History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Fun for Friday: Language Complexity vs. Language Size

Thank you in a number of languagesA recent study suggests that languages with a larger vocabulary size tend to be less complex and easier to learn than those with a smaller vocabulary size, which necessitates a number of grammatical rules. The examples that they give of languages with a larger vocabulary size are English and Mandarin. And while I’d argue that English is NOT an easy language to learn for non-native speakers, it is a language spoken by a large number of people, as is Mandarin. And the scientists involved in the study say that the large number of speakers of these languages with sizable vocabularies is also key to the ease of learning the language. In that respect, it makes some sense, as there are a larger number of available teachers, either active or passive, who can pass on the language, while languages with not as many speakers and a smaller linguistic vocabulary have a harder time spreading that language.

Then, too, perhaps English’s sometimes confusing grammatical rules are a result of it stealing chunks of other languages wholesale, and thus importing some of their more complicated grammatical rules!


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