Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pronunciation change is just (like) a piece of (cup) cake!

Clip art: Clker
Another nice summary from Science Digest. It is, indeed, so intriguing that I really hesitate to even explain it. What the study demonstrated was that word of mouth (WOM) explanation had differing effects on attractiveness or emotional engagement, depending on whether the object in question was to be a sensory or "hedonic" experience (such anticipation at eating a cupcake) or more practical or functional (such as buying a new USB stick.) As the researcher Moore (University of Alberta) notes, "Although we have a natural tendency to explain the events in our lives, it is not always in our best interests to do so." Explanation tended to enhance attractiveness of the USB stick and diminish appeal of the cupcake.

Likewise, the parallel for our work--since we certainly do do WOM!-- would be that to the extent that pronunciation change is essentially physical/somatic (Cognitive Phonologists' "manifesto" not withstanding), excessive explanation and "meta-cognating" on it may work against adequate engagement. On the other hand, doing the same with grammar or rhetorical analysis or verb conjugations might just have the opposite effect. Delicious thought, eh? Don't mention it . . .

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