A recent analysis of 37 different languages has revealed that despite their differences, there is a common feature of all languages. All of them make communication as efficient as possible.

A Common Feature of All Languages

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Nearly 7000 languages are spoken on earth, part of roughly 150 language families. They vary enormously as to how sentences are put together. The order of the subject, verb, and object can occur in different sequences. However, they limit the distance that are dependent on each other for meaning.

Some linguists theorize that all languages in the world reduce the distance between those words that are dependent on each other. A linguist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology put the question to the test.

Richard Futrell led a team which analyzed 37 languages from different language families to see if there was an increase in minimizing dependency length over what might occur by chance. They relied on prose from newspapers, blogs, and novels. For ancient Greek and latin they used poetry. Thousands of sentences were examined using software specifically designed to measure dependency lengths.

Results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. All 37 languages minized dependency lengths greater than expected by chance. but there were wide variations found. Italian, Indonesian, and Irish showed high degrees of minimizing dependencies, but Japanese, Korean, and Turkish showed notably less.

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A Common Feature of All Languages

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