Sunday, December 25, 2011

Perception and theory-ladenness

  • Experience is structured. Structured by what? By the language we use, by the implicit beliefs (which we are not unable to describe) and explicit beliefs and theories, and by our actions.
  • You can't really observe what's out there unless you are working with some or another working hypothesis. In other words, the experience of the world is different based on which competing theory you subscribe to. 
  • "[W]hat is more important, the very notion of ‘observability’ also changes as our knowledge of the world evolves. The problem of some clerical contemporaries of Galileowith the telescope had to do with what they were ‘observing’: were they seeing what was ‘there’ on the moon, or an illusory image projected by the telescope which had nothing to do with the so-called mountains on the moon?" (p.170, The Heathen in His Blindness, S.N. Balagangadhara)
  • Many English second language speakers can't observe many segmental, suprasegmental, paralinguistic phenomena related to native English. 
  • So, we need instruments for these second language speakers to make them perceive the above phenomena. 
  • Are the accent reduction coaches helpful in giving these instruments? To some extent, yes. But to a large extent, these native speakers are NOT aware of the phenomena related to English. 
  • Therefore, both accent reduction coaches--who happen to be native speakers-- and second language learners need instruments (not like telescope, but theories--after all, theories are instruments, since they change your perception of the world) to observe these phenomena.
  • What kind of instruments (theories) we need? 
  • English Phonetic Transcription by  Charles-James Nice Bailey is an essential instrument.
  • The other is: various theories of Intonation (Intonation Phonology by Robert Ladd, ToBI, JC Wells English Intonation, Alan Cruttenden's Intonation, CJN Bailey's intonation theory)
  • Books related to English nonverbal communication
  • Unless these accent reduction coaches master these works, they can't help the foreign speakers achieve a native-like accent, except for the fact they can take these speakers from one point to another better point.

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