Sunday, May 27, 2012

In-gender-ing pronunciation change

Clip art: Clker

Clip art: Clker
So which kind of learners, according to this 2006 study and this 2012 study would you guess would be the better at language learning in general or (haptic-integrated) pronunciation change? Those (a) high in sensitivity, warmth, and apprehension, and rely heavily on memorizing words and associations between them--or those (b) high in emotional stability, dominance, rule-consciousness, and vigilance, and rely primarily on a system that governs the rules of language? Assuming that personality characteristics should  make a significant difference, on the face of it, it appears to be a no-brainer. For general intelligibility, however, it seems to be a wash. Research runs the gamut from yes to no to maybe. There is no readily accessible research on variable success at approaching the "high end" in terms of L2 accuracy, where social integration and mastery of a wide repertoire of conversational and written styles come into play. Anecdotally, there may be some evidence that one profile may have something of an advantage there--but not in "regular" classrooms that present a more or less balanced program that is compatible with that range of personality and cognitive styles. (And I am not in the least interested in the question of the theoretical possibility of acquisition of a native-like accent. I assume that Scovel's offer of $10,000 still stands: to anyone who can bring him a seemingly fluent L2 learner who can pass for a native speaker, who has acquired English from scratch after puberty--who has no accent--even when stressed, sleep deprived and interrogated for hours by half a dozen speakers of different social dialects.) To quote my favourite quote from the philosopher Bertrand Russell: A difference that doesn't make a difference, doesn't make a difference. Haptic-integrated pronunciation work done well must proportionally "embody" all those "characteristics" at different times, to differing degrees in the process-- a "marriage" of mind and body!


Angelina Van Dyke said...

Scovel is quite generous - have you collected yet?

Bill Acton said...

That is one safe bet!

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