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Origin of asymmetry. Mutual intelligibility of spoken Danish and Swedish

14 November 2011

PhD ceremony: Ms. A. Schüppert, 16.15 uur, Aula Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: Origin of asymmetry. Mutual intelligibility of spoken Danish and Swedish

Promotor(s): prof. J. Nerbonne

Faculty: Arts

Anja Schüppert’s thesis investigates how well people living in neighbouring countries understand each other if they speak their own language, and which factors influence the degree of comprehension. She investigated this on the basis of speakers of Danish and Swedish. It has often been reported that Danes understand more spoken Swedish than vice versa.

One of the experiments reported by Schüppert show that this asymmetry is not found in preschoolers, while it could be confirmed for adult listeners in a series of follow-up experiments. This fits nicely to the finding that Danish listeners use their native (Danish) spelling system when they hear Swedish. Danish spelling is much more conservative than Swedish spelling is, and has therefore preserved many letters that are not pronounced in spoken Danish. These letters, however, are often still pronounced in spoken Swedish. Measurements of brain activity in Danish listeners confirmed that brain areas traditionally associated with reading tasks are activated during spoken word recognition of Swedish.

Schüppert’s findings emphasise the strong link between literacy and spoken language comprehension and confirm that literacy is an important key not only for comprehension of written texts, but also for oral communication.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.41 p.m.

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