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Title: The markedness differential hypothesis and the acquisition of English final consonants by Cantonese ESL learners in Hong Kong
Other Titles: Biao ji qu fen jia she yu xue xi Ying yu de Xianggang xue sheng xi de Ying yu ci wei fu yin de yan jiu
Authors: Lo, Sun Keung (羅新強)
Department: Dept. of English and Communication
Degree: Master of Philosophy
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: English language -- Consonants
English language -- Study and teaching -- China -- Hong Kong
Second language acquisition
Notes: 142 leaves : ill. ; 30 cm.
CityU Call Number: PE1159.L67 2007
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 127-134)
Thesis (M.Phil.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2007
Type: Thesis
Abstract: This study sets out to test the Markedness Differential Hypothesis (MDH) with regard to the acquisition of English word-final consonants by Cantonese learners of English as a second language (ESL) in Hong Kong. English consonant clusters and singleton consonants among which markedness relationships exist were chosen as the focus. Ten Cantonese learners of English at the intermediate and upper-intermediate levels participated in the study. They were asked to perform three different tasks: The reading of a word list, the description of pictures, and the reading of sentences in the form of grammaticality judgement. The participants’ speech performance was recorded by a high-quality mp3 recorder and transcribed by the researcher. The results largely contradict the predictions of the MDH. Of the three predictions of the MDH with reference to three implicational universals involving final consonant clusters and singleton consonants, two of them are not supported. Some relatively unmarked structures (e.g., /-ts/) were found to cause much difficulty for the participants and relatively marked structures (e.g., /-fs/) were not necessarily difficult. It is argued that the MDH is not adequate in explaining the acquisition of English word-final consonants by Cantonese ESL learners in Hong Kong. Factors other than markedness, such as the visual salience of consonants and native language phonotactics, may play a more decisive role in determining the difficulty of sound segments. As individual members of a sound category were found to have different levels of difficulty, the results also question the adoption of implicational universals by the MDH to predict difficulty across sound categories. In terms of pedagogy, language teachers are advised to pay attention to the effects of factors other than markedness in their pronunciation instruction since sound segment difficulty can be determined by them.
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