John Levis, professor of applied linguistics in the Department of English, was honored as the recipient of the Angela B. Pavitt Professorship in English at a medallion ceremony on March 29, 2019. The professorship is a prestigious award that supports an extraordinary faculty member in the Department of English who has a focus in English as a Second Language (ESL).
With more than thirty years of teaching ESL, Levis has dedicated his work to creating a recognizable new field in applied linguistics, called second language pronunciation. It includes a combination of empirical research about the processes which language learners go through to learn the pronunciation of a new language. It also explores what this means for teaching pronunciation in a new language. Levis has spent more than a decade developing the infrastructure for this field.
“The Pavitt professorship will help me to continue what I’ve been working on, and it will help me to do some things that have only been a pipe dream,” Levis said. “The field of second language pronunciation is a place I’ve already been able to have an impact, but there is so much more to do. I’m full of ideas for what is still missing, and the Pavitt award will make some of these things possible.”
The Angela B. Pavitt Professorship in English was established by Dale Grosvenor (‘48 agricultural engineering, ‘49 mechanical engineering, MS ’60 statistics, Ph.D. ’63 Statistics), a former faculty member in the Departments of Statistics and Computer Science.
“John Levis engages graduate and undergraduate students in cutting-edge pronunciation research,” said Volker Hegelheimer, professor and chair of the Department of English. “The Pavitt Professorship helps him take that research to a new level.”
Levis earned his Ph.D. and master’s degree from University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. In addition to his work in the U.S., he has presented and taught in Canada, Singapore, Poland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, France, Taiwan, Ukraine and Scotland.
Levis is the founder of the annual Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, which attracts scholars and teachers from around the world. He also is the founding editor of the Journal of Second Language Pronunciation, and co-creator of pronunciationforteachers.com, a website which provides reliable information about pronunciation concepts and teaching.
He is co-editor for the phonetics & phonology section of the Encyclopedia for Applied Linguistics, and is the author of multiple books; “Social Dynamics in Second Language Accent,” “The Handbook of English Pronunciation,” “Pronunciation: Critical Concepts in Linguistics,” and the forthcoming Cambridge University Press “Intelligibility, Oral Communication, and the Teaching of Pronunciation.”