A Study on the Oral Disfluencies Developmental Traits of EFL Students - A Report Based on Canonical Correlation Analysis

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper traces 9 non-English major EFL students and collects their oral productions in 4 successive oral exams in 2 years. The canonical correlation analysis approach of SPSS is adopted to study the disfluencies developmental traits under the influence of language acquisition development. We find that as language acquisition develops, the total production of difluenices does not decrease correspondingly as we thought, but keeps constant for a period of time. While the proportions of specific disfluencies phenomena change significantly, which features the decrease of pauses and the increase self-repairs. Besides, the grammatical accuracy and language complexity have opposite effects on disfluencies traits. In the first year, disfluencies were displayed mainly as pauses and repetitions since EFL students paid more attention to grammatical accuracy; in the second year, disfluencies featured more self-repairs and less pauses because EFL students transferred their attention to language complexity. We also find language acquisition can only account for partial developmental traits of disfluencies despite of the strong correlations between them, and other factors, such as psychological or social elements, may also take effects.

Keywords: disfluency, language acquisition development, canonical correlation analysis

1. Introduction

For EFL students, one of their purposes is to improve their oral English. But the majority of Chinese EFL students cannot communicate fluently even after several years of English learning, which is far from their expectations. In daily classes, instead of giving specific advices to students directed at their individual oral problems, teachers always tend to offer general and vague instructions, such as "pay attention to the accuracy of languages" or "try to improve your pronunciation", etc. These kinds of instructions benefit students less. Students are not clear about their oral problems, nor do they notice their improvement in oral English. So it is very common for Chinese EFL students to give up oral practices without a sense of achievement after a period of time. This phenomenon has a close relationship with the lack of understanding and researches in oral disfluencies of foreign languages.

Oral disfluencies generally refer to the non-fluent parts in oral productions (Shriberg, 1994). It may also refer to the disjointed or relatively slow oral parts in communications (Starkeweather, 1987). From these definitions, we find disfluencies are displayed not only as broken languages, but also as self-repairs and languages errors, etc. Dollaghan and Campbell (1992) studied the "disfluencies traits" system and classified disfluencies into 4 groups: pauses, repetitions, self-repairs and orphans. This paper accepts the 4 groups of disfluencies and considers disfluencies as the oral outputs which make oral productions disfluent or unnatural. Dollaghan and Campbell (1992) suggested that each group of disfluencies was an independent phenomenon, which reflected a corresponding language learning process. Many scholars have studied disfluencies (Baars, Motley, & MacKay, 1975; Dell & Reich, 1981; Fromkin, 1971; Garrett, 1975; Lee, 1974; Pearl & Bernthal, 1980; Wall & Myers, 1984). Majority of them studied certain aspect of disfluencies traits by analyzing the associations between language proficiency and disfluencies. While majority of these researches studied the disfluencies traits at a specific time rather than the longitudinal developmental changes. Besides, most of researches focused on changes of disfluencies traits under one certain language acquisition phenomenon (such as syntax) (Gordon & Peterson, 1986; Colburn & Mysak, 1982) other than more language phenomena. Thus canonical correlation analysis approach was seldom used in these researches.

In this paper, we will study oral disfluencies developmental traits longitudinally by analyzing its correlations with language acquisition development. …

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