Does there exist a scale by which languages might be rated for their ability to let the user easily or concisely express concepts? I am not a professional linguist, but I do find that some languages, such a Hebrew, make it more difficult to express certain subjects than do other languages. Other languages, such as Russian, make it easy to unambiguously express or confer complex ideas, even concisely. I've heard that Swahili is an inherently simple language in which one cannot express many complex (not necessarily modern) concepts, such an example would rate low on this scale.

  • 1
    Can you give an example of a "complex idea"? Jul 10 '13 at 12:49
  • A complex idea might be an interpretation of a science, literary, or religious concept. I am deliberately trying to avoid situations for which words don't exist in the language and must be substituted for other languages (which is often the case in Hebrew).
    – dotancohen
    Jul 10 '13 at 13:02
  • "Other languages, such as Russian, make it easy to unambiguously express or confer complex ideas" -- ну да, конечно! :) (English equivalent: "Yeah, right!")
    – bytebuster
    Jul 10 '13 at 14:34
  • Actually, bytebuster, you help my point. You used an expressive feature of the language. In English it is even worse, the double positive becomes a negative! I'm not sure if "of course" (конечно) counts as a positive.
    – dotancohen
    Jul 10 '13 at 14:38

Any language is, ultimately, able to convey any idea that a speaker might wish to convey. Certain languages might find certain ideas easier to convey than others (for reasons ranging from 'having a grammatical structure that's convenient for that' to 'having a large and developed technical vocabulary for that field'), but you can say anything in any language, even if you have to resort to loanwords / on-the-spot coinings or convoluted sentence structures.

You might be able to rate languages on how easily they can express certain individual concepts (for example, a number of languages in the Amazon would rate very high on a scale of how easy it is to note where information was obtained from; Korean and Javanese (yes, with a v) would rate high on a scale of how easy it is to reference social hierarchy, etc); but it mostly evens out on average - few, if any, languages struggle more than others on the whole. (And really, most of the difficulty that comes with conveying complicated information is due to just not having the words, a problem that is -very- easily solvable!)

  • Thank you. I do agree that the ability to express oneself in a given language will be easier in some fields than in others.
    – dotancohen
    Jul 10 '13 at 17:19
  • 4
    And easier for some native speakers than others. And easier for some non-native speakers than others. The range of variation between speakers is orders of magnitude more significant than any supposed differences between the languages. Every language has poets and clear speakers. But not all speakers can be clear.
    – jlawler
    Jul 10 '13 at 18:58
  • Note, for example, this link: quotationspage.com/quotes/Yogi_Berra Jul 11 '13 at 6:03

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