Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

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PeterMollenburg
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby PeterMollenburg » Tue Nov 15, 2016 10:06 am

garyb wrote: 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.


I have analysed my pronunciation till the cows came home, and they did come home, and it didn't affect my pronunciation, it helped it- it's what has given me good results. It has been a very slow process though, one of constant critical self analysis with some outside opinions on the rare (and much later in the game) occasion. 'Letting go' has not been a trait of mine in language acquisition imo either. I've studied much more intensively than most because I couldn't let go of missing details. This doesn't make your words untrue however, just untrue for me personally.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Tue Nov 15, 2016 10:45 am

I'd say it's a combination of problem solving, hard work and possibly that thing called talent.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby William Camden » Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:05 pm

Some people can do accents and ditch their own original one easily, some can't. I probably alluded to it on the HTLAL board, but the case of Edward G. Robinson is interesting. He grew up speaking Yiddish, and possibly Romanian. His family moved to the USA and he learned English. His brothers apparently spoke English with strong Yiddish accents for the rest of their lives, while he managed to lose his. He may have set out to, as he wanted to break into acting outside of Yiddish-language theatre productions. Of course, he was a talented actor.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby desitrader » Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:49 pm

Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

No, but it is a function of emotional intelligence.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby Cainntear » Tue Nov 15, 2016 3:30 pm

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

That seems quite plausible. Even within the native speaking community, we often modify our speech to be more similar to people we're speaking to in order to make ourselves seem more friendly and likeable -- this is called convergence. (There's also divergence -- when we dislike someone, we'll often modify our speech to be as little like them as possible.) This only happens if you show empathy, so anyone who is socially awkward is less likely to do this.

Which leads us to...
lichtrausch wrote:Yeah, professors prove this one wrong. Some absolutely brilliant people with sometimes awful accents. A French physics professor I once had comes to mind especially, although I suspect he was aware of how most Americans find his accent attractive, so he didn't have much incentive to improve it.

Someone recently said to me "if you want to see what autism is like, go to a senior faculty meeting" (his brother was a university professor, and on the autistic spectrum).

Academia is full of people who're great at dealing with the theoretical minutiae of their subjects -- sounds slightly ASD to me. ASD is not-entirely-accurately caricatured as a lack of empathy, but certainly manifests as social difficulty. "Convergence" is a social phenomenon, so is something that isn't necessarily easy.

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

Probably.

As has been said, intelligent people are more likely to spot that there's a problem and determine a path to a solution.

But there's one variable that outperforms intelligence: teaching. In my opinion, intelligence (if defined as a spectrum for humans without a specific neurological or psychological ) is only really important for learning when the teaching is not optimised. Intelligence is what we use to fill in the gaps in what we've been told.

A theoretical wonder-course would reduce the impact of intelligence massively. Right now, pronunciation is one of the most under-taught language skills there is. It is an article of faith for many teachers that pronunciation "will take care of itself", so it isn't taught, and people have to go out of their way to learn it.

desitrader wrote:Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

No, but it is a function of emotional intelligence.

The first person who can define what emotional intelligence actually means wins a coconut. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard it talked about, but I have never heard an understandable definition.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby desitrader » Tue Nov 15, 2016 5:15 pm

Cainntear wrote:
desitrader wrote:Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

No, but it is a function of emotional intelligence.

The first person who can define what emotional intelligence actually means wins a coconut. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard it talked about, but I have never heard an understandable definition.


That's true with everything else in life, including what constitutes intelligence, fluency, or good pronunciation.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby DaveBee » Tue Nov 15, 2016 5:41 pm

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

That seems quite plausible. Even within the native speaking community, we often modify our speech to be more similar to people we're speaking to in order to make ourselves seem more friendly and likeable -- this is called convergence. (There's also divergence -- when we dislike someone, we'll often modify our speech to be as little like them as possible.) This only happens if you show empathy, so anyone who is socially awkward is less likely to do this.
Doesn't this apply more broadly to groups as well?

Identifying with the L2 natives as a peer group you want to belong to, and so mimic (better accent). Or identifying yourself within an L1 peer group, using an L2 for a limited purpose (not such a good accent).
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby AnthonyLauder » Tue Nov 15, 2016 5:50 pm

My presentation at this year's polyglot conference was about "why is my accent so bad?". It was the result of a deep dive into the literature on accents and how to achieve good pronunciation. Having read hundreds of papers and a dozen or so books, my overall conclusion is that you cannot pronounce well what you cannot hear well. So, a poor accent results in large part from poor hearing.

Of course, we can improve our accents to a degree, with lots of effort, but for most of us the effort is too great for the limited improvements. Indeed, if you look at many of the techniques advocated to improve accents, such as IPA and vocal tract charts, you will notice they are based on the same principles once used to teach deaf people to speak: where feedback is not based on what you hear, but on tactical feedback (such as the position of your tongue, and the shape of your lips). This tactical feedback is far less accurate than actually hearing the sound waves you are trying to mimic.

I will post a link to my conference video once the organisers upload it to youtube.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby tastyonions » Tue Nov 15, 2016 6:02 pm

AnthonyLauder wrote:My presentation at this year's polyglot conference was about "why is my accent so bad?". It was the result of a deep dive into the literature on accents and how to achieve good pronunciation. Having read hundreds of papers and a dozen or so books, my overall conclusion is that you cannot pronounce well what you cannot hear well. So, a poor accent results in large part from poor hearing.

Poor hearing in what sense? As in actual reduced sensitivity to certain sound frequencies? Or lack of competence in recognizing the relevant phonetic distinctions? It seems like the latter could be trained effectively.
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Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby William Camden » Tue Nov 15, 2016 6:44 pm

Not really related to language, but here is a good example of what emotional intelligence isn't. In the Korean War, December 1950, the Chinese became involved in the dead of winter and US troops were forced to leave North Korea. During the retreat a US general named Edward Almond talked to some half-frozen Marines. He said, "It's cold, isn't it? I wear a dental plate and this morning there was a film of ice on the glass I put it in next to my bed." He was talking to people who had not slept in beds for weeks, perhaps months, and might never again. One of them replied, "Gee, that's too f***ing bad, General." Almond then went out, totally oblivious of the impression he had created.
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