First Advisor

G. Tucker Childs

Term of Graduation

Summer 2003

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




English language -- Pronunciation by foreign speakers, Psycholinguistics, Second language acquisition



Physical Description

2, iv, 108 pages


This study reports on the effectiveness of (theatrical) stage dialect learning techniques in bringing about linguistically authentic change. Actors use several techniques, some rather esoteric in nature and others more closely tied to linguistic fact such as the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. The purpose of this study is to examine some of these techniques as to their ability to bring about linguistic authenticity, as well as to attempt a comparison of stage dialect acquisition and naturalistic dialect acquisition.

Data were collected by interviewing a convenience sample of twelve student actors. Six of these (three males, three females) were trained in stage dialect techniques and six (three males, three females) were not. A list of sentences was generated to examine phonological features of Irish and British dialects. These were read by the participants first in natural speech and then in stage dialect. They were also asked questions about their stage dialect experience, and about how they felt about their performance on the sentences. The elicitation and interview were recorded and analyzed for phonological accuracy by the investigator.

The study found that stage dialect techniques bring about more phonological accuracy as well as more impressionistic likeness to the target dialect than without their use. It was also found that these participants' stage dialect acquisition was similar to very early stages of naturalistic dialect acquisition with regard to performance variability, but also exhibited behavior not reported in naturalistic dialect acquisition studies. The data suggest that while stage dialect learning may eventually lead to native-like pronunciation of novel sentences given to an actor who has mastered the dialect, the stages between ignorance and mastery may look very different than the stages observed in naturalistic dialect acquisition. Lastly, it was found that psycholinguistically, early fossilzation of an incompletely learned stage dialect may occur due to lack of reliable source material such as native speakers of the dialect. However, all of these speculations are only tentative as the participants were picked for convenience (and therefore were quite heterogeneous in several ways) and do not represent the acting community in general.


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