Analysing Research In Foreign Language Learning English Language Essay

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The last two decades have seen growing importance place on research in foreign language learning. Recently, English pronunciations are getting considerable attentions not only from English learning community but also from students and teacher in general. If students can have a specific way in learning English pronunciations, mastering English spelling may not be such a tough work. According to the report of the recent decades, English pronunciation is getting separate to those two important parts, John Samuel Kenyon & Thomas A. Knott phonetic symbols (K&K) and Phonetics.

1.2 Motivation¼š

Over the past few decades of research on English pronunciation, a number of issues have appeared, some of which remain controversial in spite of reams of data on English pronunciation between John Samuel Kenyon & Thomas A. Knott phonetic symbols (K&K) and Phonetics. To distinguished which ways is more appropriate to students' English studies.

1.3 The purpose of study¼š

This research explores John Samuel Kenyon & Thomas A. Knott phonetic symbols (K&K) and Phonetics in English learning, two issues that need to e solved in this regard are (a) whether we can assess the specific characteristics of a given group of test takers, and (b) whether we can incorporate such information into the way we teach language learning.

Given the theoretical positions taken for the study and the status of the field as briefly reviewed above, the study aimed to provide an answer to the following questions:

Which kind of English pronunciation is more appropriate for students in learning English pronunciation?

How can English learners be motivated to learn this kind of English pronunciation?

1.4 Significant of study¼š

In General, the easier the learning, the better a person will learn a foreign language. In order to master a language, which ways to learned language is not a unilateral factor to measure one's proficiency.

Literature review

The difference of two kinds of English pronunciations¼š

The background of John Samuel Kenyon & Thomas A. Knott phonetic symbols (K&K)

John Samuel Kenyon & Thomas A. Knott phonetic symbols (K&K) is the informal name for A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English, first published in 1944 by John Samuel Kenyon and Thomas A. Knott. It provides a phonemic transcription of General American pronunciations of words, using symbols largely corresponding to those of the IPA¼ˆThe International Phonetic Alphabet¼‰.

John Samuel Kenyon & Thomas A. Knott phonetic symbols (K&K) use a broad transcription rather than a narrow one. For example, the long o vowel of "toe", which is a diphthong in open syllables in most American accents, is represented by the single symbol [o], rather than [ou] as it would be represented in a narrow transcription.

One principal application of Kenyon and Knott's system is to teach American English pronunciation to non-native speakers of English. It is commonly used for this purpose in Taiwan, where it is commonly known as "KK."

Many of the pronunciations in Kenyon and Knott seem antiquated today and dictionaries such as Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, ed. John C. Wells, Longman Group Ltd. 1990, ISBN 0-582-05383-8, have replaced it, providing more contemporary pronunciations.

The back ground of Phonetic

Phonetics is a field in linguistics that specializes in studying single sounds within language. Phonetics concerns itself with how the sounds are produced, how they sound to other listeners and how the brain perceives the sounds. Like all linguistic fields, phonetics studies all languages.

Around 750 A.D., the Indian grammarian Panini studied and wrote about the rules of articulation of Sanskrit. He also wrote some of the first known works on linguistic theories in general. Many other Indian linguists followed in Panini's footsteps.

17th and 18th Centuries

The discovery of how lateral (L sounds) and nasal (N and M) sounds are made took place during this time. Also, many speech synthesis machines were built and tested by scientists from all fields.

19th and 20th Centuries·

By the late 1800s, the International Phonetic Association decided to create a phonetic system in order to describe sounds from all languages. This is the alphabet that all those studying phonetics still use today. Called IPA for short, the system allows linguists to explain the pronunciation of any language with one writing system.

Modern Phonetics·

Today, phonetics is studied alongside phonology, the study of meaning in the smallest units of sound. Because all of linguistics is interdisciplinary, it is difficult to exclude the meaning of the sound from the way the sound is produced and perceived.

Situation in Taiwan in 2010

In the two decade, a number of studies have shown the change of Kenyon and Knott (K&K) and Phonetics. In Taiwan, phonetics is to carry out for over fifteen years. According to the research, phonetics is becoming the guide of learning English pronunciation.

Previous studies of Phonetics & Kenyon and Knott (K&K)

You can see this website to know something about the Victor Borge Phonetic Pronunciation (

As this review has shown, most sounds-based research on the extent to which form-based instruction is beneficial to Phonetics has been undertaken in the next paragraph.


As you know, the English alphabet is far from being a regular and consistent system of representing all the sounds in English. For instance, think of the letter group ough. How many different ways can it sound like:


Rhymes with..

(in Standard American Dialect)











And as you can see, "ough" can produce a myriad of sounds seemingly randomly. In addition, these endings may rhyme different in other dialects of English as well. Therefore linguists cannot rely on such whimsical system to scientifically represent sounds in a language. The solution was the creation of symbols explicitly designed to represent all sounds that humans can produce. We call such systems "Phonetic Alphabets".


Some important points:

V+ denoted "voiced", and V- is "voiceless". Voiceless and voiced simply mean that whether the vocal cords vibrate while making a sound. If you put your hand on your throat and alternate between saying "cod" and "god", you'll notice that "god" makes your vocal cord (or larynx) vibrates more. This is called voiced.

[p], [t], and [k] are unaspirated. For people who know Spanish well, they correspond to the sounds in 'pelo', 'té', and 'cosa'. Such sounds do not occur alone in English, but mostly after the consonant [s], such as in 'space'. Compare 'space' and 'pace', and you'll notice how the /p/ in 'pace' is stronger.

As just mentioned, the sounds /p/, /t/, and /k/ in English occuring at the beginning of the word is aspirated, meaning that more air is pushed out. In Linguistics they are transcribed as [ph], [th], and [kh]. You may think that is impossible to have aspirated /b/, /t/, and /g/, but Proto-Indo-European and Indic languages have them (like in the name of the great Indian epic Mahabharata).

The columns on the chart refer to points of articulation, that is, places in your mouth where sounds are produced. Bilabial means both of your lips come together, and the sound comes out there (you can feel the vibration between your lips if you try). Labio-dental between your upper lip touches your lower teeth. Inter-dental sounds are relatively rare in the world, and what you do is put your tongue between your two rows of teeth.

Apico-alveolar means putting the tip of your blade right behind your upper row of teeth. Apico-palatal sounds are also called Retroflex. They are pronounced like the Apico-aveolar except with your tongue curled back a little. The most common example for an American English speaker is the 'r' in "road". Retroflex /d/ and /t/ occur in Indian languages (both Indo-European and Dravidian).

Lamino-palatals are very much like apico-palatals but instead having the tip of your tongue as the highest point the blade, the part behind the tip, almost touches the roof of your mouth.

Dorso-velar, or just velar, sounds are produced between the back of your tongue and the back of your palate. Its cousin, Uvular makes your uvula vibrates, like Parisian French /r/.

Glottal simply means your larynx.

The categories that form the bold rows refer to the type of articulation. Stops are sounds that are maintained for a very short amount of time. You can't stretch no matter how hard you try. On the other hand, Fricatives can persists for forever. Compare between /t/ and /s/.

Sometimes you can merge stops and fricatives to get Affricates, which starts as a stop and turns into a fricative. The /ch/ in English "church" is just an example of an affricate. It starts as a /t/, and turns into a /sh/ sound.

Nasals are, well, nasal. They make your sinus vibrates.

He have no idea why Liquids are called liquids. The voiced apico-palatal liquid /r/ occurs in American English "red" and the voiced apico-alveolar liquid /l/ is like in English "lock", not "table".

The flap is the Spanish short /r/, ie in "toro". Also occurs in Italian, Japanese, and American English in the form of the /dd/ in "ladder" or /tt/ in "butter" said rapidly.

Semi-vowels are really vowels that appear as the less-powerful part of a diphthong. In other words, they are non-syllabic vowels.


Even though they look like English, don't be tempted to pronounce the symbols as if they were English letters. For instance, the symbol [i] really sounds like the 'ee' in "reed". The symbol [e] doesn't sound like the 'e' in 'be', but more like French 'être'.

When you say a vowel, you unconsciously change your tongue and lip into an unique configuration characterized by three attributes:

Unrounded vs rounded.

This feature applies to your lip. If you say [u] as like "room", you'll notice that your lips forming a circle and you look like you're about to kiss someone. On the other hand, if you say [i] as in "feet" your lips are straight. That's why before you take a picture in America you will tell the people you're about to capture on film to say "cheese", because [i] makes the lips look like smiling.

High to low.

You probably never noticed this, but when you say a vowel part of your tongue will raise toward the roof of your mouth while other parts will stay near the bottom. The height of your tongue's peak determines the vowel you say. The sound [i] like in "feet" forces your tongue higher up than, say, the sound [a] as in "father".

Front, central, and back.

This same peak that I just described above can also change in position in your mouth. When the peak is closest to your teeth, it is in front. Toward the throat is back. Between the two is, obviously, central. With [i], the peak of the tongue is a little bit behind your teeth, while with [u] the peak of the tongue is at the back of your mouth, near where the hard palate changes to the soft palate. If you can't picture it, try feeling around with your finger.

Vowels can be long or short.

A long vowel is denoted by a colon (:) after the vowel. The best example in English of long vs short can be found in cases like "sad" (long) and "sat" (short). Notice how the 'a' (phonetically [æ]) sounds longer in "sad" than in "sat". So, "sad" is transcribed as [sæ:d] while "sat" is [sæt].


In many languages of the world, tone plays an important role in distinguishing one morpheme from another.

Notice that tone isn't the same as stress or intonation. All of these involve changes in the pitch of the voice. Stress, sometimes also known as accent, is the rise and fall of the pitch throughout the syllables of a word. In English, there is usally a highest stress in a word, like "kéyboard" or "exáct", but also in some cases two stresses, one higher than the other, occur, like "singularity". Intonation is the rise and fall of the pitch throughout the words of a sentence. Notice how the statement "You are sick" sounds different from the question "You are sick?" In the statement, the words have more or less even pitches with respect to each other. On the other hand, the question's pitch peaks at the adjective "sick". Both contrasts with an interjection like "You are sick!", which places highest pitches on "You" and "sick".

Tone is somewhat like stress in that it also is the rise and fall of the pitch throughout a word. However, tone is used to distinguish words that have the same sounds which may have unrelated meanings, while stress is not. (Actually, in a few cases, stress does serve to distinguish different meanings or version of the same word, but never consistently as tone.)

Furthermore, the beginning pitch and the ending pitch of a tone is central to distinguishing words. Slightly different beginning or ending pitch means different words. On the other hand, the highest point in a stress can be any degree of pitch above the unstressed syllables. The difference doesn't matter as long as the stress rises above the other syllables.

There are several ways of representing tones in Romanization. Pinyin (for transcribing Mandarin) and Vietnamese uses diacritics. Some phonetic transcriptions use single digit numbers. So 1 in Cantonese is the high falling tone, 2 is the low falling tone, and so on. Neither system directly indicates the tone.

There are two other systems that do directly illustrate the tonal change. One uses a vertical bar to denote a scale, and horizontal or diagonal lines to represent the change in pitch.

Since I am a native speaker of Cantonese, I'll use its tonal system for demonstration. In traditional Cantonese, there are 9 basic tones, but in my dialect (Hong Kong) the high rising and low rising tones have become indistinguishable. Also, the high falling tone has become very similar to the high-level tone (which doesn't technically exist in Cantonese but can be found in Mandarin). I will try to reproduce all the distinguishing details in these tones, but don't take my pronunciation as canonical. The rest are relatively close to reality.




High falling 

[ma53] "mother"


Low falling

[ma31] "sesame; hemp"


High rising

[ma35] ???


Low rising

[ma13] "horse"


Mid level

[ma33] "question marker"


Low level

[ma11] "to scold"


High short

[pok55] "to hit" (quite onomatopeic)


Mid short

[pok44] "to struggle (restlessly)"


Low short

[pok22] "thin"


To distinguish the phonetic, there have another data for the ancient research.

Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to focus on and manipulate phonemes in spoken words. It is repeatedly found that phonemic awareness instruction exerts a strong impact on early reading and spelling (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1993; Davidson & Jenkins, 1994). It is further indicated that phonemic awareness can significantly bridge the critical gap between inadequate preparation for literacy and success in beginning reading (Bernstein & Ellis, 2000). Children's phonemic awareness could be improved through various ways of practice: phoneme isolation, identity, categorization, blending, segmentation, deletion, addition, and substitution (Ehri, Nunes, Willows, Schuster, Yaghoub-Zadeh, & Shanahan, 2001).

Among them, blending and segmentation are more wildly adopted and discussed (Ball & Blachman, 1991; Davidson & Jenkins, 1994; ChangI, 2001). Juel and Minden-Cupp (2000) shared the same idea: The linguistic unit that is generally emphasized in phonics is the phoneme, and the instructional strategy is to sound and blend the sequential letter-sound. Yet, a phoneme is a small unit of speech that corresponds to the letters of the alphabet, and the set of phonemes consists two categories: vowel sounds and consonant sounds (Kelly, 2000).

Some researches use phonological awareness for Phonemic awareness. Stanovich (1993-94) defined "phonological awareness" as the ability to deal sound explicitly and segmental with smaller units than the syllables. He also noted that researchers "argueintensely" about the meaning of the term and about the nature of the tasks used to measure it. Harris and Hodges (1995) presented a brief essay on phonemic awareness. Another often-cited source (Adams, 1990) used "phonemic awareness" almost exclusively. Phonological awareness sometimes refers to an awareness that words consist of syllables, "onsets and rimes," and phonemes, and so it can be considered as a broader notion than phonemic awareness. Each term is widely used and perhaps used interchangeably. In preparing this Digest, both terms were used to search the ERIC database. For the purposes of this Digest, each author's use will be followed.


In this research, we still can see some positive and negative in this two phonetic, the model doesn't provide a satisfactory account of the manner in which students master in phonetics chosen. Although this seems to a fairy standard definition, there are debates among research about precise definitions of such terms as this two phonetics.