Making do with what you've got: the use of prosody as a linguistic resource in second language narratives

Date
2003-12
Authors
Plumlee, Marilyn Kay
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Publisher
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract
Based on a corpus of seventeen English conversational narratives recounted by six adult long-term Korean immigrants in Hawaiʻi, this study argues for the consideration of prosody as a core linguistic resource. Under normal circumstances of language use, prosodic resources primarily playa supporting role for lexico-syntactic constructions. However, when lexical and syntactic resources are unavailable to serve communicative demands, as is often the case with fossilized adult immigrants, prosody emerges to playa leading role. The initial analysis of prosody's role in second language narratives relied on auditory perceptions, supplemented by discourse analytic and interactionist approaches to meaning co-construction using prosodic contextualization cues as proposed by Gumperz (1982) and developed in Couper-Kuhlen and Selting, eds. (1996), Auer and di Luzio, eds. (1992), and Auer, Couper-Kuhlen and Muller (1999). Prosodic features of perceptively salient tokens were subsequently verified acoustically. The narrators' creative use of prosody at both the local (lexico-syntactic) and global (discourse) levels is examined. Similar uses of prosody by adult immigrants have been alluded to but never examined in depth (Perdue 1984, 1993a, 1993b, Kumpf 1986). Other major studies of second language discourse prosody treat its target-like acquisitional aspects rather than its creative applications (Wennerstrom 1994, 1997, 1998). At the local level, this study finds that prosody contributes to lexical expansion (through intentional rhythmic reduplication of basic vocabulary and segmental lengthening) and to syntactic complexity (signaling relativization, conjunction, subordination, indirect discourse, and temporal relations by. means of amplitude changes, pitch contrasts and pauses) in the texts. At the global level, principles of information structure (Chafe 1987, 1994) and narrative structure (Labov 1972a) are invoked to examine prosody's contribution to discourse coherence, text cohesion and development. In sum, this study focuses not on explaining second language acquisition phenomena but, rather, on discovering the components of the language faculty and principles of language use through the lens of learner language phenomena. The study's focus on verbal communication as a dynamic process which impels limited proficiency speakers to make use of untapped linguistic resources during the communicative process draws attention to the interactionally-driven nature of language.
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xxix, 516 leaves
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