Papers from the Thirteenth International Conference on Methods in Dialectology, 2008
Edited By Barry Heselwood and Clive Upton
PART IV. Perceptual Dialectology And Dialect Intelligibility
Part IV Perceptual Dialectology And Dialect Intelligibility 15. Is Danish an intrinsically more difficult language to understand than Swedish? Charlotte Gooskens1, Vincent J. van Heuven 2, Renée van Bezooijen1 & Jos Pacilly 2 1University of Groningen, The Netherlands; 2Leiden University, The Netherlands 1. Introduction Danish has the reputation of being hard to understand. This is the case not only for speakers of the closely related Scandinavian languages, Swedish and Norwegian, but there are also indications that Danes have difficulties understanding their own language themselves. Many Danes, both laymen and linguists, regard Danish as a non-distinctly articulated language, which sometimes causes communication problems among its users. On the other hand there are also linguists who believe that one language cannot be intrinsically more difficult to understand than another language. However, we think there is no principled reason why there could not be some variation in the intelligibility threshold of different languages. Danish might be an example of a language with properties that make it difficult to understand, even for natives. Results of linguistic research seem to support the impression that Danish is indeed a difficult language. Bleses & colleagues (Bleses & Basbøll 2004, Bleses et al. 2008) have shown that the early language development of Danish children is somewhat slower than that of children with other mother tongues, such as English and Swedish. A comparison with 15 different languages revealed that Danish children score lowest on vocabulary comprehension as reported by the parents. Bleses et al. attribute this result to the poor...
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