For example would those of Chinese descent have a disposition to learn Chinese? Chinese is a quite different having more logographic characters then say English which is alphabetic.

Another example would be Japanese have kanji which is quite unique compared to most modern alphabetic languages.

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    Writing systems aren't languages, and though it's sometimes hard to tell, it's not actually the 1930s anymore.
    – Cairnarvon
    Aug 27, 2020 at 17:28
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    The answer is definite no - children acquire whatever the language (or languages) they are exposed to at birth (and there are some studies that suggest language acquisition in some rudimentary form starts even earlier, in utero, at least for some prosodic features). We all learn how to speak first and writing comes much later. (and some individuals may even end up illiterate, for different reasons).
    – Alex B.
    Aug 27, 2020 at 18:37
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    First language acquisition does not require a high or low IQ. All children, under normal circumstances, learn whatever the language they hear around them.
    – Alex B.
    Aug 27, 2020 at 18:43
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    Something to remember: we may be genetically predisposed to acquire a human language - and not everyone agrees about this btw- but there is no genetic material that encodes Old Norse futhark or Sanskrit devanagri or Russian cyrillic.
    – Alex B.
    Aug 27, 2020 at 18:53
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    "Hard to believe"? It seems that you're coming here with a question, but really expecting one particular answer.
    – LjL
    Aug 27, 2020 at 18:56

1 Answer 1


There is a statistical correlation between race (however conceived) and language, but it is not a perfect correlation. The overwhelming majority of people who learn Norwegian as their first language are Caucasian, and in fact live in Norway. The reason why the overwhelming majority of Norwegians are Caucasian (indeed, Norwegian) is because their parents were overwhelmingly Caucasian and Norwegian, ad infinitum. The imperfection of the correlation has many causes, but one is that a number of people moved into Norway from very different parts of the globe: but this is a relatively recent phenomenon (e.g. the Somali population in 1814 was close to zero, if not actually zero, but it is relatively large now). The best predictors of race and language are geography and history.

However, the fact that ancestoral Somalis do not know Somali, have no difficulty learning Norwegian (in Norway) or English (in the US) but do have difficulty learning Somali is evidence that ancestory does not convey an advantage in learning a particular language. There may be an appearance of an advantage in some cases, which comes from the fact of heritage languages and personal motivation, whereby 3rd generation Indians living in the US may know some Hindi or Tamil because their parents and grandparents continued speaking the language. But they still learn the local language, such as English, with absolutely no problems.

The correlation between writing system (e.g. logographic vs. syllabary vs. alphabetic, and which kinds) and race is even weaker, but still not totally unrelated to geography. For example, Cyrillic writing systems are limited to areas near Russia, which uses Cyrillic and is responsible for the practice of writing Mongolian in Cyrillic. The reason Japanese is written in kanji is that they picked up the habit from Chinese, and China is geographically adjacent to Japan. Writing habits are highly political, so that the single language Punjabi is written in two completely different scripts, depending on which country you are in.

  • I find it interesting that both China and Japan adopted similar writing systems(well more similar then alphabetic). Japanese and Chinese use some of the same characters to this day yet there is no Anglo Saxon language which is similar. Leads me to believe something is going on. Chinese I think has a slightly more obvious explanation in that it is just a really really difficult language to learn.
    – William
    Aug 27, 2020 at 21:27
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    You still seem to be mixing up 'language' with 'writing system'. Writing systems are sets of symbols that are arbitrarily assigned to represent sounds within a language. Writing is a technology. As this answer says, Japan borrowed kanji from China. English uses the Roman/Latin alphabet, another borrowing. Chinese (assuming you mean Mandarin) is not particularly hard for English speakers to learn, being structurally similar to English, but the character writing system is very hard for anyone to learn, including speakers of Chinese languages. Aug 28, 2020 at 4:20
  • @William - Dungan, a Sinitic language closely related to Mandarin Chinese, is written in Cyrillic alphabet, legacy of the Soviet past. Dungan has lots of Russian loanwords and writing them in Cyrillic facilitates literacy. Japanese has enormous number of Chinese loanwords with huge degree homonymy, writing them in Chinese characters seems pretty logical, doesn't it?
    – Yellow Sky
    Aug 28, 2020 at 19:11
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    @JohnFrazer it seems quite understandable what is meant by "race" here, and there is no reason to contrive long elaborated euphemisms. You may channel your zealotry towards the use of "language" and "dialect" considering that it is far more relevant to linguistics than the idea of "race", which is (as you have correctly mentioned) is so vague there is no reason to implicate someone in racism for using it. Aug 29, 2020 at 15:13
  • @kemerover—your argument is bordering on implicature itself which is not something I intended here. I take exception to the usage of the word 'race' indeed—without pointing fingers in this case, rather trying to show the unfitness of the term for the question at hand. And since my comments were deleted after being labeled as 'zealotry', that might be construed as 'censorship', quite the opposite of constructive criticism. Aug 31, 2020 at 6:17

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