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    2005 4

    28 2

    CELEA Journal Bimonthly

    Apr2005

    Vol28 No2

    PRONUNCIATION DIFFICULTIES ANALYSIS A CASE STUDY

    USING NATIVE LANGUAGE LINGUISTIC BACKGROUND

    TO UNDERSTAND A CHINESE ENGLISH LEARNER

    S

    PRONUNCIATION PROBLEMS

    Gao L

    ili

    Wuhan University

    Abstract

    The present researcha case studyanalyzes the

    pronunciation problems encountered b y a Chinese

    learner of English on the assu m ption that these

    pronunciation errors were systematicand notrandomly made and that these errors reflect

    interference fro m the different sound systems

    differentrules of co m bining soundsinto w ordsand

    different prosodic patterns of the learner

    s native

    language Data were collected over a prolonged

    period of time twelve weeksw hen the present

    researcher acted as the subject

    s pronunciation tutor

    forher International Teaching Assistant Oral Fluency

    in the Intensive English Program of West Virginia

    University Following the Contrastive Analysis

    Hypothesispotential pronunciation difficulties for

    the subject were listed by co mparing the English

    soundsyste m to that of ChineseSpeech sam ples of

    the subject

    s pronunciation were taken through oral

    readings and spontaneous speechboth recorded

    m onthly By using Error Analysisthe subject

    s

    pronunciation difficulties were diagnosed into seven

    typesand threecategories wereused toanalyze these

    errors on the basis of her native language linguistic

    backgroundThese analyses help to establish a clear

    understanding of some characteristic pronunciation

    problems the subject has had w hich im pede her

    co m prehensibility and oral fluency

    IIntroduction

    The role of the native language

    s NL

    influences on thetarget language TLhas been a

    controversial topicS o m e scholars have claim ed

    that NLinterference isthe m ost im portantfactor

    in second language acquisition SLAand mistakes

    m ade by L2 learners can be attributed to their

    NLsIt is significantto co m pare the structure of

    one

    s NL with the structure of the TL w hich is

    know n as Contrastive AnalysisCAin the L2

    pedagogyS o m e scholars have argued that NL

    interference is not an im portant factor in SLA

    and that learners

    difficulties indicate their stage

    of language learning and acquisition Error-

    m aking is acreative construction process cited

    in Odlin1989viiiand anevidence of the

    learner

    s strategyTono1999w h en building

    their co m petence in the TLAs a resultanother

    partof L2 pedagogy has been developedw hich is

    know n as Error Analysis EAIn recentyearsa

    more balanced view on the significance of NL

    interference has been acceptedbut interference

    fro m NLis still consideredto interact witha hostof otherfactors Odlin 1989viii

    The present research is to investigate the

    characteristic pronunciation difficulties

    encountered by a Chinese learner of English

    according to CA and EA to d e m onstrate these

    problemsas evidence ofcross-linguistic differences

    67

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    vowels and consonantssubstitutions of one vowel

    consonant for anotherproblems with co m bining

    sounds into w ords eg with obtrusive vowel

    insertion omission of endings and contractions

    failure in pronouncing consonant clustersand

    problems with prosodic patterns egim proper

    application of w ord andsentence stressmisuse oflinking and pausingwrong intonation at the end

    of asentence

    1Errors were m ade duetothefact that some

    of these English sounds do not exist in the Chinese

    sound system and due to transference fro m the

    Chinese sound system

    Exa m ple1In Zhang Ya

    s DP recordings

    she had pronouncedthink aboutassink about

    three tim esShe substituted a voiceless alveolar

    fricativesforthe voiceless interdentalfricative

    - w hich doesn

    t exist in ChineseThe extre m e

    difficulty in this sound for heris wellshow n in a

    conversation at the end of o ne of the tutoring

    programs

    ZhangZhSank you for your time and

    help

    TutorTWhatSankyou or thankyou

    Zh OhI a m sorry tapping her headSank you Sank you

    Hereshe even can

    t hear the distinction

    between sand -Not untilthe very end of the

    tutoring progra m did Zhang Ya develop a correct

    m anner ofarticulatingthetw o sounds

    Exa m ple2For the words including a

    voiced labiodental fricative vin activities

    private and advantage Zhang Ya

    s

    pronunciations sounded like actiwitiespriwateandadwantageHer confusion about

    vand wwas especially extre m e w hen these

    tw o sounds happen to be at the beginning of

    wordsForinstanceshe saidwestforvest

    weryfor verywariousfor various

    wisitforvisit

    Exa m ple3Zhang Ya had pronounced the

    word m annertwice as

    m

    -

    n

    -in her DP

    recordings When the tutor pointed out the

    contrast between -and and told her to

    exaggeratethe dropping ofthejaw with she

    responded very slowlysaying WellI might

    not pronounce this ugly sound well all m y lifeItis

    too hard for me to talk in the public with m y

    m outh open so wideZhang Septe m ber 2002

    Her substitution of -for could also be

    found in casualca m pusco m patible

    languageactivityandcasually

    Exa m ple4In the second sentence of the

    DP Zhang Ya readWhere should he live as

    Where should he leave Similar difficulties due

    to her failure in the distinction between tensevowelsiand lax vowels icould be found in

    one of her SSSs

    T How areyou today

    ZhNotvery wellIhavebeensuffering fro m

    a slippingproblem

    T Offering her crackers on the table

    Would you like so me

    Zhputting one cracker into her m outh

    Mm m it tests really good

    Exa m ple5

    T How

    syou sleepingIs itbetter

    ZhNot reallyI did some weading on bed

    white rightafter I wakewokeup at

    three o

    clock

    In the above conversation Zhang Ya

    s

    pronounced readingrightas weading

    w hiteby substituting the semi-vowel wfor

    the retroflex r When asked to describe her

    family SeeInterview Question 3 Appendixshe

    had m entioned the sm allwed m ud wiver red

    m ud riverin front of her houseseveral tim es

    2Errors were m adedue torulesof co m bining

    letters into sound and soundsinto words different

    in English fro m that in Chinese

    Exa m ple6

    T The wordcasualis unfamiliar to you

    How do you pronounce itas

    k sul

    ZhIspell ituh m mfro m theform of

    the spelling For new wordsI just

    pronounce every letter of the word

    follow the spellingyou see like our

    Pinyin

    Zhang Ya

    s similar pronunciation error had

    also occurred twice w hen she read sitju

    ei

    --

    nas

    situ

    ei

    --

    nWhenever she m et with pronunciation

    difficulty due to the discrepancy between English

    spellings and sounds shejust pronounce every

    letter of the wordfollow the spellingIn

    other wordshe unconsciously borrowed the

    Chineserules of co m bining sounds into w ords into

    English

    97

    CELEA Journal

    60

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