literature review of my dissertation

I am currently working on the literature review section of my dissertation, which is approximately 4,000 words in length. So far, I have written about 2,500 words, but I am uncertain if my writing is staying on topic. Could you please help me revise my existing content and write an additional 1,500 words? Additionally, I need assistance in designing a survey questionnaire (15-20 multiple-choice questions) and formulating semi-structured interview questions.

II. Literature review

2.1 Theoretical Framework on Language Acquisition and Accents

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Timmis (2002, p. 240) points out that approximately 80% of English conversations worldwide are not conducted by native speakers but by individuals who do not share the same mother tongue and use English as a lingua franca. This highlights the significance of English as a global language and its crucial role in multilingual communication. Understanding the theoretical frameworks of language acquisition and accent is particularly important in this context.

This section will explore the critical period hypothesis, the neural basis of second language acquisition, and input theories to comprehensively understand the factors influencing non-native English learners' accent acquisition. These theoretical frameworks will provide a solid foundation for studying the attitudes of Chinese EFL students towards accent acquisition in the UK.

2.1.1 Critical Period Hypothesis

The Critical Period Hypothesis was initially proposed by Penfield and Roberts (1959) in the neurolinguistic literature and was strongly advocated by Lenneberg (1967): brain maturation limits the recovery from brain injury and disorders, extending this idea to second language acquisition. Subsequently, several behavioural evidence studies confirmed this hypothesis (Johnson, 1992; Johnson & Newport, 1989; Krashen, 1976; Patkowski, 1980, 1994). In these studies, the language proficiency measures varied (speaking ratings, grammatical judgment tasks). However, the typical result was that proficiency scores declined as the age of initial exposure to the second language increased.

Several studies have shown that the Critical Period is related to accent acquisition. Scovel (1988) argued that the phonological system of a language is more easily acquired before puberty. After puberty, the brain's ability to adapt to new phonological systems significantly declines, which is particularly evident in accent acquisition; languages learned after puberty usually retain a "foreign accent." Flege (1999) explored the relationship between second language phonological acquisition and age of learning, indicating that the earlier one starts learning a second language, the closer their pronunciation is to native speakers. Language learners who start learning in adulthood, even if they achieve a high level of language proficiency, still find it difficult to eliminate their accents. The findings of these two major studies have also been further substantiated (Birdsong, 2006; Abrahamsson & Hyltenstam, 2009). Understanding these studies helps to explain the attitudes and acquisition of native speaker accents among Chinese EFL students at different stages of learning.

2.1.2 Neural Basis of Second Language Acquisition

According to Hensch (2005), neuroplasticity refers to the brain's capacity to adapt in structure and function, especially during learning. This adaptability allows the brain to form and reorganize connections between neurons in response to new information and experiences. Hensch noted, "Although learning is possible throughout life, there is no doubt that those who start younger fare better and that plasticity is enhanced during specific windows of opportunity" (Hensch, 2005, p. 877). Essentially, neuroplasticity decreases with age.

Birdsong (2006) explains that elements crucial for language learning, such as associative memory and incremental learning, as well as working memory and processing speed, decline with age. This decline, beginning in early adulthood and continuing throughout life, results in a slower pace for language acquisition in adults. Consequently, adult learners often require more time and effort to achieve language proficiency compared to younger learners. Nonetheless, Li, Legault, and Litcofsky (2014) emphasize that with sufficient, consistent, and long-term exposure to a second language (L2), adults can still make significant progress and potentially reach high proficiency levels. They state, "if there is sufficient, consistent, and long-term stimulation from the L2 across an extended period of the lifespan, brain changes will likely be accompanied by performance abilities that approximate or reach the skills of native speakers, and in exceptional cases, excelling above the average level of native-ness" (Li, Legault, & Litcofsky, 2014, pp. 318-319).

Furthermore, Abutalebi and Green (2007) argue that "during the course of acquiring an L2, whether early or late, we argue that the same network is involved as used in L1" (Abutalebi & Green, 2007, p. 262). This suggests that adult learners can enhance their neuroplasticity through intensive practice and frequent language exposure, facilitating language acquisition. Despite the age-related decline in neuroplasticity, adult learners can still effectively learn a new language by leveraging the brain's ability to adapt through persistent and targeted efforts.

2.1.3 Language Input and Accent Acquisition

a. input hypothesis

The Input Hypothesis was first proposed by Krashen (1982). He not only distinguished between acquisition and learning, emphasizing the importance of language acquisition but also introduced the concept of "comprehensible input." Krashen refers to the current level of acquired competence at which individuals find themselves as "Level i." Comprehensible input promotes additional acquisition by providing material from the next higher hypothesized level of acquired competence, which Krashen calls "i+1." In other words, the input needs to be slightly above the learner's current language level to facilitate language acquisition. Krashen (1985) later added that this input must be comprehensible, meaning that learners can understand most of the content. However, it still contains some new language elements to advance their language abilities.

Therefore, learners can further internalize correct phonological patterns when exposed to comprehensible input, including native speaker pronunciation. They are more likely to improve their accent by mimicking and practising these new, more advanced phonological features. Consistent exposure to "i+1" level input in naturalistic settings can significantly enhance the accuracy and authenticity of a learner's accent.

b. interaction hypothesis

The Interaction Hypothesis initially proposed two central claims about the role of interaction in second language acquisition. These are Krashen's (1977, 1980) assertion that "Comprehensible input is necessary for L2 acquisition" and Hatch's (1978) claim that "Modifications to the interactional structure of conversations that occur while negotiating a communication problem help to make input comprehensible to an L2 learner." Long (1996) further refined the Interaction Hypothesis, pointing out that language acquisition depends not only on language input but also on the learner's interaction with others. Long suggested that through interaction, learners can better understand and acquire language by negotiating and clarifying language input. During these interactions, learners receive immediate feedback, which helps them identify and correct errors (Mackey, 1999). This interaction not only facilitates language proficiency but also has a significant impact on accent improvement. Through natural interactions with native speakers, learners can mimic and acquire correct pronunciation patterns (Gass & Varonis, 1994). Therefore, interaction plays a crucial role in both language input and accent acquisition.

c. impact of immersive language environment

The term "immersion" refers to the state of being entirely covered by a liquid or deeply involved in something. Language specialists use this term metaphorically to describe being surrounded by language and culture, typically in enhanced language learning experiences such as dual-language programs (Potowski, 2007) or study abroad programs (Kinginger, 2011). Immersive language environments provide abundant natural language input, aligning with Krashen's Input Hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, learners can gradually improve their language proficiency by understanding input slightly above their current level (i+1). Additionally, through interaction with native speakers, learners receive immediate feedback, correct their mistakes, and improve their language output, consistent with Long's refined Interaction Hypothesis.

Research by Piske, MacKay, and Flege (2001) indicates that learners immersed in a native language environment, due to their exposure to extensive authentic language input and daily interactive feedback, develop accents closer to native speakers. For Chinese EFL students studying in the UK, being surrounded by English in daily life allows them to hear and use a vast amount of natural linguistic input, helping them better mimic and acquire correct pronunciation patterns. Interactions with native speakers, such as participating in class discussions, provide high-quality language input and enable students to correct pronunciation errors promptly. Therefore, an immersive language environment plays a crucial role in improving language learners' accents.

2.2 Attitudes towards Native Speaker Accents in EFL Contexts

2.2.1 Perception of Native Speaker Norms

The concept of a native speaker, as based on Bloomfield (1933: 43), is typically defined as "the first language a human being learns to speak is his native language; he is a native speaker of this language," which emphasizes that a native language is the first language learned. Kachru (1992: vii) claims that linguists have created the concept of native speakership: "Linguists… have long given a special place to the native speaker as the only true and reliable source of language data." Linguists like Chomsky (1965) believe that grammatical competence (as opposed to performance) represents the language knowledge of an idealized native speaker. Therefore, native speakers are viewed as authentic language users whom second language learners should emulate.

Despite recent scholars questioning Native Speaker Norms, such as Cook (1999), who poses the challenging question, "Why should the attested language use of an NS community be a model for learners of EIL?" this skepticism has not altered the prevailing situation. Due to the overwhelming ideology of native speakers and standard English in the field of English Language Teaching (ELT), the dominance of these norms persists. Over the past few decades, the prominence of English as a foreign or second language has significantly promoted the spread of standard English, mainly advancing certain varieties of English, namely American English and British English (Bamgbose, 2001).

Significant contributions to the discourse on native speaker norms have been made by Jenkins (2000). Jenkins posits that pronunciation is "the greatest prejudice" and offers several suggestions in her work to democratise phonology away from native speaker norms. Her Lingua Franca Core (LFC) aims to enhance international intelligibility among non-native speakers (NNSs) rather than emulating native speakers (NSs). While learners who wish to sound as close to native speakers as possible, such as future teachers, can pursue this higher goal, they should first familiarise themselves with the LFC to be well-prepared for international communication. The LFC seeks to align pronunciation more closely with spelling, which is why the American /r/ is preferred over the standard British /r/ in both production and reception, and the British clear /t/ is favoured over the American flapped /t/, which tends to become /d/ and thus jeopardises intelligibility. Jenkins argues that her prescriptive model offers individual speakers the opportunity to express their personal identity through the phonetic features of their language. It is based on empirical evidence and focuses on authentic, interactive phonological data. Ketabi & Shomoossi (2007:176) also believe that the LFC can significantly reduce the burden on teachers by removing many time-consuming items from the pronunciation syllabus that are either unteachable or irrelevant to English, easing unnecessary burdens on learners.

2.2.2 Accent and Identity

As Tabouret Keller (2017:317) notes, Language features serve as the crucial link between individual and social identities, offering both the means to create and express this connection. Language binds personal identity with social affiliation. Individuals leverage their linguistic experiences to construct their identities and position themselves within the social world (Foulkes & Docherty, 2006). Having one's own or multiple accents is an integral part of this process. Our accents are how we express ourselves as individuals, helping us to quite literally voice our identity (Whitworth, 2021). Through the unique features of our speech, we can communicate who we are and where we come from, reinforcing the intricate relationship between language, accent, and identity.

Accents can also be a powerful tool for social signalling, allowing speakers to affiliate or distance themselves from various social groups and communities. For instance, in Bradford, descendants of Punjabi-speaking immigrants retain certain L2 accent features, such as the postalveolar or retroflex tongue positions for /t/, /d/, and /n/ sounds, to signal their ethnic origins (Heselwood & McChrystal, 2000). Similarly, accents can reflect sexual orientation, with more sibilant pronunciations of /s/ sounds used to signal this aspect of identity (Munson, McDonald, DeBoe, & White, 2006). Additionally, individuals can identify as "nerds" (pro-school) or "rebels" (anti-school) by varying the pronunciation of the word-final unstressed vowels in words like "happy," "busy," or "really" (Kirkham, 2015). Thus, accents provide a nuanced and multifaceted means of expressing and negotiating identity in various social contexts.

However, in the pursuit of acquiring a native speaker accent, learners must be mindful of the potential for cultural assimilation and identity loss. As Dalton & Seidlhofer (1994: 8) point out, altering one's pronunciation—whether of the L1 or an L2—can be seen as tampering with one's self-image, which is ethically questionable. This transformation in accent can lead to significant shifts in a person's cultural and personal identity. Some researchers have gone further, suggesting that students may fear developing a native-speaker accent due to the potential loss of identity that could occur. Daniels (1995) states, "To speak an L2 like a native is to take a drastic step into the unknown, accompanied by the unconscious fear of no return." Therefore, it is essential to balance linguistic goals with the preservation of individual identity and cultural integrity.

2.2.3 aspirations towards native speaker accents in EFL contexts

Sobkowiak (2005: 144) observes that throughout his teaching career, he has never encountered a student who did not aspire to sound like a native speaker or feared to embark on this "road of no return". Research supports the notion that the majority of students desire to achieve native-like pronunciation (Andreasson, 1994; Derwing, 2003). For instance, Derwing (2003) found that 95% of 100 immigrant English-language learners (ELLs) in Canada expressed a preference for speaking like native speakers if given the opportunity. This strong inclination towards native-like accents underscores the value placed on these accents by ELLs.

The preference for native speaker accents is not confined to Western contexts but is also prevalent in various Asian regions. In certain Asian regions, EFL learners are heavily influenced by native speaker accents. The belief that the teaching practices of non-native English teachers (NNEST) are based on American or British English is deeply ingrained in the governments, societies, and learners of East Asia. The ultimate goal of English teaching in these regions is to enable learners to speak American or British English (Hu, 2005; Matsuda, 2003). In China, for instance, over 78% of school English teachers prefer to teach American English (Hu, 2005). This societal and governmental influence is so strong that English learners strive to imitate RP or General American English and may even take pride in their native accents (Yun & Jia, 2003). Even in contexts where alternative models of English are proposed, the preference for native-speaker accents persists, highlighting the significant external pressures these learners face.

Even Jenkins (2013), the proponent of the ELF model, found that ESL students in higher education institutions in the United Kingdom still yearned to acquire a native-speaker accent despite their initial acceptance of the concept of ELF. She explains, 'But in most cases, even when participants had expressed agreement with ELF's orientation to English, for themselves they still wanted a native version, perceived this as 'best,' saw their own English as 'bad,' 'very poor,' and desired it to be native-like even in cases where [non-native English-speaking students] were more likely to read their work and hear them speak' (p. 200). This highlights the students' feelings of inadequacy and their strong desire for improvement, regardless of their initial openness to alternative models, and is something the audience can empathize with.

2.3 Impact of Length of Stay in English-Speaking Countries

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