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Minimal Pair Drills: Are They Always an Effective Way to Practice English Vowel Discrimination?

  • Modern English Education
  • Abbr : MEESO
  • 2011, 12(4), pp.43-64
  • Publisher : The Modern English Education Society
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Language Teaching

shin Changwon 1

1서울시립대

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The present study attempted to re-evaluate the effectiveness of minimal pair drills,based on the concept of markedness or typological markedness, which was adopted by Eckman (1977, 1981a) to account for L2 phonology such as the relative degree of difficulty in L2 acquisition. To this end, the perceptual acquisition of English tense and lax vowels by Korean speakers of English was investigated to see how effective minimal pair drills are in perceiving the differences between similar L2 sounds. The notion of typological markedness made it possible to formulate the three different hypotheses about possible treatments for helping Korean learners identify L2 English tense-lax vowels: minimal pair stimulus, tense vowel (unmarked vowels) stimulus, and lax vowel (marked vowels) stimulus. The results showed that lax vowels were a more useful stimulus rather than the other two stimuli - minimal pair and tense vowels, suggesting that presenting only lax vowels or presenting lax vowels earlier might be a more effective way to improve Korean learners' ability to discriminate English tense-lax vowels than using the minimal pair drills, at least in a context in which Korean learners are taught to identify English tense and lax vowelsat a word-level.

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