Stefanie Voigt

Französisch Italienisch Katalanisch Portugiesisch Rumänisch Spanisch
Mehrsprachigkeit Rezeptive Mehrsprachigkeit gegenseitiges Verstehen mutual intelligibility receptive multilingualism

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Mutual Intelligibility of Closely Related Romance Languages within the European Union: Linguistic and Extra-Linguistic Factors

A large number of languages are spoken in the European Union.Only 23 are officially recognized while there is also a great variety of minority languages that coexist with the main languages. Those different languages can be categorized into diverse language families (eg. Slavic, Germanic and Romance), thus having a different evolution and basis. Linguistic differences between languages generally lead to problems in communication. Whereas the EU controls for various aspects such as common laws, views on basic human rights and agreements on international trading, language policy is not yet a part of that. Thus, to improve the language situation and the communication within Europe, the High Level Group on Multilingualism (HLGM), a committee established by the European Union, published an overview in 2007 of topics to be researched. The main aim of all the investigations should be the improvement of communication between speakers of European languages while preserving a multilingual environment. This advice for research topics forms the foundation for the following investigation about mutual intelligibility between closely related languages in the romance language area. According to a study by the Council of Europe, Eurobarometer (2006), approximately 44% of the inhabitants of the European Union are monolingual.In some countries as UK, Spain, Italy and Portugal this number of monolinguals exceeds up to 60%.
Scandinavian countries set an example that communication is possible even for monolinguals in the form of semi-communication where speakers of closely related languages communicate using their own native language (Bø, 1978; Lundin & Christensen, 2001). The aim of this paper is to establish whether receptive multilingualism (where speakers of related languages communicate by only using their own languages) in the Romance language area is possible, or whether English as a Lingua Franca is a better solution and how well speakers of Romance languages understand each other when communicating in their respective native languages and when speaking accented English.
Our experiment is designed based on the following questions:
1. To what degree are Romance languages mutually intelligible and is semi-communication possible among them?
2. Which attitudes do speakers of different language families have towards languages of their own and languages of another family?
3. How well do listeners of the various languages understand members of the other language family when they speak English (Spanish listening to Italian speaking accented English).

The target languages will be Spanish, Portuguese, French, Romanian and Italian and intelligibility will be tested on a word-level through a word translation task and on the text level through a cloze test. Both tests will be conducted with spoken and written language. To test the overall intelligibility on the text level a picture task will also be used. To test the mutual intelligibility in English, the same tests will be applied using accented English of the relevant countries.
The results will be correlated with linguistic factors at different levels, such as phonetic, syntactic, orthographic and morphological distances, as well as extra-linguistic factors, such as language attitudes towards the related language. On the basis of those correlations a model for mutual intelligibility of Romance languages will be established.

Wiss. Mitarbeiter
Hochschule / Institution
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Status bei
Dienstag, 18. September 2012, 11:50 Uhr
Letzte Änderung
Dienstag, 18. September 2012, 13:58 Uhr