University of Calgary

Mary Grantham O'Brien

  • Adjunct

Office Hours


Research Interests

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.


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. Together with Sarah Fagan (University of Iowa) I recently completed a textbook entitled German phonetics and phonology: Theory and practice (Yale University Press). Included in the book are practical exercises like these that focus on speech perception and production 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, eight MA students in German, and one MA student in Linguistics (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, 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)



O'Brien, Mary Grantham and Sarah Fagan. (2016). German Phonetics and Phonology: Theory and Practice. Yale University Press.

Journal articles

O'Brien, Mary Grantham (2016). Methodological choices in rating speech samples. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 38(3), 587-605.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham & Caroline Féry. (2015). Dynamic localization in second language English and German. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 18(3), 400-418.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2014). L2 learners' assessments of accentedness, fluency and comprehensibility of native and nonnative German speech. Language Learning, 64(4), 715-748.

Lam, Henry & Mary Grantham O'Brien. (2014). Perceptual dialectology in second language learners of German. System, 46, 151-162.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham, Carrie Jackson, and Christine E. Gardner. (2014). Cross-linguistic differences in prosodic cues to syntactic disambiguation in German and English. Applied Psycholinguistics, 35, 27-70.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham, Carrie N. Jackson, and Alison Klara Eisel Hendricks. (2013). Making use of cues to sentence length in L1 and L2 German. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 3, 446-475.

Winters, Stephen, and Mary Grantham O'Brien. (2013). Perceived accentedness and intelligibility: The relative contributions of F0 and duration. Speech Communication, 55, 486-507.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham, and Odile Rollin. (2012). 'I speak as I speak': Immersion, age and attitude in L2 French pronunciation. Notos, 12(1), 3-15.

Jackson, Carrie and Mary Grantham O'Brien. (2011). The interaction between prosody and meaning in second language speech production. Die Unterrichtspraxis:Teaching German, 44(1), 1-9.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham, and Laura Catharine Smith. (2010). Impact of first language dialect on the production of second language German vowels. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 48(4), 297-330.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham, Richard M. Levy, and Annika Orich. (2009). Virtual immersion: The role of CAVE and PC technology. CALICO Journal, 26(2), 337-362.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham, and Richard M. Levy. (2008). Exploration through Virtual Reality: Encounters with the target culture. Canadian Modern Language Review, 64(4), 663-691.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2006). Teaching pronunciation and intonation with computer technology. In L. Ducate and N. Arnold (Eds.), Calling on CALL: From Theory and Research to New Directions in Foreign Language Teaching. San Marcos, Texas: Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium, 127-148.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2004). Pronunciation matters. Die Unterrichtspraxis: Teaching German, 37(1), 1-9.

Journals Edited

Curtin, Suzanne, Mary Grantham O'Brien, and Rahat Naqvi. (2015, April). Interdisciplinary Approaches to Multilingualism. Special Topic in Frontiers in Psychology.  E-book available at

Book chapters

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2013). Investigating second language pronunciation. In P. Siemund, I. Gogolin, M. E. Schulz and J. Davydova.  Multilingualism and Language Contact in Urban Areas. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 39–62.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2011). Teaching and Assessing Pronunciation with Computer Technology. In N. Arnold and L. Ducate (Eds.), Present and Future Promises of CALL: From Theory and Research to New Directions in Language Teaching (2nd edition). San Marcos, Texas: CALICO Monograph Series, 375-406.

Conference Proceedings

Jackson, Carrie, Mary Grantham O'Brien, and Christine E. Gardner. (2011). Prosodic Cues to Syntactic Disambiguation in L2 German. In N. Danis, K. Mesh, and H. Sung (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press, 308-320.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham, and Ulrike Gut. (2011). Phonological and phonetic realisation of different types of focus in L2 speech. In Magdalena Wrembel, Malgorzata Kul and Katarzyna Dziubalska-Kolaczyk (Eds.), Achievements and perspectives in SLA of speech: New Sounds 2010 Volume 1. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Verlag, 205–216.

Levy, Richard, and Mary Grantham O'Brien. (2007). A virtual world for teaching German. Proceedings of Canadian Games Study Association 2006 Symposium. Toronto. Available at

O'Brien, Mary Grantham, Christine Shea, and John Archibald. (2006). Proceedings of the 8th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2006): The Banff Conference. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Research Reports

Strickland, Brandee, & Mary Grantham O'Brien. (2013). A review of the literature on technology in second and foreign language learning. Calgary: University of Calgary. Available at:

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2005). Perception and Production of French Stress and Intonation. A Research Report prepared for the Calgary French and International School.


O'Brien, Mary Grantham, Suzanne Curtin, & Rahat Naqvi. (2014). Understanding multilingualism and its implications. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(1464), 1-2. DOI:

Pedagogical Materials

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2011). Pronunciation training module to accompany Jackson, C. N., & O'Brien, M. G. (2011). The interaction between prosody and meaning in second language speech production. Die Unterrichtspraxis, 44(1). Available at

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2006). Exploring German culture through video: Teacher's guide. Teaching Object prepared for Alberta Education under ACCESS Project. Available at

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2006). Exploring German culture through video. Video learning object prepared for Alberta Education under ACCESS Project. Available at

Book Reviews

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2012). Review of Richard Wiese. Phonetik und Phonologie. Journal of Germanic Linguistics, 24, 369-373.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2012). Review of Charles, V. J.  Russ. The sounds of German. (2010.) Journal of Germanic Linguistics, 24(1), 97–102.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2010). Review of Sarah Fagan. German: A linguistic introduction, Linguist List 21.1524. Available at

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2010). Review of Prisca Augustyn & Nikolaus Euba. Stationen: Ein Kursbuch für die Mittelstufe, The Modern Language Journal, 94.2. 361-362.

O'Brien, Mary Grantham. (2008). Review of Trude Heift and Mathias Schulze. Errors and Intelligence in Computer-Assisted Language Learning: Parsers and Pedagogues. Reviewed for the Canadian Modern Language Review.


Technical Papers / Research Reports



Powered by UNITIS. More features.