Nonverbal features of speech and foreign language comprehension
A review of major issues
Are nonverbal features of speech a valuable source of information in L2 aural comprehension? This paper starts with the results of a questionnaire suggesting the teaching profession’s belief that nonverbal features of speech facilitate foreign language comprehension. This belief is then examined in the light of studies in various fields (applied linguistics, social psychology, anthropology, cross-cultural studies) where research deals with nonverbal features of speech at the receptive level. Our review of this literature raises several issues: 1) the importance of the context of use in decoding the meaning and functions of gestures; 2) potential discrepancies in the use of gestures in L1 and L2; 3) the interpretability of gestural expressions across cultures; and 4) the most appropriate teaching approach to integrate nonverbal features of speech into the teaching of L2 comprehension. The paper also discusses possible avenues for further research.
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