22 December 2009

ELT in Japan, Issue 1, Feature Article: "The Facially Salient Articulatory Gesture as a Basic Unit for Applied Phonology in ELT"

ELT in Japan, Issue 1, Feature Article:

The Facially Salient Articulatory Gesture as a Basic Unit for Applied Phonology in ELT
by Charles Jannuzi, University of Fukui, Japan


This paper summarizes the analysis and interpretation of the results of two electromyographic procedures  in experimental phonology. The results of electromyographic experiments have been interpreted and  analyzed using concepts and theory from linguistics, applied linguistics, and phonology, specifically articulatory  phonology. The first electromyographic procedure on one native speaker of English obtained data on  the consonant sounds of English. The second electromyographic procedure was used to explore the large  vowel system of English.

Based on the results of these experiments, we propose a new theory about the basic sub-lexical unit of  speech production and perception. This paper posits a new, discrete, invariant, psychological unit of  phonology that functions below the level of word meaning to organize language. This model is a variation  of the articulatory gesture of articulatory phonology and phonetics, and it has implications and applications  relevant in many areas of applied linguistics and language education, including native language arts, second  and foreign language learning, and literacy. In order to contrast the new concept with the previously  established concepts of the 'phoneme' and 'feature', we will call the new phonological prime the 'visual  articulatory gesture', or, alternatively, it can be referred to as the 'facially salient articulatory gesture'.  The advantage of this new basic sub-lexical unit in phonology--and as a model for applied phonology in support of TEFL--is not merely the need in linguistics, applied linguistics and educational linguistics for an abstract  model that makes better phonetic and psychological sense. Rather, we feel strongly that any model more true of linguistic and psychological reality will yield better concepts, principles and practices for the classroom and materials.

The theory that emerges from our research helps to solve the problem of the lack of phonetic realism that  plagues structuralist, behaviorist and formalist accounts of the phonology of a language in actual acquisition  and then communicative use (production and perception). In part, this model of phonology is based on  a view of language as a learning system that builds up to a learned, stable state of functional complexity  (that is, the flow from language acquisition and learning to fluent use of a language to learn and communicate).

The 'learning to learn' stage involves necessary and sufficient inputs and feedback from visual,  acoustic-phonetic and kinesthetic signals. We call the most basic, sub-lexical, phonological unit of this  model (and indeed all language use) the 'articulatory gesture'. However, unlike previously established conceptualizations of the term 'articulatory gesture', which never really address what is meant by the term 'gesture', our basic sub-lexical unit involves 'faciality' or 'facial salience' in the visual and physiological components.

In this way we clarify why articulatory gestures are gestural in a linguistic sense and can help  account for rapid, reduced, connected, co-articulated speech. Unlike the descriptively simplistic but non- explanatory abstractions of the phoneme or feature, articulatory gestures ARE NOT merely formalizations  of repetitious, sequenced movements of articulators tracked at prominent points of articulation. Rather, the  articulatory gesture as a unit of phonology helps models psychological control of both language production  and perception. For a schematic overview of the articulatory gesture with the previously established analogues.

Click on each graphic or page number to load the page.


Page 16

Page 17

Alternatively, you can read an html version of the article (with hyperlinks to graphics, Figures 1-3) at the following location: 


Also, this entire article is available as viewable graphics at the following photoalbum on line:

Facially Salient Articulatory Gesture

labels: phoneme, feature, structuralism, articulatory gesture, visually salient articulatory gesture, basic unit of phonology, sub-lexical analysis of language, language acquisition 

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