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LINGUIST List 22.2523

Fri Jun 17 2011

Diss: Applied Ling/Socioling: Sewell: 'Phonological Features of ...'

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        1.     Andrew Sewell , Phonological Features of Hong Kong English: Patterns of variation and effects on local acceptability

Message 1: Phonological Features of Hong Kong English: Patterns of variation and effects on local acceptability
Date: 17-Jun-2011
From: Andrew Sewell <asewellln.edu.hk>
Subject: Phonological Features of Hong Kong English: Patterns of variation and effects on local acceptability
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Institution: Lingnan University
Program: PhD English
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Andrew Sewell

Dissertation Title: Phonological Features of Hong Kong English: Patterns of variation and effects on local acceptability

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                            Sociolinguistics

Dissertation Director:

Dissertation Abstract:

The changing dynamics of international communication in English have led to
a intense questioning of the relevance of native-speaker pronunciation
models in language teaching and testing. In addition, the World Englishes
approach to local varieties has increased their level of recognition. Both
of these developments suggest that English pronunciation models need to be
reviewed, and Hong Kong represents an interesting case study. Although it
has been claimed that Hong Kong English is at the 'nativization' stage, the
existence of exonormative attitudes towards English is also well known. Two
important questions arise from this inherent tension, neither of which has
been intensively addressed in previous studies. Firstly, although many of
the features of Hong Kong English pronunciation have been described,
patterns of inter-speaker variation have not been investigated in detail.
Secondly, the attitudes of Hong Kong English users towards the phonological
features of their own variety have not been studied in ways that take
account of such variation.

This dissertation addresses both of these questions by being features-based
in approach and using local listeners to evaluate accent samples. After an
initial review of the features of Hong Kong English pronunciation, a
preliminary study surveys the occurrence of consonantal phonological
features within a mini-corpus of speech samples taken from local television
programmes. Its findings are presented in the form of an implicational
scale, which not only shows the relative frequencies with which different
features occurred, but also indicates the existence of implicational
patterns of co-occurrence. In the main study, twelve authentic accent
samples (eleven Hong Kong speakers and one British speaker) were presented
to 52 first-year undergraduate students for evaluation as to their
acceptability, defined here as acceptability for pedagogical purposes.

Multivariate statistical analysis discovered firstly that phonological
'errors', as marked by the student listeners, were the most important
measured factor in determining the acceptability scores, and secondly that
only certain types of 'error''or 'feature' had significant effects. These
features were either related to L1 transfer or involved other salient
phenomena such as idiosyncratic alterations to syllable structure. The
explanatory part of the study includes acceptability as one of the factors
determining feature persistence, in an 'ecological' or 'evolutionary' model
of L2 phonology acquisition and development that combines the findings of
the preliminary and main studies. Among the other factors that determine
feature persistence or disappearance, salience, intelligibility and
markedness are invoked as important influences.

The acceptability data also has pedagogical implications, in that local
listeners did not give the British accent the highest acceptability rating.
This contrasts with the findings of previous studies regarding the
pedagogical acceptability of the Hong Kong English accent. However, the
features-based approach indicates that only certain types of local accent
were acceptable to these listeners, and that these accents were more,
rather than less, 'native-like'. In various ways, the study contributes to
an understanding of accent variation and acceptability within a new variety
of English.




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