Language-Specific Constraints on Conversation: Evidence from Danish and Norwegian

Christina Dideriksen, Morten H. Christiansen, Mark Dingemanse, Malte Højmark-Bertelsen, Christer Johansson, Kristian Tylén, Riccardo Fusaroli*

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskrift/Konferencebidrag i tidsskrift /Bidrag til avisTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Establishing and maintaining mutual understanding in everyday conversations is crucial. To do so, people employ a variety of conversational devices, such as backchannels, repair, and linguistic entrainment. Here, we explore whether the use of conversational devices might be influenced by cross-linguistic differences in the speakers’ native language, comparing two matched languages—Danish and Norwegian—differing primarily in their sound structure, with Danish being more opaque, that is, less acoustically distinguished. Across systematically manipulated conversational contexts, we find that processes supporting mutual understanding in conversations vary with external constraints: across different contexts and, crucially, across languages. In accord with our predictions, linguistic entrainment was overall higher in Danish than in Norwegian, while backchannels and repairs presented a more nuanced pattern. These findings are compatible with the hypothesis that native speakers of Danish may compensate for its opaque sound structure by adopting a top-down strategy of building more conversational redundancy through entrainment, which also might reduce the need for repairs. These results suggest that linguistic differences might be met by systematic changes in language processing and use. This paves the way for further cross-linguistic investigations and critical assessment of the interplay between cultural and linguistic factors on the one hand and conversational dynamics on the other.

TidsskriftCognitive Science
StatusUdgivet - nov. 2023


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