The Cecily Effect: A Pilot Study
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During earlier trials investigating mimicry ability and its effect on second language pronunciation, I discovered that while most subjects showed similar levels of ability across trials with different input languages, some did significantly better on one language than others. An examination of the individuals affected suggested that they may have been influenced by the perceived degree of attractiveness of the input language. This possible phenomenon I refer to as the Cecily Effect, after the Oscar Wilde character who felt speaking German made her look plain. This paper discusses the importance of mimicry in general and the role of perception of the target language in ultimate performance, as well as describing the original trials referred to above. It goes on to give a detailed account of a pilot study conducted on ten female subjects using three input languages. Subjects rated a sample of each language for attractiveness, completed a mimicry exercise in each language and filled out a personality questionnaire as well as providing a sample of English pronunciation. Scores in the mimicry exercise could then be compared both with each other and with the responses given to the survey questions, as well as the level of ability in English pronunciation. Although the number of participants was too small to draw any real conclusion from the attempt to link attitudinal factors with mimicry ability, the results do seem to support the claims that mimicry ability does influence eventual foreign language pronunciation, and that it may be influenced both by affective and personality factors.
KeywordsMimicry Aptitude Affect Pronunciation The Cecily Effect
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