Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | December 30, 2009

‘A simple language, absurdly spelled’

The Economist challenges the accepted conventional wisdom that English is a difficult language. Key quote:

A Spanish verb has six present-tense forms, and six each in the preterite, imperfect, future, conditional, subjunctive and two different past subjunctives, for a total of 48 forms. German has three genders, seemingly so random that Mark Twain wondered why “a young lady has no sex, but a turnip has”. (Mädchen is neuter, whereas Steckrübe is feminine.)

The article acknowledges that spelling can be difficult in English, but notes that “spelling is ancillary to a language’s real complexity; English is a relatively simple language, absurdly spelled.”


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