word from the other e.g. pin is differentiated from bin by the distinctive initial consonants /p/ and /b/. The sequential function means that the phonological form of a word consists of a sequence of phonemes, and that every phoneme consists of a set of (simultaneous) distinctive features (1992: 201). The minimal function of phonemes means that phonemes are the smallest units which cannot be further divided (Roach 1992). Phonemes can be divided into two main categories, vowels, which are subdivided into monophthongs and diphthongs, and consonants, which are subdivided into voiced and unvoiced. The following table presents English phonemes.
Figure2. English Phonemic Chart
Segmental features are the separate sound units which also correspond to phonemes (Roach, 2009). These features may cause difficulties for learners, particularly if learners‟ mother tongue does not have some sounds English language has or if the place of articulation for the same sounds in native and target languages are different (e.g., Demirezen, 2011). In order to overcome such problems, Scarcella and Oxford (1994) suggest that utilization of sounds that is comparing target sounds with sounds in mother tongue may help students produce sounds better. Whether to teach phonetic alphabet and phonemic transcription is an ongoing debate; if it is relevant to the needs of learners has not yet been proven.
However, Celce-Murcia, Brinton and Goodwin (1996) advocate the presentation of phonemic transcription because they think being competent with phonemic transcription will enable learners comprehend the pronunciation aspects both visually and aurally. Also presenting minimal pairs would be an effective way to teach how to differentiate among different sounds. Providing texts containing minimal pairs will contribute to mental coding of sounds in a meaningful context (e.g, Celce-Murcia, 1996; Gilakjani & Ahmadi, 2011). According to the current literature, (e.g., Tarone, 2005) the pronunciation pedagogy today aims to teach learners to speak intelligibly, not to severely modify their accents. Hinkel (2006) claims “teaching has to address the issues of segmental clarity (e.g., the articulation of specific sounds), word stress and prosody, and the length and the timing of pauses” (p.116). According to Çekiç (2007), comprehensibility can be achieved by not only focusing on the segmental features but also, and more importantly, focusing on the suprasegmental features of pronunciation (Ak, 2012; 27).
2.11.2. Suprasegmental features of pronunciation
Suprasegmental features are those aspects of speech that involve more than single consonants or vowel. The principal suprasegmental features are stress, rhythm, connected speech, tone, and intonation and so forth. These features are independent of the categories required for describing segmental features (vowels and consonants), which involve airstream mechanism, states of the glottis, primary and secondary articulations, and formant frequencies. Seidlehofer and Dalton-Puffer (1995) argue that suprasegmental features of pronunciation should be a prerequisite in pronunciation teaching, and the instruction should be designed accordingly. These features include the stress in words and sentences, lenght, tone, intonation, and so forth. Stress in a word or sentence can be seen in the form of syllables or words that are longer and higher in pitch. To speak and understand English well one needs to be able to use the stress patterns of correctly. Stress can, indeed, be considered as the key to correct pronunciation of an English word. It significance lies in the fact that it affects meaning. That is, in the majority of cases, if proper stress is not assigned to the right syllable the meaning is changed, e.g., desert vs desert ( Keshavarz, 2001).
According to Crystal (2003), word stress “refer[s] to the degree of force used in producing a syllable. The usual distinction is between stressed and unstressed syllables, the former beings more prominent than the latter (p. 435). A stressed syllable can be defined as one which is more prominent than the surrounding ones and stands out among them. This prominence is usually achieved through a relative increase in loudness. A syllable that is stressed may also be somewhat longer in duration than an unstressed syllable be produced at a higher than normal pitch. The position of stress in words of two or more syllables in English is not predictable. Therefore, students often have to turn to an English dictionary to learn which syllable of word should be stressed. However, there are some general principles and patterns that can help EFL learners to overcome some of their difficulties in learning English stress (Keshavarz, 2001: 57).
In word stress, as also explained by Crystal, different syllables are emphasized and thus change the meaning they convey, i.e.: REcord (n) vs reCORD (v) or conTENT (adj.) vs CONtent (n). Field (2005) argues that, “if a misstressed item occurs toward the beginning of an utterance, it might well lead the listener to construct a mistaken meaning representation; this representation would then shape the listener’s expectations as to what was likely to follow” (p. 418) [opposing the view that the context will help the listener understand the word and/or the meaning in general]. In his research, Field (2005) concludes that “if lexical stress is wrongly distributed, it might have serious consequences for the ability of the listener, whether native or nonnative, to locate words within a piece of connected speech” (p. 419). Brown (2006) explains sentence stress as “the pattern of stress groups in a sentence (or utterance, since they are typically oral)” (p. 15). In sentence stress, the words that are important, usually content words like verbs and nouns are emphasized, i.e. she CALLED me. According to Kenworthy (1987), studies have shown that, when a native speaker cannot understand a foreign language speaker, it is not because the speaker has mispronounced the sounds in the words; it is because the foreign language speaker has put the stress in the wrong place. This argument associates with the reverse relation: if a learner / foreign language speaker cannot differentiate the stress patterns, it may cause him/her to misunderstand the utterances (Ak, 2012: 29).
Another important suprasegmental feature is intonation. Intonation is the tune of what we say. More specifically, it is the combination of musical tones on which we pronounce the syllables that make up our speech. It is closely related to sentence stress. Often, but not always, a syllable with sentence stress is spoken on a higher note than the unstressed syllable. In such cases, intonation is one of the elements of stress, the others being loudness and lenght (Keshavarz,2001). According to Wong (1987), intonation is the outcome of variations in pitch. Roach (2009) finds this definition restricted and explains intonation as “in its broader and more popular sense it [intonation] is used to cover much the same field as „prosody‟, where variations in such things as voice quality, tempo and loudness are included” (p. 56). Intonation has rising and falling patterns. For example:
Where are you going? Are you leaving?
In English, information questions (wh-) have falling intonation- voice goes down at the end. On the other hand, Yes/No questions have rising intonation- voice goes up at the end. We can show the movements of voice up and down by drawing lines at four different levels over or under a sentence. A line drawn at the base of the letters of a word indicates that word is pronounced on a normal tone, a line above the word marks a high tone, and a line some distance below the word marks a low tone. A line some distance above the word shows an extra-high tone, but this tone is seldom used except when some emotional emphasis is required, such as fear or surprise.
When word stress and
sentence stress are combined accompanied by pauses, rhythm occurs (Celce-Murcia et al., 1996). Wong (1987) explained rhythmic features as “syllable length, stressed syllables, full and reduced vowels, pauses, linking and blending sounds between words, and how words are made prominent by accenting syllables and simultaneously lengthening syllables” (p. 30). All these features together may cause difficulties for learners as it is challenging to discriminate rhythm even for the native speakers. Linking and blending are also the features of connected speech. In connected speech, disappearing sounds- assimilation, appearing sounds-epenthesis and reduction of words (and many more sound changes) are widely heard.
He has green eyes He has green eyes /hi: hæz gri: naɪz/ (linking)
Did you ask my name? /dɪd/ /jƏ/ /dɪdƷƏ/ (assimilation)
Do you remember Jill Smith? member Jill Smith? (reduction- ellipsis)
Suprasegmental features are the foremost components of pronunciation which convey the real meaning of a sentence.
2.12. Teaching Pronunciation
Teaching pronunciation involves a variety of challenges. Due to the time restrictions on most courses for TEFL pronunciation teaching receives relatively little attention. This can lead to newly qualified teachers feeling unsure of how to provide instruction or correction in the classroom. To begin with, teachers often find that they do not have enough time in class to give proper attention to this aspect of English instruction. When they do find the time to address pronunciation, the instruction often amounts to the presentation and practice of a series of tedious and seemingly unrelated topics. Drilling sounds over and over again (e.g., minimal pair work) often leads to discouraging results, and discouraged students and