An acoustic analysis of intra-sentential pause patterns by Taiwanese learners of English

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Abstract

The major goal of this study is to investigate the intra-sentential pause patterns produced by Taiwanese learners of English through acoustic measures. An acoustic study designed to measure three aspects of pausing, namely pause duration, pause frequency, and distribution of pauses, was conducted. Four groups of subjects were recruited to produce a long English text, including 10 Americans from the U.S., 10 Chinese learners with low English proficiency (EFL-L) from Taiwan, 10 Chinese learners with high English proficiency (EFL-H) from Taiwan, and 10 ESL Chinese learners (ESL) from the U.S. The passage was recorded and five selected sentences were analyzed with the Praat software. A norm-referenced variability index (VI) was adopted from Chen and Chung (2008) and measured over the timing variables in this study. Major findings of this study are as follows. First, the three variables of the Taiwanese learners displayed specific patterns that deviated from those of native English speakers and demonstrated more frequent and inappropriate pausing. The EFL-L, the EFL-H, and the ESL learners were also found to behave differently in acoustic timing patterns. Except for the major pause, the EFL-L learners exhibited random patterns of pausing. Compared to the EFL-L learners, the EFL-H learners performed more closely to native English speakers. The ESL learners did not significantly outperform the EFL-H learners on all the three variables. Language proficiency is suggested to affect the way a learner uses pauses when speaking a second language (L2). In this sense, pausing could be a developmental phenomenon. The random pauses produced by the EFL-L group largely enhanced the impression of syllable-timing patterns, whereas the EFL-H and ESL groups were passing through the syllable-timing stage and moving to the other direction of stress-timing. These findings are expected to enhance the understanding of interlanguage phonetics and phonology and second language acquisition in general. Copyright © 2011 English Centre, University of Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-94
JournalHong Kong Journal of Applied Linguistics
Volume13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

Citation

Chen, H. C. (2011). An acoustic analysis of intra-sentential pause patterns by Taiwanese learners of English. Hong Kong Journal of Applied Linguistics, 13(1), 77-94.

Keywords

  • Rhythm patterns
  • Acoustic phonetics
  • Interlanguage phonology

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