The relationship between deviance in segmentals and syllable structure and impressionistic judgements of ESL pronunciation
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This mini-dissertation identifies segmental and syllable structure errors made by Zulu mother tongue secondary school students learning English. The purpose of this identification is to determine whether there is a relationship between the number of segmental and syllabic structure errors made by the subjects and the impressionistic judgements of the speech samples made by ESL teachers The review of the literature focuses on accent, pronunciation and the determination of an accent. A speaker's comprehensibility and intelligibility are influenced by his/her accent and way of pronouncing the language. A speaker will have difficulty in getting a message across if he/she has a low level of comprehensibility and intelligibility. It is generally acknowledged that the way in which a person speaks is judged both socially and educationally. The norm against which English is judged is Received Pronunciation (RP). The pronunciation of English in South Africa is reviewed and it is clear that there are many varieties of English spoken in South Africa. The focus of this study is on Black English as spoken by Zulus. In the literature several factors affecting the acquisition of native-like pronunciation are identified. These factors are discussed as they shed light on the reasons for the deviations found in the speech samples. Any language consists of a number of linguistic and phonetic elements,. Two such elements are segmental and syllable structure. These two elements are discussed in detail and then typical segmental and syllable structure deviations made by ESL learners are investigated. A comparison between the Zulu and English languages leads to an illustration of the consequences of the pronunciation differences between them. The 40 subjects used in the study ranged in age from 17 to 18. They are all Zulu mother tongue speakers of English who attend a secondary school in Gauteng. The subjects were recorded reading a passage and a word list. These speech samples were transcribed phonetically and an error analysis was done for each sample. The number of segmental and syllable structure errors were counted. The recordings were judged by six judges, all teachers of English. The number of segmental and syllable structure errors in each speech sample was compared with the mark assigned to the speech sample by the judges. Pearson product-moment correlations were calculated in order to determine the relationship between segmental and syllable structure errors and the impressionistic judgements of pronunciation. The results of this study seem to indicate a strong relationship between the number of segmental and syllable structure errors and the rating given to each speech sample. This indicates that segmental and syllable structures should not be ignored or simply taken for granted in the teaching of ESL learners.
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