[language] [Fwd: Accents have advantages]
hubeyh at mail.montclair.edu
Mon Sep 8 18:42:18 UTC 2003
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-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [evol-psych] Accents have advantages
Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2003 19:21:47 +0100
From: Ian Pitchford <ian.pitchford at scientist.com>
Reply-To: Ian Pitchford <ian.pitchford at scientist.com>
To: evolutionary-psychology at yahoogroups.com
Nature Science Update
Accents have advantages
A foreign tongue can be easier to understand in the mouth of a non-native.
8 September 2003
People speaking English as a second language find each other just as
intelligible as they do native English speakers, US linguists have found. The
effect works regardless of the speaker's mother tongue.
It isn't hard to see why a Korean, say, might find another Korean's English
easier to follow than an English person's. The two share a phonetic vocabulary
lacking some of the vocal effects that render the language alien in a native's
mouth. A foreign accent hinders a native but helps a fellow non-native.
But what about speakers with different first languages? One might suspect that
only some languages, like Korean and Chinese, or Spanish and Italian, share
sounds that help their mutual intelligibility. But that doesn't seem to be so.
Instead, there may be features of the target language that all non-natives
omit, suggest Tessa Bent and Ann Bradlow from Northwestern University in
Illinois1. American English speakers often fail to sound consonants at the ends
of words clearly, for example, making it hard for non-natives to tell one word
It is often claimed that two non-natives communicate more easily in a second
language than either would with someone born speaking that language. That's to
say, Romanians might find Romanian-accented English more intelligible than
But there's been little hard evidence to support this. What's more, little is
known about what happens when non-native talkers have different first
languages, says Bent and Bradlow.
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