11 June 2012

Quotable quotes

Today's post consists of some quotable quotes from sources perused after listening to People speaking with accents are less believable on Lingua Franca.

"When we attempt to understand what speakers mean, we must infer what they mean from what they say. This is because all utterances are ambiguous. ... In fact, everything people say is ambiguous because it can convey more than one intention. To overcome this inherent ambiguity, we propose that language users rely on certain heuristics of language use. As with other heuristics, they are generally successful but they occasionally lead to systematic error." (my bold)

SourceSelf-Anchoring in Conversation: Why Language Users Do Not Do What They “Should” by Boaz Keysar and Dale J. Barr (pp. 150-166  of Heuristics and Biases, The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment, Edited by Thomas Gilovich)

Easy to say, easy to like: People's names and the impressions they make.
mp3 (16.1 MB) 17 min 36 sec
Social psychologist Dr Simon Laham discusses his research linking the pronounceability of a person’s name with perceptions of likeability, and what this might mean for a person’s access to opportunities.

"Give people more experience at pronouncing and working with names from different backgrounds, and in its small way, it could contribute to reducing prejudice." -- Dr Simon Laham

Why don't we believe non-native speakers? The influence of accent on credibility
(downloadable pdf) by Shiri Lev-Ari ⁎, Boaz Keysar, University of Chicago, Chicago.

Abstract: Non-native speech is harder to understand than native speech. We demonstrate that this “processing difficulty” causes non-native speakers to sound less credible. People judged trivia statements such as “Ants don't sleep” as less true when spoken by a non-native than a native speaker. When people were made aware of the source of their difficulty they were able to correct when the accent was mild but not when it was heavy. This effect was not due to stereotypes of prejudice against foreigners because it occurred even though speakers were merely reciting statements provided by a native speaker. Such reduction of credibility may have an insidious impact on millions of people, who routinely communicate in a language which is not their native tongue.  (my bold
© 2010 Elsevier Inc.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 46 (2010) 1093–1096

Perceptual fluency affects judgements of truth
A short paper entitled Effects of Perceptual Fluency on Judgments of Truth (downloadable pdf) by Rolf Reber and Norbert Schwarz, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Quote: Research has shown that repeated exposure increases the perceived truth of statements such as ‘‘Greenland has about 50,000 inhabitants,’’ compared to statements that have not been presented before.
The part in bold may be tentatively put forward for preferring the repeated use of selected company or product claims in identical form in technical journalism intended to convince the reader of the merits of a company or product.

The problem I'm trying to get at is this: Most of the French-mother-tongue technical journalists that I've translated believe that it is a sin to re-use a sentence or larger block of text previously used on some other occasion. Which may or may not match what French-mother-tongue readers of the said documents prefer to read or respond most positively to. This contrasts with the widely held belief among English-mother-tongue technical writers that once time and energy have been spent crafting a compact, clear, effective explanation of a product, feature or sales argument, it should be re-used wherever and whenever possible. These writers, and translators that follow this school of thought, believe that there is little or no risk that English-mother-tongue readers will have a stylistic quibble with this choice, that the message benefits from repetition in identical form and that well-crafter text is too precious not to be re-used. They further believe that these claims are probably even more true in the case of L2 readers (often the biggest target audience for English translation of technical journalism originally drafted in French and intended to promote French products and companies).

Why is 'x' the unknown?
TED talk by Terry Moore
Answer: Because there's no "sh" sound in Spanish.
Listen to the TED talk for the full explanation in 6 minutes.

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