Mutual intelligibility

of closely related languages




Welcome to the project home page of the VIDI-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 our 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 is developed that explains mutual intelligibility in Scandinavia. This model is also applied to investigate intelligibility between other Germanic languages. Research is also being conducted into intelligibility between Dutch, Flemish and Afrikaans varieties.

The project was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and finished in June 2011.


Last update: 06.12.2011