New Message (aryan invasion)

dlusthau at dlusthau at
Mon Dec 16 15:59:13 UTC 1996

Dominik wrote:
> Chinese conversants [...]
> Perhaps one could give, say, English and
>Chinese conversation teams groups of sentences to convey, and time them?

Chinese speakers make up the speed by eliminating things like definite and 
indefinite articles. inflections, tenses, etc. For example, "No ticket, no 
take" is a lot faster than "If you don't have a receipt, you can't pick up 
the clothes" (NB: In Chinese "ticket" would also be one syllable). Chinese 
uses fewer words, and each word is monosyllabic -- that equals faster 
speaking time; we start to catch up while their gesturing, but they still 
have the edge.

If you are looking for a quantifiable way of comparing language efficiency, 
just compare translations back and forth -- if one language uses 
substantially fewer words to express the same idea, then it is more 
efficient. I think Chinese would win in most instances, the big exception 
probably being modern technological vocabulary which can get a bit long 
winded in Chinese.

In any case, both languages "work", so the point may be that each is 
sufficiently efficient to act as a language -- Chinese is not crippled by 
rampant homonyms and English is not crippled by its grammatical padding 
(which is still sparse by most Indo-European standards; no gender, e.g.).

Dan Lusthaus
Department of Religion
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL  32306-1029
Ph: (904)644-0210
Email: dlusthau at
Fax:  (904)644-7225

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list