Aspects of Verbal Behavior: Files From The Pacific Language Institute

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation 2008 116 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics







Literature Review

Metrical Phonology

Feedback Systems

Physical Linguistics

A Business Model




About the Author


The thesis will examine four research papers from the files of the Pacific Language Institute and address current research that parallels each paper. A secondary focus on relations to speech, language learning and community will address how each paper reflects the goals of the Pacific Language Institute.


The thesis is as much of a reflection of the work done at the Pacific Language Institute (1992-2006) as it is a current table of research to the work that was done. The speech, learning and community models of analysis reflect the goals of the Pacific Language Institute and allows for a reflective value of the companies growth over the years.

This work is my habilitation, also known as a postdoctoral dissertation, regarding the work done by my language research and development company I founded in 1992 in Cupertino, California U.S.A. The work was completed at the end of 2008 and I am pursuing publication of the dissertation in 2009.


I would like to thank The City of Cupertino, California, for making the business environment agreeable and open for start up companies such as The Pacific Language Institute in 1992. The dynamics of the local area and the high level of education of the populace made the early years in Cupertino a viable asset to the company and helped greatly in the early research and development stage of the company in those first years of business.


The main topic of this post-doctoral thesis is the evaluation of current research that reflects the core content of four research papers taken from the files of the Pacific Language Institute. The thesis will also address the speech, language learning and community factors in a business model that will analyze each paper as a reflection of the Pacific Language Institute's corporate goals and development over the years.


The Pacific Language Institute was founded in 1992 as a language research and development company located in Cupertino, California Ü.S.A. The thesis reflects on the work carried out at the company from the years 1992 through 2006.

The four research papers from the files of the Pacific Language Institute are as follows:

1. Metrical Phonology: German Sound System
2. Physical Linguistics
3. Metrical Phonology and SLA
4. The Language Learning Loop: A Pronunciation System for Japanese ESL.

These papers either have been delivered at conferences or have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Both of the metrical papers and the physical linguistics paper can be found at the ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics. The Language Learning Loop paper was published in TESOL Matters in 1997.

Statement of the Problem

The Pacific Language Institute was founded in 1992 in Cupertino, California as a research and development company specializing in second language acquisition with a primary focus on phonology. While this thesis will focus on current developments in areas covered in past research by myself for the Pacific Language Institute, the role of a business model will be taken into account, as the very nature of a small language research driven company in the heart of 'Silicon Valley'' is a story in of itself.

Business Model

Competing for contracts and research funding is difficult for most 'high tech' companies but can be a real problem for research and development companies that provide, at best, service industries to the larger community as a whole. The Pacific Language Institute is one of these small research companies that has to 'fight to survive' against not only other 'language' firms, but also the limited funds usually allotted to such companies in the 'super competitive' electronics industry.

In other words, the very fact that the Pacific Language Institute has survived for more than five years, the norm for a company's success rate, is a testament to the management and business model that was designed for this unforgiving economic market. The Pacific Language Institute was organized to be low maintenance and low cost, two factors that seem to be overlooked by 99.9% of all first time businesses.

A good business model will not save a company, but a poor business model will usually sink one. A detailed business model of the Pacific Language Institute will be discussed in this thesis.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is twofold, first the history and research of the Pacific Language Institute, and second the business model for such a company.

Scope or Description of the Study

The study is defined by the examination and updating of current research for four papers done previously for the Pacific language Institute. A historical study of the business model will be used to describe the basics behind the economics of starting and running a small research and development company.

Significance of the Study The significance of this study is that few small language research firms exist and that the duration of the Pacific Language Institute marks it as a successful R & D company.

Limitations of the Study

The 'case history' nature of the study focuses on just one company, the Pacific Language Institute, and the business model used to start and run that company. Another limit is that the company has functioned and grown using a 'non-standard' business model that goes against current small business model theory.

Definition of Terms

Acquisition. Internalized rules and formulas to learn the L2. (Ellis, 1985, p. 292).

Behavior. A habit or routine set of actions.

Consonants. A sound produced with a partial or full closure of the vocal tract (Finegan and Besnier, 1989, p. 524).

ESL English as a Second Language.

ESP. English for Special Purposes.

Feedback. A communication loop that feeds back on it's self.

LI. The first language.

L2. The second language.

Language. A human trait of verbal and non-verbal communication.

Linguistics. The scientific study of human language.

Metrical Phonology. The use of a metical tree or grid to study sound patterns in speech.

Phoneme. A distinctive and significant element in a sound system (Finegan and Besnier, 1989, p. 530).

Phonetics. The study of sounds in human language (Finegan and besnier, 1989, p. 530)

Phonology. Systematic study of sounds in human language (Finegan and Besnier, 1989, p. 59).

Psychology. The scientific study of an organisms behavior.

SLA. Second language acquisition.

Speech. Verbal behavior in humans.

Speech Pathology. The scientific study of speech production.

Structural Linguistics. The twentieth century study of linguistic data.

TPR. Total Physical response.

Transfer. The process of using the first languages knowledge for the second language' Ellis, 1985, p.304) .

Verbal Behavior. The process of verbal speech in human communication.

Vowels. Sounds produced without closure to the vocal tract (Finegan and Besnier, 1989: 533).


A case history of the Pacific Language Institute and four papers from research files of that company are the bases of this study. A history, review of current research that parallels research found in each paper and a general summary of that research is the methodology used in this study. The business model of the Pacific Language Institute will focus on the case history of the company.

Summary of the Remaining Chapters

The remaining chapters will address the literature review, the business model of the company, metrical phonology, feedback systems, physical linguistics, and the summary chapter.

Literature Review

The foundation for the area of phonology known as metrical phonology is from Liberman, M. and A. Prince (1977) with development from Kiparsky (1979), Selkirk (1980), Hayes (1982) and Booij (1983).

The foundations for feedback systems can be traced to Minorsky in 1922 (Chang, 1961) and Nyquist in 1932 (Chang, 1961) with development by Cannon (1932), Wiener (1948) and Shannon and Weaver(1949). An early history of feedback systems can be found in short article by Fuller (2003) in Grattan-Guinness (2003).

Physical Linguistics is taken from the field of speech pathology and will reflect the foundational nature from that area of the health sciences.

Material taken from the internet (the web) has been authenticated, where it was viable to do so, from traditional primary and secondary sources (i.e. academic libraries).

Each of the proceeding chapters has it's own literature and references and while the author has listed most citations in the bibliography section, a large number of fully cited references were not listed in the bibliography so as to limit duplication of tasks.

Metrical Phonology

Metrical phonology is the process of phonological stress assessment and diagrammatic graphing of sentence and word stress. Stress is an isolatable phonological phenomenon. Stress is defined by its physical and acoustical correlates. Word stress is a binary feature in metrical phonology and is graphed using a binary metrical tree diagram.

The Liberman and Prince (1997) paper is the foundation of metrical phonology and is the result of inherent weaknesses found in the individual segmental analysis of stress found in Chomsky and Halle's work The Sound Pattern of English (1968).

The 'foot' is the rhythmic unit of language that have 'strong' syllables, usually followed by 'weak' syllables in spoken languages although most linguistics acknowledge some 'feet' may not have 'strong' syllable types (Fudge, 1994: 1270). The phonetic properties of a 'strong' syllable is extra loudness and increased prominence by pitch and added duration (Fudge, 1994: 1270). The appendix has examples of diagrammed 'strong' and 'weak' syllable structures in both the English and German languages.

Feedback systems

Feedback systems were developed in the field of engineering in the 1920's and 1930's with the work of Minorsky, paper published in 1922, and Nyquisťs paper in 1932 on Regeneration Theory (Chang, 1961: 1).

Hazen's paper on the Theory of Servomechanisms was published in 1934 (Chang, 1961: 1). Cannon would develop the concept of feedback as homeostasis in his work The Wisdom of the Body (1932) as it is applied to the functioning of the human body (Cannon, 1932). A more mathematical treatment of feedback is given in Wieners' Cybernetics (1948) and Shannon and Weaver's The Mathematical Theory of Communication (1949).

A feedback control system is a combination of elements which cooperate to maintain a physical quantity, the output, equal to the desired output that is related to other quantities known as inputs (Newton and Gould, 1957: 1-2). Pronunciation feedback systems begin with the SLA student first learning to 'listen', rather than speaking, to identify the sound or sounds that contrast with what the native speaker produces as the target L2 (Tarone and Yule, 1989: 149).

The focus of this chapter of the thesis is on language feedback systems that are a development from the foundation work in feedback theory as found in the engineering disciplines. Language feedback systems will be examined in my paper The Language Learning Loop: A Pronunciation System for Japanese ESL (Tice, 1997 and Appendix D) and an unpublished paper An Abstract of The Priority Method on the Phonetics of the ESL Student (Tice, 1993 and Appendix E), both done at the Pacific Language Institute.

Some of the earliest feedback systems that used mechanical recordings of speech in a economic way was in the 1950's with the advent of electronic tape recorders. The proliferation of the "language laboratory", a designated location for language learning, usually a specific room or building designed for acoustic properties and equipped with tape recording modules for individual learner's of a new language, in the 1950's and 1960's was a result of this new media: the electronic tape recorder.

In reviewing two papers from the 1960's, 1962 and 1967, describes the effectiveness of the language laboratory (Mathieu, 1962 and Mueller, 1967). Mueller's short paper of 1967 concludes that "The laboratory's service is perhaps not to produce a better product, but to produce a speaker instead of a reader or writer. Its service is to supply lessons in speaking" (Mueller, 1967: 351).

Mathieu's paper (1962)is a historical overview of language laboratories up to 1962. The history of the language laboratory can be traced back to the Army program of World War Two with a few universities trying them as language 'research labs' in the late 1940's and early 1950's (Mathieu, 1962: 168). But it would be Hocking's paper of 1955 that stressed the language 'learning' aspect of language laboratories and cites the fundamental 'feedback' system of L2 speech analysis by way of "recording his own voice and comparing it with the master voice in critical self-evaluation" (Mathieu, 1962: 169).

The term 'master voice' is just the target L2 speech sample and not an oracle from the speech gods. Also, I am sure women also participated in these language laboratories, the 'him' being a stylistic symptom of the times. Mathieu cites the development of the magnetic tape recorder and then the dual-channel, or stereophonic, recorder that allowed for more independence and control over the program (Mathieu, 1962: 169).

This lead to the ultimate language laboratory that was " a completely mechanized, programmed, self- instructional course" (Mathieu, 1962: 174). Mathieu cites B.F. Skinner's 'programmed learning' model as the foundation for language laboratories and 'shaping' the complex behavior of language (Mathieu, 1962: 175).

And not a Chomskian in sight. The language laboratory is very much a fixture at both large and small universities and colleges, including the local two year junior or community colleges within the United States.

The feedback system employed in the 'Language Learning Loop' has it's cultural heritage from these language laboratories and the Priority Method is the material designed around the Language Learning Loop to change and modify the type of typical and individual L2 phonemic errors found in the L2 student learning a new language.

Citation: Hocking, E. (1955)"The Purdue language program". PMLA (Publication of the Modern Language Association), September 1955, Volume 70, Part 2, pp. 36-45.

Physical linguistics

Physical linguistics is the use of speech pathology methodologies and practices in normal speech subjects to increase acquisition skills in the area of phonology. Research will be taken from the medical and health related sciences.

In reviewing the secondary literature in this interdisciplinary field the following books were examined in the area of speech pathology: Psychology for Speech Therapists by H. Purser (London: The MacMillan Press, 1982), The Teaching of Speech by G.S. Haycock (Washington, DC: The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, 1979), Speech Assessment and Speech Improvement for the Hearing Impaired by J.D. Subtelny (Editor) (Washington, DC: The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, 1980), Speech and the Hearing Impaired Child: Theory and Practice by D. Ling (Washington, DC: The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, 1976), Deafness and Communication: Assessment and Training by D.G. Sims, G.G. Walter, and R.L. Whitehead (Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1982), Teaching Deaf Children to Talk by A. Ewing and E.C. Ewing (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1964), and Total Communication: Structure and Strategy by L.

Evans (Washington, DC: Gallaudet College Press, 1982).

The materials are at least two decades out of date due to the fact that the speech pathology program was discontinued some years ago at the University, CSU Stanislaus, but do reflect a general history on the subject.

In using the libraries online system I examined the data base for searches using the EBSCO data base and found using the following parameters (phonetics, secondary language and articulation) the following citations :

Chan, A. Y. W. (2006)"Cantonese ESL learner's pronunciation of English final consonants". Language, Culture & Curriculum, 2006, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp.296-313

Cholin, J. (2008) "The mental syllabary in speech production: An integration of different approaches and domains". Aphasiology, November 2008, Volume 22, Issue 11, pp. 1127-1141.

Flipsen, P. (2002) "Longitudinal changes in articulation rate and phonetic length in children with speech delay". Language & Hearing Research, February 2002, Volume 45, Issue 1, p. 100-111.

Kroger, B.J., Pouplier, M. and M.K. Tiede (2008) "An evaluation of the aurora system as a flesh-point tracking tool for speech production research". Language & Hearing Research, August 2008, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp. 914-921.

Larkin, R.F. and Snowling, M.J. (2008) "Comparing phonological skills and spelling abilities in children with reading and language impairments". Language & Communication Disorders, January/February 2008, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp. 111-124.

Munson, B., Edwards, J., and Beckman, M.E.

(2005)"Phonological knowledge in typical and atypical speech-sound development". Topics in Language Disorders, July - September 2005, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp. 190-206.

Sturm, J.A. and Seery, C.H. (2007) "Speech and articulatory traits of school-age children in conversation and narrative contexts". Language, Speech & Hearing Services, January 2007, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp. 47-59.

Laures-Gore, J., Henson, J.C., Weismer, G., Rambow, M. (2006) "Two cases of foreign accent syndrome: An acoustic-phonetic description". Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, December 2006, Volume 20, Issue 10, pp. 781­790.

Scott, S.K., Clegg, F., Rudge, P. , Burgess, P. (2006) "Foreign accent syndrome, speech rhythm and the functional neuronatomy of speech production". Journal of Neurolinguistics, September 2006, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp. 370-384.

Spriesterbach, D.C. (1951) "The mis-articulation and discrimination of speech sounds". Quarterly Journal of Speech, December 1951, Volume 37, Issue 4, p. 483.

Pater, J. (2003) "The perceptual acquisition of Thai phonology by English speakers: task and stimulus effects". Second Language Research, July 2003, Volume 19, Issue 3, p 15.

Unfortunately, these citations have little to do with the type of physical stimuli-response model noted in my paper "Physical Linguistics". In examining the textbooks used for references of my paper, Physical Linguistics, the following books were used for the development and design of physical linguistics:

Duffy, J.R. (1995)Motor Speech Disorders: Substrates, Differential Diagnosis, and Management. New York:Mosby Year Book, Inc. and Dworkin, J.P. (1991)Motor Speech Disorders: A Treatment Guide. Boston: Mosby Year Book, Inc.

A Business Model

The Pacific Language Institute: A Business Model

The Pacific Language Institute was founded as a research and development company that had as a business model the doctrine of long-term survival: keep a low overhead, keep it low cost, and keep research at the forefront of the companies' main goal. To this end the company had to exist as a 'boutique' company, specializing in second language transfer errors in phonology, and be able to with-stand such temptations as easy 'dotcom' money, buyouts, and the ubiquitous 'get rich' schemes that seem to exist at every corner in Silicon Valley.

It is well documented that most language learning programs on the general market have no empirical evidence to support their acquisition rate claims. In academic circles only Charles Fries slot-filler grammar, developed during World War Two, and James Asher's Total Physical Response (TPR), developed in the 1960's at San Jose State University, have any empirically based research merit (Brown, 1987: 148 and Richards and Rodgers, 1986/1990: 87-98). Fries slot­filler grammar studies, found in Fries' 1952 text The Structure of English, paralleled many aspects of first language acquisition such as Jean Berko's (1958) integrateci systems theory of learning, also known as the 'wug' test (Brown, 1987: 21).

Asher's Total Physical Response, or TPR, also sees a parallel in child first language acquisition to that of successful adult second language learning (Richard and Rodgers, 1986/1990: 87). Along these lines I have tried to keep separate theory and applied fact in my work at the Pacific language Institute and I have contented myself with data collection for rates and types of phonetic error in second language learners. This will take a long time and is an 'on going' process for the company. I was not interest in a 'fast buck' or I would have 'sold' my company as an 'internet language emporium' for a 'zillion' dollars and retired.

Unfortunately most 'products' on the language learning market are geared for 'fun and easy' learning of a usually difficult and long term process, usually mastered by children in their childhoods were they have nothing better to do than learn to communicate. How many adults learning a second language have the time or energy of youth? Perhaps the dotcom billionaires.



ISBN (eBook)
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Linguistics Language Research Research & Development ESL Second Language Acquisition L2 Phonology Phonetics




Title: Aspects of Verbal Behavior: Files From The Pacific Language Institute