Are the Nordic languages mutually understandable?

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There is a common understanding outside the Nordic countries that Nordic people can all understand one another’s languages, or at least the Scandinavians (the Danes, Swedes and Norwegians) can. However, this impression of linguistic unity is not wholly accurate.

Is there a ‘Scandinavian’ language?

People from outside the Nordics might be tempted to believe communication between Nordic speakers is effortless, and that their languages are mutually understandable. From a practical point of view, ‘Scandinavian’ was – and still is – used when many Danish, Norwegian and Swedish people communicate with one another. They primarily speak their own language, perhaps replacing some words, phrases, or pronouncing things slightly differently, depending on who they are talking to. In fact, in a paper …

A good sign! Myths about sign languages

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Lingoblog continues to celebrate International Day of Sign Languages! Today, Linguistic Mythbusters explode myths about sign languages.

Most people have a pretty clear intuition about the most basic idea behind sign language: If you, for some reason, can’t communicate efficiently through ‘normal’ language, you can use a language that consists of hand movements instead of sounds. But apart from this, there are actually quite a few misconceptions about sign language that flourish among people with normal hearing.

One of the biggest misconceptions about sign language is that it is one single language that has been designed deliberately to be used by deaf people. In reality, there are hundreds of different sign languages, which have all naturally emerged from interaction between …

Name signs in Danish Sign Language

Danish SL Figure 1 Danish sign^language

A name sign is a personal sign assigned to deaf, hearing impaired and hearing persons who enter the deaf community. The mouth action accompanying the sign reproduces all or part of the formal first name that the person has received by baptism or naming. Name signs can be compared to nicknames in spoken languages, where a person working as a blacksmith by his friends might be referred to as ‘The Blacksmith’ (‘Here comes the Blacksmith!’) instead of using the person’s first name. Name signs are found not only in Danish Sign Language (DSL) but in most, if not all, sign languages studied to date.

It varies greatly when – and by whom – a person gets her/his name sign, and …