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Review of  Discourse Intonation in L2

Reviewer: Lisa Kristine DeWaard
Book Title: Discourse Intonation in L2
Book Author: Dorothy M. Chun
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 13.2167

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Chun, Dorothy M. (2002)

Discourse Intonation in L2: From Theory and Research to Practice.
John Benjamins Publishing Company, xii+285 pp, hardback ISBN
1-58811-1687, (US) Language Learning and Language Teaching monograph

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Lisa DeWaard Dykstra, University of Iowa


Chun's monograph aims at presenting the language teacher with research
in the field of phonology, specifically with theories of intonation.
Chun discusses the development of the field from an initial focus on
segmental phonology to the current emphasis on prosody, or intonation
that goes beyond word and sentence boundaries to larger pieces of
discourse. This work on discourse intonation is organized into three
parts. First, Chun presents linguistic theory related to intonation in
a detailed review of the literature. The second part outlines applied
linguistic research in the field, spanning the past sixty years and
details areas for future research. One of the main focuses in this
section is what technology can bring to both the research and teaching
of discourse intonation. The third part takes the ideas developed in
parts one and two and presents practical solutions for the
implementation of theory. The book comes with a CD-ROM, also created
by Chun, which includes the sound bits as well as their graphical
representations as presented in part three of the book.

Part I: Linguistic Theory: Intonation in L1

Chapter 1: Intonation, Suprasegmentals, Prosody
In this chapter, Chun provides a definition of basic terms --
intonation, segmentals, suprasegmentals and prosody -- associated with
phonology and intonation research. At the end she includes a
discussion of perception, an essential, yet often neglected, part of
intonation. Perception of fundamental frequency and pitch, she
concludes, should be systematically studied in order to find out
"which properties of the acoustic signal are relevant for our
perception of speech melody." Chun goes on to provide exercises for
the development of intonation perception in part three of the book.

Chapter 2: Phonological Organization of Prosody: Theories of Intonation
This chapter provides a detailed review of the literature on
intonation theory. Included are discussions of contours, Bolinger's
theory of pitch accent, phonemic and levels approaches, generative
approaches and discourse intonation. She concludes the chapter with a
synthesis of the theories that will form the framework for the
discussions to follow in the rest of the monograph.

Chapter 3: Meaning and Function of Intonation
After presenting the various theories of intonation, Chun turns to the
various functions of intonation. Introduced in this chapter and
revisited throughout the book as the fundamental functions of
intonation are the grammatical, attitudinal/emotional, discourse and
sociolinguistic functions. Each is detailed according to its structure
and according to the way in which it is perceived by the learner.

Part II: Applied Linguistic Research: Intonation in L2

Chapter 4: Research Agenda of the Past: Structuralism and the First
Attempts to Teach Intonation
Chapter four focuses on the history of pronunciation teaching, on both
how it was taught and what the goals for such teaching were. Included
is a discussion of the factors involved in L2 phonological
acquisition, such as transfer from L1, critical age, and issues of
perception and feedback. Aids designed to help students acquire
correct intonation, such as language laboratories equipped with tape
recorders that allow a student to compare their output with utterances
taped by a native speaker, are addressed. Chun concurs with Leather
(1983), who contends that exercises of that type require students to
self-monitor, which is, ironically, the skill that the exercise is
designed to develop, which can leave students feeling frustrated.

Chapter 5: Research Agenda for the Present and Future: Communicative
Proficiency and Discourse Intonation
This chapter begins with a thorough review of current research in
second language acquisition and applied linguistics. The fields of
English as a foreign language (EFL) and English as a second language
(ESL) have been leading the way in the revival of pronunciation
teaching, due in part to the more immediate needs of their learners as
compared to learners of foreign languages. Chun then turns to a
discussion of the various proficiency models and national proficiency
guidelines, and examines the emphasis in the models on pronunciation
and intonation. Such an emphasis is found to be quite lacking overall,
but it is hoped that this important feature of second language
acquisition will soon be better represented in the literature
surrounding each model and in the guidelines. Finally, in this
chapter, Chun outlines the potential uses of technology as an aid in
the acquisition of intonation, citing studies that have found positive
results from the use of software that includes graphic waveforms and
frequency curves. Certain technological advances have the potential to
gather data as they are used by the student, which is another
advantage of their implementation.

Part III: From Theory to Practice: Teaching Discourse Intonation

Part III begins with a discussion of the teaching of intonation,
including a look at the representation of intonation in teaching
materials, the challenges inherent in teaching intonation and ideas
about how to structure intonation teaching in the classroom. The focus
of the book then turns from one of theory to one of practice.

Chapter 6: Teaching Stress and Rhythm
In chapters six and seven, Chun takes the theory presented in the
first five chapters and applies it to classroom teaching, providing
ideas for practical and concrete activities that the language teacher
can implement directly into her syllabus. Chapter six begins with a
definition of terms and ideas of how to incorporate listening and
speaking practice. A progression of stress and rhythm exercises are
provided that take the learner from intonation practice at the word
level to the sentence level and on to the discourse level. The
accompanying CD-ROM provides acoustic and graphic representations of
the examples given in the chapter.

Chapter 7: Teaching Discourse Intonation
Chapter seven, like chapter six, has a pragmatic focus. Examples of
exercises that focus the learner's attention on the four functions of
discourse intonation -- grammatical, attitudinal/emotional, discourse,
and sociolinguistic -- are provided, again with acoustic and graphical
representations of the examples on the CD-ROM. In addition to the
wealth of activities that is provided is a section on the adaptation
of existing materials. Suggestions for adaptation are given for each
of the four intonation functions. The chapter ends with ideas for the
development of software to aid the teaching of intonation as well as
calls for additional research.


This is a very impressive monograph for several reasons. First, it is
a highly readable text. The challenging material is presented in a
manner that is easy to digest, and concepts are clarified with good
examples. The readability of this text has both pros and cons; the
excellent transitions from section to section and from chapter to
chapter may seem to the reader who is reading straight through to be
redundant. However, for the researcher who chooses to use the book in
chunks, it can be seen as an advantage. By repeating important
concepts in the various chapters, Chun leaves the monograph open to be
used either in its entirety or sectioned off in somewhat independent

The book is very thorough, covering the topic of intonation from a
variety of disciplines. Chun synthesizes the literature well, and the
reader is left with a comprehensive idea of the state of the field.

The monograph follows a logical progression from theory to practice.
Ideas presented in the first two parts of the book are not forgotten,
but woven into the practical application section of the text. It is
clear not only that theory is the basis for the proposed exercises,
but also how that theory is used as the driving force for each

The book is well written for its intended audience. While some prior
knowledge of the basics of language learning and teaching is assumed,
no detailed knowledge of phonology or intonation studies is necessary
to begin this book. The practical application of theory and the clear
transition from theory to practice is appropriate. The CD-ROM is a
nice bonus, as it provides examples of how the software that Chun
advocates looks and sounds.

The only thing that I feel would improve this monograph is a more
detailed description of what is represented by each of the computer
images, i.e., what properties are contained in the waveforms as
opposed to the fundamental frequency curves, and what information can
be gleaned from each.

About the Reviewer: Lisa DeWaard Dykstra is a Ph.D. student in Second Language Acquisition at the University of Iowa. Her research interests are the acquisition of spoken and written pragmatic competence in advanced learners of Russian, and Spanish and Russian language pedagogy at the post- secondary level.