Exploring the Reasons for the Fossilization of Phonological Errors: A case study of the substitution of/o/for/ɔ/by English as Second Language Learners in Sri Lanka

Kaushika Premarathne


Over the past decades, various teaching methods adopted from time to time have placed pronunciation teaching in the forefront or in the backend. This has resulted in second language facilitators to completely disregard or relentlessly correct pronunciation depending on their intuition due to the lack of research on pronunciation teaching or proper guidance. In Sri Lanka, since there has been no general agreement on pronunciation teaching, it is being considered merely a supplementary task which is often overlooked. As a result of this, certain phonological features have got fossilized in the code repertoire of English as second language learners in Sri Lanka. Past studies on phonology in Sri Lanka bear evidence that phonological deviations can lead to a class distinction in Sri Lankan society which can even have an adverse outcome at a job interview or any social gathering (Parakrama, 1995; Gunesekera, 2005). The aim of this study is to record literature on pronunciation teaching in Sri Lanka and to investigate reasons for fossilization of phonological features. A questionnaire was administered among 25 high proficiency learners who have been pursuing higher studies in English medium to find out reasons for English as Second Language learners in Sri Lanka to substitute the mid back vowel/o/for the low back vowel/ɔ/. According to literature, L1 dominance on L2 attributes for learners to deviate from the codified norms of the Standard Sri Lankan English (SSLE). In line with the Noticing Hypothesis, the Output Hypothesis, and the Interactional model, the findings showcase that the lack of sufficient guidance and the lack of awareness on the part of facilitators and learners respectively are the most salient factors that prevent the formation of new phonological categories which do not exist in the L1. It is recommended for facilitators to make learners aware of their phonological errors to avoid fossilization of erroneous forms.


English as Second Language Learner In Sri Lanka, Phonological Error, Fossilization, Low Back Vowel, Mid Back Vowel

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.alls.v.9n.4p.105


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