A Research Informed Approach to Stress Rule Selection for English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Programmes
English word stress rules are numerous and are also notoriously prone to exceptions. As a result, arbitrary decisions are frequently made within English as a Foreign Language (EFL) programmes about which stress patterns warrant explicit instruction. Considerations such as the age and stage of the target learners, the teaching/learning context, and specific course objectives further complicate decisions about which rules should be accorded priority in a particular programme. This paper reports on a study undertaken to determine which English word stress rules should be prioritised in an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course for mature students. A systematic analysis of the Academic Word List (AWL), applying three primary criteria (frequency of word use, degree of rule regularity, and degree of productivity), indicates that a focus on three rules in particular would help EAP learners predict the position of the stressed syllables in newly encountered academic words. These rules are discussed in relation to the three primary criteria, as well as with reference to the contribution they may make to EAP learners’ functional intelligibility, oral fluency and ongoing vocabulary growth.
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