2 English.
  • Obied Alaqlobi (Saudi Arabia): L2 English production of consonant clusters.
  • Latifa Alkuwaiz (Saudi Arabia): VOT and voicing in Arabic dialects.
  • Mohammed Bani Younes (Jordan): Alternative questions in Arabic dialects.
  • Aljawharah Alzamil (Saudi Arabia): Intonational variation in three Saudi dialects.
  • Mahmoud Alsabhi (Saudi Arabia): Acoustic properties of emphatic fricatives across Arabic dialects.
  • Louise Shepperd (UK): L2 Phonological development with varied orthographic input.
  • Areej Alenazi (Saudi Arabia): Factors affecting variable adaptation of English loanwords in Arabic.
  • Hajar Alenazy (Saudi Arabia): Vowel production and perception in two Arabic dialects.
  • Leila Yaqoub (Saudi Arabia): Linguistic variation and change in the Rijal Alma dialect in Asir in Saudi Arabia.
  • Ehsan Alatawi (Saudi Arabia): Linguistic variation and change in the dialect of Bani Atiyah, Tabuk in Saudi Arabia.
  • Rouaa Alatawi (Saudi Arabia): A sociolinguistic study of the bedouin and urban dialects in Tabuk City in Saudi Arabia.



  • Research Leave (2021-22)

External activities


  • The Philological Society
    Council Member
  • Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB)
  • British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL)
  • International Phonetic Association (IPA)
  • International Speech Communication Association (ISCA)

Editorial duties


  • Economic and Social Research Council Peer Review College
  • Al-‘Arabiyya (Journal of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic), Editorial Board


Invited talks and conferences

Invited keynote talks:

  • Arabic Linguistics Forum, July 2018 SOAS University of London, UK
  • 3rd Kashmir International Conference on Linguistics, April 2018 Azad Jammu & Kashmir University, Pakistan
  • Annual Symposium of the Arabic Linguistics Society, Feb 2013 Indiana University, USA

Media coverage

Contributor, Feb 2017 BBC Radio 4 Word of Mouth: "Intonation: The Music of Speaking" 

Sam Hellmuth

Contact details

Sam Hellmuth
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
University of York
Vanbrugh College C Block Room V/C/208
YO10 5DD

Tel: (0)1904 322657