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This blog post suggests a rather interesting concept of writer/reader -responsible languages.

Basically, this quote expresses the idea:

English is a writer-responsible language.
That means it is the responsibility of the writer to make sure the message is understood. Writing is clear, direct and unambiguous. Schools teach from early on the importance of structure, thesis statement and topic sentences when writing in English. A good writer assumes no or little background knowledge on the part of the reader.

Korean, Chinese, and Japanese are reader-responsible languages.
That means the reader is responsible for deciphering the message, which is often not stated explicitly. For an American who is expecting direct and explicit information, this style can be very confusing.

Discussing it here (mostly in Russian), I suggested that the distinction is very close to the distinction between synthetic versus analytic languages.
Indeed, in synthetic languages the speaker/writer is responsible for building the phrase by using morphemes in proper inflections, using correct particles, etc.
OTOH, in analytic languages, the relationship between the morphemes are often retrieved by the reader by using context.

I have no credible proofs, however.

My question is, how well the distinction between writer-responsible and reader-responsible languages matches the distinction between synthetic and analytic languages?

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    "Schools teach from early on the importance of structure, thesis statement and topic sentences when writing in English." - This appears to be a cultural question. Schools in Korea etc. could also teach to write like this in Korean. – robert Sep 9 '14 at 8:12
  • "in analytic languages, the relationship between the morphemes are often retrieved by the reader by using context" - And this places a burden on the reader, right? But before you said English (as an analytical language) is writer-responsible. Also, the idea that some languages place an inordinate share of the communicative burden on the reader/receiver goes against Grice's cooperative principle. – robert Sep 9 '14 at 8:12
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    Both Chinese and English are analytical, so what? – Anixx Sep 9 '14 at 8:20
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    Rather than writer/reader-responsible, I've heard this called high/low-context language. – curiousdannii Sep 9 '14 at 8:28
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As the blog post itself concludes, reader/writer responsibility is really a property of the culture, rather than language. This is right in that the idea is simply a rephrasing of Geert Hofstede's high/low context cultures.

This in itself is problematic because all language and culture requires context. Languages and cultures simply differ in what context they use when for what. That's why things like irony are often impossible to translate because they are context specific. That applies even within language/culture. For instance, if I call someone 'a proper genius' you won't know if I'm being ironic, unless you also know if that person is considered clever or not.

That's why there's no point in looking for a link between analytic and synthetic languages.

It is true that when you see a name written on a wall in Czech, you know if I'm talking to the person, about the person, or giving something to the person simply from the form. But that still does not vacate the need for context. Plus it's certainly not how any language is primarily used.

In short, it's important to talk about the role of context but this is not a very fruitful generalisation. Hofstede's distinction actually makes sense in the context of business negotiations and office politics (he conducted his research on IBM's employees around the world) but not universally and certainly not when it comes to the classification of languages.

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