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Science Idle

If You're Fat, Broke, and Smoking, Blame Language 297

Posted by samzenpus
from the he-cannot-speak-it-good-like-we-do dept.
First time accepted submitter derekmead writes "A Yale researcher says that culture differences how much money we save, how well we take care of ourselves, and other behavior indicative of taking the long view, are all based on language. His study argues that the way a language's syntax refers to the future (PDF) affects how its speakers perceive the future. For example, English and Greek make strong distinctions between the present and the future, while German doesn't, while English and Greek speakers are statistically poorer and in worse health than Germans. (The study includes a broader swath of languages/nationalities, but that's a start.)"
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If You're Fat, Broke, and Smoking, Blame Language

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  • Jetzt schreibe ich einen Satz.
    Morgen werde ich noch einen schreiben.

    ... Just lost two pounds and made $10!
    • Re:jetzt (Score:5, Funny)

      by djdanlib (732853) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:40PM (#38973581) Homepage

      Gesundheit.

    • by alphatel (1450715) *
      Your baffling language is infecting you with the plague of stupidity. We need to make the cleansing again. Yes I am using your dumb language to infect you and make you fatter and more broke you stupid English and Greek forward-tense bastards.
      Heinrich
    • You used "werden," which is counter to what the article says. You should have said "Morgen schreibe ich noch einen." Now you are talking about tomorrow using the present tense, which, the author claims, will lead you to act as though the future is now (or something).
      • ... the future is now (or something)...

        Die Zukunft ist jetzt! (oder etwas)...

      • by Asic Eng (193332)

        You should have said "Morgen schreibe ich noch einen."

        Ok, "Heute schreibe ich einen Satz" ("Today I'm writing a sentence") and "Morgen schreibe ich noch einen" ("Tomorrow I'll write another"). So you need the "will" in the English structure, whereas in German you could use the equivalent "werde schreiben" ("will write") but there is a simpler form available, too.

        You could simplify the English version too, though: "And another tomorrow".

    • Re:jetzt (Score:5, Informative)

      by antek9 (305362) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:39PM (#38974469)

      Morgen werde ich noch einen schreiben.

      ... and there you made your mistake. While that's a grammatically and semantically correct sentence, you're more likely to phrase it as, "Morgen schreibe ich noch einen.", actually using present tense to convey a future statement. I won't bother to RTFA, so I'll never know the argument it's proposing, but there might be some sense to it. There _is_ a tendency to melt present and future in German, and maybe that does re-program everyone's synapses accordingly, maybe not.

      Anyway, the whole point would even be more valid for the Japanese who don't even know a future tense.

      And here, dear children, are two sayings that might convey the article's thesis, one in German, and one in Japanese:

      "Was Du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen!"
      "Ashita yarou wa bakayarou!"

      • by xaxa (988988)

        I tend to get confused when thinking about English grammar (it's too flexible, and I've rarely thought about it), but, "tomorrow I write another one" is wrong. However, you could give an order: "write another one tomorrow".

        A German once told me English people were obsessed with time, because we would say things like "I was going to get that done by last week, but I should be able to have it mostly ready by tomorrow".

        (Ich lerne Deutch, aber sehr langsam. Ich sollte mehr üben...)

      • by suutar (1860506)
        It's an interesting theory. Japanese also mixes present and future pretty indiscriminately, leaving it up to context to differentiate between 'am doing' and 'will do'.
        • Re:jetzt (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Jeeeb (1141117) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @01:27AM (#38978283)

          Standard Japanese makes no distinction between future and habitual tense. "Niku wo taberu" could be taken as "I will eat meat" or "I eat meat".

          It's generally pretty clear in its distinction between progressive and future though. "Niku wo tabeteiru" meaning "I am eating (the) meat" is unambiguous in its tense and can't be replaced with the future form "niku wo taberu".

          If you add an adverb though the distinction can become unclear and future and progressive can be mixed. However the same phenomenon also occurs in English. E.g: "ashita, oyakodon taberu" (I'll eat oyakodon tomorrow) vs "ashita, oyakodon tabeteru" (I'm eating oyakodon tomorrow").

          Interestingly, both English and Japanese tend to mix the progressive and habitual tenses as well. "Gengogaku ni tsuite no kougi ni sanka shiteiru" and "Gengogaku ni tsuite no kougi ni sanka suru" meaning "I'm participating in lectures about linguistics" and "I participate in lectures about linguistics", without an adverb, both interchangeably mean the same thing in English and Japanese.

          This article is about grammatically encoding distinctions between the present and future, which Japanese doesn't seem to significantly differ from English in.

      • by jc42 (318812)

        There _is_ a tendency to melt present and future in German, and maybe that does re-program everyone's synapses accordingly, maybe not.

        And, of course, we regularly do the same thing in English. Probably not with that example, but if I were to say "Tomorrow I'm taking the car in for an oil change", any native speaker would understand that as the future, though it's grammatically present tense. I could say "... I'll take ...", and it'd be equally correct as future tense. But there probably aren't many native speakers of English who would even notice the difference. The word "tomorrow" puts it in the future, so the grammatical tense is a

    • Re:jetzt (Score:4, Informative)

      by quenda (644621) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:37PM (#38976047)

      The German reputation for brutality is well-founded. Their operas last three or four days. And they have no word for "fluffy".

  • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:33PM (#38973485)
    The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans. On the other hand, the French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.

    The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans. The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.

    Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like. It’s speaking English that kills you
    • Re:So, it's true... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:46PM (#38973675) Homepage

      I know, funny. But...

      Give it 30 years. You'll find that the Japanese are following the trend of Americans. It's really the diet, hell if you've been to Okinawa in the last 10 years you can see it. Little chubby ass kids(and teens) running around all over the place. As they've turned their backs on the more traditional japanese staples.

      • Re:So, it's true... (Score:5, Informative)

        by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:57PM (#38974795) Homepage Journal
        Thank in no small part to their agricultural policies as well. While the exact reasons and mechanisms differ, the end result is that like in the US, in Japan healthy food is MUCH more expensive than the cheap garbage. If you are a person trying to get by and a bowl of instant ramen with high caloric content and very little nutritional value can be had for 100 yen, but a lunch of vegetable soup(esp. if you buy fresh) and an apple will easily cost you at least 3x that amount. Which do you think people will prefer? And to make things worse, their ag policy doesn't put tariffs on sugar, so junk food is incredibly cheap, in fact a candy bar can be had for less than half the price of an apple. This is just like the states where crap food is subsidized to hell and fruits and vegetables get almost nothing.

        I have lived in the US, Germany, and Japan and I can say without hesitation that although German ag policies are far from perfect, they are easily the best of the 3. Crap food is still cheap, but so are fruits and vegetables(I miss getting the vegetable soup pack they sold at my local Netto, everything you need to make a good fresh vegetable soup for little more than a Euro).
      • Perhaps. Though if this report [bbc.co.uk] is anything to go by, their celebrated longevity might be at least partly explained by the near quarter-million immortals whose relatives have been dutifully drawing their pensions for them for up to half a century
      • by hannson (1369413)
        I believe it has something to do with fructose [youtube.com].
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by digitig (1056110)

      On the other hand, the French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or the Americans.

      Myth, for what it's worth (and I know it was a joke). It turned out to be due to under-reporting of heart attacks by French doctors.

    • by steelfood (895457) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:42PM (#38974537)

      Hardly. Most of Europe is bilingual. It doesn't follow that people who know English either as a second or a first language are less healthy than people who don't know English at all.

      Language, like all arts, is a reflection of the predominant culture. Culture is often what determines socio-economic status. Cultures that emphasize hard working and pride in work are probably going to be better employed. Cultures that emphasize intellect will probably be smarter. Cultures that emphasize creativity will probably be more innovative. And cultures that glamorize and romanticize trash will probably follow the same pattern.

      Both language and socio-economic status reflect the values of a culture, but they do so independently. The English speakers of France and Italy are probably no more or less wealthy than the non-English speakers.

  • Whorfianism (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:33PM (#38973497)

    Sounds like the return of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis [wikipedia.org]

    Captcha: "nonsense".

    • Yep, same old BS. Publish or perish.
    • by thms (1339227)

      Sounds like the return of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis [wikipedia.org]

      Just what I was thinking when I read the article. And then I had to think of the Marain [wikipedia.org], a fictional constructed language in the Culture universe. I wonder if a society would actually decide to change their language if there was sufficient evidence that it hinders their cultural development. Sort of like the switch to the Latin alphabet as it happened for Vietnamese and Turkish, only a bit more invasive.

      • by fusiongyro (55524)

        I wonder if a society would actually decide to change their language if there was sufficient evidence that it hinders their cultural development.

        And thus we have the return of Esperanto.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        I wonder if a society would actually decide to change their language if there was sufficient evidence that it hinders their cultural development.

        Danish might be slow for children to learn [cphpost.dk], which might hinder their development (last time I read about this, that was the claim). I don't know how many multilingual Danish parents would consider teaching their child another language though...

  • I believe him, but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roguegramma (982660) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:34PM (#38973503) Journal

    I believe him, but a sample size of three languages is not convincing at all.

    • I believe him...not convincing at all

      Enough to convince you, though. ;)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:48PM (#38973713)

      I think he's full of crap. More exactly, he merely restates the Whorf hypothesis (badly and out of context) and then proceeds to misapply it.

      Also, he apparently doesn't speak German, which uses a construction quite similar to that of English for forming the future tense ("I will go"/"Ich werde gehen"), and allows for substitution with the present in informal speech to about the same extent ("We're going to the library next weekend"/"Wir gehen nächstes Wochenende in die Bibliothek" vs. formal "We will go to the library next weekend"/"Wir werden nächstes Wochenende in die Bibliothek gehen").

    • by Flyerman (1728812)

      I know this is Slashdot, but the sample size is a lot bigger.

      Just RTFA.

      • Don't even have to RTFA, just RTFS:

        (The study includes a broader swath of languages/nationalities, but that's a start.)

      • I'm not used to regression tests enough to comment on any particular regression coefficient in the tables.

        However, the data seems to be awfully clustered, see page 12. Of 76 countries considered there, fully 59 are rated low FTR(no future required). Most datasets like that would exhibit artifacts in the form of notable regression coefficients.

        In addition, I believe an expert in statistics would probably find that if you study such a dataset long enough, you will find some such correlations even if the dat

    • by digitig (1056110)
      Which is why the researcher compared more than 120 languages. Of course, this is /. so the RA doesn't exist in this reality.
    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:45PM (#38974599)

      I believe him, but a sample size of three languages is not convincing at all.

      The sample size isn't 3 languages (the table of languages, familes, and how they were coded takes up most of 3 pages.) There are three specific examples noted in TFS, with the further note "(The study includes a broader swath of languages/nationalities, but that's a start.)"

  • How many people think in pure emotion and logic? Most people think in terms of language, and in that way language is in itself a prison for the mind.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Unpublished of course, but I wrote a thesis in college about the role of language in the perception of time. Other than determining that an African language, Wolof, was particularly suited to discussing the particulars of time travel (it has some interesting tenses regarding subjective and relative time), I happened to come across a particularly fascinating report by a psychologist doing research for an advertising journal. He described various cultures' attitudes towards time that then influenced what they

    • ...or Native Americans, who don't exactly have a cultural perception of time at all, and tend to view time in consideration to the task at hand instead.

      Care to say which sociolinguistic group? Lumping all Native American cultures and languages together is about as helpful as saying " Europeans, who have a strong cultural perception of tuna fish sandwiches", or " Asians, who believe time flows from their belly buttons".

      North America is a continent. There are a *lot* of different people here. There are a *lot* of different cultures and languages here. Speaking broadly about the people native to this place, about all you can say conclusively is that the

    • by dpilot (134227)

      Are you suggesting that we have a primitive inbuilt biological capability for time travel, and we've essentially linguistically trained it out of ourselves since primitive man left Africa?

    • by MrHanky (141717)

      I remember reading an article somewhere, here it is [newyorker.com], about a small isolated Amazonian tribe that has no perfect tense. Quite interesting. Their language did seem to influence them quite a bit.

  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:44PM (#38973641)
    If you know more than one fat, language, is the increase linear or exponential? Moreover, if I learn german, will I fit size 32 pants again?
    • by Asic Eng (193332)

      if I learn German, will I fit size 32 pants again?

      Well I speak German and I don't fit into size 32, so ... Anyway, aren't Germans relatively overweight on average, too? Maybe it's all the English classes they are being subjected to in school.

  • German has future tense, it's Greek that has complicated situation where tense is not the important part but rather type of action, rather than time
  • by larys (2559815) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:44PM (#38973651)
    How about the language of taking responsibility for oneself? In psychology, there's something called an "external locus of control" versus an "internal locus of control". An example of an external locus of control would be someone saying: "I lost my job because my boss is a jerk" whereas an example of an internal locus of control would be: "I lost my job because I didn't do a good enough job." The fact is, when you place the control on something other than yourself -- language, the media, your parents, whatever -- you end up relinquishing responsibility and by doing so, what changes? If it's language's fault, it's not yours so you're still fat and smoking and broke and thinking it's language's fault doesn't change that. However, thinking to yourself, "I got myself here," puts the responsibility in your own hands...it's you now, so you can do something about it...

    Take my word for it or don't but compare me to my brother and you'll see taking simple responsibility for oneself is literally the difference between not only fat, smoking, and broke...but educated, healthy, and prosperous as well...
    • An example of an external locus of control would be someone saying: "I lost my job because my boss is a jerk" whereas an example of an internal locus of control would be: "I lost my job because I didn't do a good enough job."

      What would "I lost my job because I work for an asshole?" qualify as?

      • by beckett (27524)

        What would "I lost my job because I work for an asshole?" qualify as?

        That would also be external. However, if you consider that a large part of perception is really projection, this statement may reveal more about the person that lost their job than their boss.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:54PM (#38973799) Journal

      No matter how much you want to blame the victim, bad things really do happen to people because of circumstances outside of their control.

      Your general message is a good one. People should be responsible for themselves. But claiming that the locus of control should always be internal simply flies in the face of reality.

      For example, what if one's boss really is a jerk? No matter how hard you work to please him, you cannot. If you internalized that locus of control, you would conclude that there is something terribly wrong with you. That's not a healthy frame of mind at all.

      • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:02PM (#38973953) Journal

        Oh, I should also point out that if you happen to be more fortunate than others, internalizing your good fortune is a great way to feel superior. Obviously, someone in that position is going to be biased into thinking he got there on his own, instead of being extraordinarily lucky.

      • No matter how much you want to blame the victim, bad things really do happen to people because of circumstances outside of their control.

        Your general message is a good one. People should be responsible for themselves. But claiming that the locus of control should always be internal simply flies in the face of reality.

        For example, what if one's boss really is a jerk? No matter how hard you work to please him, you cannot. If you internalized that locus of control, you would conclude that there is something terribly wrong with you. That's not a healthy frame of mind at all.

        If your boss really is a jerk, then it was your fault because you were stupid enough to take a job working for a jerk, and you'll never do that again. If your old boss wasn't a jerk, but your new boss is a jerk, then it's your fault for lingering after you recognized that your new boss was a jerk instead of moving on, and you'll never do that again.

        Effective people find a way to bring their life under control.

        • then it was your fault because you were stupid enough to take a job working for a jerk

          What if you didn't know he was a jerk beforehand? What if you knew he was a jerk, but didn't know how much of one that he was? You should have investigated the matter more carefully (and you needed the job)?

          Regardless, it's the boss's fault that he is a jerk, not yours.

          • When you work for a jerk, you elevate him. Technically, it's only his fault that he's a jerk. It's your fault that he's the boss.

            • Heh, if Atlas ever Shrugs, rich jerks are going to fall like raindrops...

            • It's your fault that he's the boss.

              Technically? Probably. But I really meant that I wouldn't deem certain people idiots merely because they made the wrong decision (one that they had no way of knowing would end up harming them).

        • by gknoy (899301)

          Sometimes it's challenging to find enough evidence of someone being a jerk in the time you have available for interviews/etc. I'm grateful that my bosses have all been awesome, but I can certainly imagine someone only discovering that their boss (or coworker, etc) is a jerk after they've already accepted a job.

    • by mooingyak (720677) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:54PM (#38973807)

      Sometimes external is more appropriate.

      E.g. "I am bleeding to death because that asshole shot me." instead of "I am bleeding to death because I failed to duck in time."

      But your point and the article's point are not exclusive. Awareness of the ways that language shapes your thoughts can help you exert more control over your life and take greater responsibility for what happens to you.

      • by beckett (27524)

        Awareness of the ways that language shapes your thoughts can help you exert more control over your life and take greater responsibility for what happens to you.

        Taking account of the effect of language and syntax may have an augmentive effect, but if even our genetics can't completely determine our proclivities to smoke, drink, and eat, how can we suggest that language has such a profound effect upon our health over biology? The language is certainly intriguing, but we should look at this as a surface phenomenon when other factors, social, biological, or otherwise, have already been shown to have significant effects on our health. I suggest It is self-acualisation

  • Huh (Score:5, Funny)

    by ciaohound (118419) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:50PM (#38973737)

    I expected this to be about programming languages. I've known a lot of fat, broke, chain-smoking COBOL programmers.

    • I expected this to be about programming languages. I've known a lot of fat, broke, chain-smoking COBOL programmers.

      I prefer to call them COBOL Developers, for reasons that should be obvious.

  • So how does this study relate to programming syntax? Are you more likely to get rich and live happy & healthy if you use a Strongly Typed language or a Weak Typed Language? Are GOTO statements bad for your health an well being?
    • by antek9 (305362)

      Are GOTO statements bad for your health an well being?

      They are most helpful for your health, because what good is being able to instantiate as many instances of a gym as you like if you can't go to any of them?

    • Left out of the fun because GOTO isn't allowed in your programming language? Unwilling to use GOTO because it affects health negatively? Do not worry, we have a 4 step program to help you!
      step1();
      do{
      step2();
      if(condition()) break;
      step3();
      }while(false);
      step4();
    • by Asic Eng (193332)

      Are GOTO statements bad for your health an well being?

      Yes.

  • Correlation does not show causation.

  • by mbone (558574)

    Let's see, From time to time, Americans and even residents of the United Kingdom have been wealthier than Germans (actually, isn't that the case right now?), and also I believe that the Greeks have had their moments in the Sun. Are these shifts in fortune to be blamed on changes in language ? China 400 years ago was wealthy, then 100 years ago it was not, now it is becoming wealthy again. Has the Chinese language changed, and then changed back, in a way to be responsible for that as well ? For that matter,

    • by Asic Eng (193332)

      China 400 years ago was wealthy, then 100 years ago it was not, now it is becoming wealthy again.

      They are still poor as dirt. I'm not saying they can not possibly become wealthy, but I don't think that's guaranteed either. Look at Taiwan: they are way ahead of China, and used to have fantastic growth rates. However now that they have a mature economy their growth rates are comparable to other industrial nations - it doesn't look like they are going to become more wealthy than the US or Germany anytime so

  • Im also checking out japanese for some time now. the way sentences are structured always places the emphasis/main point at the end of the sentences. therefore, you have to wait for the sentence to end, to get the full meaning. only in situations that are quite evident, you can grasp what the person is saying from start-mid of the sentence. in general, you have to wait. coincidentally 'reading the sitaution/atmosphere' seems to be a common metaphor that is used/practiced in the japanese culture. as for the m

    • coincidentally 'reading the sitaution/atmosphere' seems to be a common metaphor that is used/practiced in the japanese culture.

      Part of this is historical -- Japanese culture has had more time free of invaders and foreign influences, and more time to hunker down and let stereotypes blossom into full-blown cultural shorthand. Stereotypes are often derided in the US as something to be avoided, partly because the steady flow of immigrants from all over the world pretty much guarantees that a stereotype that applies to one group will be wildly off the mark with another. But when the whole village / city / country has grown up there, s

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:17PM (#38974203)

    People are healthier in Germany? Maybe because Germany has universal health care.

    People are better off financially in Germany? Maybe because Germany still has a strong manufacturing base and fair wages paid to workers instead of high CEO salaries.

    Just a thought.

    • Can't find a store open when you get off from work? Maybe it is because Germans are such wieners when it comes to enforcing "blue laws."

      How is anyone in Germany able to purchase anything they need, anyway, without skipping work?

      I am of Ausland-Slavic heritage, by the way, which gives me license to rag on Germans.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:19PM (#38974229)

    The basic structure of English hasn't changed a lot in fifty years. On the other hand, the body shape of English speakers sure has changed. We are much more obese.

    My favourite stereotype of Germans is that they are a bunch of fat beer guzzling guys in lederhosen. If we chose the right times and places, we could show that Germans were fat and Americans were thin.

    The thesis, that we as a nation are obese because of the language we speak, doesn't stand up to even cursory inspection.

  • When I studied some Russian as an undergrad I was intrigued by the way that Russian applies the perfect/imperfect concept to the future, as well as to the past. How does this affect Russians and how they view the future?

    I'm also reminded of how important the subjunctive mood is in Spanish. Not that it affects perceptions of the future (mañana, anybody?), but the whole cultural thing that even when you actually say "This is so...", the implication is more like "God willing that it be so..."

    ...laura

  • by Canjo (1956258) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:29PM (#38975279)
    As a professional linguist I'm concerned about the linguistic analysis of English in this paper. The author claims that German does not have explicit future marking, while English does. He uses examples like:
    "Morgen regnet es" --German, literally "it rains tomorrow", with no future tense marker
    "It will rain tomorrow" -- English, with the future tense marker
    He argues that the explicit future tense marking causes speakers to treat future events differently and thus damages savings or whatever. The statistical analysis in this paper looks pretty good to me, though I'm not familiar with the way economics people report linear regressions so it'll take more time to evaluate that. But the statistical analysis is no good if the linguistic analysis it's based on is wrong. Garbage in, garbage out.

    The problem is that languages don't exclusively use or neglect to use future tense markers. For instance in German, you could use a future tense marker, as in "es wird regnen" (literally, it will rain). BUT you drop the future tense marker if you have a word like "tomorrow" that makes it obvious that the event is in the future, like "morgen regnet es" (tomorrow it rains). All languages make use of a variety of different patterns to mark future tense.

    In English there is a similar pattern to German, for instance. People will very frequently say things like "I'm teaching tomorrow" or "I'm grabbing donuts with my friend tomorrow morning." The author ignores this, although it is very common in English usage, and even though it is a direct counterexample to his purported classification of English. He claims that English MUST mark future explicitly by pointing out that we don't say things like "I listen to a lecture"--but the problem with that sentence is NOT that it doesn't mark future; the problem is that we use the progressive in English contexts, and we could very easily say "I'm listening to a lecture tomorrow, so I won't be able to come to your party" or similar.

    It turns out English and German have pretty much the same pattern of future tense marking. Maybe English speakers use explicit tense marking more than German speakers do, but that's a quantitative difference, which is ignored in this paper in favor of arbitrary categorizations.

    If this fellow is so ignorant about the language he's writing in, how much can we trust his judgments about other languages? Or rather, how much can we trust him to be sufficiently critical of the linguistic categorizations that he's looking at, or to know what they really mean? Yes, his data was based on "expert" linguistic sources, but linguists are also prone to this kind of miscategorization, and are very often more driven by a need to make languages conform to certain modern theories than by a desire to make a legitimate description; furthermore the people writing about these languages are all operating according to DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS and different theoretical frameworks, a problem I have to deal with just about every day in my work.

    tl;dr It looks like the author has given almost no thought to the lack of soundness in the linguistic categorizations he uses, even though his system breaks down in the very examples he cites. I don't think he knows what he's talking about.
    • Asian perspectives (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jginspace (678908) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [ecapsnigj]> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @10:49PM (#38977175) Homepage Journal

      Interesting observations. Using some examples from my neck of the woods, I'd say it could be mixed up with agriculture and migration patterns.

      Vietnamese is very strongly future-typed. No tenses but an auxiliary verb 'se' = 'will' which appears in front of the verb. It is used even when the word 'tomorrow' or 'this evening' appears in the sentence. Vietnamese are famous for their over-indulgence in alcohol and coffee, although culturally they're savers (in the form of gold or ornaments). Oh, and they're atrocious drivers. (And there's a Catholic influence - sin now, confess later.)

      Thai is even more strongly future-typed, in that their word for 'will' ('ja') takes even more precedence in the sentence - eg "ja mai pai Pantip" - "I will not go to Pantip". Thais are known for their moderation in most areas and they're characterized as undisciplined when it comes to wealth/savings. But they do drive well. Talk about Thai attitudes and most foreign observers will sum up with "mai pen rai" ("no worries").

      Both the Thais and Vietnamese are rice-growing societies who recently migrated (the Thais much more recently) from China, where they're very loose with future markers.

      Contrast with the Malays. Spoken Malay has no future typing - they rely on words like 'tomorrow'. Their society is characterized by its indifference to planning and saving, feasting today, forget tomorrow. Not very organized agriculturally. They're also an island race - perhaps best not to think too much about the future when you're getting into that boat and you can see nothing on the horizon (but a full belly will help).

  • by sirwired (27582) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @07:57PM (#38975657)

    Currently Germany is currently in a time of relative economic prosperity. Greece (which has retained more-or-less the same language for thousands of years) is not. English corresponds to a fairly large collection of countries that have little to do with each other. At least four of the countries are doing okay (UK, Canada, USA, New Zealand, and Australia) while many of the others (mainly former English colonies) are not. (Some of the former colonies (i.e. Bermuda) are doing fine.)

    If this so-called "study" had been done during post WWI, we'd have to conclude that speakers of German were getting the ever-living crap kicked out of them.

    If we spread the B.S. analysis out a few centuries, we'd come to the conclusion at various times that Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, Aramaic, Japanese, Sumerian, Sanskrit, etc. was the "best" language for prosperity. (And I'm sure I've missed a few)

  • by Jeeeb (1141117) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:16PM (#38975859)

    Australia, Canada and New Zealand all have lower smoking rates, lower levels of alcohol consumption and longer life expectancy than Germany. This is despite all three having large indigenous populations in significantly worse health than the general population. Australia and Canada also have a higher GDP per capita (PPP or nominal) and a higher GNI per capita.

    Further, while the German household savings rate is certainly higher than Australia, Canada and New Zealand, German government debt levels are also significantly higher. Additionally, I'm not sure about Canada and New Zealand but low household savings rates in Australia can be explained much better by non-language factors:
    1. Australians save by investing in property. The tax structure and government incentives favor investment in property over saving. Generally this means going into debt for a significant period to later come out on top.
    2. Australia has government mandated private pension (aka. superannuation). All employers must pay an amount equivalent to 9% of an employees wage into a fund nominated by the employee. Assuming that this money would have otherwise gone to the employee, this means all Australians by government mandate save about 8.25% (0.9/1.09) of their wages without it appearing on the household savings rate.

    To expand beyond Germany, Japanese is also an FTR language, yet smoking rates are also significantly higher in Japan. Japanese generally have a low tolerance for alcohol so drinking rates are lower. Life expectancy is slightly longer, although Australian males now have a longer life expectancy than Japanese males. Further, Japan doesn't have a large indigenous population in significantly worse health than the general population, which alone is probably enough to account for the slight overall difference.

    While Japanese household savings rates are high, Japanese government debt is extremely high. Further the Japanese practice of withholding wages, and then paying them as a block bonus also probably promotes saving. Additionally the utter insufficiency of, and imminent collapse of the Japanese pension system is also probably promoting saving.

  • by epp_b (944299) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @08:36PM (#38976035)
    ...I'd suggest blaming yourself.

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984

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