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The CECD is an AHRC funded research group dedicated to examining the evolutionary underpinnings of human cultural behaviour, past and present. more>

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Principal Investigator Profile
Prof April McMahon
Forbes Professor of English Language, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language, Uni. of Edinburgh

14 Buccleuch Place
Tel: 0131 651 1999
Fax: 0131 650 6883

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Research and Teaching interests
My research has always involved both phonological theory and historical linguistics. At the beginning of my career the emphasis was mainly on phonology, albeit using historical data (as in my 2000 books, Lexical Phonology and the History of English (CUP), and Change, Chance, and Optimality (OUP)); but along the way the balance has shifted and I have become more and more interested in central questions of language change and classification. I have been heavily involved in the development and testing of quantitative methods for language classification and comparison, as in my two AHRC-funded projects ‘Quantitative Methods for Language Classification' (2001-04, with Paul Heggarty, Rob McMahon and Natalia Slaska), and ‘Sound Comparisons: Language and dialect comparison by phonetic similarity' (2005-07, with Paul Heggarty and Warren Maguire). I am increasingly interested in questions of evolutionary linguistics, and Edinburgh is the ideal place for interests of that kind, with the Language Evolution and Computation research unit based in LEL. My next major project is likely to be a study of the evolutionary origins of phonology, developing arguments from some recent articles to the effect that segmental and suprasegmental systems have separate origins, with prosody being significantly older.

My teaching tends also to be in the areas of phonology and historical linguistics, with an increasing emphasis on the latter. My usual Honours offerings are U00529 Historical Linguistics (= Diachronic Linguistics for postgraduates) and U02865 Linguistic Reconstruction and Language Classification; both are team-taught with Ronnie Cann, and I am developing a course on International Englishes with Claire Cowie and Miriam Meyerhoff. I also teach English Phonology and Phonetics for the MSc in English Language.
Educational Background
1986: MA (Hons) English Language and Linguistics, Edinburgh
1990: PhD, English Language, Edinburgh
Associated Links:

Associated AHRC CECD Projects (Phase 2):
Project B002
Different methods of measuring phonetic similarity