Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • Runhan Zhang (a1) and Zhou-min Yuan (a2)


The current study compares the effects of two types of pronunciation instruction (segmental- and suprasegmental-based) on the development of second-year Chinese undergraduate students’ English pronunciation as against a group with no specific pronunciation (NSP) instruction. The participants were 90 university-level students in the Chinese mainland, from three intact classes. One class was taught with a segmental focus (N = 30) and the second with a suprasegmental focus (N = 31), while the third received NSP instruction (N = 29). The results showed that after an 18-week period of instruction, both the segmental and suprasegmental groups made statistically significant progress in pronunciation, as measured by comprehensibility on a sentence-reading task; however, only the suprasegmental group made statistically significant progress in comprehensibility at the spontaneous level, and it was also the only group that maintained these spontaneous gains on the delayed posttest. The positive effects of explicit pronunciation instruction in general and of suprasegmental instruction in particular account for the findings.


Corresponding author

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Runhan Zhang, School of Foreign Studies, Central University of Finance and Economics, Haidian District, Beijing, P.R. China. E-mail:


Hide All

Our deepest gratitude goes first and foremost to Professor Tracey Derwing for her support, patience and encouragement. She has read the initial version of the whole manuscript and provided invaluable comments and suggestions that aided the final completion of this manuscript. We also would like to express our profound gratitude to the SSLA editors and the five anonymous reviewers for providing us with priceless comments and suggestions without which we cannot finish revising the whole manuscript. We finally want to thank all the participants who participated in our study, without whom we could not conduct this research.



Hide All
Couper, G. (2006). The short and long-term effects of pronunciation instruction. Prospect, 21, 4666.
Couper, G. (2011). What makes pronunciation teaching work? Testing for the effect of two variables: Socially constructed metalanguage and critical listening. Language Awareness, 20, 159182.
Derwing, T. M., & Munro, M. J. (1997). Accent, intelligibility and comprehensibility: Evidence from four L1s. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 19, 116.
Derwing, T. M., & Munro, M. J. (2005). Second language accent and pronunciation teaching: A research-based approach. TESOL Quarterly, 39, 379397.
Derwing, T. M., Munro, M. J., Foote, J. A., Waugh, E., & Fleming, J. (2014). Opening the window on comprehensible pronunciation after 19 years: A workplace training study. Language Learning, 64, 526548.
Derwing, T. M., Munro M, J., & Wiebe, G. (1998). Evidence in favor of a broad framework for pronunciation instruction. Language Learning, 48, 393410.
Elliott, A. R. (1997). On the teaching and acquisition of pronunciation within a communicative approach. Hispania, 80, 95108.
Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language teaching and learning. Oxford University Press.
Ellis, R. (2009). Implicit and explicit learning, knowledge and instruction. In Ellis, R., Loewen, S., Elder, C., Reinders, H., Erlam, R.., & Philp, J. (Eds.), Implicit and explicit knowledge in second language learning, testing and teaching (pp. 325). Multilingual Matters.
Foote, J. A., Holtby, A., & Derwing, T. M. (2011). Survey of pronunciation teaching in adult ESL programs in Canada, 2010. TESL Canada Journal, 29, 122.
Gordon, J., & Darcy, I. (2012, March). The development of comprehensible speech in L2 learners: Effects of explicit pronunciation instruction on segmentals and suprasegmentals. Paper presented at AAAL, Boston, MA.
Gordon, J., & Darcy, I. (2016). The development of comprehensible speech in L2 learners. Journal of Second Language Pronunciation, 2, 5692.
Hahn, L. D. (2004). Primary stress and intelligibility: Research to motivate the teaching of suprasegmentals. TESOL Quarterly, 38, 201223.
Isaacs, T., & Trofimovich, P. (2012). Deconstructing comprehensibility: Identifying the linguistic influences on listeners’ L2 comprehensibility ratings. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 34, 475505.
Kang, O., Rubin, D., & Pickering, L. (2010). Suprasegmental measures of accentedness and judgements of language learner proficiency in oral English. Modern Language Journal, 94, 554566.
Kennedy, S., & Trofimovich, P. (2010). Language awareness and second language pronunciation: A classroom study. Language Awareness, 19, 171185.
Lee, A. H., & Lyster, R. (2015). The effects of corrective feedback on instructed L2 speech perception. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 38, 3564.
Lee, J., Jang, J., & Plonsky, L. (2015). The effectiveness of second language pronunciation instruction: A meta-analysis. Applied Linguistics, 36, 345366.
Levis, J. M. (2005). Changing contexts and shifting paradigms in pronunciation teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 39, 369377.
Li, S. (2010). The effectiveness of corrective feedback in SLA: A meta-analysis. Language Learning, 60, 309365.
MacDonald, D., Yule, G., & Powers, M. (1994). Attempts to improve English L2 pronunciation: The variable effects of different types of instruction. Language Learning, 44, 75100.
Missaglia, F. (1999). Contrastive prosody in SLA: An empirical study with adult Italian learners of German. In Ohala, J. J., Hasegawa, Y., Ohala, M., Granville, D., & Bailey, A. C. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Phonetic Science (Vol. 1, pp. 551554). University of California.
Munro, M. J., Derwing, T. M., & Morton, S. L. (2006). The mutual intelligibility of L2 speech. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 28, 111131.
Munro, M. J., Derwing, T. M., & Thomson, R. I. (2015). Setting segmental priorities for English learners: Evidence from a longitudinal study. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 53, 3960.
Neri, A., Mich, O., Gerosa, M., & Giuliani, D. (2008). The effectiveness of computer assisted pronunciation training for foreign language learning by children. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 21, 393408.
Perlmutter, M. (1989). Intelligibility rating of L2 speech pre-and post-intervention. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 68, 51521.
Plonsky, L., & Oswald, F. L. (2014). How big is “big”? Interpreting effect sizes in L2 research. Language Learning, 64, 878891.
Saito, K. (2011). Examining the role of explicit phonetic instruction in native-like and comprehensible pronunciation development: An instructed SLA approach to L2 phonology. Language Awareness, 20, 4559.
Saito, K. (2012). Effects of instruction on L2 pronunciation development: A synthesis of 15 quasi-experimental intervention studies. TESOL Quarterly, 46, 842854.
Saito, K. (2014). Experienced teachers’ perspectives on priorities for improved intelligible pronunciation: The case of Japanese learners of English. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 24, 250–227.
Saito, K., & Plonsky, L. (2019). Effects of second language pronunciation teaching revisited: A proposed measurement framework and meta-analysis. Language Learning, 3, 652708.
Saito, K., Suzukida, Y., & Sun, H. (2018). Aptitude, experience and second language pronunciation proficiency development in classroom settings: A longitudinal study. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 41, 201225.
Saito, Y., & Saito, K. (2017). Differential effects of instruction on the development of second language comprehensibility, word stress, rhythm, and intonation: The case of inexperienced Japanese EFL learners. Language Teaching Research, 21, 589608.
Schmidt, R. (2001). Attention. In Robinson, P. (Ed.), Cognition and second language instruction (pp. 332). Cambridge University Press.
Sereno, J., Lammers, J., & Jongman, A. (2016). The relative contribution of segments and intonation to the perception of foreign-accented speech. Applied Psycholinguistics, 37, 303322.
Thomson, R. I., & Derwing, T. M. (2015). The effectiveness of L2 pronunciation instruction: A narrative review. Applied Linguistics, 36, 326344.
Trofimovich, P., Kennedy, S., & Blanchet, J. (2017). Development of second language French oral skills in an instructed setting: A focus on speech ratings. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 20, 3250.
Venkatagiri, H. S., & Levis, J. M. (2007). Phonological awareness and speech comprehensibility: An exploratory study. Language Awareness, 16, 263277.
Wang, G. (2005). English pronunciation & intonation for communication: A course for Chinese EFL learners (Version 2, republished in 2013). Higher Education Press.
Zhang, Z., & Mu, Y. (2005). College English – New idea oral English for college students. Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.
Zielinski, B. (2008). The listener: No longer the silent partner in reduced intelligibility. System, 36, 6984.


  • Runhan Zhang (a1) and Zhou-min Yuan (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.