Talk:Mutual intelligibility

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English and Scots[edit]

Although I haven't heard Scots spoken much, reading it is fairly simple, having English as a mother tongue. is writen is Scots, and it is pretty easy to be understood —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bobotast (talkcontribs) 20:17, 5 June 2010 (UTC)

I'd add Scots and English to the list, but I don't have any proper citations I could use. But yeah, they're mutually intelligible in both spoken and written forms, Scots just has a few more sounds compared to English. (Like that sound used in the proper pronunciation of "loch") (talk) 17:59, 25 June 2010 (UTC)

Proper pronunciation of "loch". Lots of countries in Europe have that same "ch"/"g"/"j" sound. Although some countries (or even regions of countries) might pronounce it a bit harder than others. The south of the Netherlands and Belgium, for instance, pronounce it softly. But they have no problem whatsoever to do the "hard" sound. And the entire continent of South America can pronounce that sound. Usually soft in South American Spanish, usually hard in Spain Spanish. German usually has the soft version as well.

Arabic countries, I've heard the hard version. I even have a US colleague who laughs using the hard version. I have no citations, either. Just speaking from personal experience.

And if you want to talk about sounds, then mention tonal languages. With Thai and Mandarin Chinese, I believe both using 4 tones, and Cantonese even using 9. Or mention Dutch. With a dozen or so of two vowel combinations, each sounding different. (And I'm a native Dutch speaker, so I should know.)

It's not easy. Aren't there at least 5 or so different ways to pronounce the letter "r"? (talk) 04:17, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

Might the "hard sound" and "soft sound" repeatedly being brought up in this section be the velar fricatives [x] and [ɣ]!? If so, it is probably better to list them as such because there are many similar sounds (to English speakers) on the IPA, and "hard sound" or "soft sound" does not really mean anything at all. This sounds a lot like Folk taxonomy or totally arbitrary naming and is not very discriptive of the phonological differences between Scots English, and British or American English (or the aforementioned dipthongs (that is what "two vowel combinations" are called) in Dutch for that matter).
Also, if citations are really needed for these things: (assuming the other editors meant that the "hard" and "soft" sounds are [x] and [ɣ]) the sounds [x] and [ɣ]) both occur in Spanish[1] and the [x] occurs in Scots[2].
What do tonal languages have anything to do with the mutual-intelligibility between Scots English, and other dialects of English?! English does not have any tonal suprasegmentals.
We need a better source for the claim that English and Scots are partially mutually intelligible. I am not going to take them off the list because it is obvious that they are at least partially mutually intelligible. The source that was cited for their mutual intelligibility was, which is not an excellent source.Brianc26 (talk) 08:06, 9 November 2012 (UTC)

Brianc26 (talk) 02:29, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

About how they needed better sources for the mutual intelligibility of Scots and English, I personally speak both with a good level of fluency and can say for a fact that they both have a decent level of mutual intelligibility, but Scots still has many relations to German, Gaelic, Icelandic and on some occasions even Spanish/Italian.

The fact that Scots has many dialects should not be neglected. A girl from Kent (Folkestone, to be precise) told me once that she cannot understand Insular Scots, as opposed to other Scots and English dialects (she had encountered). --Florian Blaschke (talk) 12:19, 9 February 2015 (UTC)


  1. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:255)
  2. ^ Wells 1982, 408

German and Jiddisch[edit]

Though these languages arent mutually intellgible when written, they are when spoken. please add this example. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Teutschvölkischer (talkcontribs) 16:27, 21 June 2010 (UTC)

We need a reliable source first. I doubt the intelligibility between them is very consistent; a Yiddish sentence made up only of words of German origin is certainly understandable to German speakers, but a sentence where all or most of the content words are of Slavic or Hebrew origin will be quite impenetrable. In practice, sentences have a good mixture of German and non-German words, so a German hearing spoken Yiddish will understand a lot, but will be thrown off by a fair proportion of unfamiliar vocabulary. I imagine the same is true in the opposite direction too. +Angr 20:47, 21 June 2010 (UTC)
This Youtube video shows 2 people communicating in their languages, one in Yiddish and another in German.--Kanzler31 (talk) 17:22, 24 August 2010 (UTC)

From the youtube video showing a Ukranian Yiddish speaker vs Standard German I was able to understand much of what the Yiddish speaker said. I would say that the greatest barrier in understanding is not grammar or sounds, but as mentioned above, a lexical barrier. Brianc26 (talk) 05:38, 8 June 2012 (UTC)

I speak both (not fluent in German). There are very few words of Slavic origin in Juedisch but it does contain over 30% Hebrew. As such, a Juedisch speaker can understand a German speaker much easier than visa versa. Even there, I've made mistakes and used German words e.g.: vertoten instead of geharget geworen, and received blank stares. Of course, Jews tend to use the local vernacular in lieu of purist Juedisch in many cases. For example, "Ich bin a Member" (American) as compared to "Ich bin a Chaver" (Israel); or "Ich geh zu office zu reden mit do Manager" (American, note that Americans tend to not decline der) or "Ich geh zu Misrad zu reden mit den Menahel" (Israel). No source, from firsthand observations. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:32, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

A Yiddish speaker can understand both oral as well as written German as he/she will most likely also know the Latin alphabet, so Yiddish should be in the top group. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:15, 20 March 2014 (UTC)

Serbian and Montenegrin[edit]

I am native speaker of Serbian language and I claim that Serbs and Montenegrins understand each other in both Latin and Cyrillic script. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:45, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

On the same subject, is it true that Macedonian and/or Bulgarian have mutual intelligibility with Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian-Montenegrin? -- (talk) 06:47, 20 July 2010 (UTC)

A while back many maps showed that Macedonian and Bulgarian/as well as Montenegrin and Serbian were the same language/people! Bezuidenhout (talk) 07:47, 31 August 2010 (UTC)
As a native Serbian I can claim that there is a great degree of intelligibility between Serbian and Bulgarian and especially Serbian and Macedonian. This is especially true for speakers of south-eastern Torlakian dialect of Serbian. Intelligibility falls quickly as you move westwards. Speakers of central and western Serbian dialects, Croatian and Bosnian speakers understand less of Macedonian and Bulgarian. Phenomenon is somewhat asymmetric as Macedonians quite often understand Serbian better then Serbs do Macedonian. This is due to recent common history in Yugoslavia where Serbo-Croatian was a dominant language.--Stane (talk) 23:36, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes, they're mutually intelligible.Zlaja094 (talk) 18:35, 8 May 2012 (UTC)

Forgive I've forgotten my old handle - Any look at the wikipedia page (i know rules about self reference, but what i'm talking about is itself cited, that research applies here) on Montenegro. Everyone there called what they were speaking 'Serbian', according to the censuses taken, going back to at least the 1950's, again in the 70's - and then a change. In the 80's there was a distinction to call the language Serbo-Croatian. This is what had been called Serbian for hundreds if not thousands of years. Again I am paraphrasing from Serbian language page and Montenegran language page, itself cited. Anyone else interested in pursuing this line of thought can do the work, cite, edit,etc. I just had to get this out there because it was extremely annoying and political this non-scientific (not consistently applied) definition of umbrella, language, dialect, and mutually-intelligible. Using self-evident logic, Irish and American English ought to be considered unintelligble to each other if the standard of mere mutual-intelligibility describes Montenegran and Serbian. It would seem obvious to anyone who allowed themselves to think/argue outside of strict compartmentalization that the rapid and sudden 'invention' of a montenegrian language stinks of politics - it happened immediately and coincidentally with the secession of Montenegro from Serbia-Montenegro less than ten years ago. Can we be real? Are there any sources which demonstrate that Montenegran is a language, or is the Political Act of State itself enough to create Scientific Facts? How can we prove that Serbian and Montenegran are the same language despite the claims of a temporal government? Yes I realize I'm being editorial. This is the comments page. At the very least the debate should be presented as controversy. Really I'm surprised this whole subject doesn't note the subjectivity and political controversy which clearly overshadows this field from the eyes of academics in other actually scientific fields where terms must be defined and used consistently, strategically, and in a limited fashion ("definition" by definition delimits the meaning of a word from what it isn't)and requires a contrast to define it. The Serbo-Croatian issue is really political, not taxonomical in the scientific sense. Help! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:26, 5 December 2011 (UTC)

As a native speaker of Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian from Bosnia I claim that we can understand and read Macedonian (Bosnians and Serbs can read it because we use the Cyrillic script too). My point is that Macedonian should be added to the Serbo-Croatian as a partially intelligible language. If you have any thoughts I'd like to know them. Zlaja094 (talk) 18:33, 8 May 2012 (UTC)

I want to add that as a native Bulgarian speaker I can comunicate very good with Serbs (each of us speaking on his mothertongue), our languages are close so I think this should be noted.Xr 1 (talk) 18:21, 20 July 2012 (UTC)

Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian[edit]

Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian are all mutually intelligible, both written and spoken. Comparing texts, it's possible that they could be mutually intelligible. Kanzler31 (talk) 01:32, 30 July 2010 (UTC)

This is incorrect. All the Russians CANNOT understand Ukrainian as well as Belorussian except the ones who learn one of those two languages. The same about understanding of Russian by Ukrainians. For example Canadian Ukrainians don't understand Russian at all. Of course almost all Ukrainians from Ukraine studied Russian so that's why they understand it. --Sergm (talk) 21:25, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
I've never learnt Belorussian or Ukranian but still understand both languages. Your argument is wrong. It's time your learnt the definition of an interchangeable language. ~Anonym. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:35, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
Do you mean can understand everything that is said or can you just get the gist? If the former, couldn't it be that what you hear is a mixture of those with Russian? AFAIK this happens regularly. --JorisvS (talk) 11:03, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
This is similar to the case of Portuguese and Spanish. Generally, Portuguese speakers can understand Spanish fairly well because they studied it a lot, while on the other hand Spanish speakers can only partially understand it. Not to mention a Brazilian Portuguese speaker can understand a Mexican Spanish speaker better than a European Spanish Speaker.Kanzler31 (talk) 17:26, 11 September 2010 (UTC)
As a native speaker of Russian I can say that both Belarusian and Ukrainian are at least partially intelligible for most Russians. There are,of course, few Russians who claim they cannot understand anything said in Ukrianian or Belarusian, while there are also some who claim they understand almost everything perfectly; but the majority is probably somewhere in between. The degree of understanding differs very much depending on education of a particular Russian person, cultural background, ability to deduct the meaning of separate unfamiliar words from the context, his or her knowledge of Russian language itself and especially its archaic and otherwise obsolete vocabulary which is not used in modern high-style Russian speech any more but still can be found in Russian classic literature of 18-19th centuries and which might be spared and widely used in Ukrainian or Belarusian (for example "очи", "уразуметь", "середа", "особливо", "зала", "брехать", "абы", "убиец"). It is also important to know that the intelligibility of Ukrainian speech can also depend on how Ukrainians speak themselves and what kind of vocabulary is used. Ukrainian language has a lot of synonym pairs in which one is more "Russian-like" and another more "Polish-like" (e.g. "родина"/"сiм'я" for "family", "дякую"/"спасибi" for "thank you", "голитися"/"бритися" for "to shave" etc.). So, a Ukrainian speaker can conciously adjust his choice of words to make him or her more (or less) understandable to Russians. There is also one interesting thing - spoken Belarusian can be better understood by Russians than spoken Ukrainian, while with written forms it's all exactly the opposite way.Dilas25 (talk) 16:01, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
That's probably to a large extent due to the fact that Belarusian has akanye like Russian, while Ukrainian has not, but in Belarusian, akanye (like some other changes such as > ć) is actually spelt the way it is pronounced, while Russian orthography fails to show akanye (which makes sense because Northern Russian dialects lack it). Russians are simply not used to reading texts with akanye marked, so they will be thrown off. It's a bit like English spelt with continental vowel values I imagine. The problem when you're used to historical orthography.
By the way, from our articles about Russian dialects (and the highly useful table at East Slavic languages) I gather than Southern Russian is actually closer to Belarusian in some respects than to Standard Russian. Essentially, in the East Slavic area, you have a northern dialect zone (= Northern Russian, which appears to be rather conservative), a central (= Belarusian and Southern Russian) and a southern zone (= Ukrainian), where central and southern zones may be somewhat (but only slightly) more closely related to each other. Central Russian (to which Standard Russian belongs) is an inconsistent transition zone between Northern and Southern Russian. Basically, Standard Russian is Northern Russian pronounced with a Belarusian accent :-)
East Slavic is best conceived of as a huge dialect continuum (which has unfolded from Old East Slavic ca. 1100) where the northern and southern ends can hardly understand each other anymore because that's where the divergence has been the largest. So it is no wonder that mutual intelligibility between Ukrainian and Russian is rather poor if you haven't learned the other language respectively. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 12:34, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
The three languages are almost completely mutually intellegible. Some people just pretend they don't understand other language out of their nationalistic feelings. Never learnt Ukrainian nor Belorusian. Viktor Š 22:38, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
Then I'd love to see how well you'd do if you were dropped into the middle of a normal conversation in either of the languages you're asserting to be mutually intelligible without the aid of a translator or tried to read a novel without Google translate. Your assumption is right out of the ballpark. --Iryna Harpy (talk) 22:43, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
Nemo 14:20, 8 June 2016 (UTC)

The article currently cites three sources for the topic: Schenker 1993, Voegelin 1977, Comrie 1981. Is there something more recent? Nemo 14:20, 8 June 2016 (UTC)

If [1] is right, things may have changed since 2004 (as the topic got very hot politically); I don't know if [2] might be a good source. doi:10.1080/13670050802148715 warns about Belarusian surveys, e.g. «The way interviews were (and still are) conducted impressed me the most. While an interviewer would speak Belarusian, most interviewees responded in Russian, no matter which social strata they represented. This ‘bilingual’ interviewing sounds awkward to an outsider, but locals are apparently used to it». No easy matter, for sure. Nemo 14:47, 8 June 2016 (UTC)

Sources on similiarity and differences of these and other languages:

May websites' names not interfere with the contents as some articles are republished. I would be happy to present comparison tables of all languages that have connection to the above mentioned; search in progress. --Ата (talk) 18:52, 5 August 2016 (UTC)

Thanks for providing some links. Most of these don't seem to be scientific articles, can we separate those which are? Could you comment on the sources I mentioned above?
Lindsay says for an Ukrainian speaker Russian is 60 % intelligible, Belarussian 75 % (in the other direction, 50 % and 80 % respectively, or 80 % and ? % for written language); but I don't understand what the specific source is, it only says that for these language no formal intelligibility study was used. It makes me wonder if we should distinguish written and oral intelligibility in the article.
Steinbach says the lexical overlap of Ukrainian and Russian is similar to that of Spanish and Italian (the article currently says "partial" mutual intelligibility of Spanish and Italian) and cites K. Tishchenko 1999 as source; we should find this source and see how/whether to use information on lexical overlap to determine mutual intelligibility (the two things are quite different and any inference probably falls under original research). Nemo 21:30, 9 August 2016 (UTC)

What about Chinese and Japanese?[edit]

Shouldn't the written forms of both Chinese and Japanese be here? I have a Chinese friend who comes from Hong Kong and though he don't understand Japanese at all he can still understand the written form so long as there ain't no katakana or hiragana in the text. He understand kanji well. What do you think? Freedom Fighter 1988 (talk) 01:44, 18 October 2010 (UTC)

Wow, that's quite a stretch. Sure, you can get the gist of a few words here and there because many kanji and hanzi have similar meanings, but this is far from mutual intelligibility. For one thing, the grammar of Japanese is vastly different than that of any Chinese language. For another, Japanese is never (as far as I know) written without kana. For another, even the various Chinese languages are not mutually intelligible with one another, much less with Japanese. rʨanaɢ (talk) 01:51, 18 October 2010 (UTC)
All right, just wanted to know your opinion. I know what you mean, I've never seen a text written in Japanese without katakana or hiragana either, but I thought it could since my friend had not to much trouble understanding it. And since Kanji originally came from China I thought it could work. My friend always used to say that the Japanese written form was 60% Chinese while the rest was adapted and changed by the Japanese themselves. Freedom Fighter 1988 (talk) 03:01, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
There is limited written intelligibility between the two languages, but I don't know how significant it is until I can see an expert source that talks about it. Cla68 (talk) 06:12, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
Sure, no problem. If I find one I'll make sure to post it here. Freedom Fighter 1988 (talk) 04:27, 23 October 2010 (UTC)
Trust me, they are not mutually intelligible. Like I said above, speakers of one language might occasionally be able to recognize what a text is broadly about (I can usually find the methods sections in Japanese sciencey articles...), match a few simple familiar constructions, especially when you already know what it's supposed to mean (for instance, it's easy to figure out what 私の1997 means when you already know it's the Japanese release of 我的1997), but they certainly can't understand one another's grammar. Just this afternoon I was at a complicated seminar talk about the Chinese bǎ construction, and the Japanese people were just as confused as all the other non-Chinese speakers. rʨanaɢ (talk) 04:46, 23 October 2010 (UTC)
It's okay. Thamks for all the info, I've learned much from you. Thank you.Freedom Fighter 1988 (talk) 17:43, 24 October 2010 (UTC)
I'd also like to point out that the perceived intelligibility between Chinese and Japanese is a property of their writing system, not of the languages. It could be said to be iconographic intelligibility. Chinese and Japanese are as distant as, for example, Icelandic and Turkish. Japanese has even been considered a language isolate by some (or at least the Japonic language group is considered unrelated to other groups). But if Icelanders and Turks by some chance began using a common writing system where a circle means the Sun, speakers of both could immediately understand what that circle stands for without knowing a single word of the other language and without these languages having anything in common. The circle would be an icon for the Sun itself, whereas group of icons consisting "S", "u" and "n" only form the word that means our nearby star in English but you'd have to know that in advance. JJohannes (talk) 09:36, 29 June 2011 (UTC)
This article frequently uses the phrase "partially intelligible". It would still probably be safe to say that Japanese Kanji and Chinese Kanji are Partially Intelligible. The only problem with claiming partial intelligibility seems to be that Japanese and Chinese are genetically unrelated languages. I do not know of any formal studies about the intelligibility of written Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. It would also be interesting to see a study on the intelligibility of written Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese Chinese (I know for a fact that the spoken varients are not mutually intelligible and that sections discussing whether they were have not been entertained because of their unlikeliness)Brianc26 (talk) 21:11, 29 July 2012 (UTC).
As has been said above and at Talk:Mutual_intelligibility/Archive_2#Mandarin_and_Cantonese, the written forms of these languages are not mutually intelligible. Again, there are some areas of overlap (sometimes you can pick out words here or there because of the writing system) but it's far from mutual intelligibility. rʨanaɢ (talk) 02:08, 30 July 2012 (UTC)
Sorry that I have not looked through all of the archives for discussion records. That being said, this article classifies most of the "mutually intelligible" languages listed on the front page as "Partially Intelligible" and problems with this classification have popped up in almost every section. Why does being able to "pick out words here or there" because of a logographic writing system not fall into the catagory of partially intelligible? Intelligibility is just an abstract word used to describe the ability to comprehend something. How partial does something have to be? The phrase "partially intelligible" seems to have an obvious, but very undefined meaning. None of the "partially intelligible" languages listed (in written or spoken forms)have any explanation as to the degree of intelligibilty. Brianc26 (talk) 03:46, 9 August 2012 (UTC)
Yes, that's problematic. Most speech varieties that linguists consider distinct languages are typically not fully mutually intelligible. However, quantifications of this partial intelligibility are rare, the only ones I've seen is of Dutch, West Frisian, and Afrikaans and Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish (see the source). We could add these, but I suspect we're stuck with "partial" for most language pairs. --JorisvS (talk) 13:15, 13 August 2012 (UTC)


I read somewhere, not sure where, that Ukrainian and Polish have 72% similar vocabulary, while Ukrainian and Russian have only 60% similar vocabulary. It also stated that Ukrainian and Belarusian have 85% similar vocabulary. Now I, being Ukrainian, understand over half of what i hear in Polish. It should also be noted that Ukrainian and Belarusian (previously known as one language: Ruthenian) were heavily influenced by Polish. So my question is, are these three languages (Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian) mutually intelligble? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:34, 17 March 2011 (UTC)

No, they are not mutual intelligible. Only Ukrainian and Belorussian are mainly mutual intelligible. Similarity of the vocabulary of Polish/Ukrainian/Belorussian languages primarily is due to their common root (as all Slavs) and neighborhood, and not the "heavily" influence one by another. This is all politics. In the same article stated both of Mutual Intelligibility of Ukrainian and Russian and Ukrainian and Polish. But then Russian and Polish must be Mutual Intelligible too! And true is that both poles and russians DO NOT UNDERSTAND the Ukrainian without learning it. А якщо ти українець, то я скажу тобі українською. Взаємнозрозумілі - це коли без всякої підготовки дві людини носія двох мов садовлять побалакати, то вони без проблем один одного зрозуміють. Ані поляк який ніколи не чув української мови, ані росіянин, не зрозуміють мову бабусі ані з Тернопільської області, ані з глибокого поліського села. Яка в дідька взаємозрозумілість? Її тут оцінюють по тому що мовляв українці і росіяни "недавно" розділились, українці балакають на суміші укр. і рос. мов. і таке інше. Але ж це чисте політиканство. Що значить "недавно", хто це виміряв що вони взагалі розділились, і врешіт решт мова йде про порівняння мов на предмет взаємозрозумілости чи суржику, який утворився як наслдіок асиміляції? А якже з урахуванням факту шо всі українці і білоруси вчили і вчать росмову, а за Польщі польску? Це оцінка взаємозрозумілости мов чи мовних політик і ситуацій? Чи цитувальники брітанських вчоних не розрізняють одне від іншого? Все це дуже "науково". Як і все що повязано з цим питанням. Що значить хевілі інфлуенсед? Тобто ти хочеш сказати, шо вся схожість української і польської обумовлена впливами останньої? Це ж маячня рівня імперських шовіністів. Дві сусідні словянські мови просто і не могли не бути схожими. Невже ми запозичили в поляків спільнословянські слова? Реальний пласт польських запозичень абсолютно не грає ролі в розглянутому питанні. Бо він перекривається значно вагомішим спорідненням. Просто дивно, що румини не приповзли зі своєю мячнею. Агов, ми і звами mutual intelligible?... (talk) 07:16, 20 September 2011 (UTC)Яфігєю

What is the reason for the above emotional response? Yes, I would say they are mutually intelligible - I'm Polish, and I can easily watch both Belorussian and Ukrainian television and follow along. Truth be told - yes, I studied <a little Russian> and maybe because of that, some missing vocabulary is filled in - but that's all.
— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:11, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
As a native Russian I could understand perfecty that emotional and heavily politicized responce written in Ukrainian (which had even some stances mentioning "imperial chauvinism"). It reminded me the reaction of West-Ukrainian nationalists when someone tells them that Russian and Ukrainian are truly very closely related to each other and have common roots. Somehow they feel a threat in this purely linguistic fact to their "незалежнiсть" (i.e. independence), some of them are in a phase of denial and want to exaggerate their "difference from Russians" and absence of everything in common. The same phenomenon can be observed in case of Serbians/Bosnians/Croatians/Montenegrins who will all try to convince us that they all speak "fundamentally" different languages while in fact we are simply having a bunch of dialects. This is all just politics!Dilas25 (talk) 16:22, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Many Russian speakers claim to be able to understand a south slavic language, Bulgarian [1]. I have noticed that there are many lexical similarities between the two, maybe because of Church Slavonic borrowings. Linguists often seem to dodge the issue of mutual intelligibility across branches; in another section Spanish vs Itallian, users who speak Spanish an Ibero-Romance Language, are claiming to be able to understand Itallian, an Italo-Western Romance Language while at the same time speakers of another Ibero-Romance Language Porteguese, are claiming to not understand Spanish! A similar thing is happening here, where Ukrainians are claiming that Russian and Ukrainian are not mutually intelligible, but a Polish speaker, Polish being a Western Slavic Language, is claiming to be able to understand Ukrainian, an Eastern Slavic language. Is it possible that some languages within a branch are less mutually intelligible to members of their own branch, but are mutually intelligible with some languages of different branches due to lexical borrowings, or more similar Phonology (many Ukrainians use [w] whereas Russians and Bulgarians use [v] (see Bulgarian Language and Russian Language))? Brianc26 (talk) 06:24, 8 June 2012 (UTC) The Spanish vs Itallian section also has places where "knowledgeable users" delete sources which say that Spanish and Itallian are mutually intelligible! Brianc26 (talk) 06:35, 8 June 2012 (UTC)

As a user of polish language I claim that ukrainian and polish are not mutual intelligibility. Only basic words are similiar, but this doesnt allow to understand each other in formal situation, only in casual, but not always. Polish is very close to Slovak - we have almost the same gramma and silimiar vocabulary. Andrzej19 (talk) 08:04, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

I am native Russian speaker and can state that Russian (standart) and Ukrainian (standart Soviet variant, based on Poltava's dialect) is partial mutual intelligible and it is possible to speak about very basic things (not scientific or political matters). Russian and Ukrainian dialects of Kantemirovka (Voronezhskaya oblast, Russia), for example, are more closer than standart Russian and Ukrainian and it is possible and easy to aged Russian (as he thinks) speaker from Kanetemirovka to understand Ukrainian from Lvov and difficult to understand Russian from Voronezh. Polish or Bulgarin are almost incomprehensible to me (and other Russians and Ruthenians I think).--Вантус (talk) 00:17, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

Finally some honesty. Mutual intelligibility (or what people think it is) is more about lexicon than grammar. Hell, Arabic speakers claim to be able to understand Persian and vice versa! But the ability to pick a few loanwords out and guess what the conversation is about (religion in this case, probably) is really not what linguists mean by mutual intelligibility. By that standard, almost every language in the world is now partially mutually intelligible with English, because almost all languages use English loanwords now that can help you guess what a conversation is about when the topic is "modern-life related" enough. Because of these exaggerated claims (and also minimisations in other cases where the languages are extremely similar) you just can't trust native speaker anecdotes too much. Right, Turkish and Korean are mutually intelligible ... and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 13:03, 11 August 2014 (UTC)

I am a native Russian and once fluent (now out of practice) Ukrainian speaker, and I understand written Polish quite well - I actually had many written dialogues with Poles already - they speak Polish, I respond English (not Russian or Ukrainian because of Cyrillic script). BUT: I understand written Polish because I know both Russian and Ukrainian - I am quite sure I would not understand Polish if I knew only one of them, no matter which one. Also, spoken Polish I cannot understand at all.--Alexmagnus (talk) 20:33, 14 October 2015 (UTC)


  1. ^ Micheloud , Francois . "The Table of Languages Significantly Similar to Russian. How to Learn Any Language: the Website about Teaching Yourself Languages, 2009. Web

Dutch, German, varieties of both and others[edit]

The article says that German is (albeit partially) mutually intelligible with Dutch. Being a German I wouldn't have dared to suggest that, though the similarity is, of course, clear and I think we understand written Dutch if it isn't too difficult and not too much of it at a time. But be that as it may, it is way easier to understand Luxembourgish or Low German than Dutch, the latter being a different language than German (just as the Langue d'oc is different from French). At least if you know a dialect of German, not necessarily closely related, since Standard German is somewhat remote from the developped language anywhere. (I also doubt the oral intelligibility of Schwyzerdytsch for Germans.) (That is not a source but a suggestion.) -- (talk) 13:33, 30 April 2011 (UTC)

I heard that the dialects of people living close to the border are sufficiently close to Dutch so that they understand it well. Of course one may then ask if they can really be considered as dialects of standard German, rather than Low German, and one can also suspect that the exposure to Dutch plays a role. Hans Adler 14:12, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
Being a native Dutch I wouldn't have 'suggested' it either, so I critically looked in the source and found that it actually said something like 'mutually intelligible to some extent', so unless you happen to know a reliable source that specifically says that this is not the case, I'm afraid we're stuck with it. Actually, I'd say the best thing would be to have the intelligibility quantified, but I don't expect there to be many studies like this at our disposal. Also, do note that Luxemburgish/Moselle Franconian, Low German, the Alemannic Germans and Austro-Bavarian are actually divergent enough to be considered distinct languages. As with German-Dutch, there will, of course (since we're dealing with a big dialect continuum), be transitional varieties that could have higher levels of intelligibility with varieties they bridge. --JorisvS (talk) 16:51, 30 April 2011 (UTC)
It's indeed incorrect. If you do a google book search for Dutch German mutually unintelligible or intelligible you will find dozens that clearly state the two languages aren't mutual intelligible with each other (except in the border area perhaps). We could add this, but it would be the first in the list to expand on this, so I suggest to remove it from the list. Machinarium (talk) 15:15, 18 June 2011 (UTC)

This may be another example of a-symmetric. German vs. Dutch. Several German people I have talked to told me that Dutch sounds like a "German dialect" to them, but "one they couldn't understand". The asymmetry, however, may stem from the fact that Germany is a much bigger country than the Netherlands and that a lot of people in the Netherlands take (or even HAVE to take) German in school. While that is not the same the other way around. Most Dutch people, in my experience, can understand German to some degree, maybe even understand it fluently, because of TV and school and such. The Netherlands is a tiny country. "We" have to learn English, German, French, because there is no way most of the people from those much bigger countries are going to learn Dutch. That may be to "our" advantage, too, though. In my years in highschool, at one point or another, I took 6 languages. Not very likely that someone in a school in Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Italy, and so on, would do the same... (talk) 03:44, 2 August 2011 (UTC)

At a German conversation table (I am a native speaker of English who has studied German in college)I was able to somewhat understand Dutch (there are some native Dutch speakers who know German and go to our table). That is probably not news to anyone, but the strangest thing was that a Dutch speaker claimed to partially be able to understand the North Germanic languages... I have found very little research into inteligibility across branches of the Germanic family, it would make some sense however. The north Germanic languages, like Dutch and the low Germanic languages, did not go through the high German consonant shift. Consider Ny Norsk: Eg heter Amy vs Dutch: Ik heet Amy. (Forgive me if the verb conjugations are off, I only know English, German, Russian, and a little bit of Swedish) Is it possible that there is not just partial mutual intelligibility between West Germanic languages, but also North? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Brianc26 (talkcontribs) 05:27, 7 June 2012 (UTC) Brianc26 (talk) 05:48, 8 June 2012 (UTC)

It's definitely a stretch to call Dutch and German mutually intelligible. Dutch people tend to understand some German, because they're forced to undergo years of studying it in school, not because of any similarities between the language. To me, Dutch is much closer to the Germanic part of the English language (but obviously without the large French/Latin component of English). The way you communicate with toddlers is phonetically often almost the same between Dutch and English. Low German and Dutch were probably dialects of one and the same language as late as the middle ages, but High German has warped pronunciation beyond human comprehension and added a number of unnatural and incomrehensible declension rules to the language, because Latin had those too, and it looked more classy to have them when translating the Bible. Dutch and German people tend to communicate in English with each other.-- (talk) 06:19, 17 August 2012 (UTC)
This is complete nonsense. Those declensions were not "added" to German, they originally existed in English and Dutch as well, but were eliminated over the centuries. If at all, one can say that Latin helped to retain them in German, but they were certainly not "added" to the language... The relationship between Low German, Dutch and High German is much more complicated than you so suggest. Dutch stems from Franconian, as do many High German dialects, but in contrast to Low German which stems from Saxonian... Finally, Germans and Dutch people communicate in German, Dutch or English. I'd say that German is the most frequent choice among older people and English among younger people, but that varies. Especially in regions along both sides of the border, people usually don't use English... The only thing to which I agree, is that Dutch and German are not mutually intelligible in speech. They are however mutually intelligible to some degree in writing. A monolingual Dutch speaker will without a doubt get much more information out of a German text than an English one.
Another thing is that there is a dialect continuum between Dutch and German. Modern Dutch and German are standard languages based largely on the historic varities of Holland and respectively Southern Saxony / Northern Bavaria. These are the centres where the standard langagues originally come from, 700 km apart from each other. But the dialects in between bridge the gap little by little. Listen to this song from Kerkrade: Neither a standard-Dutch speaker nor a standard-German speaker can understand it. But I can understand almost all of it because I come from Bonn (100 km distance) where a similar dialect is spoken. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:43, 25 December 2012 (UTC)

Don't know if this is a stupid question but what about German and Swiss German? While they are both written the same, they seem to be two separate languages when spoken, rather than different dialects. According to my own research, a German would not necessarily by able to understand a Swiss in their version of the language and it takes education in standard German for a Swiss to understand Germans. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:51, 4 July 2012 (UTC)

Most German dialects which are geographically far from each other, are not mutually intelligible, e.g. Low German to a Swabian, or Colognian to a Bavarian. Swiss German is not special in this regard. It is however special because it is used much more frequently than any other German dialect. For example, Swiss television and radio are mostly in the local variety unlike any other German-speaking country or region (except maybe Luxembourg).

Removed claims that German and Dutch are partially mutually intelligible upon reading the source: "Two years earlier however, Ház (2005) tested German and Dutch students with little or no pre-knowledge of the neighbor language.." Yet, two sencentes later the text then states Dutch students scored higher "due to most participants having had mandatory German education at schools". Also the German participants that scored best spoke a German dialect (some of these are more similar to Dutch than German) or English (Dutch is somewhere inbetween German and English): "He found that those with a high level in a dialect and/or a high level in English scored best in interlingual interfering." The article states that mutual intelligibility means "mutual intelligibility is a relationship between languages or dialects in which speakers of different but related varieties can readily understand each other without intentional study or special effort". The source that was cited clearly doesn't show this in my opinion. This combined with my experience of being a native speaker of one of the two languages and not being able to understand the other language made me decide to edit this page. Also, many native speakers commented on the 'Talk' page of the article that they cannot understand the other language.

I agree. German and Dutch are not really mutually intelligible in any way. I can figure out written Dutch without prior study with some effort, but then I'm linguistically educated. For example, reading Robert Beekes's Introduction to Indo-European linguistics is not difficult to understand in the original Dutch (I believe I did read the English translation first, though), and this exercise improved my grasp of Dutch. However, following a guided museum tour in Dutch afterwards was not at all easy. Even with my best efforts and concentration, the success was mixed at best: there were stretches that I did manage, and then I lost the thread and didn't understand anything or only isolated words, despite all my previous knowledge of Dutch; I may have picked up and lost the thread again several times during that tour (context did help, like when the guide pointed out something). That's hardly any sort of mutual intelligibility if even prior study helps you that little.
My experience with Swiss German is only a little better. I could understand people on TV (almost?) perfectly, but only when they spoke Zürich German; I could not manage Bernese German. TV announcer language is, of course, slower, clearer and more careful than spontaneous spoken language, so I was not surprised too much. When my host family chatted spontaneously among each other, it was too quick for me to follow, even though their dialect was almost identical with Zürich German (they did vocalise the l in Salz to give Sauz). And that even though my own (Bavarian) dialect is Upper German too and I did have prior knowledge about Swiss German and experience reading it. So even Swiss German is only partly intelligible to Standard German speakers at best. I suspect Luxembourgish is also difficult unless you speak a closely related dialect. I can read Low German, but I don't expect to understand fast spoken Low German. Even broad Bavarian dialects can be difficult, also depending on lexicon, clipping and other phonetic peculiarities. Northern Bavarian dialects have a reputation for being difficult to understand, especially for urbanites – urban Bavarian is more strongly influenced by Standard German than broad rural Bavarian, which can be very divergent in lexicon especially. I've heard that most English and Scots dialects are intelligible to a speaker of Standard or Estuary English, except broad Scots, at least Insular Scots. But then, most English and Scots dialects have been strongly affected by the standard and younger people have only an accent at best, not a fully-fledged dialect. So West Germanic contains far more diversity than the small number of (major) standard languages may suggest, especially when traditional dialects close to those generally spoken in the 19th century are considered. Back then, on the basis of mutual intelligibility, dozens if not hundreds of Germanic languages could possibly have been distinguished. Ethnologue's system isn't that stupid, although Linguasphere is even better. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 03:03, 25 August 2014 (UTC)
I fully agree. You can still encounter in various parts of Germany dialects, though often only spoken by elderly rural males, that are so broad that persons from other parts of the country will not understand them. I have experienced this in the towns of Trier, Zwiesel and Husum and I have witnessed a traditional rural wedding where the bride came from Upper Suabia and the groom from Central Hesse. Communication between members of the two families totally failed, as nobody would modify their dialect in the presence of their own family members.
These observations are also compatible with the empirical rule that after about 1000 years, descendants of a speech form have diverged so much that they effectively become different languages (in the sense of Abstandsprache). Applying this cut-off to German "dialects" makes one conclude it is ridiculous to pretend they're all a single language. Even by the beginning of the Old High German period, much more than 1000 years ago, the major dialect regions that make up "German" were already established. And Old Saxon (the ancestor of Low German) was completely separate (as much as Old Dutch if not more), even if probably still mutually intelligible at the time. The divergence of Proto-Norse also started more than 1000 years ago. In terms of time-depth, High German is easily comparable to Slavic, and Chinese (even excluding Min) to North Germanic. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 13:09, 9 February 2015 (UTC)

Italian and Spanish[edit]

Resolved: A source was found and Italian-Spanish added to the list in the article.

I've only been studying Spanish for 2 months and I've tried talking to an Italian person in chat and we understood each other quite well. I've also heard similar experiences. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:57, 13 June 2011 (UTC)

It's true that there are similarities, especially in writing and when two people are able to cooperate with one another. But they are not mutually intelligible. rʨanaɢ (talk) 09:14, 13 June 2011 (UTC)
Rjanag i noticed you removed my edit regarding mutual intelligibility between spanish and italian - you arbitrarily decided that the sources are not reliable; also you claim that a discussion in the talk page concluded they are not mutually intelligible (m.i.) - well, that is not true since, from what i read, most readers agree they are m.i. ; also i checked your user page, where you state you barely know spanish and do not know italian - i wonder then how could you be so sure about your claims; my mother language is italian and i've lived in central america for about one year, and i assure you that the two languages are at least partially m.i. ; with little cooperation both parts can develop a simple conversation on most topics, so i strongly disagree with your edits and i am going to revert them.--ItemirusMessage me! 07:35, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
I never said "a discussion in the talk page concluded they are not mutually intelligible", I said this blog post is not a reliable source and it has been removed from the article before, by editors other than me. I didn't "arbitrarily" decide the blog post isn't a reliable source; please review Wikipedia's guidelines regarding reliable sources.
The fact that you are a native speaker of Italian, or that I am not, does not matter, because Wikipedia does not accept personal experience as a source for article content. You can only add content that's supported by a reliable source, not by your personal opinions.
Please refrain from edit warring, and limit your contributions to this discussion until a consensus is reached. Wikipedia's policy on edit warring states that once a disagreement has arisen over article content, you shouldn't just keep on restoring your disputed edit, but should wait until a consensus is reached before continuing to edit. rʨanaɢ (talk) 08:11, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
I only just now noticed that your addition included two sources, not one. I have some comments about both of them.
  • Again, this is a personal website, not a reliable source. Furthermore, from what I can tell, it never explicitly argues that the two languages are mutually intelligible; it's just a long list of various similarities and differences between the two languages.
  • This is a personal blog, not a reliable source, like I said. Furthermore, it only contains one line that can be remotely construed as arguing that Spanish and Italian are mutually intelligible:

    What is interesting is that everyone accepts that Spanish, Portuguese and Italian are separate languages, despite 54% intelligibility for Spanish and Portuguese and even higher for Spanish and Italian.

    The author of the blog post does not indicate where any of these numbers came from. The rest of the post is comparing different languages (the only academic paper he cites is one comparing Spanish and Portuguese), or only talking about lexical similarity (which is not the same thing as mutual intelligibility).
I am not arguing that there is absolutely no degree of mutual intelligibility between the languages. I am just pointing out that you have not provided acceptable sources to add these languages to the list in any way. rʨanaɢ (talk) 08:19, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
We could start a debate as to where a strict application of the reliable sources rule is to be applied and where common sense is a more reasonable approach , but this would result in a lengthy and off-topic discussion. I just think sometimes a rigid application of some rules is doing more harm than good as it results in stripping an article of a contribution which most people knowledgeable about the subject matter would consider agreeable even without citing sources. I am here listing some sources that support my point of view regarding italian/spanish intelligibility - let's see if the community considers them reliable on the premise that Wikipedia policies state that "the reliability of a source depends on context." It seems that no one has already seriously delved into the matter; in fact most of these links point to amateur linguists blogs and forum discussions, nonetheless I would consider them a dependable source.
I don't understand why Italian and Spanish are not listed as mutually intelligible. As a native Spanish speaker I can say that I can partially understand Italian with no problem, even more than Portuguese. Calin99 (talk) 19:32, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

--ItemirusMessage me! 15:31, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

I've twice come across Italian speakers who did not speak English (one of them a Russian), and I used Spanish with them to decent effect. But I at least partially agree about sourcing: although the politics of Spanish vs. Italian are probably just about nonexistent, that is not true for other languages, where claims of mutual intelligibility or lack thereof are motivated by national identity rather than actual comprehension. Also, sources saying things like "they are 50% intelligible" doesn't really tell us much: does that mean you can hold a conversation or not? How about after spending a couple days together? If we're going to accept amateur sources, they should discuss the issue in enough depth that we can actually draw a conclusion from it, and not be politically motivated. — kwami (talk) 22:25, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

I am a native Spanish speaker and I understand Italian quite well, even I use the Italian Wikipedia when I have to. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Alexander K. Cox (talkcontribs) 16:38, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

Can somebody please add Spanish and Italian?? Because Im a native spanish speaker and i can understand italian very well when its spoken and a significant amount when its written. Also, I have many italian friends and they have never studied spanish and yet they understand it when spoken and more so than a spanish speaker when its written.

Plus, its well known that spanish and italian are very similar languages that can be understood mutually by their speakers. Its as similar as the relationship between spanish and portuguese.

Please somebody fix it so as to improve this article. -- (talk) 12:56, 8 July 2014 (UTC)

This I am a native speaker and can understand this and that language bla bla. I am also a native Spanish speaker and while yes, Italian can be somewhat understood, it is only marginally. But its a stretch to say they are mutually Intelligible. It improves in written form I mean sure I can also mostly make out whats written. If the Spanish speaker is educated, has a sharp ear, has listened to Italian semi regularly, and it is spoken slowly and formally, yes a fair chunk can be made out, this however, is not enough to engage in conversation. All ive said is also true of Spanish and Portuguese, with the exception that with Portuguese Id rank it as nearly mutually intelligible, and a conversation is possible with concentration, and also as long as the conditions I mentioned above also holds true. I am from Chile and have travelled to Brazil, Portugal, Mozambique and also Italy and have proved this time and again. Off course this is just an opinion and needs reliable scholarly references, which is not an easy thing as this subject is also a subjective thing, there are no absolutes in this topic. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:33, 8 April 2015 (UTC)

I agree, it's ridiculous how blatantly similar they are and yet there's no mention whatsoever in the article. The two languages are similar enough for a native speaker of either to be able to understand a great deal of what is said (or written). I'm Italian myself and I can testify. (talk) 22:12, 20 October 2014 (UTC)

Spanish and Italian are from very different branches within the Romance family (Iberian Romance vs. Italo-Dalmatian), which can be seen in some distinct semantic shifts that have occurred in Spanish but not in other branches of (Western) Romance. Nevertheless, both are rather conservative within their respective branches and a good deal of vocabulary is rather similar. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting a fair degree of mutual intelligibility (and also some the other way around), but reliable evidence is somehow hard to dig up. Although anecdotal evidence need not be wrong, it does tend to be rather unreliable and therefore cannot be accepted. --JorisvS (talk) 22:35, 20 October 2014 (UTC)

I would agree that Spanish and Italian are at least partially mutually intelligible. I studied Spanish for four or five years in school and used to be nearly-fluent (although it's been several years since I used any and I'm super rusty now, it's pathetic) and I could understand maybe 50% of my Italian friend's family talking at full speed, more like 90% if it were slow and enunciated or if it were written. I can still understand both written Spanish and Italian pretty well. Can't it go in there as "partially mutually intelligible" with a [citation needed] tag? Noparlpf (talk) 06:23, 11 April 2015 (UTC)

To prevent people from cluttering the list by adding all kinds of pairs that they believe (original research!) are (partially) mutually intelligible, we require that a pair have a reliable source accompanying it at all times. Citation needed tags do not help prevent this cluttering. It cannot be excepted from this requirement. Dig up a reliable source that says this and it can go in right away. --JorisvS (talk) 08:30, 11 April 2015 (UTC)

I'm Italian mother language and I can read a newpaper in Spanish without any problem.I do not understand about 80% of the words when written and I can understand about all when Spanish people speack slowly.So it's sure that our two languages are partialy inteligible.Who says that our two languages are not inteligible doesn't know really Italian and Spanish. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:42, 17 September 2016 (UTC)

Exactly. Spaniards and Italians can understand each other quite well if they choose to. Mutual intelligibility is not necessarily binary, and is not trustworthy as a heuristic device for deciding same/different language. Matthews does not state that "[s]ome linguists claim that mutual intelligibility is, ideally at least, the primary criterion separating languages from dialects" on p 103, but makes it clear that mutual intelligibility is gradient. Spanish - Italian mutual intelligibility is a prime example of the failure of mutual intelligibility as a determiner of same/different language.-- (talk) 13:39, 29 August 2018 (UTC)

I found an article which studied the mutual intelligibility of Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, French and Italian; Voigt (2014) found higher degrees of intelligibility for Spanish and Italian, and Spanish and Portuguese and vice versa. Added it I, myself have some problems with the experimental methodology; it does not look as if she controlled for whether the speakers had studied other languages, or any other factor, seeing as it was an online test. It is however, the only experiment on Spanish and Italian intelligibility conducted thus far that actually got published in an academic source Brianc26 (talk) 01:34, 17 September 2015 (UTC)

Arabic and ivrit?[edit]

Is there any degree of mutual understanding of spoken text among jews (either liturgical hebrew and ivrit) and arabs (say saudi arabs), both being semitic languages? (talk) 09:55, 9 July 2011 (UTC) No. I am an Arabic speaker and Hebrew isn't understandable to me, even though many, if not most, words are very similar, and sentence structures are also similar. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:23, 28 March 2012 (UTC)

Hebrew and Arabic are distant enough to the point where the two languages are not mutually intelligible. The verbal roots are often the same, but the interweaving is done totally differently. For example in Arabic: yuktab(u) يُكْتَب or يكتب "being written" (masculine) tuktab(u) تُكتَب or تكتب "being written" (feminine), wheras in Hebrew "niḵtaḇ" נכתב "it was written" (m) "niḵteḇa" נכתבה "it was written" (f). The Triliteral Root "ktb" is the same in both languages, but the morphology is very different. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:22, 16 February 2013 (UTC)

"separate languages only for political reasons"[edit]

this remark stands for "Serbo-Croatian" language. how come that other mutually intelligible languages dont have seuch remark? Norwegian language is also called that way because of political reasons. (just an example).

it should be removed, because it is obvious. if the languages really are mutual intelligible, right?! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:46, 28 September 2011 (UTC)

In the case of Norwegian, there is at least a dialectical difference. It's a matter of whether you want to call s.t. a dialect or a language. Same for Russian and Belarussian. There would be some difference even without standardization, and the standards were based on different varieties. But SCB are all based on the same dialect. It's really an exceptional case. It would be as if American English were based on the same dialect of London English as RP, but spelled some words differently, used 'billion' for 'milliard' and 'baby carriage' for 'pram', etc., and therefore claimed to be a different language. — kwami (talk) 06:25, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
I note that Norwegian, etc. are down as only partially mutually intelligible - I seem to recall reading somewhere that younger generations don't find them mutually intelligible, although I can't cite a source off the top of my head.Allens (talk) 12:49, 17 October 2011 (UTC)
Different dialects of Norwegian are not fully intelligible with each other. I'm not sure if the international differences are really of a different order than the intra-national differences, except perhaps for the leveling effect of the national standard. — kwami (talk) 16:44, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
First of all, I don't agree with your statement about Norwegian dialects. All dialects of Norwegian are (at least in practice, see below) fully intelligible with each other. Some inhabitants of the capital, Oslo, will claim to be unable to understand other dialects, but (with a few exceptions) this is essentially an attempt to belittle other Norwegians by suggesting that their dialect is "bad Norwegian", which is ironic, considering that the Oslo dialect is more heavily influenced by the vocabulary of the old Danish(-speaking) ruling class than any other Norwegian dialect. Also, "real world intelligibility" is greater than a transcription of speech in various dialects might suggest, because it's extremely difficult for a Norwegian to go through life without being frequently exposed to several other dialects through media, as well as friends or colleagues (or family members, for that matter) from other parts of the country.
Second, with regard to the international differences, the short answer is that it's complicated. Standard written Norwegian (well, the most popular of the two standards, anyway) and standard written Danish are arguably more similar than any two spoken Norwegian dialects, in part because of their shared roots, in part because both were heavily influenced by Low German and in part because Norway was under Danish rule for more than 300 years. The most significant differences between the three Scandinavian languages, however, have to do with pronunciation rather than vocabulary or grammar. Norwegian and Swedish have fairly similar (but by no means identical) and easily mutually intelligible pronunciations, whereas Danish pronunciation is generally considered very different from both (arguably more similar to German phonetically, but with an unusual feature, which other Scandinavians often describe as similar to speaking with a swollen tongue). On the other hand, there are more (but still relatively few) differences in vocabulary between Swedish and Norwegian than between Danish and Norwegian. Danish pronunciation is typically not entirely unintelligible, but does tend to require a bit of effort for other Scandinavians. This can perhaps be compared to the difficulty Americans or Brits may have understanding Caribbean accents of English (by which I don't mean full-on patois, but the "milder" accents), whereas Norwegian and Swedish pronunciation is arguably comparable to the difference between, say, Southern and Midwestern accents in the US. That being said, "Norwegian" pronunciation is a bit of an abstract entity. From an outside perspective, at least (I'm Norwegian), dialect differences within Swedish and Danish are small (with some notable exceptions, such as the formerly Danish region of Skåne/Scania, in Sweden) and the national standards seem to have had a significant leveling effect. Norway, however, is a long, thin and sparsely populated country with countless natural barriers (large and small), which have historically contributed to the development of a great variety of both regional and local dialects. There has been a less concerted effort to impose a national standard pronunciation than in Denmark or Sweden and less popular acceptance of such a goal, although the dominance of the southeastern/Oslo dialect in national media (which has, however, decreased somewhat in the last two decades or so) has had some leveling effect. There has also been convergence/leveling on a regional level, which has probably had a greater impact. Nonetheless, there is still a lot of variety in terms of pronunciation and, to a lesser extent, vocabulary, notably pronouns (as an example, the English pronoun "I", depending on the dialect, can be translated as jeg, eg, e, æ, æg or i). The most distinct dialects can reasonably be said to be more different from each other, in terms of pronunciation (but not vocabulary), than any given Norwegian dialect and "standard" Swedish. Some may even feel that the differences between the more "extreme" dialects (by which I mean intensely local, and therefore rare, dialects from historically very isolated areas) are as great as the differences between some Norwegian dialects and Danish. To summarize, I think it's reasonable to say that, in the Norwegian case, the international differences are probably not of an entirely different order than the intra-national differences. The Swedes and Danes may feel differently about their own, more limited, intra-national differences, though. Maitreya (talk) 15:54, 5 March 2013 (UTC)

There is no such language as "Serbo-Croatian", as same as there is no "Czecho-Slovakian", or some others... This term is nothing but a mere political fabrication, coined for the purposes of national unification in a period of two Yugoslav states! It's biggest puzzle why, even today, some linguists insist on such a predominantly political concept, although, for instance, no one, at least among the linguists, doesn't use obsolete but very similar concept of "Czecho-Slovakian" language?! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:21, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

You're confused/misinformed about the situation. First of all, the term was coined in the 19th century, predating Yugoslavia by quite some time. Secondly, regardless of when the term was coined, Standard Croatian, Standard Serbian, and Standard Bosnian (and Montenegrin) are barely different: their grammars are identical and there are only minor differences in vocabulary, which are not even exclusive to their respective countries or ethnicities. The standard languages are all based on the same subdialect, Eastern Herzegovinian, of the Shtokavian dialect. The other main dialects of Serbo-Croatian, Chakavian, Kajkavian, and Torlakian are more different, but that does not really matter: "Croatian" (like the others) is no coherent grouping of dialects. Czech and Slovak are closely related, but far more distinct than "Croatian" from "Serbian". A comparison with Dutch vs. German is even totally ridiculous: Even German "dialects" are far more distinct than "Croatian" from "Serbian". --JorisvS (talk) 09:09, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
No, you are! I know that this term is coined in 19th century, but that does not prove nothing! Your remarks regarding standard CSBM languages and it's grammars also aren't sufficient argument, since there are so many elements that form any language! Fixating on some of them isn't exactly scientific approach in linguistic!

Your regards abut Czech and Slovak languages are just Your bias interpretations, since you're probably aren't native speaker of any of these languages, including Croatian and Serbian... And in that so called "Serbo - Croatian" language, among the native speakers in Serbia, BiH and Montenegro, you can't find any of the speakers using Chakavian and Kajkavian dialects, ... Also, many linguists condemn that artificial term, also made for political reasons - for the purposes of the Yugoslav unification, regardless of time when it's coined!

Using this artificial term, predominantly foreign linguists insult Croats, Serbs, ... More importantly, in this way, they are also denying cultural and historical identity of those nations! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:40, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
Just go to Serbia and speak your "Croatian" (or vice versa): no trouble communicating. That's the whole point. And no, there is not more to language than its phonology, its grammar (incl. syntax) and its vocabulary (incl. semantics). Everything about a language (i.e. structural) is subsumed under those terms. Things that are not structural are social (sociolinguistic) phenomena, and are not relevant to the language per se. --JorisvS (talk) 10:08, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
"Just go to Serbia and speak your "Croatian" (or vice versa): no trouble communicating." That's very lousy argument since Czech and Slovaks also understand each others perfectly well! And one more thing must be stated out! There are many very different words in modern Serbian and Croatian languages, used solely by one nation like: hartija (sr.) vs papir (hr.) for paper, bioskop - kino for cinema, pirinač - riža for rice, avion - zrakoplov for airplane, fudbal - nogomet for football,
mašina - stroj for machine,lice - osoba for person, saobračaj - promet for traffic, pasulj - graf for beans, čas - sat for hour, ... List is countless! So I'm not sure if someone younger, born after Yugoslavia collapsed, would understand someone in other country completely! There is huge amount of words and expressions that always differed between Croatian and Serbian language. Even sole construction of sentences was always different in between these two languages!
You're hugely overstating the differences between the languages. Sure, the are a bunch of words that are different, but the vast majority isn't. The future tense is written differently, but pronunciation is identical. The biggest grammatical difference is that Serbian has pretty much lost its infinitive, whereas Croatian hasn't, but this doesn't impede communication. --JorisvS (talk) 13:05, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
Your answer proves once more only that some small nations, obviously, don't have right to have language on their own since international linguists (in cooperation with politicians) are denying their natural right!

It is simply act of schouvinism ! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:44, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

Absolutely not, I encourage people to use their local languages. If Croatians would adopt Chakavian as their language, then few people would argue with you about Croatian not being distinct, because Chakavian is much more distinct, to point where intelligibility is hampered. It's fine to use your local (standard) language, but you just shouldn't pretend it is a distinct language from what people in neighboring countries speak (because by any serious definition of 'language' it isn't). --JorisvS (talk) 13:05, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

We agree that we do not agree and it's no problem! But, please explain to me how come your arguments doesn't apply on Chech and Slovak languages?!These languages are strikingly similar and also mutually understandable... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:17, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

Why just simply state: "separate languages only for political reasons", when the matter is (even hotly) contested, and wouldn't it be better if this article would be more moderate and state that "languages are almost identical, though their respective nations declare them distinct, and discussion is still under way about various aspects such as origins, grammar differences and differing in developments over time." Or in similar words? That would satisfy both sides... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:36, 30 June 2013 (UTC)

Because the only reason that it is (hotly) contensted is politics. There is no linguistic characteristic that could makes the Serbo-Croatian standards separate languages. Origins are irrelevant; their grammars are nearly identical. --JorisvS (talk) 17:30, 1 July 2013 (UTC)
Let's note briefly: The contested statement was:
"separate languages only for political reasons".
The argument it was contested with was:
Your answer proves once more only that some small nations, obviously, don't have right to have language on their own since international linguists (in cooperation with politicians) are denying their natural right!
The brief reaction to this line of argumentation would be: Statement proven, case closed.--2001:A61:20E4:A101:2CDA:41CF:BD37:25EE (talk) 17:11, 31 August 2017 (UTC)

Maximum mutual intelligibility with Latin?[edit]

I am curious as to whether there is any data as to what language is maximally compatible with each of the various varieties (in terms of times and, for the spoken forms, pronunciations) of Latin. A modern-day test case might be the interaction between Vatican City and (the rest of) Italy, for those in the Vatican who didn't learn Italian before coming there, but do know Latin fluently. IIRC, Sardinian is sometimes considered the closest to Latin in at least some regards? Thanks! Allens (talk) 02:20, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

Latin lexicon, especially "little words", and grammar, especially declension and syntax, is so different from every modern Romance language that there is no hope of understanding Latin for a modern Romance speaker who has not studied Latin. Yes, Logudorese Sardinian and Standard Italian are both very conservative Romance languages and relatively similar to Latin in various respects, but that does not mean that they are similar enough for there to be any mutual intelligibility left. Even learned lexicon won't help: you can use as many Latinisms as you want, Italian grammar will never be similar to Latin grammar. It's just that French has changed so radically that in comparison, even Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian will appear close to Latin, even though they aren't, they're just less "screwed up" from the Latin perspective.
It's a lot like the way the Insular Celtic languages have changed so much that you wouldn't be able to tell that 2000 years ago, they were very similar to contemporary Classical Latin in many respects. (Though nowhere close to mutual intelligibility.) Modern Irish or Welsh in contrast looks totally alien in Europe, not Indo-European at all, and even single words are frequently unrecognisably changed ("distorted" or even "corrupted", as others might say). The same can be said at least for the inherited French lexicon. You might be forgiven for wondering if French could not be some weird Celtic language as well that was eventually flooded with Latinisms in the Renaissance. In contrast, yes, Italian looks quaintly archaic, but if anything, it's close to early Romance, not to Latin; certain Romance or "Vulgar Latin" dialects of Late Antiquity might be kind of intelligible to an Italian. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 14:01, 11 August 2014 (UTC)
For comparison, consider the way Scots is more conservative and thus closer to Old English in some ways, while Old English is not intelligible to either a Scots or English speaker because of the grammar alone. If anything, Scots is somewhat similar to Middle English, and a Scots-speaker will probably have a better chance trying to understand Middle English. Similarly, Swiss German (the spoken dialects, not written Swiss Standard German) is conservative in many ways, but Old High German is just as unfamiliar to a Swiss as for a German-speaker from Germany. If anything, Swiss German resembles Middle High German a bit, and a Swiss might have a better chance understanding Middle High German. Though speaking from personal experience, even Middle High German is quite tough, especially because so many words have changed their meaning. So I'm quite sure that Latin is completely incomprehensible to any monolingual speaker of a modern Romance dialect. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 14:43, 11 August 2014 (UTC)


Please, check the voice in the subject, because maybe this one and Mutual intelligibility are redundant. --Pequod76 (talk-ita.esp.eng) 23:45, 8 February 2012 (UTC)

Philippine Languages:[edit]

On the Languages of the Philippines page it claims that there are 168 unmutually intelligible languages using the a comparison of many languages (not only Philippine Languages) employing the very complicated phrase "he who does not (know how to) look back at his past (where he came from) will not reach his destination".

Going off of this page's somewhat controversial phrase (almost every Talk category seems to attack it) "Partially Intelligible", I am disagreeing with the Languages of the Philippines page's claim of Philippine Languages being totally unintelligible.

Sometimes a sentence in Cebuano uses an identificational, locative, or simple predicational phrase and is exactly the same (word for word) as the sentence in Tagalog:

Tagalog: Ang gobernador sa Pilipinas siya.

Cebuano: Ang gobernador sa Pillipinas siya.

English: S/he is the governor of the Philippines.

Tagalog: Taga-Asia ang mga Bisaya.

Cebuano: Taga-Asia ang mga Bisaya.

English: Visayans are from (born in/originate from) Asia.

Frequently simple sentences are a little different, but still slightly similar:

Tagalog: Nasaan ang simbahan?

Cebuano: Asa ang simbahan?

English: Where is the church?

Tagalog: Ano ang mo kailangan? (Ano ang kailangan mo? = more grammatical sentence order)

Cebuano: Unsa ang imong kinahanglan?

English: What do you need?

BUT (when the utterance is extremely complicated, vague, and abstract) for complicated phrases, all intelligibility seems to be lost (unless you can speak both Tagalog and Cebuano of course):

Tagalog: Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararatíng sa paroroonan.

Cebuano: Kadtong dili kabalo molingi sa iyang ginikanan, dili makaabot sa iyang gipadulongan.

English: "He who does not (know how to) look back at his past (where he came from) will not reach his destination".

Admittedly, the two languages frequently use words which are so dissimilar that two speakers of the two different languages would be unable to understand each other (as in the example "he who does not (know how to) look back at his past (where he came from) will not reach his destination"), but in very simple sentences they can be identical. Does being 100% mutually intelligible in certain sentences fit the definition of Partial Mutual Intilligibility? Brianc26 (talk) 02:06, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

The Ethnologue 2013 edition finally started listing situations of Mutual Intelligibility within Philippine Languages... Hence the edition of the Ilokano language and the Bontoc language. I shall skim through it some more to find more examplesBrianc26 (talk) 22:05, 11 April 2013 (UTC)

Uh is Partial M.U. really useful? It's like English with Spanish. --Uh look! I recognize 'presidente' or 'escuela' or 'estudiante'.-- I'm from the Philippines. We really can't understand the other dialects but recognize some words. People really have to use Tagalog when interacting with people from other places. Those example are very shallow. --Jondel (talk) 13:28, 8 July 2013 (UTC)

What about Spanish and Catalan?[edit]

While I have studied Spanish, I haven't studied Catalan, but I understand it near perfectly.

Those 2 have a great deal of mutual intelligibility. (talk) 15:10, 30 August 2012 (UTC)

We can only add languages to this list if there are reliable sources confirming their mutual intelligibility. Personal anecdotal experience is not sufficient. rʨanaɢ (talk) 18:29, 30 August 2012 (UTC)
What about Occitan and Catalan?
The same rule goes for any language pair, no matter if there is likely some degree of mutual intelligibility. --JorisvS (talk) 10:33, 5 March 2014 (UTC)

Bulgarian and Macedonian[edit]

A previous editor added "partially" for those two and wrote "and mutual intelligibility is high" does not mean "are mutually intelligible". This is just wrong - if we are talking in terms like low and high it is clearly that when it is high the two languages are close related and people speaking them can communicate without any trouble, and they are mutual intelligible. Even if it was low the languages would be mutual intelligible to some degree. The source states further that some see Macedoanian as a dialect of Bulgarian. Also these two and the other Slavic languages form a continuum, thus I saw appropriate to add "partially" for Bulgarian and Serbo-Croatian. Xr 1 (talk) 08:20, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

Those that see Macedonian as dialect of Bulgarian are just the Bulgarians and foreign academics that use BG sources. However, Macedonians more easily understand Serbo-Croatian than Bulgarian and Bulgarians understand Serbo-Croatian and Serbo-Croats understand Macedonian and Bulgarian. This has to be mentioned, it is very wrong if you state that only MK and BG are intelligible (some sources only mention that BG and MK are intelligible and that's because of the grammar similarities which does not give the wider picture of the South Slavic languages). Even Slovene can be understood by Macedonians.--MacedonianBoy (talk) 08:52, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
"Mutual intelligibility is high" means that speakers can make out a lot of what the other is saying, but not everything. So not fully intelligible, hence partially. If they could make out everything, then their speeches would be simply "mutually intelligible". And no, Slovene cannot be 'understood' by speakers on the other end of the continuum, the source is clear about that. --JorisvS (talk) 09:16, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
The why don't you apply this to all the languages listed here? There are different thing, some difficulties that occur in the understanding between each in the groups. Plus "partially" would suggest a relationship less close than the one Bulgarian and Macedonian have. Xr 1 (talk) 10:06, 6 September 2012 (UTC)
So far 'partially' has been used to indicate any language pair that is not fully mutually intelligible. If you have a good suggestion for nice short words akin to 'partially' that differentiate between the amount of intelligibility, then that would be great! --JorisvS (talk) 10:37, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

Most Bulgarian linguists consider the Slavic dialects spoken in the region of Macedonia as a part of the Bulgarian diasystem. Numerous shared features of these dialects with Bulgarian are cited as proof. Bulgarian scholars also claim that the overwhelming majority of the Macedonian population had no conscience of a Macedonian language separate from Bulgarian prior to 1945. Moreover, Bulgarian linguists assert that the Yugoslav linguists who were involved in codifying the new language in 1945 artificially introduced differences from literary Bulgarian to bring it closer to Serbian. Jingiby (talk) 12:49, 8 September 2012 (UTC)

Graphical representation[edit]

Scottish Gaelic - Irish

             //   \\
     Portuguese - Spanish

      Norwegian = Swedish
             \    /

Karelian - Finnish - Estonian

             /    \
    Belarusian = Ukrainian

    Macedonian = Bulgarian
           \       /

         Czech = Slovak

       Turkish - Azerbaijani

       Persian = Dari

   West Frisian  German
             \   /

   Kinyarwanda = Kirundi

      Tuvaluan = Tokelauan

Key:   = fully    - partially

I found the relationships between languages in Mutual_intelligibility#List_of_mutually_intelligible_languages difficult to visualise as the list is sorted alphabetically, and so created the text graphic on the right. To me, it makes the complex relationships of 3 or more languages e.g. between Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian much clearer.

However, JorisvS objected to it, stating "ugly, if nothing else". I agree that using preformatted text could be improved, but is the general idea sound? Could he or she also please elaborate on the "if nothing else" part? Thanks, cmɢʟee 21:03, 10 September 2012 (UTC)

Well, a visualization of the relationships can be a good thing. There are several problems, though. Firstly, using an = implies to the casual reader that the varieties are equal, instead of sufficiently similar. Secondly, using more than two languages in a diagram can create the impression that some varieties mentioned are not even somewhat partially mutually intelligible, even though this is simply not known (e.g. Dutch–Afrikaans–West Frisian–German). I would also like to note that using such a visual representation makes the difference between fully and partially intelligible much more noticeable to casual readers, and hence mistakes on this part much more problematic.
Furthermore, the current system of fully vs. partially fails to capture the difference between e.g. 20% intelligible vs. 80% intelligible. This has been problematic in the case of Bulgarian vs. Macedonian. So maybe a more nuanced approach using, say, "somewhat", "partially", and "mostly", both in the list and any diagram, may be better. The problem with this would be that sources may not be all that clear about to what extent varieties are mutually intelligible. --JorisvS (talk) 21:31, 10 September 2012 (UTC)
Galician is in origin a Northern Portuguese dialect (later affected by Castilian). It's more closely related to Northern Portuguese than to Standard Portuguese, which is based on the southern dialects. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 12:55, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
From a historical point of view, I would even say that Portuguese is a Southern Galician dialect... Unoffensive text or character (talk) 15:08, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
That only makes sense (more or less) from a geographical point of view, because the language was originally spoken north of the Douro, in the region now shared between Galicia and also the far north of Portugal (though slightly extending into what is now Asturias and Leon as well). The medieval language is called Galician-Portuguese because it was neither; it was the common ancestor of the whole continuum now formed by Southern Portuguese, Northern Portuguese–Galician–Eonavian and Fala. Calling Portuguese a Southern Galician dialect would be like calling Spanish a Western and French a Northern Italian dialect just because the common ancestor was spoken in Italy. Or English a German dialect. Or Latin a Scytho-Sarmatian dialect ... not exactly terribly accurate. More like awfully misleading. This is different from saying that Icelandic and Faroese are in origin Western Norwegian dialects, which is essentially correct (they do descend from the early medieval speech of Western Norway, in the 9th century). The relationship between Galician and Northern Portuguese is similar: they do belong together (more closely than with Southern Portuguese), so Galician could be considered part of the dialect group that we know as "Northern Portuguese", separated by an arbitrary state border. What the resulting union could be called is not obvious. Either there are two dialect clusters/groups called "Northern" and "Southern Portuguese", or two closely related languages called "Galician" and "Portuguese", separated not by the state boundary but a boundary somewhere within the state of Portugal (compare this map). It's a toss-up between the two solutions. Given that Galician and Portuguese appear to still be fully mutually intelligible, which fits the observation that (using the criterion I mentioned above, which is a rule of thumb that produces sensible results in my experience) the most recent common ancestor of both was spoken less than 1000 years ago, I'd favour the one-language solution.
Also, the diagram omits Astur-Leonese, which in some form provides a link between Portuguese and Spanish, yet is originally closer to Portuguese. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 03:18, 10 February 2015 (UTC)

Spanish and Ladino[edit]

How come Spanish and Ladino are not included as mutually intelligible? I can read and understand practically everything in the Ladino Wikipedia because I speak Spanish. Tsf (talk) 17:44, 19 November 2012 (UTC)

Because inclusion requires a reliable source that says so. If you have one you can add the pair. --JorisvS (talk) 17:57, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
I'm not a linguist but it seems rather obvious when you try to read a Ladino text. Any linguist here who can suggest a reliable source? Tsf (talk) 19:22, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Ladino is a Spanish Dialect spoken by Jews eradicated from Spain in 1492. It is practically Spanish (Martin Terreni) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:59, 21 June 2015 (UTC)

Polish - Czech - Slovak[edit]

As a native speaker of polish I have alwas been able to communicate with Slovak and to lesser extent Czech people without ever learning any of the languages. so they are partially intelligable (talk) 12:41, 21 May 2013 (UTC)

Yeah, but more Polish and Slovak than Polish and Czech. Slovak has almost the same gramma and vocabulary as polish. Andrzej19 (talk) 20:25, 24 May 2013 (UTC)
I'd say that they are asymetricaly intelligible. From my experience Slovaks understood almost everything I said in Polish, while I often had to ask them to repeat slowly or explain what they meant - but that could be because most of my visits to Slovakia were in places besieged by Polish tourists, so it is likely that the Slovaks I met heard a lot of Polish, while I heard Slovakian only once a year or so. (talk) 12:36, 17 July 2013 (UTC)
I wouldn't say that they are mutually intelligible. Slovak and Czech, sure, they mostly the same, but not Polish. Quite close, but not intelligible. From personal experience (Czech), a lot of crossower was made by watching polish channels in television or listening to polish radio. But newer generation that didn't have this contact, have problem understanding Polish. And take someone who does not live near borders, like someone from western Bohemia and he would be lost. So I would say that it is learned, although the barrier isn't that high. (talk) 03:24, 8 May 2015 (UTC)

English and Scots as registers of one language[edit]

Does Kaufmann say in English in Scotland — a phonological approach on page 21 that English and Scots are registers of one language (as suggested by the anon)? In fact, where does he say that they are even mutually intelligible? I can't properly access the page in question. --JorisvS (talk) 22:18, 3 January 2014 (UTC)

Welsh and Breton[edit]

Could Welsh and Breton be considered mutually intelligable. Scatach (talk) 22:07, 31 January 2014 (UTC)

Why do you ask? --JorisvS (talk) 16:16, 1 February 2014 (UTC)
It would be nice to see a more complete list here. Could you be able to give me an answer? Scatach (talk) 00:35, 2 February 2014 (UTC)
Of course it would be, but in order to be able to make a reliable list each pair needs to have a reliable source for it (and even then some entries may not be that reliable), and these are rather scarce. You'd have to look for a study that concludes that these are to some degree mutually intelligible (I wouldn't know if they are). Do note that a list that would be fairly complete, would include many hundreds of entries, mainly from outside Europe. Also note that languages 'are' either mutually intelligible to some degree or they 'are not'; to 'be considered' mutually intelligible is not meaningful. --JorisvS (talk) 10:03, 2 February 2014 (UTC)

Kenneth Jackson in "Language and History in Early Britain" emphatically says No for Welsh and Breton: "in spite of claims by Welshmen and Bretons who have never tried it". In terms of time separation, they're about as distant as English and Frisian; Breton has a lot of French loanwords that aren't found in Welsh. Cornish, however, has some degree of intelligibility with both- both in phonetics and vocabulary it's midway between them. This is still true of the "revived" Cornish, which takes influences from both, often for example borrowing a Welsh word and re-spelling it in Cornish (Cornish spelling looks for the most part more like Breton). Example: Welsh iaith, Cornish yeth, Breton yezh "language". Walshie79 (talk) 22:27, 11 February 2014 (UTC)

Scots vs. Irish Gaelic[edit]

I have two sources that suggest they are not mutually intelligible:

As for the Scots bringing with them 'their own Gaelic dialect', we do not know to what extent this variety of Gaelic differed from other varieties of the period, and although it is reasonable to assume that by 1400 some major dialectal differences had developed between 'Eastern' and 'Western' Gaelic (Jackson 1951: 88–93) this in itself is not incompatable with speakers of those varieties being still mutually intelligible; in fact there is evidence to suggest that mutual intelligibility existed among certain classes down to the 17th century.

As is well known, the two regions [Scotland and Ireland] shared a common Gaelic language with standard literary forms and local dialects which for long remained mutually intelligible.

AntiqueReader (talk) 11:16, 25 February 2014 (UTC)

Anecdotal and subjective (hence talk page), but I assure you as an Irish [Gaelic] speaker I can still go to the Scottish Gaelic wikipedia and just sorta muddle through, and I would assume vice-versa is true, at least for truly fluent speakers (to the level of being aware of some etymology and shades of meaning like a fluent english speaker). "Partial mutual intelligilibity" seems a fair description. Seems weirdly hard to find an external source that would satisfy a wikipedia editor though, possibly because most remaining actual speakers would say "of course they're partially mutually intelligible, just look/listen to them", and not make a big deal about it.

They're perhaps even closer than they look at first glance to a non-speaker, as it may not be obvious to non-speakers that they differ in frequency of use of words that are nonetheless still basically common to both e.g. just looking at the wikipedia frontpages themselves above, apart from the somewhat different - but semi-regularly so - standard grammar and standard spelling (and of course the all the accents slanting the other way, heh), the scots use "duilleag" to mean "page", where in Irish it almost always means an actual plant leaf ("duilleog"), and we usually use "leathanach" for page. But it's not like I don't understand that sense of "leaf" as in "page". Hey, in english the term "leaves" (of a book) is used for "pages" sometimes too! They're maybe a bit further apart than British and American english (think "parking lot" versus "car park"), but certainly not as far apart as french and italian.

And yes, in spoken form there are a bunch of strong but also semi-regular divergent shifts in pronunciation, and where you draw the line between "accent", "dialect" and "whole different language" there... in a lot of cases it's a bit like americans and their way of pronouncing "t" as "d" etc. in English (butter: "mbeudderrr" [american] -> "bahttah" [southern english]). You can still understand it, it just sounds weird/silly. In the irish vs scottish gaelic case, perhaps the strongest reason for them being two "whole different languages" is because there's two independent standards bodies.

Native Scots Gaelic speaker here. I've given up trying to add Scots and Irish Gaelic to this article as it keeps on being reverted. As my Irish fellow-Gael above says, it "seems weirdly hard to find an external source that would satisfy a wikipedia editor..." All I can add is that as someone from the Isle of Lewis born in the mid-60s, whose family spoke only Gaelic at home (we were given a row for speaking English, even though all of us were bilingual), I have had exactly the same experience of Irish as is described above. I think one of the differences with younger Scots Gaelic speakers is that they're not brought up these days using the Gaelic Bible to the extent we were. Classical literature in Gaelic, such as the Bible, gives us a familiarity with vocabulary or forms we don't really use any more, but which are still common in Irish, e.g. "tabhair" for "give," for which we now use "thoir," or "labhair" for "speak" (more usually "bruidhinn" in Scots Gaelic). This makes it that little bit more difficult for younger people to see the similarities between the two dialects/languages. It might also be worth adding that I tend to find it easier to understand native (traditional) speakers of Irish from the Gaeltacht than those who've learned it in school in the cities. Both languages are definitely changing and, at the moment, they seem to be diverging somewhat. To mix the two forms, Slàn is beannachd! -- (talk) 17:19, 25 September 2015 (UTC)

What you need is a reliable source comparing Scottish and Irish Gaelic that says that they are (partially) mutually intelligible. --JorisvS (talk) 11:57, 26 September 2015 (UTC)

Turkic languages[edit]

Regarding bullet point saying that Uygur and Uzbek are mutually understandable: this is not true! These two languages have too few in common. And citation given in the article is irrelevant (it's reference to a book about Turkic languages).

In fact, all Turkic languages are close to each other, but not all of them are intelligible. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:54, 29 March 2014 (UTC)

If that book said something about their intelligibility, then it was okay to use it, but I've failed to find anything about their mutual intelligibility in that book. Therefore, I've removed their entries. --JorisvS (talk) 18:04, 30 March 2014 (UTC)

Nguni and Sotho languages[edit]

This case has been discussed before, but the suggested approach to compare (formal) written texts and individual expressions is highly fallacious, as it does not take phenomena like "latent cognate-mediated intelligibility" in account, where (say) a Zulu-speaker may understand a Xhosa word because a cognate is present in Zulu, but diverges by register, style, etc. (e. g., it may be considered archaic or excessively informal), or (possibly only slightly) in meaning. In fact, this is a factor that is often overlooked: Different selection of cognates can make languages appear much more different for outsiders than for native speakers. (I am myself often amazed when browsing Wiktionary because it seems that almost every – inherited – German word has a cognate in English and vice versa, only that the cognate is sometimes rather obscure – especially to non-native speakers.)

Our article Nguni languages does state that individual Nguni languages are often mutually intelligible, and the sources given strongly imply that, as they argue that the division into separate languages is essentially artificial and colonial heritage (motivated by the strategy divide et impera, or divide and conquer), and that there have been proposals that it would be more sensible to devise a Standard Nguni and Standard Sotho, but (and I know that Wikipedians like to split hairs, especially over issues like this, that's why I'm underlining this) the sources never completely explicitly state that the languages in question are ever (mutually) intelligible. Что делать? --Florian Blaschke (talk) 20:32, 19 August 2014 (UTC)

Persian, Dari and Tajik[edit]

  • Dari Persian = Iranian Persian (Written and spoken forms, they're just different dialects/accents, very similar varieties of Persian)
  • Tajik Persian is similar to Dari Persian and Iranian Persian, but it uses Cyrillic script and have some minor grammar differences.
  • Finally, Dari = Farsi = Tajiki. Every Persian-speaking person understand these dialects. For example, BBC Persian broadcasts their reports in all of these 3 forms. They're same. -- (talk) 13:16, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
Already listed under "Spoken forms only".
There are some characteristic differences in phonology, lexicon and grammar, but apparently they are not large enough to impede intelligibility significantly. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 00:07, 30 August 2014 (UTC)
Dari and Persian should be listed under "Written and spoken forms" too. They're same, just like the varieties of English (American, British, Australian an etc.). -- (talk) 17:35, 31 August 2014 (UTC)
Fair point. I have added the pair. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 14:49, 1 September 2014 (UTC)

Finnish - Estonian - Karelian[edit]

The page currently list Finnish as "partly" mutually intelligible with both Estonian and Carelian. However, as a native Finnish speaker I'd say that it's far more easier to understand Carelian (though not completely) than Estonian speech. I'm from Northern Finland, and while learning Estonian is pretty easy for me, I'd say that I can just get a grip what Estonians are talking about - when they are really hard trying to make a point to me, it's much easier and vice versa, but Estonian and Finnish are hardly mutually intelligible in general.

That is original research and not allowed. To appear in this article there has to be a reliable source that accompanies the statement. --JorisvS (talk) 13:04, 24 November 2014 (UTC)
O.K., finding a reliable source shouldn't be very difficult, as WP itself states that in Finnic languages. --Kernaazti (talk) 18:01, 29 November 2014 (UTC)
Actually, it doesn't. It says that standard Finnish and standard Estonian are not mutually intelligible, although that too is unsourced. It does say that Meänkieli and Kven are mutually intelligible with Finnish. However, the latter are often considered dialects of Finnish. --JorisvS (talk) 20:24, 29 November 2014 (UTC)
According to Tiit Rein-Viitso, North Karelian is historically a descendant of East Finnish, hence could also be counted among the dialects of Finnish. South Karelian, let alone Veps or Lude, is a completely different story. The conflation of all these dialect groups as "Karelian" obscures these differences. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 12:33, 9 February 2015 (UTC)

Languages of the Indian Subcontinent[edit]

I'm posting this on the talk page because unfortunately I do not have the requisite knowledge or sources to really edit the article, but perhaps someone who does might give it a go. I noticed that there is scarcely any mention of languages from the Indian subcontinent. Many languages have a common ancestor - Sanskrit and Old Tamil being 2 significant ones. In addition, there are major similarities in scripts - Devanagari or variants thereof are used in most Indo-Aryan languages, Arabic for some others, and many Dravidian scripts have commonalities. Of course, the sheer number of languages (and consequent combinations thereof), as well as the existence of many bi- and trilignual speakers who make it difficult to distinguish mutual intelligibility from speaking the language, make taking this on a daunting task; however, I believe this is more than adequately outweighed by the fact that the group of languages includes several language families, including two major ones - Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages. Candidate pairs (possibly asymmetric) I can think of include (I maybe completely off the mark with some of these, forgive me if that's the case) include: Hindi/Urdu-Bhojpuri, Hindi/Urdu-Punjabi, Hindi/Urdu-Sindi, Punjabi-Sindhi, Sindhi-Kutchi, Kutchi-Gujarati, Marathi-Konkani, Hindi-Nepali, Nepali-Assamese, (from the Indo-Aryan language family of which I have the most knowledge) and Kannada-Telugu, Kannada-Tamil, Tamil-Malayalam, Tamil-Sinhalese (from the Dravidian language family with which I, regrettably, have far less familiarity) and probably many others from smaller language families with which I am mostly unfamiliar. Just thought I should put this out there - hopefully someone with more knowledge than I will take this up and do a better job than I could. I would suggest keeping different language families in separate sections/subsections. (talk) 10:05, 1 December 2014 (UTC)

The Hindi Belt is one big dialect continuum, but dialects on the extreme ends are not necessarily mutually intelligible. As for Dravidian, Tamil–Malayalam wouldn't surprise me, about the rest I'm more sceptical. Oh, and Sinhalese is Indo-Aryan, not Dravidian. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 12:45, 9 February 2015 (UTC)

Varieties of Chinese[edit]

Shouldn't Chinese be added to the list of languages mutually intelligible only in written form? I mean, we have a Chinese Wikipedia, not a Mandarin one. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:07, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

Probably there is at least partial mutual intelligibility, but we cannot assume that they are because they tend to use the same symbols inherited from their common ancestor that they are mutually intelligible. Note that we also have a Wu Wikipedia, a Min Nan Wikipedia, a Min Dong Wikipedia, a Cantonese Wikipedia, a Gan Wikipedia, and a Hakka Wikipedia. The Chinese Wikipedia is actually just the Mandarin one without it being named that. --JorisvS (talk) 11:08, 24 December 2014 (UTC)
I think you are a little confused about the use of these writing systems. Though there is a such thing as written Cantonese, Wu, etc. They are almost never used and are not taught in school. Instead everyone uses Standard Chinese Writing system which is a huge advantage for Chinese. In fact the only writing system that you mentioned that is even really developed is Cantonese and only a small portion of Cantonese speakers would know how to use it.- Moshe Constantine Hassan Al-Silverburg | Talk 17:15, 22 April 2015 (UTC)


I find it very incorrect that there would be a high degree of mutual intelligibility between Spanish and Romanian or between Romanian and Italian, so I will delete that sentence. Aaker (talk) 14:05, 11 June 2015 (UTC)

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Orphaned references in Mutual intelligibility[edit]

I check pages listed in Category:Pages with incorrect ref formatting to try to fix reference errors. One of the things I do is look for content for orphaned references in wikilinked articles. I have found content for some of Mutual intelligibility's orphans, the problem is that I found more than one version. I can't determine which (if any) is correct for this article, so I am asking for a sentient editor to look it over and copy the correct ref content into this article.

Reference named "Britannica":

  • From Ukrainian language: "". Retrieved January 26, 2007.
  • From Protohistory of West Virginia: #refBritannica|"Britannica" 12:596:2b, Britannica 29:358:1b, Britannica 1:95:3a, Britannica 22:782:Table 60, Britannica 13:344 through 13:352 (ref. "The Appalachian Indian Frontier" by Wilbert R. Jacobs 1967 Bison).
  • From Republic of Macedonia: "Indo-European languages in contemporary Eurasia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  • From Hindustani language: Encyclopædia Britannica, "Timurid Dynasty", Online Academic Edition, 2007. (Quotation:...Turkic dynasty descended from the conqueror Timur (Tamerlane), renowned for its brilliant revival of artistic and intellectual life in Iran and Central Asia....Trading and artistic communities were brought into the capital city of Herat, where a library was founded, and the capital became the centre of a renewed and artistically brilliant Persian culture...)

I apologize if any of the above are effectively identical; I am just a simple computer program, so I can't determine whether minor differences are significant or not. AnomieBOT 07:32, 29 October 2015 (UTC)

Tunisian Arabic/Maltese, and English/Scots[edit]

I'm surprised to see Tunisian Arabic and Maltese listed as 'significantly' mutually intelligible in both writing and speech - a degree of mutual intelligibility only matched in this list by the English/Scots and Czech/Slovak pairs. First, Maltese is written in Latin characters, whereas Tunisian Arabic is not - the fact that many Tunisians can read Latin characters (via French) is surely not the same thing. Second, more than half of Maltese vocabulary (admittedly at the more elevated levels of the language) is derived from Italian and other Romance languages; some Tunisian Arabic is, but surely not that much. Tunisians may be helped by their wide knowledge of French, but that doesn't mean the two languages are themselves 'significantly' mutually intelligible. Third, Maltese doesn't appear in this list at all, so supposedly it isn't mutually intelligible with anything. In contrast, Czech and Slovak were almost interchangeable when Czechoslovakia was still one country. As for English and Scots, I'd be surprised if most English-speakers could easily follow a Lowland Scot speaking unadorned Scots - whereas all Lowland Scots can follow English, so the mutual intelligibility is at the very least asymmetrical. I get the feeling that different criteria have been applied to the various language pairs - which would make this whole list rather unreliable. (talk) 18:23, 13 February 2016 (UTC)

Occitan with French and Catalan[edit]

Occitan language - The article shows a lot of similarities. Also, if you speak French or Catalan and try to read the Occitan Wikipedia, you will understand almost everything without thinking about what the words mean. InMooseWeTrust (talk) 04:36, 19 April 2016 (UTC)


The last paragraph before the list of languages contains these sentences: "Also, Norwegians - especially those from the south-eastern part of the country - can understand Swedish almost perfectly, while Swedes usually have trouble understanding Norwegian. This is because the modern Norwegian language is, mainly, a combination of Norse (like Swedish) and Danish." Since Danish is also descended from Old Norse, should the last sentence not read something like "This is because the modern Norwegian language is, mainly, a combination of Old Norse (like Swedish) and middle Danish." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:33, 12 January 2017 (UTC)

This paper seems to be a great source for expansion[edit] (talk) 23:11, 28 October 2017 (UTC)

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