Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby Serpent » Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:31 am

Heh I don't even truly understand this concept of a correct/matching note :lol:

And musicians don't always have a great pronunciation in L2 of course. Especially many singers who sing in English are very average at it.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby smallwhite » Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:42 am

PeterMollenburg wrote:
An intelligent but egocentric person...
A dumb person who self reflects well...

intelligent people who aren't wise...
dumb people who practise humility...

intelligent people that screw up all the time...
dumb people that apply themselves and persevere...


That's exactly what I meant. If you don't hold other factors constant, you can't compare high vs low intelligence. If you keep adding other important factors into the mix, you're just comparing the other factors; you're not comparing intelligence.

And this thread is not about those other factors. It's about intelligence. OP in its entirety:

OP wrote:
Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

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?


A dumb person with every positive trait on earth and with the stars aligning for him, versus
an intelligent person with all the worst traits plus 1 missing eye, 3 missing limbs and 10 missing teeth, and with meteors falling on him,
who will have better pronunciation? That's not what OP was asking. Anyone would've been able to answer that themselves.
Last edited by smallwhite on Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby aokoye » Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:54 am

I would also say that pronunciation in singing, at least as someone who is being trained in classical singing techniques, is not terribly related to the way it's spoken. If I look at English - the way I pronounce the words I sing in English is radically different to the way I speak English as a native speaker with a Pacific NW accent. In singing it comes out sounding similar or nearly the same but if you were to speak the pronunciation you were singing it would not be correct/similar.

After I finish this paper I'll try to post an example using IPA.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby rdearman » Tue Nov 15, 2016 8:05 am

Smallwhite is correct, my question is, all other factors being equal will a more intelligent person have better pronunciation?

My apologies for any abilist labelling.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby reineke » Tue Nov 15, 2016 8:28 am

Pronunciation is a product of many factors. The constituent factors you decide on as being the most relevant such as language aptitude can be measured by other factors such as verbal ability, auditory ability, motivation etc. The relationship between foreign language aptitude and intelligence requires further research and some core concepts may need redefining.

A classic from 1965:

Language aptitude, intelligence, and second-language achievement.
"This study demonstrates that measures of intelligence are relatively independent of both language aptitude and 2nd-language achievement, and moreover, that different 2nd-language skills are related to different abilities."

http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=1965-15290-001

One Intelligence or Many? Alternative Approaches to Cognitive Abilities
http://psych.utoronto.ca/users/reingold/courses/intelligence/cache/paik.html

The Illusory Theory of Multiple Intelligences
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/unique-everybody-else/201311/the-illusory-theory-multiple-intelligences

The Relationship of Three L2 Learning Factors with Pronunciation Proficiency: Language Aptitude, Strategy Use, and Learning Context

"Results indicated that general language aptitude did not predict pronunciation gains regardless of type of setting (ESL or EFL), but that auditory aptitude may be linked to pronunciation proficiency. Analyses revealed that specific pronunciation strategies were strong predictors of pronunciation gain for comprehensibility and accuracy gains. The findings for this study suggest that pronunciation strategies seem to play a bigger role in pronunciation improvement than language aptitude and are effective in both ESL and EFL settings."

"Because aptitude is grounded in a learner‘s natural intelligence and strategies are a product of behavior, one purpose of this research was to assess the gap in understanding which of these two factors is more influential or a more important predictor of L2 learning ability. Although aptitude, learning strategies and learning context have been influential in predicting L2 proficiency, there are currently no known studies that have examined the simultaneous impact of aptitude and strategy use in relation to pronunciation gains and English learning context. In fact, the little research that has been done regarding L2 oral proficiency suggests that ESL learners have a greater advantage in acquiring these skills than EFL learners because of the native English learning context."

"The relationship between language aptitude and pronunciation accuracy theoretically should exist, but practically, the study by Baker Smemoe and Haslam (2013) indicates that it is rather weak. It may be considered stronger if additional components of language aptitude are taken into consideration, namely motivation and auditory aptitude."

http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/etd/2111/

The Effect of Language Learning Aptitude, Strategy Use and Learning Context on L2 Pronunciation Learning
The findings for this study suggest that learning context plays a limited role in strategy use and that aptitude affects pronunciation accuracy and pronunciation strategies affect comprehensibility. Thus, strategy and aptitude affect different aspects of pronunciation.
http://applij.oxfordjournals.org/content/34/4/435

Literature review on musical aptitude and language aptitude

"The relationship between language aptitude and pronunciation accuracy is rather difficult to establish since sparse studies have been conducted in the area. Language aptitude is a person’s potential to acquire a foreign language. This does not mean that a person with low language aptitude will not learn a foreign language, but that they will most probably do it with more difficulty and at a slower pace than a person with high aptitude. However, even though language aptitude should facilitate pronunciation accuracy by definition (language acquisition entails its pronunciation acquisition), standardised tests measuring language aptitude do not test speech production. As Hinton (2013: 104) notes, none of the commonly used aptitude tests ...require the testee to produce speech. Thus, neither speech nor its phonetical and phonological aspects can be assessed by means of existing aptitude tests...

The relationship between language aptitude and pronunciation accuracy theoretically should exist, but practically, the study by Baker Smemoe and Haslam (2013) indicates that it is rather weak. It may be considered stronger if additional components of language aptitude are taken into consideration, namely motivation and auditory aptitude...

The influence of musical aptitude on foreign language pronunciation accuracy has been the most extensively researched relationship among the ones being the subject of this paper. Multiple studies have been conducted in the area, their results being inconclusive since some of them confirm, while others reject the existence of a link between musical talent and L2 sound acquisition."

http://ojs.edukacja.wroc.pl/index.php/GRE/article/viewFile/131/139

Melodies that Help: The Relation between Language Aptitude and Musical Intelligence
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1815339

Sensory discrimination as related to general intelligence
http://scholarworks.rit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2089&context=article
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby aokoye » Tue Nov 15, 2016 8:29 am

So that example:

I am so sorry. - the way I say it speaking: [ɑɪ æm so sɑɹi]
I am so sorry. - the way I sing it: [ɑ ɑm so sɑɾi]

Note the diphthong [ɑɪ] and how much your mouth moves when saying [sɑɹi] vs [sɑɾi]. The first /r/ is a liquid (or an approximate) and the second is a flap.



This is the piece that sentence was taken from. I sung it with my choir last spring and we spent a lot of time on that sentence (it's the only one that comes around multiple times). Note how it totally sounds like the words are well - "normal". Another phrase is, "I'll be": [ɑɪl bi] vs [ɑl bi].

edit: So for fun (and procrastinating - threeish more sentences and I'm done with this stupid paper) I recorded myself singing the "I am so sorry" bit with the different pronunciations (the one correct for singing and the one correct for speaking) because I've never heard a recording of myself singing it alone and yeah - even though saying [ɑɪ æm so sɑɹi] sounds weird singing it totally sounds right.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby garyb » Tue Nov 15, 2016 9:03 am

I'd like to think I'm intelligent, at least in the academic sense and in being a quick learner, and I'm also a musician. I'm awful at pronunciation. Maybe I'm lacking in the kinesthetic intelligence that has been described: I learn more slowly and have more difficulty when physical movements are involved, like in martial arts or dance or some musical techniques.

Another key factor is having a good ear, which has already been mentioned: some musicians are naturally better at recognising pitch and intervals than others, and likewise some language learners have an easier time hearing and imitating sounds than others. I believe that these are related talents.

I've tried to take an "intelligent" approach to pronunciation improvement: studying phonetics, understanding the mouth positions, and using systematic methods like shadowing and chorusing. My results haven't been spectacular. Singing teachers often say that overthinking things just causes you to get in your own way and to some extent you just have to relax and "let it out", and less academically intelligent people tend to be better at that. They also tend to be less self-conscious and less afraid of sounding bad. I wonder if there's a similar thing going on for languages.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby aokoye » Tue Nov 15, 2016 9:13 am

rdearman wrote:Smallwhite is correct, my question is, all other factors being equal will a more intelligent person have better pronunciation?

My apologies for any abilist labelling.


Define intelligent. Honestly I don't think there is going to be any way to find any good articles on this because of the difficulty in what "intelligent" means and the fact that all factors will never be equal. Additionally means of measuring intelligence are nonstandard at best and I highly doubt there's going to be a researcher who has the funding avalible to test all of their subjects with the same intelligence test (as if one test fits all...) and also perform phonological testing.

In terms of the ableist bit, you might end up coming close to rubbing up against some classist statements as well.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby DaveBee » Tue Nov 15, 2016 9:32 am

aokoye wrote:
rdearman wrote:It occured to me recently people I know who speak a 2nd language tend to have better pronunciation the smarter they are.


I think this is very much a case of anecdata is not the same thing as data. Also who determines whether or not one person is smarter than the other?

There is a lot of evidence that shows that when one learns an L2 as a young child they will likely have a native like accent by the time they're a proficient speaker, but that has nothing to do with intelligence.
As I recall this is attributed to embarrassment. Children don't get embarrassed by sounding silly, adults do.

But that embarrassment is itself a function of language learning. We monitor output so that it sounds 'correct'. L2 pronunciation doesn't sound 'correct' to an L1 speaker.

(Mr Krashen's website has a lot of reading/language papers linked from it. I probably got that hypothesis from one of those.)
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby aokoye » Tue Nov 15, 2016 9:37 am

DaveBee wrote:
aokoye wrote:
rdearman wrote:It occured to me recently people I know who speak a 2nd language tend to have better pronunciation the smarter they are.


I think this is very much a case of anecdata is not the same thing as data. Also who determines whether or not one person is smarter than the other?

There is a lot of evidence that shows that when one learns an L2 as a young child they will likely have a native like accent by the time they're a proficient speaker, but that has nothing to do with intelligence.
As I recall this is attributed to embarrassment. Children don't get embarrassed by sounding silly, adults do.

But that embarrassment is itself a function of language learning. We monitor output so that it sounds 'correct'. L2 pronunciation doesn't sound 'correct' to an L1 speaker.

(Mr Krashen's website has a lot of reading/language papers linked from it. I probably got that hypothesis from one of those.)


Children are less embarrassed about making mistakes, yes but it has more to do with psycholinguistics than it does psychology or something like sociocultural theory (though Krashen's stuff isn't sociocultural theory).

edit: To be more specific - I'm almost positive it has to do with the fact that when children learn anything at very young ages their procedural memory is more equipped to learn things than their declarative memory. Our procedural memory is very developed when we're infants and toddlers and starts declining as we reach 8ish years old. Our declarative memory, on the other hand, is just the opposite. It's pretty poor when we're born and only peaks when people in their 20s. It then starts declining as we get older. I'll try to check tomorrow but a somewhat quick google scholar search showed evidence of that being true in terms of native like accents in L2 speakers.
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