Date: Wed, 6 Dec 1995 08:14:58 -0500

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

Subject: Re: Language and Intelligence


I ran my fingers before I read your contribhution. You have said much

better what I tried to get at. It clearly ain't at vocabulary.


We Texans likewise have to concentrate on hearing a really heavy,

thick Northern Cities accent -- if it's even comprehensible, e.g. bag:beg.

Vocabulary size is a reliable measure of language development in children,

but it is historically characteristic of reductionist thinking in psychology

to equate vocabulary with intelligence. It is a good indicator of size of

vocabulary, which is presumably an index of knowledge of language and of

cultural knowledge as indexed by vocabulary, at least in certain domains.

But there is a clear circularity there, and to make it indicative of

intelligence, unless one is very restrictive in identifying this "intelligence"

as tautologically equivalent to knowledge of language, is an unwarranted leap.

Happily, many in psychology have moved beyond this misidentification

to recognize a number of different types of "intelligence", not all of which

(indeed most) are indexed by linguistic (i.e., vocabulary) knowledge.

Even within the realm traditionally considered "intelligence", there

are clearly differential abilities to think/conceptualize/comprehend abstract

matters. Mathematicians and physicists belong at the top of this pile,

with linguists somewhat below, and historians and archeologists somewhere

below that. However, a historian may have a larger vocabulary than a linguist,

and both have larger vocabularies than a mathematician. This is not to suggest

that the relationship is an inverse one, just that there is no necessary


--Rudy Troike (rtroike[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]