Melissa Wright

Senior Lecturer in Clinical Linguistics
Division of Speech and Language Therapy
Birmingham City University

0121 331 6721

melissa.wright at

Background - Research Interests - Teaching - Papers/Presentations - Sound files - Personal


  • PhD, 2005, University of York. Thesis title: Studies of the phonetics-interaction interface: clicks and interactional structures in English conversation
  • In my thesis, I examined the phonetic and interactional organisation of naturally-occurring British and American English conversation. I showed that there are complex and systematic mappings between clicks and interactional structures in talk, a finding which is striking given that clicks have so far been regarded by linguists as functioning only paralinguistically.

    You can download my thesis using the following links (please do email me if you'd like any further information):
    Title page to Chapter Three , Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six, Appendices, References

  • MA in Phonetics and Phonology (with Distinction), 2001, University of York. Dissertation title: Conversational phonetics: the case of 'and'
  • In my MA dissertation, I examined the phonetic properties of 'and' and 'but' in naturally-occurring talk. My key finding was that when 'and-uhm' is produced with a specific cluster of phonetic properties in a particular sequential location, it can undertake the interactional task of returning to a previously mentioned topic.

  • BA (Hons) in Linguistic Science, 1999, University of Reading, Dissertation Title: The Effects of Task Type and Planning Time on Second Language Learners' Accuracy, Complexity and Fluency.

  • Research Interests

    My main research interest is the relationship between the phonetic-linguistic details of everyday talk and the interactional structures within which (and through which) that talk is produced. In order to explore the phonetics-interaction interface, I use the methodology of Conversation Analysis combined with phonetic analysis techniques. Recent investigations include the organisation of call closings and word searches, and the functions of 'non-linguistic' items such as clicks and the particle 'uh/m'.

    In addition, I have also undertaken some research with Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, in which I explored the phonetic properties of the speech of children with autistic spectrum disorders and typically developing children.

    I am a member of the following groups and associations:


  • 2006 - present, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Linguistics, Birmingham City University, Division of Speech and Language Therapy.
  • My teaching areas include phonetics, phonology, sociolinguistics, conversation analysis and interactional linguistics. I also coordinate the final year research module.

  • 2002-2006, Lecturer/Tutorial Leader, University of York, Department of Language and Linguistics
  • As a postgraduate student, I provided lectures and tutorials in phonetics, phonology, syntax, sociolinguistics, semantics and study skills.

  • 2004, Lecturer, Wetherby Young Offenders' (WYO) Institution, North Yorkshire
  • I taught a range of subjects in WYO, including English, maths and life skills.

  • 1998-2006, English Language Teacher, UK/Italy
  • Since obtaining my Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) from International House (Prague) in 1998, I have taught English to a wide variety of students in a range of settings (both abroad and in the UK). Places of work include the Universitiy of York, the University of Reading, St. Giles College in Brighton and Oxford Institutes in Lecce (Italy).

    Key papers/presentations

    Wright, M. (2011). The phonetics-interaction interface in the initiation of closings in everyday English telephone calls.Journal of Pragmatics. Vol. 4, pp. 1080-1099.

    Wright, M. (2011). On clicks in English talk-in-interaction. Journal of the International Phonetic Association. Vol. 41, (2), pp. 207-229.

    Wright, M. (2007). Clicks as markers of new sequences in English conversation. Proceedings of the 16th International Congress in Phonetic Sciences, Saarbrucken, Germany. pp. 1069-1072.

    Wright, M. (2007). Movements into call closure in British-English telephone interaction. York Papers in Linguistics, Issue 7, pp. 89-117.

    Wright, M. (2007). An exploration of the phonetics-interaction interface: on clicks in English conversation. Bangor University Gregynog Colloquium, Invited talk: March 17.

    Wright, M. (2004). Exploring the phonetics-interaction interface of telephone call closings. University of Sheffield, Invited Talk: June 23.

    Wright, M. (2004). The phonetic properties of multi-unit first closing turns in British-English telephone call closing sequences. Colloquium of the British Association of Academic Phoneticians, Cambridge, UK. March 24-26. Download the abstract and handout.

    Wright, M. (2003). Accounting for variability in the production of 'and' and 'but' in spontaneous speech. This paper was prepared for the Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences but unfortunately I had to withdraw. Download the abstract and paper.

    Wright, M. (2002). A sequential account of 'I mean'. EURESCO Conference on Interactional Linguistics , Helsinki, Finland. September 6-11. Download the abstract and handout.

    Wright, M. (2002). Conversational phonetics: the case of 'and' and 'but'. Colloquium of the British Association of Academic Phoneticians , Newcastle, UK. March 25-27. Download the handout.

    Sound files

    The sounds files below correspond to the fragments in my 2011 paper 'On clicks in English-talk-in-interaction' in the Journal of the International Phonetic Association, volume 41, issue 02, 207-229.
    Sound file for Fragment 1
    Sound file for Fragment 2
    Sound file for Fragment 3
    Sound file for Fragment 4
    Sound file for Fragment 5
    Sound file for Fragment 6
    Sound file for Fragment 7
    Sound file for Fragment 8
    Sound file for Fragment 9


    Last updated 19 July 2011