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Review of  Spoken English, Applied Linguistics and TESOL


Reviewer: Peter Clements
Book Title: Spoken English, Applied Linguistics and TESOL
Book Author: Rebecca Hughes
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Discourse Analysis
Book Announcement: 17.1588

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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

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.

EVALUATION

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.


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