Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Evaluating the effectiveness of teaching intonation to learners in an intensive English program
by Zhuang, Yuan, Ph.D., Northern Arizona University, 2015, 395; 3713925
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation study investigated the effectiveness of using a computer program to help English as a second language (ESL) learners improve their ability to use English intonation in communication. Recent research suggested that intonation and other suprasegmental features of pronunciation may have significant effects on oral proficiency and comprehensibility (e.g., Derwing & Munro, 1997, 1998; Kang, 2010a, 2013). However, studies on the effectiveness of teaching suprasegmentals have not reached consensus on how intonation teaching can be effectively taught (e.g., Anderson-Hsieh, 1992; Levis & Pickering, 2004).

In order to address the problem and provide more empirical evidence, this study included two groups of ESL participants: one treatment group ( n = 16), and one comparison group (n = 16). All the ESL learners were Brazilian native speakers of Portuguese. The treatment ESL group received four-week (eight hours) perception training of English intonation with listening practice and PRAAT photo reading exercises; there was no production practice during the training. A pretest/posttest quasi-experimental design was used to investigate the change of the ESL learners’ intonation production. The ESL learners were tested for the accuracy of intonation production and the acoustic features of intonation. The treatment group significantly improved the correct use of intonation after perception training. A significant group difference of the acoustic patterns of intonation after training was also found. In addition, the study compared the acoustic features of the ESL learners’ intonation production to eight native speakers’ production. By examining the intonation features of total number of prominent syllables, allocation of prominent syllables, and the overall pitch range, the perception training did not help the treatment group reach the native-like level except for the use of prominence on nouns and the overall pitch range. However, the treatment ESL group showed a clear trend of changes moving closer to the native speaker pattern.

The study provided support that ESL learners could develop intonation production through explicit perception training; it also provided implications for English teachers to better understand and teach suprasegmental features of English.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Jamieson, Joan
Commitee: Kang, Okim, McGroarty, Mary, Wilce, Jim
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 76/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Education, Language
Keywords: Acoustic features, Communicative functions, Esl pronunciation, Intonation, Perception training
Publication Number: 3713925
ISBN: 978-1-321-90768-1
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