Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Review of Spoken English, TESOL and Applied Linguistics
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.