A Master of Arts Thesis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) by Nejib Ben Othman Ali Entitled, "Interlanguage Morphophonology: Can Persistent Errors be Overcome?," December 2009. Available are both Hard and Soft Copies of the Thesis.
EFL speakers need clear and intelligible speech to make their communication more successful. Good pronunciation is essential for speakers to communicate their ideas and understand others easily. Whether second language learners can achieve a native-like pronunciation or not is a highly-debated issue in second language acquisition (SLA). Some researchers posit that in the course of SLA, some pronunciation errors escape correction, which leads to a status of stabilization or even fossilization in the learners' interlanguage. A preliminary observation of 20 Emirati students in Mohamed Bin Hamad Al Sharqi Secondary School in Fujairah Educational Zone reveals three common persistent pronunciation errors in some students' interlanguage systems. For example, students mispronounced [b] for [p], and wrongly inserted a schwa [ə] within final and initial clusters as shown in examples (1b), (2b), and (3b) respectively. 1. a. [ˈpipəl] b. *[ˈbibəl] 2. a. [hoʊpt] b. *['hoʊpəd] 3. a. ['strʌk t∫ər] b. *[stə'rʌkt∫ə] This study investigates the possibility of treatment of these features for 10 Emirati students whose individual interlanguage morphophonology had been identified to exhibit all of these persistent errors. To determine these specific students, an initial pre-test consisting of reading 50 vocabulary items was carried out. 30 of these vocabulary items were intended to test the three target features that had been identified in the observation period, with 10 vocabulary items for each feature. To insure the existence of these features, another pre-test was carried out where the same 30 vocabulary items were spread throughout a 100-word reading text. A third pre-test tool was a five-minute presentation of a sequence of six pictures designed to elicit the same 30 vocabulary items described above. This was followed by a four-week error treatment course for 10 students who practiced many error treatment strategies. These were applied by other researchers before such as self-recording, shadowing, and tracking. The pre-test and post-test used the same instruments and were both administered by two native English-speaking raters. To see the effect of error treatment on students' pronunciation of the targeted features, I counted the frequency of persistent errors in the pre-test and post-test, and compared them using frequency polygons, tables, and histograms. Qualitative data from observation, surveys, and interviews helped interpret results. To assess the effect of the treatment course on students' pronunciation, I sought to answer the following questions: 1. What, if any, improvement occurs, through error treatment strategies, on the specifically-targeted errors (i.e., pronouncing [b] for [p]; the schwa [ə] insertion in the regular past tense morpheme; and vowel insertion in initial consonant clusters, as in *[stə´rʌkt∫ə]? 2. What are students' impressions of the treatment program? Regarding the first question, post-test results indicate that there was an overall improvement in students' pronunciation of the targeted features, which varied both at the level of individual students and in their performance of the targeted features. Concerning the second question, although students expressed an overall satisfaction with the pronunciation course, they suggested reinforcing it by studying other language skills and sub-skills.