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Experimental Study on Chinese EFL Learner’s English Intonation Pattern

Author: HongZuo
Tutor: MaQiuWu
School: Nankai University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: intonation pattern pitch range mid line placement undulating scale
CLC: H311
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2012
Downloads: 169
Quote: 0
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This is an experimental study on Chinese English learners’ intonation, withinthe frame work of intonation pattern theory. This study examines intonation of960sample sentences produced by two groups of Chinese EFL learners, who vary in theyears of English study. These sentences are divided into two parts: singleintonational group sentences, and two intonational group sentences, covering thefour basic intonation moods, namely declarative, interrogative, imperative andexclamatory. The intonation patterns of two groups of learners and native Englishspeakers are compared with each other, in order to find differences between the twogroups of learners, and between the learners and native English speakers. Throughthe intensive study of intonation data of native English speakers, and comparativestudy of learners and native English speakers, this study claims that the mostimportant parameters of intonation patter theory are its pitch range and mid line.Each intonation mood occupies its individual area in the intonation pattern,when all the sample sentences of four intonation moods are put in a single scale. Asthe most frequently used and most unmarked intonation mood, declaratives occupythe lower part of intonation pattern, with the narrowest range. Other intonationmoods are realized by the adjustment of pitch range (imperatives), or placement(exclamatories), or joint efforts of pitch range (interrogatives). Therefore,exclamatories occupy the upper part of the intonation patter, with a comparativelynarrow range; imperatives occupy both upper and lower parts of the intonationpattern, with a wide range; interrogatives share the similar pitch range withimperatives, with the placement higher than theirs. The comparative study betweenlearners and native speakers reveal that learners predominantly rely on theadjustment of pitch range to realize different moods. They ignore to adjust theirplacement. As a result, learners’ different intonation moods fail to show a cleardistinction of their occupations in intonation pattern.The mid line, another important parameter of intonation pattern, can bothdistinguish different intonation moods by its place and undulating scale between intonation groups, and effectively reveal intonational differences between learnersand native English speakers. Declaratives place its mid line in the lower part ofintonation pattern, with a medium undulating scale, meaning declaratives areproduced with minimum energy. Interrogatives place its mid line a little bit above50%of the intonation pattern with a minute undulating scale, revealing its risingboundary tone. As for imperatives, the mid line of the former intonation group in asentence is in the upper part of the intonation patter, and the mid line of the latterintonation group is in the lower part, which reveals a steep decline intonationthroughout the sentence. Learners’ mid lines of declaratives are much similar tothose of the native English speakers, but their mid lines of interrogatives,imperatives and exclamatories are a lot different, especially among the intermediatelearners. The mid lines of two intonation groups of imperatives do not fall into twoparts of the intonation pattern, which means they fail to realize the steep falling tone.Undulating scales of interrogative and exclamatory two-intonation group sentencesare negative, meaning the mid line in the latter intonation group is higher than theformer group, which is totally different from that of native speakers. Form thesedifferences, we can see that intermediate learners fail to produce interrogatives andexclamatories in a natural manner. Their rising tone of interrogative is much tooobvious, and they falsely expand the pitch range of the latter intonation group inexclamotories.Based on the experimental study and comparative study on English intonationof Chinese EFL learners, this study reaches the conclusion that pitch range and midline are the most critical parameters when conducting intonation pattern study.

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CLC: > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Voice
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