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The Spoken Language

  • George Yule

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The investigation of aspects of the spoken language from a pedagogical perspective in recent years has tended, with a few exceptions, to be indirect and typically subordinate to considerations of other topics such as acquisition processes, cognitive constraints on learning, cross-cultural factors, and many others. At the same time, there has been a broad movement in language teaching away from organizing courses in terms of discrete skills such as speaking or listening and towards more holistic or integrated classroom experiences for learners. There is no reason to suspect that these trends will be reversed in the early 1990s and, with the exception of those specifically involved in remediation, language teachers will be less likely to find themselves being prompted to “teach the spoken language” than to “create learner-centered, acquisition-rich environments” which will have listening and speaking activities as incidental processes rather than as objectives. While acknowledging this trend, I would like to survey, albeit selectively, some of the areas where speaking and listening activities relevant to the classroom have been the subject of recent investigation and evaluate some of the claims concerning what might be beneficial or not. In the three sections which follow, I shall review current thinking on: 1) the spoken language as a formal system, focusing on pronunciation, 2) the spoken language as a medium of information transfer (that is, in its transactional function), and 3) the spoken language as a medium of interpersonal exchange (that is, in its interactional function).

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The Spoken Language

  • George Yule

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