Conference: The Intelligibility of Closely Related Languages

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Aug 22 16:44:16 UTC 2006

The Intelligibility of Closely Related Languages

Date: 02-Apr-2007 - 03-Apr-2007
Location: Groningen, Netherlands
Contact Person: Charlotte Gooskens
Meeting Email:
Web Site:

Call Deadline: 01-Oct-2006

Meeting Description:

The theme of this workshop is the intelligibility of closely related
languages.  Focus will be on the relevance of different linguistic
factors. The workshop takes place at the launch of the research program
Linguistic determinants of mutual intelligibility in Scandinavia, which is
funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The
workshop intends to bring together researchers studying intelligibility
from the perspective of second language acquisition, sociolinguistics,
psycholinguistics, phonetics and dialectometry to get an overview of the
experience acquired with different methods and to exchange ideas on
fruitful avenues for future research.  Questions to be addressed are the

How can intelligibility between closely related languages be measured?

Which linguistic factors determine intelligibility?

How can these linguistic factors be measured quantitatively?


Most individuals have to invest considerable time and effort to master a
language other than their mother tongue. However, some genetically related
languages are so similar in terms of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation
that speakers of one language can to a certain extent understand the other
language without prior instructions. Speakers of such languages are able
to communicate without a lingua franca or without one speaker using the
language of the other.  This type of interaction, which is referred to
with terms such as 'semicommunication' (Haugen 1966) or 'receptive
multilingualism' (Braunmueller and Zeevaert 2001), has many advantages, in
any case on the production side.  People usually find it easier to express
themselves in their mother tongue than in a later acquired second or
foreign language. Research into receptive multilingualism has a long
tradition and different methods have been applied for measuring the degree
of intelligibility. However, the study of linguistic factors that
determine the level of understanding has received little attention.
What, for example, is the relative contribution of consonantal differences
versus vocalic differences? Are insertions of consonants more disruptive
than deletions? Do lay people have clear intuition of the plausibility of
various sound correspondences? What is the effect on intelligibility of
prosodic differences?

Workshop format:

The workshop will begin on Monday before lunch and end in the late
afternoon on Tuesday. The number of papers will be limited in order to
leave plenty of time for discussion. On Monday evening there will be a
conference dinner.

Important dates:

Submission of abstracts: 1 October 2006
Notification: 15 November 2006
Final programme: 1 February 2007
Workshop dates: 2 and 3 April 2007

Workshop organizers:

Rene van Bezooijen (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Gerard Doetjes (University of Hamburg)
Charlotte Gooskens (University of Groningen)
Sebastian Krschner (University of Freiburg)
Jens Moberg (University of Groningen)
Anja Schppert (University of Groningen)


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