Danish as a window onto language processing and learning

Fabio Trecca*, Kristian Tylén, Anders Højen, Morten H. Christiansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperReviewResearchpeer-review

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It is often assumed that all languages are equal in some important sense. This assumption has been challenged by research in linguistic typology and language evolution, while largely leaving aside questions of language learning and use. Here, we review recent work on Danish that provides new insights into these questions. Unlike closely related languages, Danish has an unusually reduced phonetic structure, which seemingly delays Danish-learning children in several aspects of their language acquisition. Adult language use appears to be affected as well, resulting, among other things, in an increased dependence on top-down information in comprehension. In this conceptual review, we build the argument that a causal relationship may exist between the sound structure of Danish and the peculiarities of its acquisition and use. We argue that a theory of language learning that accommodates the existing evidence from Danish must explicitly account for the interaction between learner-related factors and language-specific constraints.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLanguage Learning
Pages (from-to)799-833
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Danish
  • language acquisition
  • language processing
  • learnability
  • phonetics
  • top-down information


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