English verse Mandrin As brought up on another thread is the age old argument of which language is "superior", English or Mandarin? Of course this argument seems to come up because people can't help but notice the rising superpower of china (forget India!) and that it must "inevitably" clash with the present world dominating superpower, the USA, which speaks English (of course). Let this thread be focus on trying to actually determine which language is in fact superior, and not whom country will rule over who other country. First lets try to define superiority. A hypothesis (stated here by Fraggle no less) basically goes that a language with fewer syllables can convey information faster, is therefore a more efficient spoken language. Evidence does support that Mandarin has fewer syllables than English: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fast-talkers ""Speakers of some languages seem to rattle away at high speed like machine-guns, while other languages sound rather slow and plodding,” wrote linguist Peter Roach in 1998. A few months ago re*searchers systematically quantified Roach’s observation and offered a sur*prising explanation. Last year, in an issue of the journal Language, François Pel*legrino and his colleagues at the Univer*sity of Lyon in France published their analysis of the speech of 59 people read*ing the same 20 texts aloud in seven languages. They found Japanese and Spanish, often described as “fast lan*guages,” clocked the greatest number of syllables per second. The “slowest” language in the set was Mandarin, followed closely by German." There research determine that when speaking normally and conveying information at the same rate English speakers spoke on average 6.19 syllables per second verse only 5.18 sy/sec for Mandarin. So then Mandarin must be a more efficient language then English (it should be noted that Vietnamese they found was the most information dense language per syllable with 11 vowels, 25 consonants, 6 tones, diphthongs, triphthongs, and complex syllables such as 'ccvvvcc' being possible, it should be!)... making certain assumptions of course. This hypothesis has a serious flaw though, for Mandarin to be superior it must be able to convey more information in less time, not just in less syllables, the hypothesis assumes that all syllables are the taking the same amount of time to say, this is erroneous. English (and german more so) have complex syllables, example "grouts","brands" and "brains" are all single syllables but consist of multiple conjoin consonants with one center vowel or diphthong: all of these words have a complex 'ccvcc' or ccvvcc format. In contrast "fast" spoken languages like Spanish and Japanese are made up usually or always of simple open syllables often or completely consisting of single vowel nucleus, or 'cv' like "mo","la","ze",etc. Now try it with me here: say "brands" over and over as fast as you can, the faster you go the more likely you start losing enunciation, skipping consonants, losing the diphthong, and the word becomes unintelligible. Now say "ma" as fast as you can, you might notices you can say this much faster than "brands", even though they are both single syllables, you can probably even say "mado" (two syllables) as fast as you can say "brands". "Fast" languages are thus not necessarily inefficient: "fast" languages can more easily produce more syllables in a given amount of time than "slow" languages, thus "fast" languages can be spoken faster than "slow" languages compensating for their low data density per syllable. One can argue about which came first: the speed capable syllables or low data density per syllable. I'm not sure how tone equates into speed, trying to enunciate tone accurately enough to be heard correctly may also slow the rate of speech. "The upshot is that Spanish and Mandarin actually convey information to listeners at about the same rate. The correlation between speech rate and information density held for five out of seven of the lan*guages studied, and the researchers conjectured that, despite the diversity of languages in the world, over time they all deliver a constant rate of information, possibly tuned to the human perceptual system."