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Modeling Intelligibility of Written Germanic Languages: Do We Need to Distinguish Between Orthographic Stem and Affix Variation?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 December 2014

Wilbert Heeringa*
University of Groningen
Femke Swarte*
University of Groningen
Anja Schüppert*
University of Groningen
Charlotte Gooskens*
University of Groningen
University of Groningen, Faculty of Arts, Applied Linguistics, P.O. Box 716, 9700AS Groningen, The Netherlands, [], [], [], []
University of Groningen, Faculty of Arts, Applied Linguistics, P.O. Box 716, 9700AS Groningen, The Netherlands, [], [], [], []
University of Groningen, Faculty of Arts, Applied Linguistics, P.O. Box 716, 9700AS Groningen, The Netherlands, [], [], [], []
University of Groningen, Faculty of Arts, Applied Linguistics, P.O. Box 716, 9700AS Groningen, The Netherlands, [], [], [], []


We measured orthographic differences between five Germanic languages. First, we tested the hypothesis that orthographic stem variation among languages does not correlate with orthographic variation in inflectional affixes. We found this hypothesis true when considering the aggregated stem and affix distances between the languages. We also correlated the stem and affix distances within the cognate pairs in each language pair. We found low correlations, the lowest of them being not significant. Second, we tested the hypothesis that orthographic stem variation among languages is larger than orthographic variation in inflectional affixes. This hypothesis was also found to be true. Orthographic distance is likely to be a potential predictor of written intelligibility, but our results suggest that when modeling written intelligibility, a distinction needs to be made between stem and affix distances.*

Copyright © Society for Germanic Linguistics 2014 

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