Although there has been considerable research on the interplay between intelligence and second language (L2) learning, research focusing on the intelligence and L2 speech perception link is limited. The present study aims to fill this gap. The native language of the participants was Cypriot Greek and they spoke English as an L2. The participants completed a forced-choice psychoacoustic test in which they discriminated L2 sound contrasts and a nonverbal intelligence test which measured their nonverbal intelligence capacities. They were divided into two groups according to their performance in the intelligence test, namely, a low IQ and a high IQ group. The results showed that the high IQ group discriminated the majority of the L2 contrasts better than the low IQ group. In addition, the degree of perceived difficulty for most L2 contrasts differed between the two groups. It is concluded that nonverbal intelligence is associated with the discrimination of L2 sounds. This can be explained by the possibility that either intelligence triggers the more efficient functioning of other domains, such as information processing and attention, leading to increased speech perception skills, or that it directly affects the categorization of speech sounds resulting in the development of more robust L2 categories.
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