By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Review of Spoken English, Applied Linguistics and TESOL
EDITOR: Hughes, Rebecca TITLE: Spoken English, TESOL, and Applied Linguistics SUBTITLE: Challenges for Theory and Practice PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan YEAR: 2006
Peter Clements, Graduate School of International Relations, International University of Japan, Japan
PURPOSE AND CONTENTS
This volume brings together work by linguists and applied linguists working primarily in North America and the British Isles, though Hong Kong, Singapore, and Finland are also represented. As implied in the title, the collection aims on the one hand to discuss a range of theoretical issues raised by recent empirical research into spoken English, and, on the other, to examine some of the implications of this work for English language teaching (ELT). Many of the contributions thus make explicit reference to data, whether by reviewing research, presenting samples of actual spoken language, or both, while at the same time offering proposals for and critical discussion of pedagogical practice.
The book is divided into four parts, the first of which (''Attitudes and Ideologies'') includes two chapters which focus in different ways on attitudes towards language learning and learners, as well as the ideologies that inform teaching practices. In Chapter 1, ''Uncovering the Sociopolitical Situatedness of Accents in the World Englishes Paradigm,'' Jasmine C.M. Luk and Angel M.Y. Lin critically analyze the status of English and ELT in Hong Kong since its independence from Great Britain, focusing particularly on the preference among teachers and learners for British-Australian-North American (BANA) accents as learning targets. The chapter thus complicates the explicit project of World Englishes to gain acceptance for non-native varieties of English by demonstrating some of the problems that this project runs into in actual practice.
In Chapter 2, ''What the Other Half Gives: The Interlocutor's Role in Non-native Speaker Performance,'' Stephanie Lindemann presents several samples of interactions between native and non-native English speakers, focusing specifically on places where communication problems occur. While previous research on such interaction has concentrated on the non-native speaker's verbal behavior, thus emphasizing non-native speakers' linguistic deficiencies as the root cause of miscommunication, Lindemann argues that native speakers' verbal behavior, as well as their negative judgements of non-native speakers, are just as likely to lead to communication breakdowns.
Part II, which includes four chapters on various aspects of prosody, is perhaps the most directly concerned with spoken language data and its theoretical implications, though teaching issues are also addressed in several of the chapters. In Chapter 3, ''Reading Aloud,'' noted linguist Wallace Chafe extends his previous investigations of the difference between spoken and written language by contrasting differences in the prosodic patterns within spoken extracts including both spontaneous and recited speech. Among the insights that Chafe offers is the observation that prosody and punctuation are closely interrelated in recited texts.
In Chapter 4, ''Intonational Meaning Starting from Talk,'' Ann Wennerstrom argues that intonational meaning, or the way discourse is shaped by features such as pitch and volume, deserves more attention in both language teaching and in applied linguistics research. She synthesizes the research on intonational meaning and suggests that a ''discourse-first'' approach is most appropriate to analyzing language learners' intonation. She then demonstrates this approach through microanalyses of three brief samples of speech, thus highlighting a number of patterns in interlanguage intonation that are not explained by theoretical models.
Chapter 5, ''A Review of Recent Research on Speech Rhythm: Some Insights for Language Acquisition, Language Disorders and Language Teaching'' by Ee Ling Low, presents, as its title suggests, a review of cross-linguistic research into speech rhythm, focusing particularly on different quantitative indexes of rhythm. After comparing the results that these indexes have yielded in specific studies, Low then discusses the applicability of one index to investigations of language acquisition and language disorder, and then concludes with some proposals for using it as a language teaching tool.
Hughes's own contribution, ''Factors Affecting Turn-taking Behaviour: Genre Meets Prosody'' (Chapter 6), which is co-authored with Beatrice Szczepek Reed, examines the factors that influence turn- taking in interactions between native and non-native speakers of English. After reviewing the research on turn-taking, they present a set of hypotheses on what speakers must know in order to accomplish turn-taking effectively in conversation. These hypotheses are then discussed in light of an analysis of two brief extracts of a conversation, revealing the influence not only of micro-level features of prosody and syntax, but also of macro-level characteristics of genre and idiolect. Hughes and Szczepek Reed conclude by arguing that turn-taking research needs to incorporate both micro- and macro-level features into its investigations.
The third section of the book, ''Spoken Discourse and Language Pedagogy,'' is more explicitly concerned with discussions of language teaching, and so there is less emphasis on the presentation and analysis of language samples (though continual reference is made to spoken language data). The first of these, ''Spoken Discourse, Academics and Global English'' by Anna Mauranen, presents an argument for the prioritization of spoken language corpora as the basis for linguistic descriptions which in turn provide the basis for pedagogical practice. Mauranen further holds that more importance should be given to English used as a lingua franca, not only to counteract the implicit reliance on native speaker models entrenched throughout applied linguistics research and language teaching, but also to more accurately reflect the ways in which English is most commonly used throughout the world today.
In Chapter 8, ''Spoken Grammar: Vague Language and EAP,'' Joan Cutting outlines a model of vague language that she has developed from a longitudinal corpus drawn from a group of applied linguistics graduate students. Cutting then argues that vague, or implicit, language needs to be more directly included in textbooks and other ELT materials, rather than referred to as something to be avoided, as has traditionally been done. Fiona Farr's contribution, ''Reflecting on Reflections: The Spoken Word as a Professional Development Tool in Language Teacher Education'' (Chapter 9), also draws on a corpus developed in the context of a graduate teacher training program to argue for spoken language corpora as a stimulus for self-reflection in language teacher training. In particular, Farr presents extracts that illustrate the range of feedback strategies that teacher trainers use.
In ''Analyzing Classroom Discourse: A Variable Approach'' (Chapter 10), Steve Walsh reviews the research on classroom discourse, categorizing previous studies according to a number of approaches (for example, interaction analysis, discourse analysis, conversation analysis), concluding with a more detailed discussion of several studies that have taken what he calls a variable approach, which takes into account the dynamic, situated nature of classroom contexts. The variable approach, Walsh argues, provides more accurate descriptions of classroom discourse because it recognizes that interactional patterns vary according to relationships among students and teachers, and teachers' pedagogical goals.
The final section of the book narrows the focus by including two chapters which explore issues related to assessment of spoken language. John M. Levis's chapter, ''Pronunciation and the Assessment of Spoken Language'' (Chapter 11), looks specifically at pronunciation as a component of spoken language assessment, arguing that comprehensibility, and not accuracy, should be the focus of such assessment, and furthermore that comprehensibility needs to be understood in flexible terms depending on whether speakers and hearers are native or non-native speakers, or a combination of the two. The final chapter, ''Local and Dialogic Language Ability and its Implication for Language Teaching and Testing'' by Marysia Johnson Gerson, draws on Vygotsky's sociocultural theory and Bakhtin's heteroglossia to argue for assessment that is locally and dialogically situated within the contexts in which language learning takes place. Such an approach, Johnson suggests, would place more value on the learner's developmental potential rather than actual level of development.
Although the book's stated aim is to discuss both the theoretical and pedagogical implications of research into spoken English, the chapters vary considerably as to how thoroughly they address that aim. In several chapters, teaching is deemphasized in favor of reviews of research and discussions of empirical data. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those pieces which concentrate on building arguments and developing proposals for pedagogical practice with less direct attention to research and data. To be sure, even the research- oriented chapters are pitched at a reasonably non-technical (though not oversimplified) level so as to be accessible to a general audience. However, many of the chapters seem to speak more resonantly to either the teacher or the researcher. There are, of course, some exceptions to this. Ann Wennerstrom's contribution (Chapter 4), for example, admirably manages not only to review research on intonation and present several sample analyses, but also to develop a theoretical point that has implications both for teaching and research. Stephanie Lindemann's chapter (Chapter 2) does a similarly commendable job of reflecting on both theoretical and practical issues in evaluating non-native speaker performance.
A further observation that can be made is that the chapters do not consistently make use of sample data. Although the book presents a wealth of insight on a great variety of issues (as should be clear from the summary above), those issues seem to come more sharply into focus when they are grounded in actual examples of spoken English. Again, there are exceptions to this. Both Steve Walsh (Chapter 10) and John M. Levis (Chapter 11) present such carefully developed frameworks to center their arguments (about, respectively, classroom discourse and spoken language testing) that the discussion does not suffer from a lack of specific examples. Similarly, Jasmine C. M. Luk and Angel M. Y. Lin's chapter (Chapter 1) does not make direct use of sample data, but develops its discussion of the status of different English accents in Hong Kong through reference to an abundance of published research and anecdotal evidence.
These, however, are not so much shortcomings as points that interested readers should bear in mind as they approach the book. As a whole, the book provides a set of accessible, issues-driven discussions of the ''state of the art'' in spoken language research and practice. It thus has something to offer researchers and practitioners working in a wide range of professional contexts.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Peter Clements is currently Assistant Professor at the International University of Japan where he teaches academic English courses for graduate students. He recently completed his PhD in applied linguistics and composition at the University of Washington. His research interests center around second language writing, particularly response, revision, and assessment, contrastive rhetoric, and applications of discourse analysis to foreign language learning and pedagogy.