Anja Schüppert


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Works at The Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism
Visiting address Universitetsvägen 10 D
Postal address Institutionen för svenska och flerspråkighet 106 91 Stockholm

About me

I am interested in how we produce, process and comprehend languages ​​and what other functions  language has in addition to transmitting a message. In particular, I study communication across linguistic borders, e.g. by using receptive multilingualism or English as Lingua Franca.

Among other things I have investigated

- how speech rate and clarity affect speech comprehension of spoken Danish,

- what conscious and subconscious attitudes we hold towards specific pronunciation features, lexical variants and even entire languages,

- what role our native language's orthography plays for the intelligibility of speech in a neighbouring language.

At the moment, I investigate the use and the consequences of English-medium instruction in higher education in different European countries.


Current project:

Costs and benefits of English-medium instruction in the Netherlands (2016-)

An increasing number of higher education institutions in countries where English is not an official language are offering higher education programmes in English - sometimes parallel to similar programmes in the country’s official language(s), sometimes without a comparable alternative in the official language(s).

Offering courses and entire programmes using English-medium instruction (EMI) fosters transnational collaboration and inclusiveness. In line with this, Wilkinson (2013) reported that the transition from using Dutch as a medium of instruction (DMI) to English-medium instruction in the Netherlands was indeed mainly motivated by idealistic and educational motivations during the 1980s and 1990s. However, the development during the past 20 years appears to be have been driven by economic considerations mainly (Wilkinson 2013).

Little is known about the immediate, short-term, medium-term, and long-term costs and benefits of EMI for European societies in the 21st century, as empirical investigations of students’ academic achievements, language proficiency and preparation for the labour market are scarce. Being aware of costs and benefits of EMI in HE for society, however, is a prerequisite for developing sustainable HE language policies.

Our project aims at collecting some of these data by expanding the conventional approaches within this research field (discourse analysis, classroom observation) to using experimental designs and collecting offline as well as online data. This data contributes to revealing the effect of instruction language in HE on students’ academic achievements, Dutch and English academic language acquisition, and students’ preparation for the Dutch and the global labour market, respectively.

Crucially, some of the factors are intertwined: It may as well be the case that the students’ English proficiency generally increases through lectures given in English, but it is likely that this effect is weakened, neutralised, or even reversed when the English proficiency of the teacher is too low. Also, it can be assumed that the beneficial effect is linked to the students’ level of English in such a way that students with low proficiency fail to benefit from an English lecture, and that the benefit effect is less evident in students that have a very high English proficiency already. Not only English proficiency might be at stake, however, but also the transfer success of the content of the lectures is likely to depend on the language proficiency of the teachers and the students.

Subprojects of this project include investigations into the development of English and Dutch proficiency in students with a Dutch high-school diploma (vwo-eindexamen), investigations into lecturing styles in English and Dutch, as well as a study of the level of English and Dutch which is requested by employers in the Netherlands.

In a first sub-project, we explored how native Dutch-speaking university teachers lecture in both languages. We found that a specific message took longer to be transferred in EMI than in DMI, that lecturers made more and longer pauses, used a smaller vocabulary size and a smaller pitch range in EMI than in DMI.


Tidigare projekt:

Mutual intelligibility of closely related languages in Europe: linguistic and non- linguistic determinants (2011-2016)

A large number of languages are spoken in Europe. These languages enjoy different statuses, some are officially recognized, while others are spoken by minority populations. Respect for linguistic diversity is a core EU value but the linguistic diversity can lead to communication problems that might only be reconciled with sufficient knowledge about the language situation at hand. In 2007 the High Level Group on Multilingualism (HLGM) therefore published an overview of research topics that should be investigated to improve communication within Europe while still preserving multilingual richness. Two of these topics form the basis for the present investigation. Firstly, the HLGM notes a lack of knowledge about mutual intelligibility between closely related languages in Europe and the lack of knowledge about the possibilities for communicating through receptive multilingualism, i.e., where speakers of closely related languages each speak their own language. Secondly, the HLMG notes a need for an evaluation of the potentials and limitations of the use of English as a lingua franca at the European level. More knowledge is needed about how well speakers of various languages in Europe understand each other in English. We propose a large-scale investigation of the mutual intelligibility of closely related languages within the Germanic, Slavic and Romance language families. The results will be correlated with linguistic factors, such as phonetic and lexical distances, as well as extra-linguistic factors, such as language attitudes towards and familiarity with different languages. Tests will also be carried out with English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) to compare the (mutual) intelligibility of closely related languages with the (mutual) intelligibility of ELF as spoken by the same groups of speakers. Intelligibility, attitude and familiarity tests will be carried out by means of web-based experiments. The results will be will be made available through the internet. They will provide a basis for developing a model that explains mutual intelligibility between closely related languages. In a more general sense the results will provide a greater understanding of the robustness of the human language processing system. How deviant can a language be before it is no longer intelligible to the listener? The results will also be of great value to European policy makers. A publicly available user-friendly internet application will be developed for use by future target groups of researchers and policy makers. In this way additional languages can be tested later that were not initially included in the project.


Linguistic determinants of mutual intelligibility in Scandinavia (2006-2011)

The three mainland Scandinavian languages, i.e. Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, have a reputation of being mutually intelligible, which means that the speakers are able to communicate each using his or her language. However, in daily practice inter-Scandinavian communication sometimes fails. The results of a number of studies have shown that especially Danes and Swedes have difficulties understanding each other's language. The problems are commonly explained by extra-linguistic factors such as linguistic experience and language attitude. Linguistic explanations have mostly been neglected due to the lack of a suitable method for quantifying linguistic distance. Recently, such methods have been developed. The aim of our project is to use these newly developed methods and refine them in order to be able to measure communicatively relevant linguistic distances among the spoken Scandinavian languages. On the basis of these measurements, a model is developed that explains mutual intelligibility in Scandinavia. This model is also applied to investigate intelligibility between other Germanic languages. Research is also being conducted into intelligibility between Dutch, Flemish and Afrikaans varieties.



Bulatovic, S., A. Schüppert, J. Golubovic & C. Gooskens (forthcoming). Receptive multilingualism versus Lingua Franca: How well do Slovenes understand Croatian speakers’ English and Croatian? Journal of English as Lingua Franca. Vol 8(1).

Gooskens, C., Vincent J. van Heuven, Jelena Golubović, Anja Schüppert, Femke Swarte & Stefanie Voigt (2018). Mutual intelligibility between closely related language in Europe. International Journal of Multilingualism, 15(2), 169-193. doi: 10.1080/14790718.2017.1350185

Heeringa, W., F. Swarte, A. Schüppert & C. Gooskens (2018). Measuring Syntactical Variation in Germanic Texts. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. doi:10.1093/llc/fqx029

Schüppert, A., W. Heeringa, J. Golubovic & C. Gooskens (2017). Write as you speak? A cross-linguistic investigation of orthographic transparency in Germanic, Romance and Slavic languages. In M. Wieling, M. Kroon, G. van Noord & G. Bouma (Eds.), From Semantics to Dialectometry. Festschrift in honor of John Nerbonne (pp. 303-313). Tributes 32, College Publications.

Gooskens, C., A. Schüppert & N. Haug Hilton (2016). Is Swedish more beautiful than Danish? – A matched-guise investigation. In S. Van Den Bossche & M. Wijers (Eds.), Nooit het Noorden kwijt. Liber amicorum ter ere van Godelieve Laureys (pp. 165-188). Gent: Universiteit Gent.

Schüppert, A., N. H. Hilton & C. Gooskens (2016). Why is Danish so difficult to understand for fellow Scandinavians? An experimental study. Speech Communication, 79, 47-60. doi: 10.1016/j.specom.2016.02.001

Schüppert, A., N. H. Hilton & C. Gooskens (2015). Introduction: Communicating across linguistic borders. Linguistics, 53, 211-217. doi: 10.1515/ling-2015-0001

Schüppert, A., N. H. Hilton & C. Gooskens (2015). Swedish is beautiful, Danish is ugly? Linguistics, 53, 375-403. doi: 10.1515/ling-2015-0003

Swarte, F., A. Schüppert & C. Gooskens (2015). Does German help speakers of Dutch to understand written and spoken Danish words? - The role of second language knowledge in decoding an unknown but related language. In G. De Angelis, U. Jessner, & M. Kresic (Eds.), Crosslinguistic influence and crosslinguistic interaction in multilingual language learning (pp. 173-197). Bloomsbury.

Rosink, S., L. van Heeswijk, M. Kroon & A. Schüppert (2014). De verstaanbaarheid van natuurlijk snelle versus kunstmatig versnelde spraak in het Nederlands. Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics, 3, 199-212. doi: 10.1075/dujal.3.2.06ros

Heeringa, W., F. Swarte, A. Schüppert & C. Gooskens (2014). Modeling Intelligibility of Written Germanic Languages: Do We Need to Distinguish Between Orthographic Stem and Affix Variation? Journal of Germanic Linguistics, 26, 361-394. doi: 10.1017/S1470542714000166

Heeringa, W., J. Golubovic, C. Gooskens, A. Schüppert, F. Swarte & S. Voigt (2013). Lexical and orthographic distances between Germanic, Romance and Slavic languages and their relationship to geographic distance. In C. Gooskens & R. van Bezooijen (Eds.), Phonetics in Europe: Perception and Production (pp. 99-137). Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang.

Schüppert, A. & N. H. Hilton (2013). Do Danes speak more quickly than Swedes? In C. Gooskens & R. van Bezooijen (Eds.), Phonetics in Europe: Perception and Production (pp. 233-246). Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang.

Voigt, S. & A. Schüppert (2013). Articulation rate and syllable reduction in Spanish and Portuguese. In C. Gooskens & R. van Bezooijen (Eds.), Phonetics in Europe: Perception and Production (pp. 317-332). Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang.

Hilton, N. H., C. Gooskens, R. van Bezooijen, A. Schüppert & V. J. van Heuven (2013). The Influence of Non-native Morphosyntax and Phonology on the Intelligibility of a Closely Related Language. In J. M. Tirkkonen, & E. Anttikoski (Eds.), Proceedings of the 24th Scandinavian Conference of Linguistics (pp. 211-226). Publications of the University of Eastern Finland. Reports and Studies in Education, Humanities, and Theology 5.

Swarte, F., A. Schüppert & C. Gooskens (2013). Do Speakers of Dutch Use Their Knowledge of German While Processing Written Danish Words? Linguistics in The Netherlands, 30, 146-159. doi: 10.1075/avt.30.11swa

Hilton, N. H., C. Gooskens & A. Schüppert (2013). The influence of foreign morphosyntax and phonology on the intelligibility of closely related languages. Lingua, 137, 1-18. doi: 10.1016/j.lingua.2013.07.007

Schüppert, A., N. H. Hilton, C. Gooskens & V. J. van Heuven (2012). Stavelsebortfall i modern danska. Danske Talesprog, 12, 151-181.

Hilton, N. H., A. Lenz, C. Gooskens & A. Schüppert (2012). Editorial. New horizons in sociophonetic variation and change. Lingua, 122, 749-752. doi: 10.1016/j.lingua.2012.02.004

Schüppert, A. & C. Gooskens (2012). The role of extra-linguistic factors for receptive bilingualism: Evidence from Danish and Swedish pre-schoolers. International Journal of Bilingualism, 16, 332-347. doi: 10.1177/1367006911426389

Schüppert, A., N. H. Hilton C. Gooskens, & V. J. van Heuven (2012). Syllable deletion in contemporary Danish. In J. Heegård & P. J. Henrichsen (eds.), Speech in action. Proceedings of the 1st SJUSK conference on contemporary speech habits (pp. 73-99). Frederiksberg: Samfundslitteratur Press.

Schüppert, A (2012). Linguistic predictors of non-native word recognition: Evidence from Swedish pre-schoolers listening to spoken Danish. In H. van der Liet & M. Norde (eds.), Language for its own sake (pp. 413-433). Amsterdam: Amsterdam Contributions to Scandinavian Studies 8.

Schüppert, A. (2011). Origin of Asymmetry. Mutual intelligibility of spoken Danish and Swedish. Groningen: Grodil 94. ISBN 978-90-367-5155-1.

Hilton, N. H., A. Schüppert & C. Gooskens (2011). Syllable reduction and articulation rates in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. Nordic Journal of Linguistics, 34, 215–237. doi: 10.1017/S0332586511000175

Hilton, N. H., C. Gooskens & A. Schüppert (2011). Artikulasjonshastighet i norske, svenske og danske radionyheter. [Articulation rate in Norwegian, Swedish and Danish radio news.] Norsk lingvistisk tidskrift, 29, 205-220.

Schüppert, A. & C. Gooskens (2011). Investigating the role of language attitudes for perception abilities using reaction time. Dialectologia, II, 119-140.

Schüppert, A. & C. Gooskens (2010). The influence of extra-linguistic factors on mutual intelligibility: Some preliminary results from Danish and Swedish pre-schoolers. In B. Heselwood & C. Upton (Eds.), Proceedings of Methods in dialectology (pp. 194-203). Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang.

Last updated: November 1, 2018

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