Why Some Languages Sound So Fast

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photo: flickr member danny choo.

photo: flickr member danny choo.

This article at Time rocketed around the nerd circles on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook last week; the title says it all. Why do some languages sound so much faster than others?

The answer is surprising. Linguists on the project worked out a scale of information density per syllable for each of the seven sample languages used in the study, and compared that with the language’s speed.

The result was: the more information packed intoa single syllable of spoken information, the lower the language. English and Spanish were the slowest languages spoken, having the most complex meanings per syllable, while Japanese rocketed by with its complex linguistic rhythms.

This led me to wonder if this had anything to do with the complex task of learning another language: is it easier to learn a language if its speed and information density is similar t the one you speak natively? An interesting idea for the language geeks out there.