The effect of age and level of education on intelligibility


  • Mara Van der Ploeg University of Groningen
  • Femke Swarte University of Groningen
  • Charlotte Gooskens University of Groningen


Intelligibility, age, level of education, Dutch, English, German, Swedish


Many factors influencing intelligibility have been uncovered in previous research (Bø, 1978; Gooskens, 2006; Jörgensen & Kärrlander, 2001). However, in intelligibility research, the effect of age has not been investigated as extensively. Apart from Vanhove’s (2014) investigation of the effect of age on cognate guessing, almost no other studies have paid attention to this factor. Also, in intelligibility research, the effect of educational level on intelligibility is often neglected as most studies only test either pre-university or university students. This paper examines the potential effect of age and level of education on intelligibility. In contrast to Vanhove (2014), we looked at text intelligibility instead of cognate recognition. We tested 2760 Danish participants in a written or spoken cloze test in Dutch, English, German or Swedish, where they had to fill gaps in a text. The participants varied in age and educational background. We found that both age and level of education affect intelligibility scores. However, for the spoken cloze test education did not have a significant effect on intelligibility scores for Dutch and Swedish. Additionally, age had no significant effect on age for Dutch as a test language. For education we found that people with a higher level of education perform better on the test than participants with a lower level of education.