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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - SOUHEILA MOUSSALLI, Education

Exploring Intelligent Personal Assistants in Second Language Acquisition

Thursday, May 19, 2022 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer


Faubourg Ste-Catherine Building
1610 St. Catherine W.
Room 5.345



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


The goal of this dissertation is to investigate Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPAs), a voice-controlled service that can complete various functions by orally interacting with its users, as pedagogical tools in English second language classrooms to assess their pedagogical suitability. This proposal begins with a review of the literature focusing on the importance of using modern technology in the language classroom. The remainder is divided into three manuscript-based chapters in which each manuscript addresses one aspect of the overreaching research questions: (a) What are language learners’ perceptions of the use of IPAs as learning tools? (Manuscript A); (b) Can IPAs understand different language learners, and can these learners understand IPAs? (Manuscript B); and (c) Can IPAs help English language learners improve their receptive and productive skills? (Manuscript C).

The first manuscript investigates the use of IPAs and users’ perceptions of the technology as a language learning tool. It examines a number of variables such as the IPAs’ ease of use, options for learner self-regulation (defined as learners’ ability to understand and control their learning environment), learner motivation and, more importantly, opportunities for learner input and output practice. The second manuscript explores IPA’s ability to interact with different accented language learners of English. The focus is on exploring the IPA’s ability to understand speech from different levels of language accentedness, and vice versa: to explore learners’ ability to understand the synthesized speech. Finally, the third manuscript investigates whether the pedagogical use of IPAs can lead to improvements in learners’ phonological awareness, perception and production of the allomorphy that characterizes regular past tense -ed marking in English (e.g., depending on the preceding phonological environment, suffix -ed can be pronounced as talk/t/, play/d/ and add/id/).

This dissertation will contribute to our knowledge of learner experience and attitudes towards IPAs as it can further unfold the potentials and limitations of the technology. As far as second language phonology/pronunciation is concerned, the dissertation will break new ground in research since little is known about IPAs and their pedagogical potential for the development of second language listening and speaking skills.

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