Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

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Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby rdearman » Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:45 pm

It occured to me recently people I know who speak a 2nd language tend to have better pronunciation the smarter they are. Now forgive me for making judgments, but I have known a couple of people who could speak 2 languages, but honestly they weren't smart. Couldn't pour water out of a boot if the instructions were written on the bottom and their pronunciation was really really bad and never seemed to improve.

I have known others, who are very smart and have good pronunciation. So is this just my experiance based on a sample size of only 3-5 people? Or is there something which allows smart people to better mimic sounds? Anyone ever heard of a study of intelligence vs pronunciation?

I realise I've a completely subjective view, but wondered if there were some objective research?
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intellegnce?

Postby Elenia » Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:53 pm

Also just personal experience rather than hard evidence but during my time in France there were two extremely clever Canadian girls who made really good fluid arguments with strong points in debates but with such bad accents that they were painful to listen to. They sounded as though they weren't even trying, as though they were simply speaking French with English sounds.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intellegnce?

Postby DangerDave2010 » Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:55 pm

If you function as in statistically correlated, then yes. If you mean function as in function, then no.

Bad pronunciation is more like a function to bad teaching methods, IMHAO.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby jsmith12 » Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:11 am

I'd guess that you perceive people as more intelligent if they have more native-like pronunciation.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby Adrianslont » Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:24 am

I think it is more to do with "ego permeability". That is one theory and it sounds a more plausible explanation than intelligence to me. I'm at work and dont have time to chase up references. And hours spent on practice are of course important. I look forward to the progress of this thread.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby galaxyrocker » Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:26 am

Could it be the fact that they might be more dedicated in fixing their pronunciation error? A lot of the smartest people I know work(ed) hard and were always willing to learn new stuff and accept that they were wrong. I feel that might also hold over on pronunciation training. They could also be more adept at paying attention to minor details, which would certainly allow them to pick up sounds that don't exist in English better.

So, really, I wonder if it's more that intelligent people share similar traits with those who have good pronunciation, instead of their pronunciation being better because they're more intelligent?
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby Serpent » Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:38 am

I think pronunciation requires the kinds of intelligence that for example musicians, sportspeople and surgeons have. It has more to do with physical precision.

Also this is a tricky topic. Just reminding everyone that ableism is not allowed here ;)
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby Random Review » Tue Nov 15, 2016 1:17 am

I tend to agree with Adrianslont's post TBH and also I personally (not to criticise the OP here) genuinely don't find the concept of a general intelligence (as opposed to specific intelligences that are partially inherited but mostly developed) very convincing or helpful in trying to figure things out in my life.

FWIW one of the smartest guys I know (I know it seems like I'm contradicting what I wrote above, I'm speaking loosely here) has a terrible accent in Spanish (confirmed by native speakers*) and is completely unaware of the fact.
My suspicion is that he is such a smart, interesting and attractive guy, that he doesn't get enough genuine feedback. One thing that helped me (although I'm still not happy with my accent) was a Spanish person who mercilessly made fun of every small mistake I made (not in a nasty way). For instance, if I even slightly aspirated a "p" or a "t", she would mock it with a full anglophone-style aspiration and laugh her head off. Sadly I only knew her for a couple of months. If only I could pay someone to do that!

I read somewhere (possibly HTLAL?) that people who are more skilled with empathy tend to have better accents.

Finally I noticed last year that my own accent in Spanish varied quite a lot depending on circumstance. Things that I noticed helped my accent included the following: liking and feeling a connection with the person I was talking to (if and only if they were a native Spanish speaker), having just taught a class with Spanish students working extensively on English pronunciation, having just been listening to music in Spanish beforehand (I experimented and it had to be music, audiobooks and podcasts didn't work) and being relaxed.

The first two tend to support the empathy theory IMO.

Factors that worked against having a good accent were stressful situations (such as dealing with bureaucracy), not liking the person I was talking to very much, anything that made me self-conscious and loud background noise.

* There is a reason why I checked this. I'm not as big a **** as all that.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby tastyonions » Tue Nov 15, 2016 1:38 am

If I'm to judge by professors I have had in the past for whom English was a second language, very high intelligence (or education level) combined with years living in the TL country is absolutely no barrier to having a terrible accent.

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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby iguanamon » Tue Nov 15, 2016 1:54 am

I don't see the correlation between high intelligence and great pronunciation, hard work and great pronunciation, yes, but not high intelligence. Case in point- Henry Kissinger is a brilliant man. He graduated from Harvard summa cum laude and became one of the most distinguished US Secretaries of State. No one would ever mistake him for a native-speaker of English.
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