The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics
[ Article ]
Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 18, No. 1, pp.1-29
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Mar 2018
Received Jan 2018 Revised Feb 2018 Accepted Mar 2018

Pause-Tonic Stress Interaction in English L2 Speech of Korean Talkers with Different Proficiency Levels

In Young Yang
Seoul National University, Korea


Yang, I. Y. 2018. Pause-tonic stress interaction in English L2 speech of Korean talkers with different proficiency levels. Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics 18-1, 1-29. This study reports on the interaction of pause and tonic stress production in L2 English speech. Pause and tonic stress are important prosodic manifestations of information structures that are crucial in facilitating listeners’ speech comprehension. Examinations were conducted on the placement of tonic stress and pauses within each tonality of read speech by 35 Korean adult learners. The participants were separated into three groups based on their speech comprehensibility and foreign-accent scores, using a Hierarchical Cluster Analysis. Each cluster revealed distinctive-both quantitative and qualitative-uses of tonic stress and pauses. As pronunciation proficiency increased, learners produced more accurate tonic stress and less frequent pauses within a tonality. In particular, participants with lower proficiency levels frequently placed pauses before less informative words. It is recommended that pronunciation be taught in a way that incorporates information structure, with a focus on pauses and tonic stress.


English pronunciation, tonic stress, pauses, information structure


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A Recording Material

From Kreidler (2004, pp. 149–151)

(The locations of tonic stress and tonality are underlined and separated with slashes)

Female: / Have you taken your family to the zoo yet, / John? /

Male: No, but my kids have been asking me to. I’ve heard this city has a pretty big one.

Female: / Yes, / it doesn’t have a lot of animals, / but it has quite a variety of animals2. / I think3 your kids / would enjoy seeing the pandas./

Male: I’m sure they would. I’d like to see them, too.

Female: / Also, / the tigers are worth looking at. /

Male: Is it okay to feed them?

Female: / No, / they’re not used to being fed. /

Male: What bus do you take to get there?

Female: / Number Twenty-eight. / But don’t you have a car? /

Male: We used to have one, but we had to sell it.


2 “animal” is also accentable in this context, if we assume that the speaker is planning the speech, according to Wells (2006).
3 “think” is also accentable, according to Kreidler (2004).