Simpler grammar, larger vocabulary: a linguistic paradox explained

“Languages have an intriguing paradox. Languages with lots of speakers, such as English and Mandarin, have large vocabularies with relatively simple grammar. Yet the opposite is also true: Languages with fewer speakers have fewer words but complex grammars.” (Source)

“If you don’t get enough exposure to more complex patterns, those patterns are likely to disappear, whereas the simpler patterns that are easy to pick up are likely to survive,” he said. “As the population size of a language community increases, the number of hard-to-learn conventions decreased, whereas the number of easy-to-learn conventions increased.” (Ibid.)

Study can be found here.

This study provides a very interesting insight with many applications. FIML partners create small societies marked by psychologically complex communication, which optimizes psychological well-being. Consider how much our brains enjoy complexity in many areas, science being one of them, and then consider the dearth of shared psychological complexity in most interpersonal communications. This is the real source of FIML practice, the need to do something about that dearth. ABN

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