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THE SPEED OF
Ever wondered why some languages sound like they're spoken much faster than others? Japanese sounds faster than German, Spanish certainly sounds faster than English. Yet, if you watch a dubbed foreign movie, the translated dialogue matches with the original exactly - even seemingly to the actors' mouth movement. WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?
That's pretty much what three researchers at UNIVERSITE DE LYON were wondering,
WHEN THEY SET OUT TO COMPLETE A STUDY ON THE SPEED OF LANGUAGE.
They gathered up 59 volunteers of 40 MEN 29 WOMEN
Each of whom spoke one of 7 languages
And made 585 recordings with an overall duration of:
Every volunteer recorded the following phrase in his or her language:
"Last night I opened the front door to let the cat out. IT WAS SUCH A BEAUTIFUL EVENING THAT I WANDERED DOWN THE GARDEN FOR A BREATH OF FRESH AIR.
THEN I HEARD A CLICK AS THE DOOR CLOSED BEHIND ME.
I REALIZED I'D LOCKED MYSELF OUT.
TO CAP IT ALL, I WAS ARRESTED WHILE I WAS TRYING TO FORCE THE DOOR OPEN!"
So WHAT DID THEY FIND?
The researchers counted all the syllables in each of the recordings and analyzed how much meaning each syllable conveyed - called the "density" of a syllable, and, it turns out:
You can compare the speed of the languages:
is indeed faster than
take it easy
"outspeak" us all.
take a look at their information density*
*Vietnamese is set as the base density of 1.
AND IT TURNS OUT...
LESS DENSE LANGUAGES SOUND FASTER
AND MORE DENSE LANGUAGES SOUND SLOWER
IN OTHER WORDS
WE MAY SPEAK LANGUAGES
THAT SOUND VASTLY DIFFERENT,
BUT IN THE END
WE'RE ALL SAYING THE SAME THING.