What are the densest languages, least dense you've studied?

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kimchizzle
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What are the densest languages, least dense you've studied?

Postby kimchizzle » Sat Jul 25, 2015 6:39 am

I was thinking about this question recently, about language density. What I mean by a dense language is a language with lots of synonyms and therefore lots of vocabulary words as a result.

So, for you, what are the most dense languages you've studied, and least dense?

For example, I've always heard English was a very dense language compared to many other languages, but as it is my native language it is hard for me to accurately gauge that. But the statement does seem to have some validity when I try to think of synonyms of a common adjective like, big, some synonyms being huge, massive, enormous, gigantic, large, and others. Or a common adverb like, very, some synonyms being, pretty, really, extremely, etc. Also, in English, there are many nouns that are synonyms coming from different language etymologies, such as aroma/odor, bug/insect, aubergine/eggplant, apartment/flat, courgette/zucchini, etc.

I'm learning Russian now, and I already can notice lots of synonyms, even as a beginner. I believe I read somewhere that Russian was very dense and has a huge vocabulary as well. It definitely is beginning to feel that way.

With French, I never felt like there was a ton of synonyms or excessive vocabulary like in English or that I'm experiencing in Russian already. But it did have some density to it, just not as much comparatively that I could feel.
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Re: What are the densest languages, least dense you've studied?

Postby Serpent » Sat Jul 25, 2015 9:57 am

Yeah, I'm still learning some fairly common English words as I encounter them in my Romance languages, like exigent.
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Re: What are the densest languages, least dense you've studied?

Postby Expugnator » Sat Jul 25, 2015 11:28 pm

Mandarin Chinese is pretty dense, I'd say denser than Russian. Many dissilabic words are formed from two characters that mean the same thing, for instance.
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Re: What are the densest languages, least dense you've studied?

Postby 1e4e6 » Sun Jul 26, 2015 8:59 am

I just started Hungarian yesterday. Just a flip through the Assimil book for a few seconds already gives me a dense feeling.
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Re: What are the densest languages, least dense you've studied?

Postby tarvos » Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:12 pm

I really have lost count of how dense languages are. I mean, at some point you give up on knowing five synonyms for the same concept "to try" because you know there's always gonna be a subtle nuance somewhere that you missed.

All I know is that languages which are widespread and open to contact with other languages, such as English, Dutch and Russian, tend to absorb many new words because (A) their linguistic structure allows for the new words to be integrated in their structure and (b) because the culture is open to being pervaded by these new words.

A language with a large literary tradition such as French is also bound to have more of this.
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Re: What are the densest languages, least dense you've studied?

Postby Tristano » Mon Jul 27, 2015 11:20 am

I find Dutch pretty dense. I read somewhere that it is considered one of the language with the most number of words, along with Arabic.
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Re: What are the densest languages, least dense you've studied?

Postby Elenia » Mon Jul 27, 2015 12:20 pm

kimchizzle wrote:With French, I never felt like there was a ton of synonyms or excessive vocabulary like in English or that I'm experiencing in Russian already. But it did have some density to it, just not as much comparatively that I could feel.


A slightly off-topic side note: I had a French translation teacher who would, every lesson, remind us that there are cinq fois plus de mots en anglais qu'en français, but then go on to say that, on average, French people tend to use more different words that anglophones. I think this is probably true, especially when one considers just how many phrasal verbs we have and use in English, and also just how many words we only encounter passively. So, even though English is dense, it would be quite easy to get through everyday life with a relatively small vocabulary.
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Re: What are the densest languages, least dense you've studied?

Postby CMJ » Thu Jul 30, 2015 12:41 pm

This reminds me of a passage attributed to Heine that I once read on the door of someone's bathroom at a party. I have no idea where it comes from and a quick Google search yielded nothing (if anybody can help me to track it down, I would be much obliged). As I remember it, his claim was that German is, abstractly considered, a very rich language, given its vast lexical resources, whereas French is relatively poor in this respect, but that in day-to-day life German speakers only use a small fraction of their language's expressive power, whereas French speakers exploit every nuance of their language's more limited potential to the fullest, with the result that ordinary French is richer and more expressive than ordinary German. I have the feeling that there is something to this claim, at least when I compare French to English, but of course it's frustratingly difficult to quantify.
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Re: What are the densest languages, least dense you've studied?

Postby Luso » Fri Jul 31, 2015 9:28 am

Over the years, I've witnessed a lot of biased statements regarding which languages are richer, with how many words one can get by in this or that language, etc.. These statements are usually made by people with a limited knowledge of languages.

In this case, the OP was careful enough to exclude his native language, so he deserves an equally pondered answer.

Like most people here, I've had experience with Romance and Germanic languages. Then I expanded a little, and this is what I got:

Arabic has a lot of synonyms. A lot. Most of what people think are dialectal words are, in fact, pure Arabic words (I'm not restarting the debate here). And they are not imported. So, in some cases, you get several words that mean exactly the same.

Sanskrit seems (I'm just starting) even more dense. When you're looking for a common word and get many hits, then you learn about density. My teacher says it's a context language, which seems to complicate things a bit further.
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Re: What are the densest languages, least dense you've studied?

Postby donJhon » Thu Aug 06, 2015 5:28 pm

I thought at first that you were talking about information density or why some languages sound faster than your own or others sound slower.
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