Lee, Jackson (University of Chicago)
Matthews, Stephen (University of Hong Kong)
When French becomes tonal: prosodic transfer of L1 Cantonese speakers
Introduction: What happens when native speakers of a tone language learn a non-tone language? In SLA, prosody arguably receives less attention than such aspects as syntax and segmental phonology. This paper fills this gap by studying a lesser-known case: L1 Cantonese speakers learning French. Cantonese is a tone language where every syllable has a lexical tone (Matthews and Yip 2011), whereas French does not have lexical tones or word stress (Di Cristo 1998). We report and analyze the prosodic properties of the interlanguage French by L1 Cantonese speakers.
Data: We collected classroom French speech from Hong Kong university students with L1 Cantonese. In their French, the learners systematically used (i) Cantonese H(igh) level tone for content words and (ii) Cantonese L(ow) level tone for function words.
Analysis and implications: Where does the span of H for content words come from? We argue that, because syntactic phrases in French often end with a high pitch accent on a content word (Di Cristo 1998), Cantonese speakers associate high pitch with French content words and extend the high pitch accent to all syllables of content words, cf. H in Hong Kong English for stressed syllables (Luke 2000, Cheung 2008, Gussenhoven 2012) and tonal patterns in Central African French (Bordal 2012). Function words have a lower functional load for communication and, for a contrastive purpose, receive L instead. Under this analysis, the French-Cantonese interlanguage systematically exploits tone in distinguishing grammatical status of words, drawing on language-specific prosodic properties from both French and Cantonese, on the one hand, and the potentially universal fundamental distinction between content and function words, on the other.
Bordal, Guri Haug. (2012). Prosodie et contact de langues: le cas du système tonal du français centrafricain. PhD dissertation, University of Oslo.
Cheung, Winnie H.Y. (2008). Span of High Tones in Hong Kong English. HKBU Papers in Applied Language Studies 12.
Di Cristo, Albert (1998). Intonation in French. In Hirst, Daniel and Albert Di Cristo (ed) (1998). Intonation systems: a survey of twenty languages. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gussenhoven, Carlos (2012). Tone and intonation in Cantonese English. The Third International Symposium on Tonal Aspects of Languages, Nanjing, May 26-29.
Luke, Kang-Kwong (2000). Phonological re-interpretation: the assignment of Cantonese tones to English words. Paper presented in the 9th International Conference on Chinese Linguistics, National University of Singapore, June 2000.
Matthews, Stephen and Virginia Yip (2011). Cantonese: A Comprehensive Grammar. London: Routledge. 2nd edition.
Lucic, Ivana (St. Cloud State University)
Acoustic Production and Perception Analysis of Montenegrin English L2 Vowels
Accurate pronunciation of L2 sounds is one of the most challenging parts of second language acquisition for ESL/EFL learners. Based on previous research, both production and perception of sounds are equally important in the process of learning pronunciation. Even though many factors influence the success of accurate production and perception of sounds, it is possible for adult learners to improve their L2 pronunciation. This study provides an acoustic analysis of Montenegrin vowels, in order to make a comparison with the already existing measurements of General American English vowels. Also, a production analysis is done on Montenegrin learners of English, which shows the vowels that are the most problematic in their L2 pronunciation. In addition to this, a two-way perception study was also conducted with the participants. American native English speakers listened to eleven GAE vowels produced by Montenegrin speakers of English, and tried to indicate which vowels they heard, while Montenegrin speakers of English did the same after listening to native GAE speakers. The study showed that some vowels are easy for Montenegrin speakers to produce and perceive. However, certain vowels (e.g. the ones that are present in English, but not in Montenegrin), caused problems for participants in both production and perception analysis. This research helps determine the causes of miscomprehension between native speakers of GAE and Montenegrin EFL learners. The goal is to help learners and teachers of ESL/EFL provide better quality instruction for Montenegrin learners, by giving them more information on the problematic differences in the vowel systems of Montenegrin and English.
Margolis, Douglas (Univ. of Wisconsin, River Falls)
Pronunciation Features Affecting Comprehensibility
Recent dialogues on English as a Lingua Franca suggest that native speaker norms, assumed by terms like "ill-formed" or "non-native-like," are not appropriate goals for most language learning contexts, making it rather awkward for researchers and teachers to articulate standards for speaking and pronunciation. This study aims to identify phonological and prosodic features that most contributed to reduced comprehensibility for undergraduate students, in order to determine what features to prioritize for instruction, assessment, and feedback. Speech samples were collected from 11 L1 Korean and 11 L1 Mandarin English language learning university students in Korea and Taiwan, respectively. Each speaker completed three tasks: (a) reading a script that included a short text followed by 15 isolated sentences, (b) comparing two pictures, and (c) narrating a short story prompted by six pictures. These samples were analyzed for idiosyncratic phonemic and prosodic features. Then a class of 20 undergraduate students rated the speech samples for comprehensibility and completed a paraphrasing task for the picture description speech samples. This paper reports the pronunciation features most associated with low and high comprehensibility and differences in rater reliability by task.
Moftah, Abdelfattah (Suez Canal University)
The acquisition of Arabic geminate consonants by American English speakers: An experimental study
This study investigates the acquisition of some Arabic geminate consonants by American English speakers learning Arabic. The study starts by describing the phonetic and phonological characteristics of geminate and long consonants and how they differ in nature and distribution from singleton consonants. Two groups of native and non-native speakers (American learners of Cairene Arabic) were recorded as producing one sentence that carries the token geminate consonants. The productions of the Arabic geminate consonants by the two groups are described and compared to study the features of such geminate sounds when produced by non-native learners of Arabic. The phonological and phonetic characteristics of these consonants in the production of the non-native group are discussed to see how far they were successful in their overall achievement of the task they were assigned in the experiment. The results of the production study show that non-native speakers of Cairene Arabic produced significantly longer Arabic geminates in general, particularly stops and nasals. Non-native informants also produced significantly different adjacent vowels to the target geminates from those produced by the native informants in the study. A perception experiment was carried out to verify the acceptability of the produced sounds by non-natives using native speakers of Cairene Arabic as listeners. Native listeners were able to identify the production of Arabic geminates by non native speakers as different in the present study. The results of the perception test clearly reflect the findings of the production experiments.
Nyemer, Kayla (Brigham Young University)
Tanner, Mark (Brigham Young University)
Linguistic Parameters that English Language Learners Use to Identify General American Accents
It is generally believed that native English speakers are "good" judges of English accents, meaning that native English speakers are generally thought to be able to discern native English accents from foreign English accents with ease. Indeed, several studies have investigated native English speakers' perceptions of English accents (Flege, 1984; Kang, 2010; Kang, Rubin, & Pickering, 2010; Munro & Derwing, 2010; Rochet, 1995). As Jenkins (2000) suggests, however, few studies have investigated non-native English speakers' perceptions of accent. There is thus little information about how non-native English speakers are able to determine when they have reached their intelligibility goals because additional research is needed regarding how non-native speakers perceive native accents compared to non-native accents.
In 2005, Riney, Takagi, & Inutsuka conducted a study wherein native English speakers and Japanese speakers of English listened to speech samples of Japanese speakers of English and native English speakers for the purpose of determining if the two sets of participants judged accents differently from each other. Their results showed that the Japanese listeners relied on different cues than the American listeners to determine whether an accent was native or not.
The study reported on in this presentation replicated Riney, et al’s (2005) study, but in addition to Japanese and American speech samples and listeners, Spanish speakers of English were also included. Listeners rated each speech sample as sounding either American or not American for the purpose of determining: 1) If the non-native English speakers were able to distinguish General American accents from foreign English accents and 2) What linguistic parameters the non-native English speakers used to identify General American accents from foreign English accents. With most interactions in English now occurring now between two or more non-native speakers (Jenkins, 2000), the results from this study have important implications for pronunciation teachers seeking to help second language learners with their intelligibility goals.
Osbourne, Denise (Northern Arizona University)
Assessing double phonemic boundary among Brazilian Portuguese learners of English
Gonzales and Lotto (2013)’s study shows that early Spanish-English bilinguals shift voicing perception of /b-p/ across language context where phonetic ambiguity occurs (between the VOT values of -35ms and +35ms). The present study replicates Gonzales and Lotto’s study in order to investigate whether the same results would occur with late bilinguals.
Similar to Spanish, but differing from English, Portuguese speakers prevoice initial /b d g/, and produce initial /p t k/ with short-lag values (e.g., Klein, 1999). L2 perception might then be affected, contributing to L2 learners’ poor performance, since L2 learners of English, especially adults, are not always sensitive to these relevant, but fine-grained, differences (e.g., Imai et al., 2005).
Participants will take part in a phonetic boundary perception experiment, consisting of two separate sessions, one in English and another in Portuguese. The speech material comes from Gonzales and Lotto (2013)’s study. The participants’ task is to decide if they hear /b/ or /p/ in continua from bafri to pafri (pseudowords in both languages).
The main research question is: Will Brazilian Portuguese learners of English, across different levels of proficiency, demonstrate the acquisition of English stops on a phonetic level when identifying English stops produced as part of a continuum? It is expected that higher-level proficient learners of English demonstrate language-specific boundaries (e.g., where phonetic ambiguity occurs, /p/ is likely to be identified in the English session, and /b/ is likely to be identified in the Portuguese session). Lower-level proficient learners are not expected to show any significant shift in perception across language contexts.
Data will be collected in May/June in Brazil and preliminary results will be presented. Results from this study will indicate whether late L2 learners are sensitive to language context, and if that alone can alter their L2 language perception. Most important, the results will indicate whether late bilinguals are able to acquire a phonetically separate system for L2 stops, despite the fact that they have started learning English relatively late in life, and that their learning environments have been centered primarily in a classroom context.
Gonzales, K., & Lotto, A. J. (2013). A bafri, un pafri: Bilinguals’ pseudoword identifications support language-specific phonetic systems. Psychological Science, 24, 2135-2142.
Imai, S., Walley, A. C., & Flege, J. E. (2005). Lexical frequency and neighborhood density effects on the recognition of native and Spanish-accented words by native English and Spanish listeners. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 117(2), 896-907.
Kelin, S. (1999). Estudo do VOT no português brasileiro. (Master’s Thesis). Retrieved from Biblioteca Digital da Universidade de São Paulo
Pfandl-Buchegger, Ingrid (University of Graz)
Insam, Milena (University of Graz)
Evaluating innovative pronunciation training methods in the Austrian EFL classroom
Mastering pronunciation in an L2 has shown to be a challenging task, especially for adult language learners. Yet foreign-accented speech can have an impact on comprehensibility and thus clearly plays a vital role for successful communication in multi-linguistic contexts (e.g. Derwing and Munro 1997). Although there has recently been a general consensus on the beneficial effect of pronunciation instruction (e.g. Couper 2003, 2006; Derwing et al. 1997, 1998), the question remains which approach will prove most efficient and where to put the focus in the language classroom. Also, researchers have been investigating whether and to what extent instruction can be efficiently complemented by technical methods to increase learners’ comprehensibility in the L2. In this regard, the present study compares two innovative methods for pronunciation teaching and their effects on the pronunciation proficiency and comprehensibility of Austrian students of English. The first method aims at improving learners’ pronunciation by enhancing their perceptual skills. Learners first undergo phases of intensive listening to electronically modified audio materials highlighting characteristic features of the target language. In the subsequent speaking phases, they receive corrective auditory feedback through hearing their voice electronically modified. Preliminary results for this method from previous experiments (in the form of native-speaker evaluations and acoustic measurements of vowel production) will be presented. In the second method, students can record their speech and compare it to that of a model native speaker. Additionally, the method provides them with visual information on articulatory processes (tongue position graphs) and prosodic features such as syllable timing and pitch contour (audio wave charts). This second method is currently being investigated in a pronunciation class. In the presentation, we will discuss these two approaches to pronunciation instruction and focus on additional influencing factors such as the level of motivation elicited in the subjects by each method.
Pittman, Iulia (Auburn University)
Integration of Pronunciation in First-Year German Textbooks
This paper investigates the ways pronunciation is integrated and taught to first-year students of German in American colleges. While some students who enroll in first-year German courses have had some exposure to the language prior to coming to college, for most students the German college course is their first real German language learning experience. The reasons why focusing on pronunciation early in the learning experience is important are twofold. On the one hand, students are well past the critical age for language learning, and attaining good pronunciation in the foreign language becomes harder and harder with every passing year. Therefore, the earlier we focus on pronunciation, the better. On the other hand, not focusing on pronunciation from the very beginning will allow fossilization to occur in students’ speech. The longer these bad habits have to form, the harder it is to improve them later in the learning process. Thus, the aim of this paper is to review the ten most popular textbooks used in American colleges to teach first-year German and to explore the ways attention is given to this important aspect of foreign language learning and the ways pronunciation can be integrated into teaching.
Poljak, Livia (Simon Fraser University)
Munro, Murray (Simon Fraser University)
Perception of French accents of Immersion Graduates in British Columbia
This research compares the pronunciation of L2 French Immersion (FI) graduates living in British Columbia with that of Core French (French as a Second Language) and Programme Cadre (Francophone school) graduates. While many studies have examined the grammar and lexical knowledge of students in the FI program, this study focuses exclusively on the pronunciation of FI students. The research will examine the accents of Early (from kindergarten) and Late (from grade 6) FI students who have completed the program to grade 12, and who are currently enrolled in their first year of University. While other studies have shown that institutions such as schools or universities can at times produce unique accents when the institution is isolated from the naturally occurring accents of a region (Jones 1937, Orr 2011), no studies have demonstrated this phenomenon among FI students. Speech samples from a roughly even mix of 22 FI, Core and Cadre students were recorded using a delayed repetition task and an extemporaneous narration. The recordings include 10 mono or disyllabic words for the purposes of French L2 phoneme isolation, and 7 sentence repetition tasks, for the purposes of global pronunciation analysis. The final extemporaneous narration was also used to assess overall pronunciation. The speech samples were randomized and presented to native or native-like French listeners who rated the accents on a Likert scale of 1 (no accent) to 9 (very heavy accent). In addition, the samples were analysed acoustically in order to determine similarities (if any) in the accents of FI students. The results will contribute to the growing research on the Canadian FI program, and will open up new possibilities for further the research on institutionally formed accents.
Reed, Marnie (Boston University)
Feeding the Beast: First Wave Innovations in Pronunciation Teacher Education
Our scholars talk the talk. Our textbooks walk the walk. But our students don’t get it, and our classroom teachers don’t know how to run with it. They’re clearly hungry for it. In January 2014, 483 registrants from 31 countries attended a virtual seminar1 on pronunciation instruction, described by the webinar facilitator as “one of the best we have had.” 2
Our scholars talk the talk. Murphy and Baker (forthcoming) cataloged a sampling of 38 experimental and quasi-experimental studies published since the mid-1990s that characterize “a modern era of primary empirical research to inform the work of ESL pronunciation teaching”. Venues like PSLLT and New Sounds International Symposium on the Acquisition of Second Language Speech will soon be joined by a new dissemination forum, The Journal of Second Language Pronunciation.
Our textbooks walk the walk. At the TESOL 2002 Speaking and Pronunciation Academic Session, David Mendelsohn addressed an audience of scholars and materials writers with a provocative challenge: “We talk the talk but our textbooks don't walk the walk“. While this may have been true of some materials on the market, acclaimed textbooks informed by current research are available, as are reference materials, a recent example of which, Pronunciation Myths, is aptly subtitled, Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching.
Our students often reject prosodic aspects of pronunciation, and “may walk out of class without having accepted the system at all. Or they may think intonation is simply decorative.”3 Thus, even the most informed texts, in the hands of teachers unable to convey the communicative functions of prosody, can produce learners able to “understand the words but not the message.”4
Our ESL/EFL teachers “feel underprepared to teach pronunciation” (Murphy 2014), due, in part, to “limited attention to pedagogical considerations and instructional techniques” (p. 196) offered in many MATESOL programs.
This talk explores past and possible collaborations and innovations to satisfy the hunger for pronunciation teacher education.
1. TESOL Virtual Seminar “15 Content-Based Activities for Incorporating Pronunciation Instruction Across the Curriculum,” with Char Heitman, sponsored by SPLIS/ IATEFL, 1-29-14.
2. personal communication, Professional Development Manager, TESOL International Association, 1-31-2014.
3. Gilbert, J. (2014). Myth 4: Intonation is hard to teach. In L. Grant (Ed.) Pronunciation Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, p. 125.
4. Vandergrift, L., & Goh, C. (2012). Teaching and Learning Second Language Listening: Metacognition in Action. NY: Routledge, p. 22.
Murphy, J. (2014). Myth 7: Teacher training programs provide adequate preparation in how to teach pronunciation. In L. Grant (Ed.) Pronunciation Myths: Applying Second Language Research to Classroom Teaching. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Murphy, J., & Baker, A. (forthcoming). History of pronunciation teaching. In M. Reed & J. Levis (Eds.) Handbook of English Pronunciation, NY: Wiley-Blackwell.
Reeder, Jeffrey (Sonoma State University)
Attitudes toward the teaching of L2 pronunciation among high school Spanish teachers
Of all of the linguistic features, pronunciation is likely to be the one most susceptible to casual judgment. Nevertheless, there has been widespread disagreement in the field and fundamental shifts over time regarding how, or even if, pronunciation should be part of the instructional syllabus. One result of this disagreement is that language teachers must choose between aligning their instructional practices to behaviorist approaches or to ascribe to the intelligibility principle; many simply gravitate by inertia to some middle ground between the two. Previous research has suggested that teachers rely on intuitive judgments to decide how to teach pronunciation and which features to emphasize or ignore. Given that implementation of advances in the field depend to some degree on language teacher attitudes toward the teaching of L2 pronunciation, the present study attempts to measure L2 Spanish teacher attitudes toward pronunciation instruction and toward the importance of pronunciation itself. This investigation applies the methodology presented in several earlier studies on L2 English to the field of L2 Spanish instruction. The data for this study come from surveys of several dozen teachers of Advanced Placement (AP) Spanish. AP Spanish is typically the highest attainable course level in the high school curriculum, just as the AP teachers are usually among the most qualified and/or experienced in their discipline within the school and are often the ones that train and mentor junior teachers. In addition to finding widely varying attitudes toward the importance of pronunciation and the efficacy of pronunciation instruction, the research found that there are also interesting differences in how the teachers view the importance of suprasegmental features vs. segmental features.