Topics for theses

I am available as a supervisor for BEd, MEd and MA theses, and welcome candidates who would like to work on topics in the areas of English as a Lingua Franca, World Englishes/New Englishes, and the empirical study of the syntax and phonetics/phonology of learner English. The following is a list of suitable topics, and students are also welcome to contact with their own ideas in these areas. Please contact me at for further information or if you would like to discuss other ideas.

- Attitudes to and use of the English language in Germany

While English has become the world's Lingua Franca in recent decades, its use and attitudes towards it continue to differ between individual countries. This degree thesis project will investigate how often English is used by Germans, and what their attitudes towards the language are. The study will be based on an online questionnaire, and findings will be compared to previous studies on other countries.

- Production and perception of word stress in German learner English

Although both German and English have contrastive word stress (e.g. vs. ), L1 German learners of English still encounter problems in the acquisition of the English stress system. A suitable degree thesis project would investigate (a) the acoustic correlates of stress in German learner English or (b) the perception of stress correlates by L1 German learners of English.

- Production and perception of challenging English phonemes by German-speaking learners of English

Projects on a topic in this area will try to address a lack of research on the phonetics and phonology of German learner

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English. Usually one or two phonemes will be chosen and investigated in detail (e.g. the DRESS and TRAP vowels). The use of acoustic measurements would be an advantage. Degree thesis projects could also try to address the relationship between a learner's inability to correctly perceive a non-native phoneme contrast, and their inability to correctly produce it (cf. James E. Flege's Speech Learning Model).

- Discourse markers in learner English

While learning grammar and lexis is important for language learners, they also need to acquire the means to express themselves adequately on a pragmatic level and establish rapport with their interlocutors (and this can often be more important for successful communication than correct grammar). Discourse markers (e.g. "right", "well", "like") are a crucial communicative strategy that can help speakers achieve this. This degree thesis project uses corpora of learner English to investigate which discourse markers are used by learners (in comparison to native speakers), and in what context and how they are used.

- Topics in the syntax of New Englishes

Many so-called New Englishes (such as Nigerian and Indian English) differ in their syntax from other, more established varieties of English such as British English. While certain syntactic features of these varieties have already been investigated based on corpus data, many questions remain open, such as the use of modal verbs, of the past perfect, and the passive in Indian and Nigerian English. Suitable topics for degree theses would focus one of these features in a single variety and compare it to British English usage (based on corpus data which is already available).

Category: Dissertation

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