Examining the impact of teaching Cantonese speakers to enhance the use of their abdominal region in pronouncing English consonant clusters

Michael Yeldham

Abstract


In teaching L2 English learners to pronounce segmental sounds, anatomically the emphasis has been almost exclusively on improving their articulatory functions, while neglecting another area integral to producing many sounds, that of the abdominal region. In the absence of research investigating the efficacy of teaching learners to enhance the use of their abdomen, this study employed a quasi-experimental design to do so, examining L1 Cantonese learners of English as its participants. The experimental and control groups were taught sounds which are reliant on abdominal effort, and which commonly cause difficulties for L1 Cantonese learners. These sounds were selected long vowels, voiced fricative consonants, and consonant clusters. The study targeted consonant clusters, but it was reasoned that teaching the technique for a range of problematic sounds would help to enhance pronunciation of the consonant clusters, especially when they occurred in words also containing long vowels and voiced fricatives. The experimental group was taught the relevant articulatory functions and abdominal enhancement techniques, while the control group was taught the same way but minus the abdominal techniques. A pre-test and post-test reading aloud task indicated that the experimental group benefitted from the instruction to a slightly greater degree than the control group in developing their pronunciation of the consonant clusters.

Keywords


English pronunciation; Cantonese learners of English; pronunciation instruction; abdominal enhancement techniques

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