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Mary Grantham O'Brien

  • Associate Professor
  • Director Language Research Centre

Office Hours

(Jan 01 - Apr 29)

Research Interests


My research centers on second language pronunciation. In my early studies I was primarily interested in the notion of foreign accent, and I found that prosodic aspects of speech (rhythm, stress, and intonation) are especially important to native speakers when they make accentedness judgments. As a result, I performed research at a French immersion school in Calgary to assess students' attitudes toward pronunciation. An important finding was that those students who have a pronunciation target are more likely to be judged to have better pronunciation. I've recently expanded my research on listeners' judgments of speech to include nonnative listeners, and I've completed a few studies that focus on the constructs of accentedness, fluency, and comprehensibility.

Much of my recent work--most of it highly collaborative--has been on the perception and production of prosodic cues to meaning. This research has important implications for the language classroom. I am currently working with Sarah Fagan (University of Iowa) on a textbook entitled German Phonetics and Phonology: Theory and Practice (Yale University Press). Included in the book will be practical exercises like these that focus on speech perception and producation with the goal of assisting second language learners of German to produce more comprehensible speech.

Graduate Supervision and Examination

I have supervised one PhD student in Education, six MA students in German, and two MA students in Linguistics (one co-supervised) working on research in areas including second language pronunciation, vocabulary acquisition, computer-mediated communication, speech perception and production, and heritage language learning. I have served on a number MA and PhD supervisory and examining committees in Linguistics, Psychology, French, Italian and Spanish, and Education at the University of Calgary.


I have taught the following courses in recent years:

  • first- and second-semester German language (GERM 202, 204)
  • Structure of German (GERM 353)
  • Speaking and Listening (GERM 413)
  • German Phonetics and Phonology (GERM 469.09/629.04)
  • The Acquisition of German (GERM 469.10/631.04)
  • The Acquisition of German as a Second Language (GERM 469.18/GERM 631.06)
  • Second Language Learning and Pedagogy (LANG 599/605)


Calgary Award, Community Achievement, Education Award (2013)
Honorable Mention, Teaching Excellence Award: University of Calgary Graduate Students? Union (2008)
Teaching Excellence Award: University of Calgary Students' Union (2005)


Book Chapter


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