Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 16

Accepted Abstracts

Non-Native English: In Search for Rhythm

Giedrė Balcytytė-Kurtinienė, Vilnius University (Lithuania)


One of the key aspects of English an EFL learner needs to master is the specific rhythm, that has traditionally been described as stressed-timed rhythm and opposed to syllable-timed rhythm([1], [7]).Despite some criticism and the lack of scientific evidence for the stressed-timed isochronous nature of English ([3[, [4]), some relevant acoustic cues still remain relevant for EFL learners: the alternation of strong and weak syllable sequences, vowel reduction, stress placement and other rhythmic aspects of connected speech. The aim of the current study is to examine the rhythmic differences among native and non-native accents of English as well as to report on a didactic experiment conducted in order to suggest and test music techniques for the enhancement of English rhythm by Lithuanian EFL learners. A highly tangible language and music relationship and the integration of the two for EFL acquisition and phonetic skill activation and formation in particular has been noticed by a vast number of scholars ([2], [5], [6]). The findings of the current study suggested the respondents of the study often seemed to face problems with the implementation of weak syllables and vowel reduction and elision in English utterances since Lithuanian is not characterized by large spectral and durational differences between tonic and atonic vowels as English is. Additionally, the experiment disclosed that EFL learners may benefit from music instruction: the respondents demonstrated superior overall performance to reproduce the sample English sentences rhythmically and employ the tested variables to full extent as they had been treated with music instruction before. Furthermore, a positive correlation was found between the EFL learners with musical aptitude and the implementation of the tested variables.

Keywords: Non-native, rhythm, music.

[1] Abercrombie, D. (1967). Elements of General Phonetics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
[2] Besson, M., Schon, D., Moreno, S., Santos, A., Magne, C. (2007). Influence of Musical Expertise and Musical Training on Pitch Processing in Music and Language. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 25, 1-12.
[3] Dauer, R. M. (1983). Stress-timing and Syllable-timing Reanalyzed. Journal of Phonetics, 11, 51-62.
[4] Low, E. L. (2006). A Review of Recent Research on Speech Rhythm: Some Insights for Language Acquisition, Language Disorders and Language Teaching. In Hughes, R. (Ed.). Spoken English, TESOL and Applied Linguistics: Challenges for Theory & Practice. London: Palgrave-Macmillan.
[5] Milovanov, R. (2009). The Connectivity of Musical Aptitude and Foreign Language Learning Skills: Neural and Behavioural Evidence. Anglicana Turkuensia,27, 1-56.
[6] Mora, C. F., Gant, M. (2016). Melodies, Rhythm and Cognition in Foreign Language Learning.Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
[7] Pike, K. N. (1945). The Intonation of American English. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 

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