On the use of supra-segmental features of English and preferences of English varieties in Estonia with special reference to the Master's students of the University of Tartu
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It is known that native speakers of English (or other advanced speakers of English) can easily forgive foreigners their accents in sounds but take their intonation at face value. Therefore, the methodology of the teaching of English pronunciation should suggest more effective materials to help students learn necessary supra-segmental skills consisting of stress patterns, rhythm, intonation and phrasing. This thesis will explore how master’s students studying English and EFL master’s students assess and use their pronunciation of English when delivering presentations, reading papers and discussing their field of study with fellow master's students and which variety of English they suppose they use. In addition, the aim of this thesis is to find out how familiar the master’s students of the University of Tartu (UT) are with the use of prosodic features in spoken English and how much attention they pay to their pronunciation of English. In order to get the results, an interview consisting of a spontaneous informative conversation together with two reading passages is undertaken with 36 Master’s students of UT. As a result, this thesis comes to the conclusion that that the Master’s students of UT are not familiar with the use of the prosodic features of English and are not consistent in using English varieties (General American or Received Pronunciation).The results lead to the necessity of amplified emphasis on pronunciation in English-language instruction in Estonian schools. The thesis consists of an introduction, theoretical background in two chapters, empirical data analysis with discussion and conclusions that can be drawn from the research. The introductory part introduces prior researches on similar topics of English pronunciation in Estonia and background information on the importance of awareness of the varieties of English. Chapter 1 includes the theoretical aspects and functions of supra-segmentals in pronunciation. Chapter 2 gives an overview of variety-based prosodic features that exist in spoken English varieties that are under observation. The Empirical chapter describes the findings based on the interviews conducted among 36 UT master’s students in 2012 and discusses the results in terms of predictions and expectations of the research. The conclusion of this thesis sums up the results and makes generalizations about the necessary teaching aspects of prosody and varieties of English.