This is sort of the old question that you'd see whispered about a lot in Western academia, and shouted out by linguists of the past, who had their own circumstances, own canons, own less-connected (?) cultures to influence their reasoning and prejudices: Which language is the best one...? Which languages are better...? Which ones are inferior? What circumstances lead to this...? Why those circumstances? Does this justify our conquests, empire and spreading our religion/language?
I am a native 'British-ish' English speaker, 'upper-class', never really learned another language properly though I understand bits of some other languages when I hear them spoken by the speakers I'm exposed to. So at least some of my biases are on display - I would appreciate answers that discuss and/or challenge these and maybe reframe the question.
I hope that it doesn't just scream 'racist, unpleasant to answer' but I don't mind answers talking about these. Very incomplete answers are fine - uncovering a small part of the puzzle is OK if it doesn't obscure the big picture or become a big red herring/distraction...
Metrics could include, but are not limited to:
- Syntax, and how you'd 'rank' this.
- Character density under 'common' and more 'specialised' conditions.
- "Grammatical consistency" and "variation" of this between speakers, and how this is understood by different speakers. Differences between spoken, written?
- Legibility under different/damaging conditions when written and spoken (ie. variance between writers and speakers of the language, how easy is it to read when scrawled on a sign, in a book that gets damaged by water).
- How does the syntax impart meaning and concepts and thought and abstract imagery and emotion into a speaker, and how would this vary by language? (results of brain scans of different language speakers when the 'same' concepts are being talked about in their languages could maybe offer insight, or the pictures/symbolism they might draw or invoke when asked about the 'same' things).
- 'Speed' at which they're picked up, and the conditions this varies by, reasons why it varies and the distribution of what is picked up and by who.
- Popularity as 1st language, demographics, geography of... why/how this is...
- Understandings and interpretations of time, spirituality, kinship, death, bonding, sexuality, societal organisation and hierarchy... and how this crosses or doesn't cross between different cultures and places that speak the same language. (ie. for English you could compare its use in Britain, US, Canada, South Africa and by the places/demographics in those countries).
- Hierachies and social/economic inequality, enshrined in the language/its use. If you're ranking this, how to rank and why and under what conditions to rank? Is it inherent to the language, chicken-and-the-egg, does this vary? (ie. Western-style debates done in English are usually adversarial and pit one person against another. Does the language end up structured around this kind of aggressive stand-off... other languages less so, different way, not adversarial in most debates?)
- Correspondence between what one speaker says and how another replicates the concepts in their mind?
- Connections with mathematics, why this is, teaching of mathematical and physical concepts in the language and who this trickles down to.
- 'Weird quirks' (to me as an English speaker???) (type, distribution, 'severity', demographics) that might be caused by the way the language is taught that manifest in most of the population that uses it as a 1st, 2nd, etc language?
- How easy it is to pick up as a 2nd, 3rd... language, and how this varies by what 1st, 2nd... language the person learning it speaks.
- How easy it is for someone unfamiliar to 'understand'...
Mathematical models that weight these metrics, account for their uncertainties, the stats distributions of, etc...(does not have to be a constant weighting regardless of conditions or context) would be welcomed in answers too.
I don't mean to scare anyone off who doesn't feel up to doing all that in their answer though or isn't answering the entirety of the big-picture question - if I have, what to do? I understand this is probably one of the most difficult questions to really answer well and I am a newcomer.