Hardison, Debra (Michigan State University)
Relationship between L2 Oral Communication Strategies and Abilities
This project addresses the generalizability of Nakatani’s (2006) results regarding language learners’ perceived communication strategies and their relationship to communication ability. In that study, following a factor analysis of the survey data from 400 Japanese university students, Nakatani reported eight factors involving EFL communication strategies. Social- affective, fluency-oriented, and meaning-negotiation strategies were then associated with higher rater-assigned scores for 62 students in a recorded simulated conversation.
The current study investigated those strategy factors with 75 L1 Chinese students at a Midwestern university (LOR 4-6 mos.), and their relationship to self- and rater-assessed abilities. Native and nonnative English speakers reviewed and clarified survey items; 31 were randomized for presentation using a 5-pt. true-of-me scale. Participants completed the survey, assessed their overall speaking ability on an 8-pt. scale, and used 8-pt. scales with a rubric to evaluate their pronunciation, fluency, grammar, vocabulary, and communication skills. They also participated in a recorded interaction with a native English speaker. Experienced ESL teachers rated the recordings.
Mean self-assessed overall speaking ability was 3.49 versus rater-assessed 3.14. Self-assessed means for individual skills ranged from 3.39 (fluency) to 4.24 (pronunciation) versus rater- assessed 2.97 (fluency) to 3.34 (pronunciation). Reliability of Nakatani’s strategy factors ranged from .12 to .67 (Cr.α). Using item-total correlations, items were omitted or realigned to produce five reliable scales (Cr.α=.70-.75).
Participants’ means for these revised scales were predictor variables in regression analyses with each speaking measure as the dependent variable. Overall, higher self-assessments were associated with stronger use of accuracy-oriented and affective strategies. Participants who reported rarely abandoning their message while communicating had higher self-ratings for communication skills. Higher rater-assessments were generally associated with stronger use of accuracy-oriented and listener-accommodation strategies, and less frequent message abandonment.
Discussion includes challenges in item development and classifying items as fluency- OR accuracy-oriented, self- versus rater-assessed abilities, and interview comments.
Hayes-Harb, Rachel (University of Utah)
Cotsonas, Diane (University of Utah)
Content Effects in Native English-Speaking Students' Adaptation to the Speech of ITAs
International teaching assistants (ITAs) experience a number of challenges associated with their
teaching duties. A common difficulty is the belief among students that ITAs’ speech is difficult
to understand (e.g., Rubin & Smith, 1990). While non-native speech can result in reduced
intelligibility relative to native speech, we have seen that native listeners can adapt quickly and
effectively to non-native accents (e.g., Clarke & Garrett, 2004; Bradlow & Bent, 2008). Maye,
Aslin & Tanenhaus (2008) provided evidence that adaptation to an unfamiliar accent may be
lexically driven. They synthetically shifted vowels in an audio passage (e.g., ‘witch’ ‘wetch’).
After listening to the vowel-shifted passage, subjects who had previously rejected auditory forms like ‘lev’ (vowel-shifted version of ‘live’) as non-words became more likely to accept them as real words, presumably due to new phonetic-to-lexical mappings developed during adaption. In the present work we ask whether the ability to create these new mappings is dependent on
subjects’ familiarity with the vowel-shifted words and/or their predictability in context. To the
extent that contextual/lexical cues may be weaker in ITA speech (lectures involve new concepts
and lexical items), students may be less able to adapt to when speech contains highly-predictable, high-frequency words. We asked volunteer ITAs to read ‘easy’ (e.g., gardening) and ‘hard’ (e.g., oxidation) English passages, in addition to a set of test sentences containing high-frequency keywords. Native English-speaking college students listened to either the ‘easy’ or the ‘hard’ passages produced by one of the TAs, and were then asked to transcribe the test sentences produced by the same ITA. The transcription accuracy results reveal that while native English listeners all benefitted similarly from the ‘easy’ adaptation condition, subjects exhibited
significantly more inter-subject variation in the ‘hard’ condition. We discuss pedagogical and
programmatic implications for this finding.
Henrichsen, Lynn (Brigham Young University)
Adult student’s perspectives on the benefits of pronunciation instruction
In the history of research on L2 pronunciation learning and teaching, many studies
have focused on a variety of different issues, including…
• Factors affecting L2 pronunciation accuracy (Guiora, et al., 1972; Olson &
Samuels, 1973; Piske, MacKay, & Flege 2001; Purcell & Suter 1980; Suter 1976)
• Student achievement of pronunciation course objectives under different
instructional conditions (de Bot, 1980; de Bot & Mailfert, 1982; Derwing, Munro,
& Wiebe, 1998; Macdonald, Yule, & Powers, 1994; Madden, 1983; Ramirez &
Stromquist, 1979; Yule, Hoffman, & Damico, 1987; Yule & Macdonald, 1995),
• Native and nonbnative English speakers reactions to English learners’
pronunciation (Hahn, 2004: Riney, Takagai, & Inutsuka; 2005), and
• L2 learners’ perceptions of their pronunciation needs and strategies (Derwing &
In contrast, very few studies that examined students’ perspectives regarding the
value of the pronunciation instruction they receive have been reported. A recent
exception to this trend is a report by Levis, Link, and Sonsaat (2013). Nevertheless,
the largely unanswered question remains: Independent of their actual progress,
how do students feel about the instruction they receive and the learning they
accomplish in a pronunciation class? In other words, did the course meet their
expectations? How worthwhile do they think pronunciation instruction is? After
the course, do they perceive any improvement in their pronunciation? What other
benefits do they perceive? Are they more aware of their pronunciation difficulties?
Do they feel more (or less) confident about speaking? How do they feel about and
use the pronunciation improvement and communication strategies they learned in
This paper will report on research that replicated and extended Levis, Link, and
Sonsaat’s (2013) study on advanced proficiency, older learners’ confidence
resulting from pronunciation instruction. The research questions were as follows:
1. Did the pronunciation course actually result in measurable improvement in
the students’ comprehensibility and decrease the accentedness of their
2. How did students’ attitudes, knowledge, and confidence regarding English
pronunciation change over the course of the semester?
3. What pronunciation improvement and communication strategies did
students learn and use outside of class during this course?
The participants were 12 adult students enrolled in a university-based advanced
English pronunciation course that met three times a week for a 15bweek semester. They came from various L1 backgrounds—Spanish, Korean, Chinese, German, and
Japanese. While most were undergraduate university students, some were older
professionals desirous of improving their pronunciation. All had chosen to enroll in
this elective ESL pronunciation course, which focused on both segmentals and
suprasegmentals in communicative contexts and was taught by a TESOL professor
and two undergraduate TESOL interns.
The quantitative analysis showed that students’ comprehensibility and
accentedness did not change significantly from the beginning of the course to the
end. The overall, class average pre-course comprehensibility rating was 4.04 and the
post-course rating was 4.03. Likewise, the average accentedness rating for all
students was 5.11 at the beginning of the course and 5.10 at the end. This finding
was consistent with the results of numerous previous studies on instruction and
pronunciation improvement (Macdonald, Yule, & Powers, 1994; Madden, 1983;
Purcell & Suter, 1980; Suter, 1976).
Despite this apparent lack of progress, the qualitative analysis revealed that
students found that the course was beneficial. First of all, it increased their
awareness of their own pronunciation difficulties. It also helped them build their
confidence in pronouncing English accurately. Interestingly, they reported that
their listening comprehension also increased as a result of pronunciation
instruction. Finally, they valued the pronunciation-improvement (and
communication) strategies that they learned to use outside of class and could
continue to use in the future.
Huang, Meichan (Texas A&M University-Commerce)
Pickering, Lucy (Texas A&M University-Commerce)
Revisiting the Pronunciation of English by Speakers from Mainland China
Pronunciation is a crucial component in achieving intelligibility and effective communication. Many researchers have closely examined the pronunciation of English by Chinese speakers from various backgrounds, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan (Deterding, 2003; Hung, 2000; Huang, 1996; Levis, 2005; Peng & Setter, 2000; Pennington & Ku, 1993). Less research has been conducted with Chinese speakers from Mainland China (Deterding, 2005b, 2006; Chang, 1987; Ho, 2003). The importance of studies of Mainland Chinese speakers cannot be underestimated as these speakers clearly make up the majority of ESL/EFL learners from this language background. Several corpora have been built up using recordings from National Spoken English test for non-English major, such as COLSEC (Yang & Wei, 2005) and SWECCL (Wen et al., 2005). However, these studies are unsatisfactory for phonological study because of the recording quality (Wen et al., 2008). An exception is Deterding (2005) who has built a corpus of 19 Chinese speakers from major dialect areas of China, including northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin; the eastern province of Shandong; and central provinces of Henan, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Anhui and Hunan. However, the study has an over representation from Liaoning, and it does not include the southern provinces, such as Guangxi and Guangdong (Deterding, 2006). This study serves as a complementary study on the pronunciation characteristics of Chinese speakers in English based on Deterding’s corpus in 2005. Three participants from Guangxi province will be recorded reading the
NWS passage and participating in a short interview. In doing so, we will document patterns that previous research may have overlooked, and discuss possible teaching applications in the EFL classroom in Mainland China.
Jiang, Yan (UC Santa Barbara)
Chun, Dorothy (UC Santa Barbara)
The Effect of Listening Context On Native Speakers’ Perception of Mandarin Tones
Mandarin is a tonal language in which word meanings are signaled by pitch differences or tones. Tone instruction is therefore critical in Mandarin education. Previous studies have relied on native speakers’ (NS) judgment to evaluate learners’ tonal performance (Wang, Jongman & Sereno, 2003; Chun, Jiang & Ávila, 2013). This study examines the effect of listening context on NS perception of Mandarin tones, which contributes to refining the use of human perception to assess tone production. Four NS listened to 20 disyllabic words spoken by 20 university students in three separate conditions: (1) pitch only; (2) pitch + segments (consonants and vowels); (3) pitch + segments (consonants and vowels) + seeing target tone diacritics. In each condition, NS were asked to identify the tone of each syllable. Their tone identifications were matched to the target tones and were coded as either “correct” or “incorrect.” Two types of data analyses were performed. First, a repeated-measure ANOVA was used to compare the average accuracies of tones identified by the raters in the three contexts. The results revealed that NS perception was significantly affected by the listening contexts. The perceived tonal accuracy increased when more information was added, as in Conditions 2 and 3. Second, acoustic analyses were conducted on the tones that were identified incorrectly in Condition1, in order to examine whether the effect of listening contexts was related to the learner’s tonal production. A two-way ANOVA was used to compare the deviation in F0 of the learner’s production from that of the NS. A significant main effect was found in Condition 2, where raters listened to both the pitch and the segmentals. Results of these analyses indicated that hearing segments and pitches together increased the precision of NS discriminating learners’ tonal production compared to hearing pitches only. However, seeing target tones misled NS to compensate for learners’ tonal production deficiencies. The findings have implications for the evaluation of tonal performance for research and pedagogical purposes.
Kang, Okim (Arizona State University)
Moran, Meaghan (Arizona State University)
Thomson, Ron (Brock University)
Pronunciation Features of Intelligible Speech Among Different Varieties of World Englishes
In the second language (L2) assessment context, various pronunciation features (i.e., both segmentals and suprasegmentals) have been identified as they have an impact on the overall speaking assessment scores (Iwashita, Brown, McNamara, & O’hagan, 2008). There has been empirical evidence that suprasegmental features alone account for about 50% of the variance in untrained raters’ assessments of oral English (Kang, Rubin, & Pickering, 2010). Among segmental errors, significant difference across proficiency levels was found mostly in the high functional load errors, but not necessarily in the low functional load errors (Kang & Moran, 2014). What is still unknown, however, is the refined features of pronunciation that can determine the intelligibility of high-proficiency speakers among varieties of World Englishes (WE). The current study explores various pronunciation features of WE speakers that can affect listeners’ comprehensibility in a high-stakes assessment context. Eighteen speakers, three from each of six distinct varieties of English, have participated (North American, British, Indian, non- Anglophone South African, Chinese, and Spanish). The majority of them, currently working as university professors, have recorded their speech by reading the TOEFL CBT listening passages. Listeners (U.S. undergraduate students, international students, and teachers) rate the WE speech both for accentedness and comprehensibility. Results will describe and suggest specific pronunciation features that may or may not be accepted in the testing context. The overall findings will offer implications for pronunciation pedagogy, test design, enhanced scoring criteria, and rater development.
Ko, Insung (Washington University St. Louis)
The memory of the mother tongue on the second language articulation of affricates
The current study investigated the exact place of articulation of Korean coronal affricates produced by native speakers of Korean using the methodology of static palatography, which collected data from the roof of the mouth as palatograms and from the tongue as linguograms. This study also compared the articulation of native speakers with the articulation of second language (L2) learners including heritage language learners and non-heritage language learners.
The palatograms showed that the three affricate phonemes of Korean, /c/, /ch/, and /c*/, are likely to be articulated as alveolars. The results also revealed that the linguo-palatal contact should be produced with the tongue blade and the tongue tip, which is significantly different from the articulation of English affricates. Heritage language learners are believed to have an advantage of true L2 learners in oral linguistic performance. It was found that L2 learners, heritage language learners, and native speakers of Korean showed significant differences in terms of the place of articulation of Korean affricates. While the frontmost contact does not make a significant difference in the articulation among language background, the midsagittal contact length and side contact length are measured with a significant difference in articulation (p < .01).
The palatograms for the articulation of affricates in this study showed that second
language learners and heritage language learners might master the place of articulation within a short period L2 learning time. On the other hand, the linguograms showed that L2 learners showed a preference to use apical contact in the articulation of Korean affricates, just as they do in English.
Koffi, Ettien (St. Cloud State University)
Impressionistic and Instrumental Account of the Intelligibility of [ θ ] in Seven Varieties
of L2 English
This is arguably the most comprehensive phonetic study of the allophonic realizations
[ θ ] in L2 English. It involves 10 native speakers of General American English (GAE)
and 67 non-native speakers from seven different language backgrounds: Arabic,
Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Slavic, Somali, and Spanish. Collectively they produced
3701 tokens of [ θ ] as found in the words , , , read,
recorded, and transcribed by linguists associated with GMU’s Speech Accent Archive.
The results of the quantitative analysis of the impressionistic transcriptions show that
non-native speakers produced [ θ ] accurately 63.28% of the time, compared to GAE
talkers who produced it accurately 97.14% of the time. This suggests that the reports
about the unlearnability of [ θ ] may have been overstated (Jenkins 2007:138). The cases
of infelicitous productions of [ θ ] break down as follows: [ t ] was substituted for [ θ ]
13.13% of the time, [ s ] 9.55%, [ f ] 7.76%, and [ d ] 5.67%. In addition to the
impressionistic data, the occurrences of [ θ ] were analyzed acoustically in keeping with
Labov et al.’s (2006:7, 39) recommended methodology. The acoustic correlates
considered for the instrumental analysis are intensity and center of gravity (COG)
because Ladefoged and Maddieson (1996 for intensity), and Gordon (2002 for COG)
deem them the most pertinent cues for the study of fricatives. Catford’s (1987)
calculations of the relative functional load of pairs of English segments are used in
tandem with the instrumental measurements to assess the intelligibility of [ θ ] in L2-
accented English. It stems from these analyses that the substitution of [ f ] for [ θ ]
interferes the least with intelligibility because they are aurally and acoustically similar
and also because they occur in free variation in the speech of native speakers from
various dialects of English (Zsiga 2013:449, Ladefoged and Johnson (2015:211) and
Ogden (2009:127). The data also indicate that the substitution of [ s ] for [ θ ] constitutes
the greatest obstacle to intelligibility. COG measurements may help to explain why the
speakers who substitute [ s ] for [ θ ] also have the hardest time overcoming this
fossilized pronunciation pattern. It may be that, as explained in Kenstowicz (1994:237),
they transfer acoustic features from their native languages that are below the threshold
consciousness into their L2 English.
Lima, Edna (Ohio University)
Online pronunciation instruction: Improving speaker comprehensibility and enhancing
Because pronunciation is crucial for comprehensibility, pronunciation instruction is
indispensable in foreign/second language learning. The functional load principle (King, 1967;
Munro & Derwing, 2006), segmental versus suprasegmental features, and fossilization (Selinker, 1972) are among the reasons why pronunciation should be part of L2 teaching and learning. A number of English L2 learners, especially those in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) contexts, do not receive pronunciation instruction, which leads to many learners with good grammar and writing skills, but poor pronunciation. One context in which good pronunciation is critical is that of international teaching assistants (ITAs) providing instruction at American universities. Research investigating native undergraduate students’ perceptions of ITAs indicates that these students tend to react negatively to ITAs based on different factors. One of these factors is poor oral proficiency (Davis, 1991). As part of an ongoing dissertation project focusing on the effectiveness of online pronunciation instruction on speaker comprehensibility, a fully online pronunciation tutor has been developed. The tutor was designed to raise ITAs’ awareness of the English language suprasegmental features and to improve their comprehensibility. The online tutor consists of four modules: Word Stress, Rhythm, Intonation, and Review. The tutor includes academic vocabulary so that the ITAs can use what they learn during the pronunciation training in the target language domain (i.e., academic settings). This presentation introduces the online tutor, addresses the main principles underlying its development, and discusses implications of this tool for pronunciation instruction.
Davis, W. E. (1991). International teaching assistants and cultural differences: Student evaluations of rapport, approachability, enthusiasm, and fairness. In J. D. Nyquist, R. D. Abbott, D. H. Wulff & J. Sprague (Eds.), Preparing the professoriate of tomorrow to teach (pp. 446-451). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.
King, R. D. (1967). Functional load and sound change. Language, 43, 831-852.
Munro, M. J., & Derwing, T. M. (2006). The functional load principle in ESL pronunciation instruction: An exploratory study. System, 34(4), 520-531.
Selinker, L. (1972). Interlanguage. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 10(1-4), 209-232.
McCrocklin, Shannon (University of Texas, Pan American)
The Potential of ASR for Fostering Pronunciation Learners’ Autonomy
Despite ESL students frequently reporting a need or desire to work on their pronunciation in English, pronunciation is often downgraded as a teaching goal and often pushed aside in favor of other skills (Isaacs, 2009). Students that want to practice outside of class are likely to feel at a loss because they struggle to monitor their own speech and may not be able to get the feedback necessary to make improvements to their pronunciation (Beddor & Strange, 1982; Blankenship, 1991). Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) has great potential as a technology that would allow pronunciation students to get feedback on their pronunciation (Hincks, 2003; Neri, Mich, Gerosa, and Giuliani, 2008), allowing them to be more autonomous pronunciation learners. This study to examined the effect of the introduction of ASR on students’ autonomous learning beliefs and behaviors. Three groups (GC: traditional face-to-face control (n=15), GE1: mostly traditional with minimal ASR strategy training (n=17), GE2: hybrid with half of class time using ASR (n=16)) were given a three-week pronunciation workshop on consonants and vowels of English. Changes in beliefs of autonomy were measured through pre- and post-workshop Likert scale surveys as well as semi-structured interviews. Autonomous learning behaviors were monitored through self-reports of behavior during and after the course. Results showed that GE1 and GE2 both significantly increased their beliefs of autonomy from the pre- to post-workshop survey, while GC did not. Students primarily pointed to ASR as the reason that they felt more capable of practicing their pronunciation on their own, stating that the ASR was useful for feedback because they could not hear their own errors when speaking. GE2 reported significantly more time spent on autonomous pronunciation learning and more use of ASR than GE1 and GC after the pronunciation workshop.