Building Tone Resources for Second Language Learners from Phonetic Documentation: Cherokee Examples

Hirata-Edds, Tracy
Herrick, Dylan
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University of Hawaii Press
Lexical tone is a linguistic feature which can present difficulties for second language learners wanting to revitalize their heritage language. This is true not only from the standpoint of understanding and pronunciation, but also because tone is often under-documented and resources are limited or too technical to be useful to community members. Even with these challenges, carefully attending to the intricacies of a language’s sound system allows learners to express themselves more “authentically” or “naturally,” which can be important for confidence and acceptance as language users. Learners can be trained to distinguish tones by attending to acoustic or auditory cues related to tone (e.g., pitch contour). This paper describes multimedia resources designed to focus learner attention on perceiving tone -- visual and audio accompaniments helping to increase the perception of tone in Cherokee, a severely endangered Native American language. We created resources for tone in the form of an electronic presentation containing explanations, example recordings, and intuitive images to provide audio and visual support for language learners. Presentation and format choices were collaboratively designed based on community requests, with an explicit attempt to de-jargonize materials and make them less technical and more accessible to community members.
Cherokee language, language documentation, second language learning, tone
Hirata-Edds, Tracy & Dylan Herrick. 2017. Building tone resources for second language learners from phonetic documentation: Cherokee examples. Language Documentation & Conservation 11: 289-304.
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