Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Asymmetric intelligibility
Thread poster: Lingua 5B

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:12
English to Croatian
+ ...
Jul 14, 2011

Since we have so many speakers of different languages here, I'd like to hear some first-hand experiences on asymmetric intelligibility: when speakers of proximate or geographically close languages pretty much understand each other only from one side but not from the other end, examples that I know are:

Danish people often understand a lot of Swedish but not vice versa
Brazilians often comprehend Spanish in the neighboring countries, but Latin Americans do not understand Portuguese

Any other examples, or confirmation of the above? Thanks.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:12
English to Croatian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Another example, German and Dutch Jul 14, 2011

I see Dutch understand German pretty often, while it's not the case vice versa?

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:12
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
intelligibility between Dutch and German: not asymmetrical Jul 14, 2011

Lingua 5B wrote:


I see Dutch understand German pretty often, while it's not the case vice versa?


That's probably true, but I don't believe that the reason is that their respective intelligibilty is asymmetrical. I'd rather think that the Dutch are more exposed to German language (through television, tourists etc.).

I'd think that a Dutchman who has never heard a word of German before would understand about as much as the German who hears Dutch for the first time: the languages are equally intelligible to the other one.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxhazmatgerman
Local time: 20:12
English to German
AS Jul 14, 2011

to GE/DU I beg to differ. Growing up northwest of Cologne one has ample contact with Belgian and Dutch citizens, and almost inevitable learns to read and understand some and speak a little. However, slightly more active competence may be on the Low Countries' side of the border, possibly because their citizens have to look abroad for markets more determinedly than Germans have to. My experience is also that the Dutch on average speak English far better, and are more likely to do so, than the average German does.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:12
Swedish to English
+ ...
Proximity Jul 14, 2011

I don't think the level of understanding is as straightforward as A understands B better than B understands A.

In my experience, Swedes from the south-west (Skåne) understand Danes better than I do (I'm from Stockholm further up on the east coast). Likewise, Swedes from Värmland and other western parts of Sweden are likely to understand Norwegian better than I do.

I think it all boils down to proximity. If you live in Skåne you're much more likely to come into contact with Danes than if you live in Stockholm. You'll also be able to receive Danish TV and radio programs.

I remember working here in London with two colleagues from Århus on the Danish west coast. We found it easier to communicate in English rather than "Scandinavian". At the same time, I had few problems communicating in "Scandinavian" when visiting Copenhagen (on the east coast and thus nearer to Sweden).

So for your Sweden-Denmark idea - most Danes are geographically closer to Sweden than most Swedes are to Denmark.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Dragomir Kovacevic  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:12
Member
Italian to Serbian
+ ...
re: Asymmetric intelligibility Jul 15, 2011

From my experience, Russians are capable of deeper real understanding of some brother Slavic languages, and the same capability is very "asymmetric" by side of native people speaking those brother Slavic languages. Furthermore, the latter ones, exaggerate in their illusions of understanding Russian language well.

Another funny example of recently created assumetric in-comunicability is being ridiculed here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6Ia15riHRw

Dk

Lingua 5B wrote:


Since we have so many speakers of different languages here, I'd like to hear some first-hand experiences on asymmetric intelligibility: when speakers of proximate or geographically close languages pretty much understand each other only from one side but not from the other end, examples that I know are:

Danish people often understand a lot of Swedish but not vice versa
Brazilians often comprehend Spanish in the neighboring countries, but Latin Americans do not understand Portuguese

Any other examples, or confirmation of the above? Thanks.



Direct link Reply with quote
 

Ulrike H
Local time: 20:12
English to German
+ ...
quechua and romanian Jul 15, 2011

an example from a more "exotic" language: As far as I know, speakers of Huanca (variety of Quechua I) can usually understand speakers of Ayacuchano (variety of Quechua IIc) - but not the other way around. I would assume in this case the reason lies in the language itself more than in exposure, and generally Ayacuchano is said to be "easier" than other varieties of Quechua, which is why it is one of the varieties more commonly taught to non-quechua speakers at universities etc. However, I don't speak enough Quechua to really judge this by myself...

Another example I can think of is Romanian and Italian - Romanian speakers usually understand Italian more easily than Italians understand Romanian, from what I heard. I would suppose here the reasons might be a mixture of exposure and the languages themselves - since Romanian has often a latin-based and a slavic-based word with the same meaning, it might be difficult for Italians to understand the slavic based words...

But these are both examples I read about rather than experienced myself, so of course I don't know how much truth there is to them...


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:12
English to Croatian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone Jul 15, 2011

Thank you all for interesting contributions.

I'd agree with Ulrike that this phenomenon can be caused both by linguistic and extralinguistic factors, or combination of the both.

I also noticed that it's mostly speakers from smaller speaking territories who tend to acquire languages that have wider speaking territory, for cultural and pragmatical reasons. Why a certain language spreads wider than other is not always and only related to culture, economy etc, but it can also depend on how complex language system a certain language has which can make it difficult for them to spread further.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:12
French to English
+ ...
Complexity Jul 15, 2011

Lingua 5B wrote:
but it can also depend on how complex language system a certain language has which can make it difficult for them to spread further.


I'm not sure this premise has much basis: there's little evidence for the idea that some languages are more "complex" than other languages. Certain languages might have superficial complexity with regard to a very specific aspect (e.g. English has more vowel phonemes than Spanish), but overall, it's difficult to see a basis for the claim that language X is more complex than language Y.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:12
English to Croatian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
To Neil Jul 15, 2011

That's relative complexity, they become complex in certain linguistic environments and relations.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:12
French to English
+ ...
Don't understand Jul 15, 2011

I think I'm misunderstanding -- can you give an example of what you mean?

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Dragomir Kovacevic  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:12
Member
Italian to Serbian
+ ...
. Jul 16, 2011

.

[Edited at 2011-07-16 15:04 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:12
English to Croatian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not minor in sense of inferiority Jul 16, 2011

Say for example, Slovenians and Macedonians would tend to understand Serbo-Croatian in bigger percentage than vice versa.

Also, don't confuse understanding a language with speaking a language. I'm talking about understanding only here.

[Edited at 2011-07-16 10:30 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 20:12
English to Croatian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Some examples here Jul 16, 2011

Neil Coffey wrote:

Lingua 5B wrote:
but it can also depend on how complex language system a certain language has which can make it difficult for them to spread further.


I'm not sure this premise has much basis: there's little evidence for the idea that some languages are more "complex" than other languages. Certain languages might have superficial complexity with regard to a very specific aspect (e.g. English has more vowel phonemes than Spanish), but overall, it's difficult to see a basis for the claim that language X is more complex than language Y.


Please see Urlike's post: second paragraph, third line.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:12
French to English
+ ...
Still confused Jul 16, 2011

Lingua 5B wrote:
Please see Urlike's post: second paragraph, third line.


?? Sorry, I'm still having trouble finding the substantiated linguistic fact that you're referring to. Oh well...


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Asymmetric intelligibility

Advanced search






SDL Trados Studio 2017 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2017 helps translators increase translation productivity whilst ensuring quality. Combining translation memory, terminology management and machine translation in one simple and easy-to-use environment.

More info »
TM-Town
Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search