Back-chaining


Back-chaining

Back-chaining is a useful technique in teaching oral language skills, specially with polysyllabic words. Suppose that you're teaching someone to pronounce the name ‘Mussorgsky’. First, you ask him to say the last syllable: "-sky;" then to repeat it with "-sorg-" attached before: "-sorg-sky;" and all that remains is the first syllable: "Mus-sorg-sky."

This technique is easier than the front-chaining, starting with the first syllable, which requires that the student put the new element first where it's more difficult to forget. Back-chaining keeps the phonological structure of English better than front-chaining (normally there is no difference in stress between a word spoken in isolation and one spoken at the end of a sentence) [Compare "psychological" in isolation, "it's psychological" and "psychological profile", where only in the last does the main stress shift to another syllable.] and it's arguably better to start with the final syllable (main stress in bold):

"Chaining sequences for the English word 'aroma':":(1) "Front-chaining:" [ə] - [ə.ɹəʊ] - [ə.ɹəʊ.mə] :(2) "Back-chaining:" [mə] - [ɹəʊ.mə] - [ə.ɹəʊ.mə]

Syllables tend to follow a stressed-unstressed pattern in English, example: "happy" (though there are many exceptions). The order "-ma," "-roma" and "aroma" respects this. Starting with "a-" and "aro-" entails reversing this pattern, which complicates learning. Teachers could choose to present a chain as pairs of syllables too, beginning with "-roma," then "aroma:" this introduces the strong-weak stress pattern from the outset.

Footnotes


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