Volume 13 Number 3
October 2009 Click here for the pdf.
Special Issue on Technology and Pronunciation

ABSTRACTS

PROMOTING INCREASED PITCH VARIATION IN ORAL PRESENTATIONS WITH TRANSIENT VISUAL FEEDBACK

Rebecca Hincks and Jens Edlund
KTH Royal Institute of Technology


This paper investigates learner response to a novel kind of intonation feedback generated from speech analysis. Instead of displays of pitch curves, our feedback is flashing lights that show how much pitch variation the speaker has produced. The variable used to generate the feedback is the standard deviation of fundamental frequency as measured in semitones. Flat speech causes the system to show yellow lights, while more expressive speech that has used pitch to give focus to any part of an utterance generates green lights. Participants in the study were 14 Chinese students of English at intermediate and advanced levels. A group that received visual feedback was compared with a group that received audio feedback. Pitch variation was measured at four stages: in a baseline oral presentation; for the first and second halves of three hours of training; and finally in the production of a new oral presentation. Both groups increased their pitch variation with training, and the effect lasted after the training had ended. The test group showed a significantly higher increase than the control group, indicating that the feedback is effective. These positive results imply that the feedback could be beneficially used in a system for practicing oral presentations.
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THE EFFECTS OF COMPUTER-ASSISTED PRONUNCIATION READINGS ON ESL LEARNERS’ USE OF PAUSING, STRESS, INTONATION, AND OVERALL COMPREHENSIBILITY

Mark W. Tanner and Melissa M. Landon
Brigham Young University

With research showing the benefits of pronunciation instruction aimed at suprasegmentals (Derwing, Munro, & Wiebe, 1997, 1998; Derwing & Rossiter, 2003; Hahn, 2004; McNerney and Mendelsohn, 1992), more materials are needed to provide learners opportunities for self-directed practice. A 13-week experimental study was performed with 75 ESL learners divided into control and treatment groups. The treatment group was exposed to 11 weeks of self-directed computer-assisted practice using Cued Pronunciation Readings (CPRs). In the quasi-experimental pre-test/post-test design, speech perception and production samples were collected at Time 1 (week one of the study) and Time 2 (week 13). Researchers analyzed the treatment’s effect on the learners’ perception and production of key suprasegmental features (pausing, word stress, and sentence-final intonation), and the learners’ level of perceived comprehensibility. Results from the statistical tests revealed that the treatment had a significant effect on learners’ perception of pausing and word stress and controlled production of stress, even with limited time spent practicing CPRs in a self-directed environment.
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PODCASTING: AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR HONING LANGUAGE STUDENTS’ PRONUNCIATION?

Lara Ducate and Lara Lomicka
The University of South Carolina


This paper reports on an investigation of podcasting as a tool for honing pronunciation skills in intermediate language learning. We examined the effects of using podcasts to improve pronunciation in second language learning and how students’ attitudes changed toward pronunciation over the semester. A total of 22 students in intermediate German and French courses made five scripted pronunciation recordings throughout the semester. After the pronunciation recordings, students produced three extemporaneous podcasts. Students also completed a pre- and post-survey based on Elliott’s (1995) Pronunciation Attitude Inventory to assess their perspectives regarding pronunciation. Students’ pronunciation, extemporaneous recordings, and surveys were analyzed to explore changes over the semester. Data analysis revealed that students’ pronunciation did not significantly improve in regard to accentedness or comprehensibility, perhaps because the16-week long treatment was too short to foster significant improvement and there was no in-class pronunciation practice. The podcast project, however, was perceived positively by students, and they appreciated the feedback given for each scripted recording and enjoyed opportunities for creativity during extemporaneous podcasts. Future studies might seek to delineate more specific guidelines or examine how teacher involvement might be adapted to the use of podcasts as a companion to classroom instruction.
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COMPREHENSIBILITY AND PROSODY RATINGS FOR PRONUNCIATION SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT

Paul Warren, Irina Elgort, David Crabbe
Victoria University of Wellington


In the context of a project developing software for pronunciation practice and feedback for Mandarin-speaking learners of English, a key issue is how to decide which features of pronunciation to focus on in giving feedback. We used naïve and experienced native speaker ratings of comprehensibility and nativeness to establish the key features affecting comprehensibility of the utterances of a group of Chinese learners of English. Native speaker raters assessed the comprehensibility of recorded utterances, pinpointed areas of difficulty and then rated for nativeness the same utterances, but after segmental information had been filtered out. The results show that prosodic information is important for comprehensibility, and that there are no significant differences between naïve and experienced raters on either comprehensibility or nativeness judgements. This suggests that naïve judgements are a useful and accessible source of data for identifying the parameters to be used in setting up automated feedback.
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