Grammatical complexity of Korean vs European languages

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Grammatical complexity of Korean vs European languages

Postby 94000d » Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:37 pm

What's more grammatically complex, Korean or languages like German or Russian?
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Re: Grammatical complexity of Korean vs European languages

Postby Josquin » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:26 pm

Well, while Indo-European languages like Russian or Ancient Greek may be morphologically more complex than Korean, which by the way has a pretty complex verbal system itself, there is no such thing as grammatical complexity. All languages are equally complex and capable of expressing the same complex thoughts. We can compare languages only regarding some parts of grammar. What Korean might "lack" in morphology, it "makes up" in things like social register or phonology. There is no language which is more complex than another language though.
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Re: Grammatical complexity of Korean vs European languages

Postby LesRonces » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:32 pm

Depends what you're used to.

If you're used to Norwegian, Mandarin grammar is going to seem hard. If you're a Cantonese speaker, it might not seem so bad.

All languages are learn-able. Your base language will probably dictate the amount of time it will take.
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Re: Grammatical complexity of Korean vs European languages

Postby Tillumadoguenirurm » Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:00 pm

" The most widely spoken languages are the simplest ones"

https://voxy.com/blog/2010/12/the-most- ... lest-ones/

(I'm not a linguist so I have no idea if this is something people agree on or if the article is even correct.)

Edit: another link http://www.economist.com/node/15384310? ... d=15384310
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Re: Grammatical complexity of Korean vs European languages

Postby Josquin » Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:46 pm

This article follows the common misconception that complex morphology is equal to complex grammar, while from a linguistic point of view these are two totally different things. Morphology is a subcategory of grammar and what some languages might "lack" in morphology compared to other languages, they usually "make up" in other parts of grammar, such as syntax.

Also, the article's hypothesis is flawed. What about languages like Spanish, Portugugese, Arabic or Russian, which are very rich in morphology and have a lot of speakers? Also, English morphology was already simplified when it was only the native language of a small island. As far as I know, the same goes for Mandarin. So, the assumption "big language = easy language" seems to be a gross oversimplification of the matter and a classic example of causality vs. mere correlation.
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Re: Grammatical complexity of Korean vs European languages

Postby tarvos » Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:03 pm

It's true that English and Mandarin have quite simple grammar and morphology, relatively speaking (English still has a fair amount of tenses, but most of them include periphrasis). But they have hard aspects about them too. And listen up - despite the lack of morphology, the grammar can still be tricky - because the nuances expressed are different. The difficult thing about Mandarin grammar isn't the word order - but when to use 了/过? There are so many words with near-synonyms in Mandarin it drives me nuts. And MANDARIN DOESN'T HAVE TENSE OR PLURAL FORMATION! Why would it be any harder if it did? If Mandarin had a tense system akin to Spanish I'd be happy - I'd know how to work it!

But what about Spanish with its 1000000 verb forms? Russian's declensions? Arabic? Hindi? I mean, it's not all black and white on this front. Did you really think it would be that easy?

When it comes to Korean, which European language are you going to compare it with? Spanish? Hungarian? French? Russian? Dutch?

They're not the same, and barely even the same family.

There are easy and hard things about Korean, as much as there are easy and hard things to any other subject, whether we're speaking about English or French or even studying geography.

Maybe the complexity isn't in the morphology, but in the nuance of how it's used, or in cultural implications - because Korean culture differs very much from, say, German culture. There are many things I could say in Mandarin that would sound right grammatically speaking, but out of context, are nonsensical. They have to do with what is culturally appropriate (for example, you wouldn't say thank you if a Chinese person complimented you - but you would show humility and deflect praise). How are you going to account for that effect in Korean as opposed to German or Russian?
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Re: Grammatical complexity of Korean vs European languages

Postby LesRonces » Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:37 pm

Josquin wrote:This article follows the common misconception that complex morphology is equal to complex grammar, while from a linguistic point of view these are two totally different things. Morphology is a subcategory of grammar and what some languages might "lack" in morphology compared to other languages, they usually "make up" in other parts of grammar, such as syntax.

Also, the article's hypothesis is flawed. What about languages like Spanish, Portugugese, Arabic or Russian, which are very rich in morphology and have a lot of speakers? Also, English morphology was already simplified when it was only the native language of a small island. As far as I know, the same goes for Mandarin. So, the assumption "big language = easy language" seems to be a gross oversimplification of the matter and a classic example of causality vs. mere correlation.

It also depends on what dialects or regionalisms the language has. Put a foreigner in England with say B1 standard English and chuck him into a miners pub in Northumberland, or a working men's club in Salford, or deep dark Cornwall and see how they do. It's all English, but it's all so so different.

To me, learning a language which is common to a smaller geographic area would probably mean less variation and therefore easier understanding when talking to strangers as there is less chance they can have a weird accent or dialect. In my non-linguistic, layman's opinion backed up by nish of course.
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Re: Grammatical complexity of Korean vs European languages

Postby tarvos » Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:39 pm

Tried learning Breton or Basque mate?
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Re: Grammatical complexity of Korean vs European languages

Postby LesRonces » Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:44 pm

tarvos wrote:Tried learning Breton or Basque mate?

No pal. Why, do they have huge variation of accents between towns or something ? I was in Brittany once and loved the road signs having loads of K's in them. If i'd moved to Brittany i would have learned Breton.

But still i think the point i was making was there is less to learn in terms of accents, regional variation, grammar/vocabulary differences, cultural norms etc in smaller languages compared to something so massive like English.

To me, the bigger something is the more chance it has for variation. Look at how different Spanish can get depending on where you go. That's surely got to be harder than learning a tiny scripted language spoken by a few thousand people in a very small geographic area where there is less chance of deviation from some sort of norm, no ?

Again this is just my sense speaking, i don't know whether that would be true or not but it seems viable to me.
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Re: Grammatical complexity of Korean vs European languages

Postby tarvos » Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:53 pm

Actually there are four dialects of Breton, no standardized orthography and one dialect is totally incomprehensible to the other three. Many minority languages don't actually have a standardized language, and when they do, it's anyone's guess to whether anyone actually speaks that. The real criterion is how much time the language has had to develop. Russian is spoken over an immense territory, but has almost nil variation over the surface area because most of it was recently settled.

English has several variants, but the colonization was a few centuries ago, and the internet has kept these varieties close enough to be mutually intelligible.

Whereas local languages such as Breton have been around since the dawn of civilization and have had years to develop. Dutch and German dialects are extremely plentiful despite the relatively small area they're built on. Each village or town has their own dialect, which is because they've been around for 1000 years without much outside influence.
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