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]ccit.arizona.edu)