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Review of  Spoken English, TESOL and Applied Linguistics


Reviewer: Phoebe M. S. Lin
Book Title: Spoken English, TESOL and Applied Linguistics
Book Author: Rebecca Hughes
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Sociolinguistics
Book Announcement: 19.3843

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Review:
EDITOR: Hughes, Rebecca
TITLE: Spoken English, TESOL and Applied Linguistics
SUBTITLE: Challenges for Theory and Practice
PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan
YEAR: 2006

Phoebe Ming Sum Lin, School of English Studies, University of Nottingham, United
Kingdom

SUMMARY
This edited volume of twelve chapters explores whether and how the insights from
current research on spoken language can be applied to Teaching English to
Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) practice. The issues under discussion
include attitudes and ideologies (Chapters 1-2), prosody as a model of meaning
(Chapters 3-6), language pedagogy (Chapters 7-10) and assessment (Chapters 11-12).

Part I: Attitudes and ideologies
Chapter 1, ''Uncovering the sociopolitical situatedness of accents in the World
Englishes paradigm'' by Jasmine C. M. Luk and Angel M. Y. Lin, presents the case
of TESOL in Hong Kong, where, unlike other post-colonial places like India,
Pakistan and Sri Lanka, local people are in favor of British, Australian or
North American (BANA) accents over their local variety. The authors document
their observations in Hong Kong which demonstrate the preference for BANA
accents is ingrained in the mindset of not only the policy makers but also the
general public. The authors attempt to make sense of the phenomenon from the
socio-political perspective using Bourdieu's capital theory and Gandhi's idea of
''post-colonial re-membering''. Towards the end, there is a discussion on how
assessment, research and curriculum can be reformed in the light of the
discussion in the chapter.

Chapter 2, ''What the other half gives: the interlocutor's role in non-native
speaker performance'' by Stephanie Lindemann, argues that communication problems
between native speakers (NSs) and nonnative speakers (NNSs) may stem from the
NSs' attitude towards and beliefs about their NNS interlocutors' culture. This
idea has found support in the literature as well as the author's recent
investigations into NS-NNS communication which suggest that the NSs' attitude
towards the NNS interlocutor's social group predicts the overall accuracy of
communication and the NSs' perception of the success of the communication. The
language proficiency of the NNS interlocutors, surprisingly, has very little
effect on these two variables. These findings lead to an interesting discussion
about the NS interlocutors' influence concerning language teaching. Basically,
there are four pedagogical implications which include: the need to 1)
investigate what features in the speech of NNSs are most saliently negative for
NS listeners; 2) raise the awareness of the possible biases when assessing the
oral proficiency of NNSs; 3) acknowledge that NS-NNS communication problems may
arise from the NSs as well and so they are not all solvable by further or better
language teaching; and 4) challenge language prejudice among people in the
university setting and the NS community.

Part II Prosody: New models for meaning
Chapter 3, ''Reading aloud'' by Wallace Chafe, looks at how reading-aloud speech
is distinctive from written language and spontaneous speech. The author first
compares reading-aloud and speaking-out as two ways of delivering conference
papers. He suggests that spoken-out papers seem to have higher listenability
than read-aloud papers. He then takes a closer look at the prosodic features of
these two forms of speaking. He takes two speech samples (one from an academic
conference and the other from a political press conference) which contain both
spontaneous and reading-aloud prosody from the same speaker. He demonstrates how
read-aloud speech often sounds prosodically artificial or inappropriate when
compared to spontaneous speech. The chapter ends with a discussion on how
read-aloud prosody actually operates on a system different from punctuations in
a written text.

Chapter 4, ''Intonational meaning starting from talk'' by Ann Wennerstrom,
presents three sample analyses of speech extracts produced by Japanese speakers
of English. She suggests that the teaching of intonational meaning is a crucial
part of enhancing the perceived fluency and comprehensibility of nonnative
speaker speech. So intonational meaning should probably receive more attention
in TESOL practice. However, it seems that more research needs to be done on
intonation, what pragmatic functions it plays in discourse and how to teach it.
One of the author's observations is that traditionally intonation research often
follows a top-down, formal model-based approach. However, in her analyses, she
advocates the use of what she calls a ''discourse-first'' methodology which means
no attempt to fit any existing intonation models on the data. Instead, the data
lead the analyses throughout the chapter.

Chapter 5, ''A review of recent research on speech rhythm: some insights for
language acquisition, language disorders and language teaching'' by Ee Ling Low,
introduces the Pairwise Variability Index (PVI). Along with a few other similar
indices, PVI was designed to capture differences in speech rhythm across
languages with the aim of discerning the notions of stress- versus
syllable-timing. There is a detailed discussion on the steps taken to design and
modify the algorithm of the PVI and how it compares to other similar indices.
Towards the end of the chapter, the author demonstrates that the applications of
the index can be extended as a tool for examining the acquisition of rhythm by
children, diagnosing impaired speech rhythm in children and adults, and helping
educators determine how learners' speech rhythm differs from that of native
speakers.

Chapter 6, ''Factors affecting turn-taking behaviour: genre meets prosody'' by
Rebecca Hughes and Beatrice Szczepek Reed, considers the basic question of what
speakers must know in order to achieve successful turn-taking in conversations.
They find that the knowledge of turn-taking includes five components: 1) knowing
that turn taking happens in conversations; 2) knowing that turn-taking norms
vary across genres and contexts; 3) knowing the turn-taking norms in particular
genres or contexts; 4) knowing the syntactic, semantic and prosodic cues that
signal turn-hold and turn-change intentions in a given language; and 5) knowing
a co-participant's turn-taking idiosyncrasies during ongoing interaction. To
test their hypotheses, the authors examine excerpts from an interview between a
native and a nonnative speaker from a spoken corpus. In the light of authentic
data, they find that real-time turn-taking is the result of many interacting
factors. It seems that an awareness of turn-taking norms in the interview genre
is an important factor affecting turn-taking at the beginning of an interview.
But later on in an interview, perhaps the knowledge of the co-participant's
turn-taking behavior becomes more central than the other factors.

Part III Spoken discourse and language pedagogy
Chapter 7, ''Spoken discourse, academics and global English: a corpus
perspective'' by Anna Mauranen, argues that spoken language should take
precedence over written descriptions of language because human language is
fundamentally spoken. But unfortunately, in the history of linguistic theory,
models and descriptions are often based on the written instead of the spoken
language. With the growing popularity of spoken corpora, researchers begin to
realize how the nature of speech is so different from writing that there is the
debate over whether spoken grammar should be treated separately from written
grammar. This debate aside, spoken corpora have certainly made their unique
contributions to language pedagogy. The author emphasizes, however, that a
spoken corpus for TESOL does not need to model on native speaker speech. In
fact, a spoken corpus of successful use of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) can
also provide valuable models for communication strategies.

Chapter 8, ''Spoken grammar: vague language and EAP'' by Joan Cutting, argues that
implicitness is an essential feature of spoken grammar, lexis and discourse
structure. After reviewing the literature on the discourse analysis approaches
to examine implicitness, the author presents her model of vague language
together with the findings of her recent longitudinal study which looks at vague
language use among in-group members of an academic discourse community. This
links to a discussion of how the topic of discussion and social contexts affect
vague language use. Finally, the author provides practical suggestions on how to
engage language learners to observe the use of vague language in naturalistic
conversational data in the language classroom.

Chapter 9, ''Reflecting on reflections: the spoken word as a professional
development tool in language teacher education'' by Fiona Farr, makes a strong
plea for language teacher trainers to reflect on their own training practice.
This chapter demonstrates how the use of spoken corpora can promote professional
development and introspection for those attending and conducting language
teacher education programs. The author provides an analysis of the POTTI corpus
which is made up of conversations between language teacher trainers and student
teachers in teaching practice reviews. She employs Heron's (1996) model in her
examination of the ways the teacher trainers communicate their feedback in the
corpus and provides examples of the types of authoritative and facilitative
interventions used by the teacher trainers in the corpus.

Chapter 10, ''Analyzing classroom discourse: a variable approach'' by Steve Walsh,
calls for the adoption of a variable and dynamic approach as an alternative to
the traditional approaches (i.e., interaction analysis, discourse analysis and
conversation analysis) to the analysis of classroom discourse. This variable
approach is unique in the sense that it depicts the L2 classroom as a complex,
dynamic and fluid blend of micro-contexts, and interaction patterns vary
primarily according to teachers' pedagogic goals. The author argues that this
approach makes possible a more representative, fine-grained analysis of the
discourse. For example, the variable approach does not label teachers' language
as ''uncommunicative'' (as the traditional, static approaches do) if their
pedagogic goal is to provide a detailed grammar explanation. This chapter ends
with example studies in the literature which have successfully made use of the
variable approach in analyzing classroom interaction.

Part VI Assessing speaking
Chapter 11, ''Pronunciation and the assessment of spoken language'' by John M.
Levis, contemplates the place of pronunciation in spoken language proficiency
assessment. The author discusses the way in which pronunciation relates to
notions of accuracy, comprehensibility and fluency in spoken language assessment
and the implications pronunciation places on these notions. He also calls for
assessors to go beyond global impressions of a test-taker's pronunciation
accuracy and be able to diagnose pronunciation in detail. On this note, however,
he questions the existence of a standard of accurate English pronunciation
because the fact is that most native speakers do not conform to models of
''standard'' pronunciation (i.e., General American or Received Pronunciation)
themselves. Because of that, there is no need for speakers of Englishes in the
outer circles in the World Englishes paradigm to change direction to be more
like those in the inner circle varieties.

Chapter 12, ''Local and dialogic language ability and its implication for
language teaching and testing'' by Marysia Johnson Gerson, proposes a new
perspective of second language acquisition (SLA) based on Vygotsky's
Sociocultural Theory and Bakhtin's literary theory of dialogized heteroglossia.
The discussion begins with an outline of the fundamental principles of these two
influential theories. Then the author discusses the implications of these two
theories for SLA theory and practice. In line with Vygotskyan theories, the
author devises and presents what she calls dynamic assessment of spoken language
proficiency which, unlike other tests, assesses the test taker's potential to
achieve rather than what he or she has achieved.

EVALUATION
This volume brings together the insights of experienced researchers who have a
strong research background in their areas of interest. The depth and breadth of
their understanding of the specific topics on spoken language is displayed
through the substantial and extensive review of literature in each chapter. The
literature reviews provide a window through which readers can see not only how
the researchers summarize and comment on the findings of their own studies, but
also how the researchers' own work relates to other studies in the field. Given
its informativeness, the volume is a good guide for research students or
scholars who would like to get an overview of recent research on spoken language
or the works of the authors in this volume.

Another interesting perspective of the book is that it challenges the applied
linguist authors to consider applications of their findings on spoken language
to TESOL practices. Meeting this challenge without risking over-generalization
or over-simplification is not easy. However, the benefit of such an invitation
to researchers to consider the applied aspect of their studies, as we can see in
this book, is that it opens up new opportunities for further research and takes
the discussion to a wider context.

Finally, in light of the greater attention given to written rather than spoken
language in the tradition of linguistic research and language teaching, this
volume is valuable as it addresses the need for more research on spoken language
and the teaching of it. As the majority of our everyday communication is in the
spoken form, research on spoken language, like the works demonstrated in this
volume, is likely to be a future trend in the field of linguistics.

REFERENCES
Heron, J. (1996). _Co-operative inquiry. Research into the human condition_.
London: Sage.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Phoebe M. S. Lin is a PhD student at the School of English Studies, University
of Nottingham. She is currently working on her thesis which investigates the
prosodic features of formulaic sequences. Her research interests include
formulaic language, intonation, corpus linguistics and psycholinguistics.
 

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