The Acqusition of American English Rhythm by Taiwanese EFL Learners

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Department of English, NTNU
This study investigates the contrasting rhythmic properties of English spoken by Taiwanese learners, which has been predicted as syllable-timed, and American English, which is usually assumed to be stress-timed. Six high-Ievel and six low-level Taiwanese learners of English and four native speakers of American English read an article and were tape-recorded. Four sentences were analyzed according to syllable and pause durations. Each stretch of continuous speech obtained from the recordings, the norma1ized duration of consecutive syllables was compared, to obtain a variabi1ity index. It was found that there was a significantly greater variabi1ity in this measure of syllable-to-syllable duration for American English, which supports previous indications that, by comparison, English spoken by Taiwanese learners maybe more syllable-timed than American Eng1ish. There was some evidence that the greater frequency ofreduced syllables with a schwa in American English contributed to the difference between the two varieties. Moreover, the frequency, duration, and location of pausing were investigated. Taiwanese learners showed more frequent and inappropriate pausing. The results for the high-level Taiwanese learners implied that syllable duration and appropriate pausing are learnable, and for the low-level group that fossilization of nonnative rhythm has been forming. Instruction is suggested in meaningful units or tone groups rather than with isolated segments or words, even for beginner-levels. Rhythmic patterns are presented as the basic realization of the tone groups. Suggestions are also given on how to integrate pronunciation practice into the listening-speaking activities of a communication course.