Mutual intelligibility of closely related languages in Europe: linguistic and non-linguistic determinants


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 Multi¬lingualism (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.


Boek of monografie

  • C.S. Gooskens, R. Van Bezooijen(2013): Phonetics in Europe pp. 333 , Hamburg

Hoofdstuk in boek

  • A. Schüppert(2012): Language for its own sake pp. 413 - 433 , Amsterdam
  • W. Heeringa, F. Hinskens(2012): Dialectological and folk dialectological concepts of space. Current methods and perspectives in sociolinguistic research on dialect change. pp. 250 - 267 , Berlin
  • C.S. Gooskens, S. Kürschner, R.A.N.G van Bezooijen(2012): Language for its own sake. pp. 435 - 455 , Amsterdam
  • C.S. Gooskens(2013): Handbook of sociolinguistics. pp. 195 - 213 , Oxford
  • F. Swarte, C.S. Gooskens, N.H. Hilton, R. Van Bezooijen(2013): pp. 281 - 302 , Hamburg
  • F. Swarte, C.S. Gooskens, N.H. Hilton, R. Van Bezooijen(2013): pp. 233 - 246 , Hamburg
  • S. Aalberse, F. Swarte, A. Schüppert, A. Auer, C.S. Gooskens(2013): Linguistics in the Netherlands pp. 146 - 159 , Amsterdam
  • J. Golubovic, C.S. Gooskens, R. Van Bezooijen, N. Sokolic(2013): Phonetics in Europe pp. 35 - 57 , Hamburg
  • S. Voigt, C.S. Gooskens, R. Van Bezooijen, A. Schüppert(2013): pp. 317 - 332 , Hamburg
  • J. Nerbonne, S. van Ommen, C.S. Gooskens, M. Wieling(2013): pp. 107 - 140 , Berling
  • C.S. Gooskens, R. Van Bezooijen(2013): Phonetics in Europe pp. 59 - 82 , Hamburg
  • C.S. Gooskens, R. Van Bezooijen(2013): pp. 7 - 9 , Hamburg
  • J. Nerbonne, C.S. Gooskens, R. Van Bezooijen, S. Van Ommen, C.S. Gooskens, L. Impe, S. Kürschner(2013): Phonetics in Europe. pp. 205 - 231 , Hamburg
  • C.S. Gooskens, N.H. Hilton, R. Van Bezooijen, C.S. Gooskens(2013): Phonetics in Europe pp. 139 - 157 , Hamburg
  • J. Taeldeman, C.S. Gooskens, R. Van Bezooijen, F. Hinskens, J. Nerbonne(2013): Language and space. pp. 567 - 585 , Den Haag
  • C.S. Gooskens, W. Heeringa, J. Golubovic, R. Van Bezooijen, C.S. Gooskens, A. Schüppert, F. Swarte, S. Voigt(2013): Phonetics in Europe pp. 99 - 137 , Hamburg
  • j Caspers, C.S. Gooskens, y Chen, r van Bezooijen, w Heren, j Pacilly, n o Schiller, e van Zanten(2014): Above and beyond the segments. Experimental linguistics and phonetics pp. 96 - 108 , Amsterdam
  • F Swarte, a Schuppert, C.S. Gooskens(2015): Crosslinguistic influence and crosslinguistic interaction in multilingual language learning pp. 173 - 197 , London
  • A. Schuppert, N.H. Hilton, C. Gooskens(2016): Nooit het Noorden kwijt pp. 165 - 182 , Ghent
  • V.J. van Heuven, C. Gooskens, R. van Bezooijen(2016): First and second language: interdisciplinary approaches. pp. 127 - 145 , Budapest

Wetenschappelijk artikel

  • N.H. Hilton, C.S. Gooskens, A. Gooskens(2011): Artikulasjonshastighet i norske, svenske og danske radionyheter [Articulation speeds in Norwegian, Swedish and Danish Radio News]. Norsk Lingvistisk Tidsskrift pp. 205 - 220
  • N.H. Hilton, C.S. Gooskens, A.N. Lenz, A. Schüppert(2012): New horizons in sociophonetic variation and change. Lingua pp. 749 - 840
  • J. Witteman, V.J. van Heuven, N.O. Schiller(2012): Hearing feelings: A quantitative meta-analysis on the neuroimaging literature of emotional prosody perception Neuropsychologia pp. 1757 - 1767
  • C.S. Gooskens(2012): Non-linguists? judgments of linguistic distances between dialects. Dialectologia pp. 27 - 51
  • K. Goerlich, J Goerlich, N.O. Schiller, V.J. van Heuven, A. Aleman, S. Martens(2012): The nature of affective priming in music and speech. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience pp. 1725 - 1741
  • R.A.N.G. van Bezooijen, C.S. Gooskens, S. Kürschner(2012): Deens is makkelijker voor Friezen dan voor Nederlanders ? feit of fabel? Philologia Frisica. pp. 286 - 298
  • N.H. Hilton, C.S. Gooskens, A. Schüppert(2013): The influence of non-native morphosyntax on the intelligibility of a closely related language Lingua pp. 1 - 18
  • A. Schüppert, C.S. Gooskens, N.H. Hilton, V. Van Heuven(2013): Stavelsebortfall i modern danska Danske Talesprog pp. 151 - 181
  • S. Van Ommen, P. Hendriks, D. Gilbers, V. Van Heuven, C.S. Gooskens(2013): Is diachronic lenition a factor in the asymmetry in intelligibility between Danish and Swedish? Lingua pp. 193 - 213
  • F. Swrte, N.H. Hilton, C.S. Gooskens(2013): Onderlinge verstaanbaarheid tussen Noord- en Westerlauwers Fries Us Wurk pp. 21 - 46
  • C.S. Gooskens, w Heeringa(2014): The role of dialect exposure in receptive multilingualism International Journal of Multilingualism pp. 247 - 271
  • F Swarte, N H Hilton, c van de meer, A Walker(2014): Introduction: Minority languages in a multilingual Europe. Us Wurk pp. 1 - 9
  • f Bergsma, F Swarte, C.S. Gooskens(2014): Does Instruction about Phonological Correspondences Contribute to the Intelligibility of a Related Language? A Study with Speakers of Dutch Learning Frisian Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics pp. 45 - 61
  • m wieling, j Nerbonne, j Bloem, C.S. Gooskens, w Heeringa(2014): Cognitively Grounded Measure of Pronunciation Distance PLoS ONE pp. x - x
  • s Rosink, m Kroon, l Heeswijk, a Schüppert(2014): De verstaanbaarheid van natuurlijk snelle en kunstmatig versnelde spraak in het Nederlands Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics pp. 197 - 210
  • w Heeringa, F Swarte, A Schüppert, C.S. Gooskens(2014): Modeling Intelligibility of Written Germanic Languages: Do We Need to Distinguish Between Orthographic Stem and Affix Variation? Journal of Germanic Linguistics pp. 361 - 394
  • C.S. Gooskens, R Van Bezooijen, V.J.J.P Van Heuven(2015): Mutual intelligibility of Dutch-German cognates by children: The devil is in the detail Linguistics pp. 255 - 283
  • A. Kingma, C.S. Gooskens, F. Swarte, F. Frinsel(2015): Predicting the asymmetric intelligibility among spoken Danish and Swedish using conditional entropy Tijdschrift voor Scandinavistiek pp. 120 - 138
  • a Schuppert, N.H. Hilton, C.S. Gooskens(2015): Swedish is beautiful, Danish is ugly? Investigating the link between language attitudes and intelligibility Linguistics pp. 375 - 403
  • j Golubovic, C.S. Gooskens(2015): Mutual intelligibility between West and South Slavic languages. Russian Linguistics pp. 351 - 373
  • a Schuppert, N.H. HHilton, C.S. Gooskens(2015): Introduction: Communicating across linguistic borders Linguistics pp. 211 - 217
  • C. Schneider, C. Gooskens(2016): Testing mutually intelligibility between closely related languages in an oral society Journal of language documen¬tation and conservation pp. 278 - 305
  • A. Schuppert, N.H. Hilton, C.S. Gooskens(2016): Why is Danish so difficult to understand for fellow Scandinavians? Speech Communication pp. 47 - 60
  • C. Schneider, C. Gooskens(2016): The role of exposure in mutual intelligibility and the ramifications for educational language planning: A case study from Pentecost Island, Vanuatu. Journal of Multilingualism. pp. 1 - 15

Professionele publicatie


  • N.H. Hilton, C. Gooskens, A. Schuppert(2012): New horizons in sociophonetic variation and change.
  • R. van Bezooijen, C. Gooskens(2013): Phonetics in Europe
  • N.H. Hilton, A. Schuppert, C. Gooskens(2015): Communicating across linguistic borders.





Dr. C.S. Gooskens

Verbonden aan

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Faculteit der Letteren, Centre for Language and Cognition Groningen (CLCG)


Drs. J.G. Golubovic, Dr. C.S. Gooskens, Dr. ing. W.J. Heeringa, Dr. A. Schüppert, Drs. F.H.E. Swarte, Drs. S. Voigt


15/06/2011 tot 31/08/2016