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Teaching ‘information structure’ a tad easier

The paper ‘Information Structure in EFL Teaching’ (Gulktekin Boran) tackles a difficult area of EFL – teaching ‘information structure’. It’s hard enough to define what information structure is – it includes such syntactic constructions as fronting (emphasising what’s important in a sentence by putting it at the front), clefting (for example sentences starting ‘According to …’ to show we’re more interested in the source than what the source says), pseudoclefting and other tricks involving flipping sentence word order to highlight or de-emphasise bits of information.

 

The article in the International Online Journal of Education and Teaching gives a brief history of the study of information structure in linguistics, going all the way back to the pre-war Prague School.

Even harder is trying to teach language learners about intonation and information structure. Boran strives to make his Turkish learners of English aware of this, and how ‘they speak English with flat or monotonous intonation, and for this reason their speeches are usually incomprehensible and boring to native speakers of English’ as a result of their first language having less variable stress patterns than English. Boran says, ‘EFL teachers should integrate grammar with pronunciation’ and ‘should teach their students how to stress the necessary sentence element in their sentences’, but how do you teach it? No suggestions are offered in this paper.