Functional Load and the Teaching-Learning Relationship in L2 Pronunciation

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Though frequent recourse has been made to the functional load (or FL) principle inestablishing priorities for L2 pronunciation teaching, it remains an under-theorized andrelatively under-utilized concept. This is despite the existence of empirical evidencepointing to correlations between the FL ranking of phonemic contrasts and a) theeffect that the absence of particular contrasts has on the comprehensibility of speech,and b) their occurrence at different levels of proficiency. Previous studies have found thaterrors involving high FL sound contrasts are linked with educed comprehensibility, andhave also found that high FL errors are less common in learners at higher proficiency levels.Taken together, thesefindings suggest that language learners tend to pay more attentionto high FL contrasts and incorporate them into their repertoires more readily than low FLcontrasts, possibly because the high FL contrasts are more salient in terms of contrastivepotential and frequency of occurrence. The concept of FL therefore appears to be relevantin considering the relative ease (or difficulty) of learning and teaching particular features,and in understanding the relationship between learning and teaching. Frequent calls havebeen made for FL considerations to inform the setting of priorities in L2 pronunciationteaching, for example. In this mini-review I will explore and re-evaluate the concept of FL interms of both theoretical formulation and empirical application, aiming to identify both itscontributions and its limitations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number627378
Number of pages6
JournalFrontiers in Communication
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2021


  • L2 Pronunciation
  • Functional Load
  • second language acquisition and development
  • L2 Pronunciation teaching
  • L2 phonology


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