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Intonation and second language acquisition : a study of the acquisition of English intonation by speakers of other languages

Barlow, John Stephen


John Stephen Barlow


Michael Lumsden


In the field of second language acquisition (SLA) research, the study of intonation, and prosodic systems generally, suffers from a considerable under-representation.This has far-reaching consequences. From the large body of empirical work on various aspects of SLA over the last three decades, a great deal has been turned to pedagogical use. Indeed, the field of SLA is closely linked to that of language pedagogy, as the dual acquisition theoretical and pedagogical character of many current journals and conferences shows.However, the mutually nourishing relationship between SLA research and language teaching suffers if either component is inadequate.In the case of intonation, this is exactly the case. At a time when the processes of SLA are under analysis from a wide range of linguistic, psychological and sociolinguistic perspectives, relatively little is known, even on a simple descriptive level, about the acquisition of intonation. There is no body of studies of L2 intonational form comparable, for example, to the 'morpheme studies' or to studies of 'developmental sequences' which informed much thinking in the field in the 1970s and 1980s (see Ellis 1994, Ch.3); no substantial body of work, that is, which might form the basis of further research.The present study aims to contribute to current knowledge on the acquisition of intonational form in second languages. It seeks to provide a detailed account of how certain aspects of L2 English intonation develop, both in terms of their phonetics, and also in terms of the linguistic and discoursal ends to which they are put. The study is divided into two parts:Part One: in which the theoretical and descriptive bases of the study are established. It deals first with aspects of intonational form in English, describing in detail the prosodic systems which are employed to mark various aspects of informational structure within the spoken language, and also considers briefly the current state of language teaching in these areas (Chapter One). Then a review of research into the acquisition of sound systems in second languages is presented, looking particularly at intonational form and other aspects of prosodic production and perception (Chapter Two).Part Two: in which the experiments which have been undertaken as part of this study are presented. Firstly, the procedural and analytical aspects of these experiments will be described (Chapter Three). The findings will then be presented and discussed (Chapters Four to Seven). Finally, findings will be summarised and some general conclusions drawn (Chapter Eight).


Barlow, J. S. (1998). Intonation and second language acquisition : a study of the acquisition of English intonation by speakers of other languages. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 15, 2011
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords Linguistics; Education
Public URL
Additional Information Language Institute, The University of Hull
Award Date Oct 1, 1998


Thesis (13.3 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 1998 Barlow, John Stephen. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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