Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What Makes An Accent In A Foreign Language Lighter? More Empathy And Political Identification With Native Speakers

Date:
August 11, 2009
Source:
University of Haifa
Summary:
The more empathy one has for another, the lighter the accent will be when speaking in a second language, according to new research. "In addition to personal-affective factors, it has been found that the 'language ego' is also influenced by the sociopolitical position of the speaker towards the majority group," the researchers stated.

The more empathy one has for another, the lighter the accent will be when speaking in a second language.

Related Articles


This is the conclusion of a new study carried out at the University of Haifa by Dr. Raphiq Ibrahim and Dr. Mark Leikin of the Department of Learning Disabilities and Prof. Zohar Eviatar of the Department of Psychology at the University of Haifa. The study has been published in the International Journal of Bilingualism.

"In addition to personal-affective factors, it has been found that the 'language ego' is also influenced by the sociopolitical position of the speaker towards the majority group," the researchers stated.

We all know how to identify the average Hebrew speaker trying to speak English: the Israeli accent is an easy give-away. But why is there an accent and what are the factors that make one speaker have a heavier accent than another? One possibility is based on the cognitive discipline, which suggests that our language system limits the creation of language pronunciations in a non-native language. Another explanation is derived from the socio-lingual field, which claims that socio-affective elements have an effect on accent and that the second language constitutes an image label for the speaker in the presence of a majority group.

"Israel is a perfect lab location for testing the topic of second languages, because of the complex composition of its population. This population is made up of immigrants who learn Hebrew at an advanced age; an ethnic minority of Arabs, some of whom learn Hebrew from an early age, and others who learn the language as mature adults; and a majority group of native Hebrew speakers," the researchers explained.

The first stage of the study divided participants – students from the University of Haifa – into three groups: 20 native Hebrew speakers, 20 Arabic speakers who learned Hebrew at the age of 7-8, and 20 Russian immigrants who learned Hebrew after age 13. The participants' socioeconomic characteristics were identical. All were asked to read out a section from a report in Hebrew, and then to describe – in Hebrew - an image that was shown to them. The pieces were recorded and divided into two-minute sections. Additionally, the participants filled out a questionnaire that measures empathetic abilities in 29 statements.

The second stage of the study took 20 different native Hebrew speaking participants. They listened to the pieces that had been recorded in the first stage, and rated each piece according to accent "heaviness". Subsequently, each participant from the first stage was given a score on the weight of his or her accent and another score for level of empathy.

The study has shown that the accent level of Russian immigrants and of native Arabic speakers is similar. It also revealed that for the Russian immigrants, there is a direct link between the two measures: the higher the ability to exhibit empathy for the other, the weaker the accent. Amongst the Arabic speakers, however, no such link – either positive or negative – between level of empathy and heaviness of accent could be seen.

The researchers' hypothesis is that in the group of Arabic speakers, a new factor enters the 'language ego' equation: sociopolitical position. "We believe that the pattern among Arabic speakers demonstrates their sentiment toward the Hebrew-speaking majority group, and the former consider their accent as something that distinguishes them from the majority.

Our research shows that both personal and sociopolitical aspects have an influence on accent in speaking a second language, and teachers giving instruction in languages as second languages, especially among minority groups, must relate to the social and political connection when teaching," the researchers explain.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Haifa. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Haifa. "What Makes An Accent In A Foreign Language Lighter? More Empathy And Political Identification With Native Speakers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810104931.htm>.
University of Haifa. (2009, August 11). What Makes An Accent In A Foreign Language Lighter? More Empathy And Political Identification With Native Speakers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810104931.htm
University of Haifa. "What Makes An Accent In A Foreign Language Lighter? More Empathy And Political Identification With Native Speakers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090810104931.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins