Weird Languages

24 Aug

South Korean students always complained that English grammar and vocabulary is riddled with annoying inconsistencies. it’s not freakishly weird, but still comes in at #33 (via The Daily Dish).

A recent study by a language-processing company called Idibon tried to establish not which languages are “hard”, but which are “weird”. It used a resource called the World Atlas of Linguistic Structures (WALS). WALS indexes hundreds of languages across hundreds of different features (from whether verbs precede objects to whether the language uses click-sounds as consonants). The Idibon study tried to find which languages use the greatest number of unusual features—ie, those features shared with few other languages. But for tricky methodological reasons, the study had to limit itself 21 features. The languages that have the least “normal” values of these 21 features are the “weirdest”.

Does English rank high? Not especially. Many non-European languages dominate the top of the list. Of those languages in the Indo-European family with English, German, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Czech, Spanish, Kurdish and Kashmiri all rank as “weirder”. English is at place number 33 of 239 languages in the “weirdness index”.

It makes sense, though, that those societies that have languages with a lot of practitioners and also interact with a larger number of people around the world would experience this “weirdness”. Consistency is not always a virtue in a globalized world.

How about Korean? #852.

That’s the kind of consistency that comes nearly being the artificial creation of an academic cabal with Japanese as a model.

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