Europeportrays the complete version of multilingualism environment within a largenumber of indigenous languages which approximately represents 91% but, withrespect to all dialects and accents in Europe, only 24 languages from the totalare considered as official according to the European Union (Lewis, Simons,& Fennig, 2015), these languages are Bulgarian, Croatian, Hungarian,Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese Czech, Danish, Dutch, English,Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak,Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish. Between 2007 and 2009 theEuropean commissioner responsible for multilingualism Leonard Orban stated thatdespite multilingualism is the tool to build the bridge between people andlinguistic diversity, linguistic problems in communication appear and the onlyway to come over it is the sufficient knowledge about language. Haugen (1966),coined the term ‘semi-communication’ in conversations where speakers of closelyrelated languages communicate using only theirrespective native language.
He was one of the first to conduct a study aboutthe mutual intelligibility of closely related Scandinavian languages. Focusingon Danish, Swedish and Norwegian languages which are in general so close toeach other and speakers of these languages can communicate each by using theirown language without prior language instruction, (Delsing & Lundin Åkesson2005, Bø 1978, Maurud 1976). Braunmüller & Zeevaert (2001), referred tothat phenomenon as ‘receptive multilingualism’ or ‘mutual intelligibility’.Also, the term was used the first time by Peter Trudgill in his bookSociolinguistics: An Introduction 1974 in which he clarifies that Mutual intelligibilityis the extent to which speakers from two or more speech communities canunderstand each other. At Wikipedia, it is defined as “a relationshipbetween languages or dialects in which speakers of different but relatedlanguages can readily understand each other without intentional study orextraordinary effort. Sometimes it is used as a criterion to distinguishlanguages from dialects. Linguistic and nonlinguistic factors play a basic rolein mutual intelligibility; Lexicon,Orthography, Pronunciation, Morphology and Syntax are linguistic factors whereas Exposure, Years learned and Attitude are nonlinguisticfactors. According to Charlott Gooskens, Vincent J.
van Heuven (2017),if two languages have mutual intelligibility such as Scandinavian group therewould be no need to teach the related languages in a school curriculum, or evenif there are gaps between them educators can design materials to come over it. Themain European languages families tree; Germanic, Slavic and Romance have been under the spot and fewlanguage combinations such as Spanish and Portuguese have been studied. In the Romancelanguage family tree, there is a disagreement about the sub-grouping of thoselanguages, but the accepted classification has been done by Hall (1974), who based his classification on phonologicalcriteria. In figure (1) Romania comes from Eastern branch while all the other languagesbelong to Italo-Western branch. The later branch divides Italo and Western,Italian is the only subdivide language from Italo, whereas Western issubdivided to libero-Romance (Spanish andPortuguese) and Gallo-Romance (French). Generally speaking, Romance speakerscan understand Italian easier than French and Romanian which require moreefforts.
Spanish and Portuguese are very close to each other, to a large extentthese two languages are mutually intelligible. Although the relation betweenthese two languages is described as sisters asymmetrically, Portuguese speakers easily understood Spanish than the other way around.In this paper, we will summarizethe reasons behind that. According to Gooskens,2007; Tang& Van Heuven,2015these two languages come from the same ancestors so it will be easy for areader or listener to understand them. The first one who tested test mutual intelligibilitybetween Portuguese and Spanish was Jensen (1989), the results showed the success of the Portuguesespeakers than the Spanish at interpreting what they heard.For European Portuguese andSpanish, a similar has been observed informally between them but was nevertested experimentally. According to Cressey (1978), Spanish vowel system onlyhas five vowels while Mateus & d’Andrade (2000) clarify that Portuguese hasa complicated vowel system with nasalized vowels and a high prevalence ofassimilations. Voigt and Schüppert (2013) reveal that in spontaneous conversations Portuguese reduce more syllables and producefewer, Spanish speakers use less complex syllables than Portuguese speakers do.
Charlotte Gooskens, Vincent J. van Heuven, JelenaGolubovi?, Anja Schüppert, Femke Swarte and Stefanie Voigt (2017) have repeatedJensen’s study as a part of a much larger project under the name of Mutualintelligibility between closely related languages in Europe; Germanic, Romanceand Slavic Spanish and Portuguese were a part of it and compared with eachother. In this paper we will summarize this study, focusing on Spanish and Portugueseand compare it with the previous ones. Charlotte Gooskens, Vincent J. van Heuven, Jelena Golubovi?, AnjaSchüppert, Femke Swarte and Stefanie Voigt (2016) conducted their study with alarge-scale web-based investigation to examine the degree of mutualintelligibility of 16 closely related spoken languages within the Germanic,Slavic and Romance language families in Europe, according to Charlotte Gooskensand Vincent J. van Heuven few studies have been done in this area, to do theweb-investigation they used a group of listeners who had learnt or exposed tolanguage tests before and another group of listeners who had had minimalexposure to the test language. Most of the participants were young adultbetween 18 and 33 years old, they were or had been university students.Participants for further analysis were selected by matching groups according tospecific criteria.
The selected listeners all came from the same countrieswhere the speakers came from. Note that listeners who had learned the testlanguage for a long time more than the maximum period of the offered durationin secondary school were excluded. The aim of that experiment is toinvestigate how well the listeners understand the test language on the basis ofstructural similarities between their own language and the test languages. To conduct the study researchersdeveloped a cloze test to be carried out via the internet and could be scoredautomatically using the software. This kind of tests has been used to test themutual intelligibility by Scharpff and Van Heuven (1988) and Van Bezooijen andGooskens (2005). Participants should understand the text torecognize the words or type of words to fill the gap correctly.
The number ofcorrectly selected words is the measure of intelligibility. Four English textsat the B1 level, as defined by the CEFRL (Council of Europe, 2001), weremodified to length of approximately 200 words each (16 or 17 sentences) andtranslated in to each of the 16 target languages and recorded by four native female’s speakers aged between 20 and 40years of each of the 16 test languages. The reason behind using four nativefemales’ speakers’ voices to neutralize the potential influence of voicequality differences on the results. In the experiment, the recording of onetext from each speaker was used randomly, each text was divided into twelveunits, corresponding to sentences or clauses. The listeners were tested viaonline application (see http://www.micrela.nl/app).Before doing the intelligibility tests, each participant filled a questionnaireon language attitudes towards, prior exposure to and familiarity with a numberof European languages.
they were asked to specify their age, sex, the countrywhere they had grown up, the country they have spent their most life in and howmany years and which language they normally heard at home. These data helped tocollect extra-linguistic data about the participants. The answers to thequestions were used to select listeners with a similar background in order tocompare the results of the various listener’s groups. The entire online sessionlasted approximately 15 min (questionnaire and test together).
The results for Romance Family Tree showed that a) Romancegroup mean score is slightly lower than of the Germanic group (36.7%), b) Romanian,not unexpectedly, is hardest to understand (mean score of all listeners of12.5%), c) Romanians are quite successful in understanding the other languagesbut all other listeners in the same family tree have difficulties withRomanian, d) Spanish isthe language that is easiest to understand for all listener groups (a mean of57.2% correct answers across all listener groups, e) The Portuguese listenergroup has the highest mean score (47.2%) but still Romanians understand theother languages almost as well (44.9% correct), f) Portuguese listenersunderstand Spanish better than vice versa, g) Portuguese is also more difficultfor Italian listeners than the other way around. h) As it was expected the secondgroup (data set) showed higher correlations with the tree distances in the caseof the Germanic language family while in Romance language family correlationwas not significant.
For Slavic, the results showed that the communicationsituation in the Slavic area is well reflected in the Slavic language familytree. Back to Jensen (1989), he found the same asymmetry for Portugueseand Spanish, according to Voigt, Schüppert & Gooskens the only disadvantageof Jensen (1989) experiment was that the texts used differed across thelanguages, which makes the intelligibility results difficult to compare at thattime. Yet, the genre (stories for children, news article, etc.) was keptconstant throughout the languages.Both languages are closely related in terms of structuralfeatures, e.g. simple syllable structure CVC and a common lexis (Blasco Ferrer1996). European Spanish and Portuguese differ significantly in terms ofpronunciation.
Phonetically, Portuguese shows more similarity to French orCatalan (Mateus & d’Andrade 2000) while Spanish pronunciation is moreclosely related to Italian pronunciation (Eddington 2004). They stated thatmost languages can be categorized as either stress-timed or syllable-timed(Pike 1945), Spanish and Portuguese also show differences in timedness. Voigt, Schüppert & Gooskens, showed that speakersof European Portuguese do not speak faster per se but due to vowel elisionPortuguese shows more reduction, which might make it less intelligible. Also,they clarified that Portuguese has a much more varied vowel inventory thanSpanish make it difficult for Spanish speakers to firstly identify the rightsounds in order to secondly identify possible cognates. To conclude Spanish and Portuguese are related sisterlanguages, despite being different in phonology, grammar, and lexicon.
Themajor difference comes from Portuguese system which includes 14 vowels whileonly 5 in Spanish. Also, in conversation Portuguese as Voigt, Schüppert clarified they don’t speak faster but they use vowel elision whichmakes it hard for Spanish to understand them well. In my opinion, educators can solve this problem by designingespecial material to teach Portuguese vowels and consonants in Spanish schoolsand vise verse. Games and language applications can help the new generation topractice to come over these differences.