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Practical matters How to find us C.S. (Charlotte) Gooskens, Dr

C.S. (Charlotte) Gooskens, Dr

Universitair Hoofddocent met ius promovendi
C.S. (Charlotte) Gooskens, Dr

Mutual intelligibility of closely related languages in Europe: linguistic and non-linguistic determinants (NWO Vrije competitie, 2011-2016)


In Europe a large number of languages are spoken. These languages enjoy different statuses, some are officially recognized, while others are spoken by minority populations.Respect for linguistic diversity is a core EU value but the linguistic diversity can lead to communication problems that might only be reconciled with sufficient knowledge about the language situation at hand. In 2007 the High Level Group on Multi­lingualism (HLGM) therefore published an overview of research topics that should be investigated to improve communication within Europe while still preserving multilingual richness. Two of these topics form the basis for the present investigation. Firstly, the HLGM notes a lack of knowledge about mutual intelligibility between closely related languages in Europe and the lack of knowledge about the possibilities for communicating through receptive multilingualism, i.e., where speakers of closely related languages each speak their own language. Secondly, the HLMG notes a need for an evaluation of the potentials and limitations of the use of English as a lingua franca at the European level. More knowledge is needed about how well speakers of various languages in Europe understand each other in English.

We propose a large-scale investigation of the mutual intelligibility of closely related languages within the Germanic, Slavic and Romance language families. The results will be correlated with linguistic factors, such as phonetic and lexical distances, as well as extra-linguistic factors, such as language attitudes towards and familiarity with different languages. Tests will also be carried out with English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) to compare the (mutual) intelligibility of closely related languages with the (mutual) intelligibility of ELF as spoken by the same groups of speakers.

Intelligibility, attitude and familiarity tests will be carried out by means of web-based experiments. The results will be will be made available through the internet. They will provide a basis for developing a model that explains mutual intelligibility between closely related languages. In a more general sense the results will provide a greater understanding of the robustness of the human language processing system. How deviant can a language be before it is no longer intelligible to the listener? The results will also be of great value to European policy makers. A publicly available user-friendly internet application will be developed for use by future target groups of researchers and policy makers. In this way additional languages can be tested later that were not initially included in the project. 


Linguistic determinants of mutual intelligibility in Scandinavia (NWO Vidi, 2006-2011)


The three mainland Scandinavian languages, i.e. Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, have a reputation of being mutually intelligible, which means that the speakers are able to communicate each using his or her language. However, in daily practice inter-Scandinavian communication sometimes fails. The results of a number of studies have shown that especially Danes and Swedes have difficulties understanding each other’s language. The problems are commonly explained by extra-linguistic factors such as linguistic experience and language attitude. Linguistic explanations have mostly been neglected due to the lack of a suitable method for quantifying linguistic distance. Recently, such methods have been developed. The aim of the present project is to use these newly developed methods and refine them in order to be able to measure communicatively relevant linguistic distances among the spoken Scandinavian languages. On the basis of these measurements, a model will be developed that explains mutual intelligibility in Scandinavia.

First, the model will be developed and tested on adults. However, in order to be able to exclude the influence of extra-linguistic factors such as attitude and experience, the model will be tested on children as well, assuming that most of the extra-linguistic factors have little or no influence on intelligibility among children. In addition, the experiments with children will give new insights into the way children deal with the comprehension of closely related languages, an area that has received little attention so far.

As a point of departure the model will be developed for the standard Scandinavian languages. In a later stage Scandinavian dialects will be included. As the model is expected to be applicable to combinations of closely related languages and languages varieties outside Scandinavia as well, the results will increase our general understanding of the role of linguistic distance in the mutual intelligibility of closely related languages.  


Laatst gewijzigd:25 juni 2022 13:41