Applying a cognitive linguistic framework to L2 pronunciation teaching

Authored by: Graeme Couper

The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary English Pronunciation

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138856882
eBook ISBN: 9781315145006
Adobe ISBN:


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The focus of this chapter is on the practical implications of Cognitive Linguistics for teaching L2 pronunciation. This is based on the premise that the cognitive abilities required for language are similar to those used on other cognitive tasks, and also that pronunciation is a cognitive phenomenon involving cognitive abilities such as categorization, perception and forming mental representations of sounds (Taylor, 2002). Cognitive Linguistics enables one to bring a fine-grained approach to defining type-of-instruction in terms of psychological constructs and cognitive abilities that any particular classroom episode may be drawing upon. This is in contrast to broader distinctions such as explicit versus implicit teaching or a focus on meaning, focus on form or focus on forms provided by mainstream second language acquisition theory. This chapter reports on how Cognitive Linguistics can be applied to L2 pronunciation teaching by combining it with other disciplinary approaches such as educational psychology, sociocultural theory and L2 speech research, which provide useful pedagogical perspectives on concept formation and the learning of new categories. Empirical evidence is provided from a number of classroom-based studies: first, three studies that formed part of the author’s PhD and focused on syllable codas; second, an extension to these studies that focused on word stress; and, finally, a replication of the word stress study, which was extended to include a focus on stress at the level of the utterance. These studies have derived, defined and further tested the key role of two particular variables that emerged as a result of applying this framework: critical listening and socially constructed metalanguage. In conclusion, guidelines for teachers are developed based on a cognitive linguistic understanding of language and language learning.

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