Project Details
Funding Scheme : General Research Fund
Project Number : 18600218
Project Title(English) : Effects of phonological rule-based and acoustic perceptual-based instructions on the prosodic acquisition of English Word Stress by Chinese ESL learners 
Project Title(Chinese) : 以音韻規則和聲學感知的教學對中國ESL學習者英語單詞重音韻律習得的影響 
Principal Investigator(English) : Dr Chen, Hsueh Chu 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) :  
Department : Department of Linguistics and Modern Language Studies
Institution : The Education University of Hong Kong
Co - Investigator(s) :
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Education
Exercise Year : 2018 / 19
Fund Approved : 459,320
Project Status : On-going
Completion Date : 30-6-2021
Abstract as per original application
English is stress-timed while Chinese is syllable-timed, which makes English word stress placement difficult for Chinese learners of English. A shift of the stress from the left syllable to the right syllable seriously hampers intelligibility (e.g. PERmit vs perMIT) and inappropriate word stress affects comprehension more adversely than segmental errors. While many theorists and practitioners have observed that first language (L1) learners can easily acquire the stress as a by-product of the acquisition of a new word, it is commonly found that second language (L2) learners with a tone-language background (e.g. Chinese) encounter much more difficulty in English stress acquisition than L1 learners. The inconsistent research findings in English word stress lead to the on-going debate of “word stress deafness.” Specifically, the debate involves two theoretically and practically important questions: Is learning stress on a word-by-word basis an efficient way for L2 learners to acquire an understanding of word stress rules? If not, is there a better way? This project aims to answer these two questions with new empirical evidence. Specifically, the project will develop assessment tasks to identify Chinese learners’ difficulties in English word stress placement in perception and production, design training programs to examine whether word stress can be acquired systematically, and conduct a teaching experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of the training programs in facilitating the learning of word stress. This project is innovative in four aspects: (a) this project integrates linguistics and education, (b) the assessment tasks cover both production and perception; (c) each training program targets a distinct approach, namely, phonological rule-based and acoustic-perceptual-based approaches; (d) unlike observational or correlational studies that are commonly adopted in the social sciences, the teaching experiment is well controlled in that random assignment, innovative teaching materials, effective assessment, and recall protocols are implemented. This project will generate substantial impact in both theory and practice. Theoretically, factors that weigh most heavily on learners’ acquisition of word stress will be identified, new empirical evidence to the debate on the learnability and teachability of word stress will be collected, and a new research paradigm of word stress learning will be created. Practically, diagnostic profiles of learners’ pronunciation can be established, optimal training program of English word stress will be obtained, the assessment tasks and teaching kits can be further adapted to different levels of learners (primary, secondary, college, and adults) and learners with different language backgrounds (e.g., Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean).
Research Outcome
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