Friday, October 7, 2011

Better looking (and longer) stressed vowels

Linked is a great Linguist list post from 1995 by Laura Koenig that presents just about every way imaginable for getting learners to notice and remember lexical stress (and related vowel lengthening), including several hand clapping variants and using rubber bands. Most are visual/cognitive with no overt use of movement or touch. Judy Gilbert's workshops all come with free kazoo and rubber band. Just in terms of haptic anchoring, stretching a rubber band to anchor vowel length seems to work pretty well. 

Clip art: Clker
One reason that we don't use rubber bands is that the upper torso motion involved, expanding the chest with lateral hand and arm motion as the chin goes up, creates an anchored felt sense that is not generally within the normal range of motion used in spontaneous speaking--unless of course you are at the gym. The anchoring done in the visual field should involve natural, "bobbing-like" torso nods, which serves to coordinate diaphragmatic breathing involved in producing stressed syllables such as in clapping. (In addition, the rubber band touch involved is continuous, often lacking a sharp, defined point of contact for stress anchoring.) 
I do, however, highly recommend the use of chest expanders for general conditioning and developing good upper body strength, breathing and flexibility--and working off stress. 

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