Thursday, May 2, 2013

In a word: Global intelligibility vs local comprehensibility in pronunciation teaching

This is interesting. In an excerpt from a chapter in a new book, Teaching and Researching English Accents in Native and Non-native Speakers, (Editors, Waniek-Klimczk & Shockey) by Szpra-Kozlowska, "On the Irrelevance of Sounds and Prosody in Foreign-Accented English," the basic claim is that current focus on prosody and segmentals is "misguided," and that the priority, instead, ought to be on "words whose idiosyncratic erroneous renditions" make them more disruptive to communication. In other words, work on words first and then get to prosody and systematic attention to segmentals--later.

Clip art: Clker
Caveat emptor: I've just ordered the book and can't wait to give that chapter and the two studies it describes a careful read. Just the abstract, introduction and snippet from the chapter, however, are intriguing, especially as it relates to haptic-integrated instruction--and particularly, of course, because I like the conclusion and hope that the report holds up under close scrutiny!

Because of the power and effectiveness of haptic anchoring (hands touching on a stressed syllable of a word or phrase), the concept of the exemplar (as characterized by Lavie, here) is key. My working definition for an exemplar in HICP work is "a single word or phrase that once anchored effectively affects change in words of similar forms inductively and allows the brain to figure out the inherent patterns involved with little or no conscious noticing or meta-cognitive, formal pedagogical rules provided by the instructional program."

Bottom line: The implication would be that with haptic anchoring you can perhaps enable the most efficient enhancement of both intelligibility and comprehensibility by "correcting" individual words as they come up in instruction, rather than by doing an inordinate amount of pre-emptive global work on prosody and segmentals in relative isolation.

And what would Dizzy Dean say to that? "It ain't braggin', Szpra-Kozlowska, if you done it'!" Will report back on this one. KIT!

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