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Review of the book Investigating English Pronunciation: Trends and Directions by Jose A. Mompean and Jonás Fouz-González (Eds.)

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The review was published in the CATESOL Journal 30.1 2018, 312-316.
312e CATESOL Journal 30.1 • 2018
ture. at said, I applaud Murphy for this volume—it gives the reader
a rare glimpse inside pronunciation classrooms. As such, it is a valu-
able reference for seasoned teachers and a must-have for those just
starting out on the pronunciation-teaching journey.
One of my favorite parts of the book is the list of teaching tips
provided at the end of each chapter—it is a bit like “what I wish I’d
known when I started out.” In the epilogue, Murphy provides 20 of his
own well-chosen and articulated maxims about pronunciation teach-
ing, gained through years of experience in the eld. With this volume,
he fullls the task he set for himself in the preface: “e knowledge
base of pronunciation teaching advances when the people who are
teaching it share what they are learning and doing with others” (p. iv).
Investigating English Pronunciation: Trends and Directions
Jose A. Mompean and Jonás Fouz-González (Eds.)
London, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
ALIF SILPACHAI
Iowa State University, Ames
Where is research in English pronunciation headed in this rap-
idly changing world? e answer might be in Investigating Eng-
lish Pronunciation: Trends and Directions, an edited collection of 14
chapters that “exemplif[ies] some of the current trends and directions
in the eld … [and] oer[s] interesting empirical results that advance
knowledge on a range of issues” (p. xii). e chapters are based on
selected peer-reviewed presentations at the 3rd International Confer-
ence on English Pronunciation: Issues & Practices (EPIP) in 2013.
Most empirical studies in the volume were conducted in English as a
foreign language contexts. Although not clearly specied, the volume
is apt to be of primary interest to those with a background in phonet-
ics, phonology, or second language (L2) acquisition.
e book is divided into ve thematic sections, with an introduc-
tion by Mompean (Chapter 1) in which he discusses the history of
the modern study of English pronunciation and advances made in its
theory and methodology. ese include the use of explicit informa-
tion about L2 sounds (e.g., phonetic symbols and articulatory descrip-
tions) to teach pronunciation, along with teaching models that pri-
oritize speaking intelligibly rather than sounding like a native speaker
and the use of computer soware to facilitate learning. e introduc-
tion concludes with an overview of each thematic section.
e CATESOL Journal 30.1 • 2018 • 313
e rst section, titled In and Out of the Lab/Speech in Context,
reviews empirical studies conducted in laboratory and natural set-
tings. It begins with Chapter 2, which presents Turcsan and Herment’s
study on English speakers’ intuition of which syllable to stress in nonce
words (made-up words with the structure of real words). e results
revealed that most nonce words were stressed the same way as real
words sharing their structural similarity, suggesting that the speakers
had strong intuitions about word stress placement. is chapter may
be dicult for those unfamiliar with metrical stress theory (a branch
of phonological theory dealing with stress patterns). e following
chapter presents Horgues and Scheuer’s analysis of concomitant ver-
bal and nonverbal (e.g., facial and hand gesture) data from face-to-
face conversations between speakers learning each other’s language.
e analysis revealed that when communication broke down because
of pronunciation errors, learners relied on nonverbal cues to mitigate
the breakdowns. is study highlights the importance of integrating
nonverbal cues in pronunciation learning. e section concludes with
Chapter 4, detailing omas and Scobbie’s discussion of children’s ac-
cent mixture and the creation of a phonological system idiosyncratic
to a particular child. Two case studies of the speech of Scottish chil-
dren with English parents revealed features of both Standard Scot-
tish English and Southern British English. e authors should have
perhaps addressed a potential methodological limitation in one of the
studies, which was the child’s repetition of his parents’ words, as this
may have prevented the child from producing sounds from his own
phonology.
Part II, titled Perception of L2-Accented Speech, presents is-
sues relevant to the eects of L2-accented speech on pronunciation
learning. is section begins with Lepage and LaCharité’s presenta-
tion of how familiarity with French-accented English aects the un-
derstanding of accented speech. eir results revealed that accent-
tolerant listeners (French-English bilinguals with extensive exposure
to French-accented English) were outperformed by non-accent–
tolerant listeners (monolinguals of English with almost no exposure
to French-accented speech) in the identication of words produced
in French-accented speech. e latter identied the words more oen
and faster than the former, suggesting that familiarity with L2-accent-
ed speech might not facilitate understanding. Potential shortcomings
of this study include the fact that the authors might have chosen terms
other than accent-tolerant and non-accent–tolerant to describe their
participants, as more transparent terms could help the reader better
visualize the participants’ characteristics. Additionally, this study may
leave the reader wondering who else besides bilinguals might qualiy
314e CATESOL Journal 30.1 • 2018
as an “accent-tolerant” listener. Chapter 6 by Kennedy rounds o this
section, discussing how nonnative accents aect native listeners’ per-
ceptions of grammaticality. e analysis of accentedness and gram-
maticality ratings indicates that native speakers may erroneously per-
ceive accented speech as being ungrammatical. Although informative,
the chapter does not address other possible contributing factors, such
as intelligibility and comprehensibility.
Part III, L2 Phonology Acquisition, focuses on a range of topics
related to the acquisition of L2 sounds at both the segmental and su-
prasegmental levels. is section begins with Chapter 7, Penningtons
review of studies from the 1950s to the 2000s on the acquisition of L2
phonology. e author shows that, unlike in the past, language within
applied linguistics has been increasingly viewed as a heterogeneous
system in which many varieties of a language coexist. To reect this
shi, the author convincingly argues for the reconceptualization of
theory, research, and practice in the pedagogy of L2 phonology. e
following chapter presents Gray’s investigation of how French learn-
ers of English identify English focus (implied in the study as a word or
phrase that signals new information). e learners were trained to ob-
serve pitch contours (pitch levels that change through time) in short
phrases and to produce the phrases. is study might be informative
to teachers as the training was found to enhance the performance only
of phrases with early focused items (e.g., the subject of a sentence). It
may, however, leave the reader asking the question, “What training
method is eective for perceiving noninitial focused items?” Chapter
9 describes Lintunen and colleagues’ study of the association between
the English prociency level and English uency of Finnish learners
of English. Fluency was measured by calculating variables such as
words and syllables per tone unit (an intonation phrase consisting of
a pitch contour with a “pre-head,” “head,” “nucleus,” and “tail”). e
results revealed that the more procient the learners, the more words
and syllables per tone unit there were in their speech, suggesting that
prociency positively correlates with uency. e authors’ intent to
show that tone unit is a reliable unit of analysis in uency research
is limited by the fact that they did not compare the results obtained
to other units of analysis commonly used in uency research, such
as mean length of runs (the number of syllables between pauses). As
a result, they failed to demonstrate that tone unit is a more precise
way of measuring uency and/or determining learners’ prociency
level. Finally, Chapter 10 summarizes a study by Wong on the relation
between English prociency level and the production of /e/ and /æ/
by Cantonese-speaking EFL learners who had been trained using a
e CATESOL Journal 30.1 • 2018 • 315
High Phonetic Variability Training (HVPT) approach (see Barriuso
& Hayes-Harb, 2018 [this issue]). e results suggested that HVPT
was eective in helping learners identify the vowels in question and
that the production of these vowels was improved despite dierences
in prociency levels. Because only two target vowels were used in the
study, the reader might question the eectiveness of HVPT in enhanc-
ing L2 vowel perception in general.
Part IV, Pronunciation Teaching, discusses innovative ways of
teaching pronunciation along with issues that instructors of English in
Europe face. It begins with Chapter 11, which presents a preliminary
study by Mompeán-Guillamón on the relationship between pronun-
ciation teaching and sound symbolism—specically synesthesia (the
intuitive associations between sounds and the nonsound properties
of objects such as color and shape). In the study, the author examined
whether the perception and production of L2 sounds could be taught
using colored symbols representing the sounds. e ndings revealed
no helpful eects of colored symbols. Since research in this area is
generally scarce, future studies should replicate the results to conrm
the study’s conclusion. Readers unfamiliar with synesthesia will re-
quire additional knowledge of the concept to understand this study
and its ndings. e nal chapter in this section presents Henderson
and colleagues’ quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data from a
survey assessing EFL and ESL pronunciation teaching practices across
various European nations, including Finland, France, Germany, Mace-
donia, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland. One notable nding was that
most respondents, who were experienced nonnative English-speaking
teachers (NNESTs), lacked sucient training in teaching pronuncia-
tion. As the lack of training may have negative learning consequences,
future studies should extend their scope to other continents where
English is taught to determine to what extent this problem is a shared
global issue.
Part V, Technology, presents issues relevant to selected techno-
logical tools used to facilitate the teaching and learning of L2 pro-
nunciation. In Chapter 13, Rato and colleagues introduce a free, user-
friendly soware package used for perception testing and training
called TP, which stands for Teste/Treino de Percepção (Perception
Testing/Training). is soware appears to hold promise for L2 class-
room settings as it can assess which L2 sounds are particularly dicult
for learners to identify, and it can help students improve the identi-
cation of these sounds by providing immediate feedback. In the last
chapter, Fouz-González reviews empirical ndings to support the use-
fulness and limitations of technology used in pronunciation teaching.
316e CATESOL Journal 30.1 • 2018
Given that the review helps familiarize readers with computer-assisted
pronunciation teaching, it would have been better if placed before the
previous chapter.
A denite strength of the book is its presentation of a wide range
of topics related to English pronunciation. ese topics allow readers
to explore various issues within the eld and discover topics that they
may not have been previously familiar with. For example, in Chap-
ter 11, the topic of sound symbolism and pronunciation teaching is
particularly novel. Because of the preliminary nature of the research,
which found no helpful eects of colored symbols, the author pro-
vides many ideas for possible follow-up studies as well as dierent
ways that sound symbolism might be incorporated into L2 pronun-
ciation teaching practices.
Unfortunately, the disadvantage of presenting dierent topics
within 14 chapters is that the reader may not be deeply immersed
in each topic and may consequently need more background on the
topics. To make each chapter more informative, the editors might
have considered providing a list of related readings at the end of each
chapter. In addition to the lack of recommended readings, the volume
has several other limitations. One of them (which is especially per-
tinent to readers lacking research expertise and desiring to improve
their teaching practice) is the lack of practical teaching tips. Such tips
would have been useful to those lacking research expertise and look-
ing to translate the research ndings into practical lessons. Another,
perhaps more serious, limitation is the book’s many preliminary stud-
ies and results, which could cause readers to be dubious about the
validity of the conclusions. On a positive note, however, this limita-
tion may inspire readers with ideas for future research. Also, since
most research in the eld of teaching pronunciation is conducted in
the US, this volumes more global perspective provides readers not
only with the latest research in English pronunciation, but also with
methods and technological tools developed in Europe and Asia for
the EFL context.
Reference
Barriuso, T. A., & Hayes-Harb, R. (2018). High variability phonetic
training as a bridge from research to practice. e CATESOL
Journal, 30(1), 177-194.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
High variability phonetic training as a bridge from research to practice
  • T A Barriuso
  • R Hayes-Harb
Barriuso, T. A., & Hayes-Harb, R. (2018). High variability phonetic training as a bridge from research to practice. The CATESOL Journal, 30(1), 177-194.