How to check understanding across languages. An introduction into the Pragmatic Index of Language Distance (PILaD) usable to measure mutual understanding in receptive multilingualism, illustrated by conversations in Russian, Ukrainian and Polish

Rehbein J., Romaniuk O.

APPLIED LINGUISTICS REVIEW, vol.5, no.1, pp.131-171, 2014 (AHCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 5 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Doi Number: 10.1515/applirev-2014-0007
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, IBZ Online, Communication & Mass Media Index, Linguistic Bibliography, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database
  • Page Numbers: pp.131-171
  • Keywords: Communicative Apparatus, back-channel cues, Lingua Receptiva (LaRa), classification of hearer's signals, Receptive Multilingualism, Pragmatic Index, language distance, utterance numbers, segmentation of discourse, Functional Pragmatic theory of understanding, triangulation, quantitative and qualitative analysis of multilingual discourses, PartiturEditor, HIAT, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, RESPONSES
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The paper proposes, under the roof-concept of a method abbreviated PILaD, a combination of quantitative and qualitative procedures aiming to clarify the relationship of "closely related languages" (Voegelin and Harris 1951). The method is based on the functional-pragmatic theory of 'Communicative Appa-ratus', a cross-linguistically operating interactive structure, which is modified by Lingua Receptiva communication. The data consist of 4 Russian-Ukrainian, 4 Polish-Ukrainian and 4 Polish-Russian conversations which were recorded with a digital camera and transcribed in a HIAT transcription format under the multiparty data program EXMARaLDA. Cases of 'problematic understanding' defined in terms of problematic utterances are related to the total number of utterances in a discourse. The communicative success is compared across the three language constellations and refined down to every participant. Statistical analysis gives an overall picture of how receptive multilingualism works in the three language constellations. The findings reveal that receptive multilingual communication between Polish, Russian and Ukrainian interactants is generally successful, yet, not symmetric, but depends itself on the direction of intelligibility. A summary of the PILaD method and the data base are attached.