Monday, June 4, 2012

I like to move it, move it! (Rhythm as the basis of integrated pronunciation work )

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
If you haven't seen Madagascar and the sequel--and your body isn't shaking rhythmically already in anticipation of Madagascar 3, there is little hope for you. THE song from the movie, I like to move it, move it!, should become the EHIEP anthem as well--especially in light of this new research on motor neurons. Now I realize that this may be a bit of a reach . . . connecting a study of monkeys' shoulder muscle neuron rhythmic patterning reaching for a button--to the primacy of rhythm in integrating pronunciation work, but the underlying principle has broad implications. What the Stanford researchers found was that, unlike visual neurons which basically take pictures of the external world, motor neurons in the brain generate local rhythmic patterns (of varying degrees of extension and contraction, for example) which are then, in effect, piled on top of others to create body movement. In other words, movement created in the brain by mechanisms very different than vision. Movement is then directed by higher order structures, of course, among them the visual cortex. The analogy to music, poetry--and even pronunciation instruction--is worth considering. It may be time to seriously revisit pattern practice (well conceived) in pronunciation teaching, and teaching in general. In principle, rhythmic patterning, in rhythm or thought groups (perhaps in the form of initial anchoring of the syllable structure of a word or syllable/stress pattern) should be the first step in learning a new or changed pronunciation (In EHIEP, it is.) Getting the felt sense of movement and somatic "vibration" inherent in a target string of sounds--while or even before identifying and anchoring vowel quality--has been central to many "intuitive" or practitioner-created pronunciation teaching methods. We have now reached the point where neuroscience is moving in that direction as well!


Angelina Van Dyke said...

Movement and rhythm as dance being analogous to pronunciation work, see this video from the diva scene in "The Fifth Element" (in Italian, of course!)

Thanks for the referral on pattern practice - an oldie but a goodie!

Bill Acton said...

Wonderful video! Will add that to the stock of basic stuff!

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