Conceptions of L2 phonology: Integrating cognitive and sociolinguistic approaches to research and teaching

Moyer, Alene
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Heinle Cengage Learning
The last decade has seen a dramatic resurgence of interest in phonology in second language (L2) acquisition and learning, in terms of both language knowledgeand language use.The issue of what constitutes phonological knowledge is typically addressed by the cognitive, psycholinguistically oriented branch ofSLA research, which tends toward a “deficit” view of L2 phonology. In other words, it focuses on what the learner does not know or cannot do regarding perception and/or production of new sounds as compared to a native speaker. A competing paradigm is the sociolinguistic view, which concentrates on language use and the roles played by such individual factors as identity and assimilation for long-term phonological attainment.This research probes the extent to which contextualized L2 experience and learner intention contribute to overall degree of foreign accent and intelligibility. Despite a growing body of empirical work in such areas, the dominant foreign language pedagogical approaches of the day have little to say about the importance of accent for communicative fluency. Lacking any current, specific standards, phonological knowledge and performance skills are left to individual teachers to address as they deem practical and necessary.Acknowledging these gaps between theory and practice, the discussion in this chapter underscores the difficulty of establishing a one-size-fits-all approach to L2 phonology. It is argued that individual learner needs, local program objectives, and teacher training all affect phonological fluency goals.The chapter highlights several areas of convergence in recent research that serve as important reference points for program administrators hoping to establish phonological fluency goals, including (1) the age factor and language experience as a predictors of accent; (2) the classroom as a logical site of segmental and suprasegmental practice as well as consciousness- raising regarding the sociolinguistic significance of accent; and (3) the potential of technological tools to enhance phonetic perception and production skills.
Moyer, A. (2008). Conceptions of L2 phonology: Integrating cognitive and sociolinguistic approaches to research and teaching. The American Association of University Supervisors, Coordinators and Directors of Foreign Languages Programs (AAUSC), 53-69.
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