Is Swedish more beautiful than Danish? Matched guise investigations with unknown languages

Nanna H. Hilton*, Charlotte Gooskens, Anja Schüppert, Chaoju Tang

*Corresponding author for this work

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Are some languages universally seen as beautiful? And if so, what are the linguistic traits that make some languages sound more pleasing than others? This paper addresses these two questions. We do so with results from two listener experiments that use speech samples from a bilingual Danish–Swedish speaker in a matched guise test, where the listeners are ‘previously unexposed’ students from central China. Our results indicate that listeners from Central China with no previous exposure find Swedish more pleasing sounding than Danish. This finding provides evidence that there could be features of language that sound more beautiful to listeners cross-culturally. In a follow-up experiment we remove the intonation contours of the speech to see whether this prosodic trait plays a role for evaluations. The results show that the difference in evaluations between Swedish and Danish disappears when both speech samples are monotonised. We discuss the importance of our findings for language attitudes research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-48
Number of pages19
JournalNordic Journal of Linguistics
Issue number1
Early online date1-Jul-2021
Publication statusPublished - May-2022

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