Dr Melanie Bell

Principal Lecturer

Faculty:Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences

Department:Department of English and Media

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Language and linguistics

Courses taught: English Language, English Language and Linguistics, English Language and English Language Teaching

Melanie teaches modules in the areas of phonetics, phonology and psycholinguistics and has also taught statistics at international summer schools in linguistics. She is a University Teaching Fellow and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.



Melanie is interested in the empirical study of language: experimental, corpus-based and computational approaches to phonetics and phonology, morphology and syntax, semantics and pragmatics. Her own research has focused on compound words in English. She is part of a thriving international research network in quantitative linguistics and is currently collaborating with researchers at the Universities of Düsseldorf and Trier on the phonetics and phonology of complex words, with researchers at the University of Tübingen on the relationship between acoustics and semantics in English compounds, and with researchers at the Universities of Jena and Cordoba on semantic transparency and adjective-noun constructions respectively.

Areas of research supervision

Melanie would welcome research students wanting to work in empirical linguistics.


  • MA (Cantab)
  • MPhil (Cantab)
  • PhD (Cantab)
  • DipTEFL

Selected recent publications

Peer-reviewed articles and book chapters

Arndt-Lappe, Sabine & Melanie J. Bell. Under revision. Analogy and the nature of linguistic generalisation: locality, generality, and variability in English compound stress.

Bell, Melanie J. 2015. Inter-speaker variation in English compound prominence. Lingue e Linguaggio. In press.

Bell, Melanie J. & Martin Schäfer. 2015. Modelling semantic transparency. Morphology. Submitted.

Bell, Melanie J. & Ingo Plag. 2013. Informativity and analogy in English compound stress. Word Structure 6(2). 129-155.

Bell, Melanie J. & Martin Schäfer. 2013. Semantic transparency: challenges for distributional semantics. In Aurelie Herbelot, Roberto Zamparelli & Gemma Boleda (eds.), Proceedings of the IWCS 2013 workshop: Towards a formal distributional semantics, 1-10. Potsdam: Association for Computational Linguistics.

Bell, Melanie J. & Ingo Plag. 2012. Informativeness is a determinant of compound stress in English. Journal of Linguistics 48(3). 485-520.

Bell, Melanie J. 2011. At the boundary of morphology and syntax: Noun noun constructions in English. In Alexandra Galani, Glyn Hicks & George Tsoulas (eds.), Morphology and its interfaces (Linguistics Today 178), 137-167. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Other publications

Bell, Melanie J. 2012.The English noun-noun construct: a morphological and syntactic object. In Angela Ralli, Geert Booij, Sergio Scalise & Athanasios Karasimos (eds.), On-line Proceedings of the Eighth Mediterranean Morphology Meeting (MMM8) Cagliari, 14-17 September 2011, 59-91.

Bell, Melanie J. 2008. Review of Réka Benczes, Creative compounding in English: The semantics of metaphorical and metonymical noun-noun combinations. English Language and Linguistics 12(3). 549-552.

Bell, Melanie J. 2005. Against nouns as syntactic premodifiers in English noun phrases. Working Papers in English and Applied Linguistics 11. 1-48.

Bell, Melanie J. 2004. Equipping learners to work on their pronunciation. Speak Out! Newsletter of IATEFL Pronunciation Special Interest Group 32. 24-27.

Recent presentations and conferences

Bell, Melanie J. An empirical foundation for the distinction between morphology and syntax in Present-day English, 3rd Conference of the International Society for the Linguistics of English (ISLE), University of Zurich, 24-27 August 2014.

Bell, Melanie J. Informativity is a predictor of semantic transparency in English compound nouns, Quantitative Investigations in Theoretical Linguistics 5, University of Leuven, 12-14 September 2013.

Bell, Melanie J. Morphosyntax and relative frequency: a usage-based account of the distinction between words and phrases in English, 19th International Congress of Linguists, Geneva, 21-27 July 2013.

Bell, Melanie J. & Sabine Arndt-Lappe, An analogical theory of word-formation. Rules, exceptions and variability, New Territories in Word-formation, Sofia, 30-31 May 2013.

Bell, Melanie J. & Martin Schäfer, Semantic transparency: challenges for distributional semantics, International Conference on Computational Semantics (IWCS) 2013 Workshop Towards a Formal Distributional Semantics, University of Potsdam, 19 March 2013.

Arndt-Lappe, Sabine & Melanie J. Bell Explaining English compound stress analogically, International Morphology Meeting 15, Vienna University of Economics and Business, 10 February 2012.

Bell, Melanie J. The English noun noun construction: a morphological and syntactic object, 8th Mediterranean Morphology Meeting, University of Cagliari, 15 September 2011.

Bell, Melanie J. & Ingo Plag. Informativeness is a determinant of compound stress in English, 4th International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English, University of Osnabruck, 20 July 2011.

Bell, Melanie J. Patterns of premodification in English noun noun constructions, International workshop on the structure of the noun phrase in English, University of Vigo, 3 October 2009.

Bell, Melanie J. The noun as adjective, 3rd International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English, University of London, 15 July 2009.

Bell, Melanie J. Noun noun constructions and the assignment of stress, 1st Conference of the International Society for the Linguistics of English, University of Freiburg, 8 October 2008.

Invited talks

Bell, Melanie J. Compound stress, informativity and semantic transparency. Workshop on Computational, Cognitive and Linguistic Approaches to the Analysis of Complex Words and Collocations, European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information (ESSLLI), University of Tübingen, Germany, 11-15 August, 2014. Keynote speaker.

Bell, Melanie J. Prominence in word formation: the English compound noun. pS-prominenceS, University of Tuscia, Viterbo, 12-14 December 2013. Keynote speaker.

Bell, Melanie J. Semantic transparency in complex nominals. University of Jena, 15 January 2013.

Schäfer, Martin & Melanie J. Bell. Complex words and semantic transparency. Second NetWordS Workshop: Perspectives on Synergy, Toulouse, 3-4 December 2012.

Bell, Melanie J. English compound stress in an analogical model of word formation, Data-Rich Approaches to English Morphology: From corpora and experiments to theory and back, Victoria University of Wellington, 4-6 July 2012.

Bell, Melanie J. Assigning prosodic prominence in the English 'noun-noun'. Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics, University of Cambridge, 23 November 2010.