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Jilani S. Warsi
Dissertation Abstract


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Effects of Visual Instruction on Second Language Productive Phonology

The acquisition of second language productive phonology is seldom successful with adult language learners. Opinion is sharply divided between those who espouse that successful acquisition of pronunciation in an L2 is impossible to attain after puberty, and those who espouse that adult language learners can achieve native-like pronunciation in their L2 with the aid of effective teaching methods. Current methodology consists of learner imitation of an externally provided model. The present study tested the proposed hypothesis that adult learners practicing second language sounds by means of diagrams depicting articulatory movements (point and manner of articulation) and conscious modifications of their researcher-prompted output, would approximate closer the target sounds, with the result of more native-like production and a more rapid progress. The theoretical underpinnings of the current pedagogy assume that speech perception precedes speech production. This study challenged the current pedagogical assumption, and examined the production and perception of English /l/ and /r/ by native Japanese speakers, looking at whether with improved ability to produce English /l/ and /r/ accurately the speakers would be able to perceive these English liquids correctly. Thirty-six female Japanese speakers of English were divided into three groups: experimental A, experimental B, and control. The experimental group A subjects were shown visual diagrams and given specific instructions on how to manipulate their organs of speech in order to produce English /l/ and /r/ in words and sentences. No external modeling was provided; rather the investigator indicated when the subjects approximated the English liquids, and when they mispronounced them. The subjects were confronted with their own productions, as the investigator marked them as correct or incorrect. However, the control group subjects only repeated pairs of words and sentences containing English /l/ and /r/ in various word positions after an instructor (a native speaker of English) on an audiocassette. The experimental groups A and B, and the control group subjects were given a speech perception test in which they identified English /l/ and /r/ occurring in different word positions in sentences. Productions of English /l/ and /r/ by the experimental and the control group subjects were rated by 16 native speakers of English for accuracy. The mean percent correct identification scores for the English liquids /l/ and /r/ spoken by these subjects were compared. The findings of the present study indicated that the experimental group A subjects succeeded in accurately producing the English liquids and in correctly identifying perceptual speech contrasts in a native-like fashion whereas the experimental group B and the control group subjects production and perception of these liquids did not improve. The results also suggested that speech production precedes speech perception in the acquisition of second language phonology. Based on these results, a module for teaching English /l/ and /r/ to adult Japanese speakers of English is proposed, and future directions for research on second language productive phonology are suggested.

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