From Theory to Practice: Understanding Cantonese and Mandarin English Learners’ Pronunciation Phenomena through Optimality Theory
Abstract: This chapter aims at discussing how Optimality Theory, a constraint-based theory, can provide a clear account of English pronunciation phenomena of learners with different linguistic backgrounds. The chapter will present the phonological structure of Cantonese, Mandarin and English and discuss the pronunciation phenomena of English consonants and consonant clusters among Cantonese and Mandarin learners of English. It will also discuss transfer and developmental effects on second language acquisition and illustrate how Optimality Theory, which takes both transfer and developmental effects into consideration, explains the varied pronunciation phenomena of the Chinese learners of English. It is concluded that the varied forms that learners produce reflect their individual progress in the continuum of second language acquisition and that Optimality Theory can capture and explain these acquisition differences. Also, in view of the varied pronunciation phenomena found among learners, it is suggested that language teachers should have knowledge of the native languages of the learners in order to identify the difficulties of learners with different linguistic backgrounds.
Keywords: SL phonology, English pronunciation, Optimality Theory
With the increasing contact between Hong Kong and Mainland China, young Mainland immigrants and Mainland students admitted to Hong Kong education institutions are increasing in number. Like the local Hong Kong students, they need to take English language courses which include the teaching of pronunciation and oral English in the local schools and universities. Since the local students mostly speak Cantonese natively and Mainland students mostly speak Mandarin natively, we can expect...
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