Elena Babushkina and Ayana Namdakova

Acquiring English intonation in linguistically diverse classrooms


Wednesday 6 November, 15.00-15.30, B1005

The present paper describes some common features of acquiring English intonation by learners of varying linguistic backgrounds in the academic settings. It mainly focuses on prosodic transfer and its occurrences in the speech melody of university students, bilinguals of the Buryat and Russian languages, as contrasted to the comparative data of monolingual Russian speakers.


We consider positive effects of bilingualism on language learning to be connected with a capability of bilinguals to transfer their skills onto another non-primary language due to their access to two linguistic systems when acquiring a third language. However, we also share the assumption that language contact in the bilingual can lead to the emergence of unique, hybrid features that neither of the two source languages possesses (Treffers-Daller & Sakel, 2012).


During a number of experiments on prosodic interference of the Buryat and Russian languages being in contact with English we have found out that both the learner’s native and non-native languages can be sources of influence on a foreign language. Furthermore, it is important to bear in mind that third language acquisition is a complex phenomenon affected by a large number of individual and contextual factors (Cenoz, 2003).


In addition, the results show that learners of English with a variety of linguistic backgrounds appear to make the same kind of errors, supporting the hypothesis that the common underlying language proficiency can transfer across languages, and implicating there can be universal patterns in acquiring the prosodic system of English.



1. Treffers-Daller, J., Sakel, J. (2012). Why Transfer is a Key Aspect of Language Use and Processing in Bilinguals and L2-Users. The International Journal of Bilingualism. 16 (1). – 3-10.

2. Cenoz J. (2003).   The Additive Effect of Bilingualism on Third Language Acquisition: A review. The International Journal of Bilingualism. 7. – 87-90.