Date: Wed, 6 Dec 1995 08:12:58 -0500

From: "Dennis R. Preston" preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PILOT.MSU.EDU

Subject: Re: Language and Intelligence


My apologies to your husband the psychologist, but he seems to have been

only half-educated by modern linguistics; he should go all they way.

In what way could vocabulary measure intelligence (if by intelligence we

mean something really crass like 'the ability to figure things out')? If

you lack some words, you simply lack them. For example, when you enter a

new technical field, you clearly do not have the vocabulary for that

endeavor. Would you say that after you had acquired it you were more

'intelligent.' Surely not. What I am sure your well-meaning huisband means

is that we (i.e., psychologists) have developed certain traditional

'benchmarks' which guide us in the evaluation of intelligence. We assume,

therefore, that the acquisition of a certain breadth of vocabulary

(nonspecialized, of course) indicates a certain 'normal' development. While

this might be a relatively effective device for a homogeneous population

(and I doubt that it is really effective there), in the midst of diversity,

it is almost as poopy as dialect prejudice.

On that latter matter, I like your list of those dialects which are 'really

heavy, thick' - 'Southern/NY/Oklahoman/etc.'

If I told you how really heavy, thik Inland Northern, especially urban

(e.g., Michigan ) dialects sound to me (and make me think of their

speakers), I would run out of the state that feeds me.

Of course, now I know that it is not true that everybody north of

Indianapolis-Columbus (roughly) will not give you the time of day and

cheat you if they can (surely the mildest of my reactions to Inland

Northern), but it has required linguistic discipline to arrive at that

conclusion. Like Virgiknia, I ofetn despair of so-called 'attitude

changing' priograms, but I think we should keep trying. There is positive

evidence as well.


(who has learned to keep a straight face while Inland Northern speakers

talk) Preston

preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]pilot.msu,.edu

At 4:13 PM 12/5/95, STEPHANIE RAE WELLS wrote:

I'm just curious to know if anybody out there still holds the belief that

a persons intelligence can be measured by the way they speak?

My husband the psychologist says that while we may recognize that accents,

dialects et al. are not good indicators of intelligence, vocabulary is

amongst our best indicators. (And on a personal note, I must admit that

when I hear a really heavy, thick Southern/ NY /Oklahoman/etc. accent I

have to concentrate on not immediately thinking stupid -or at least