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Most difficult IE Language?

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Raincrowlee
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 Message 25 of 69
25 June 2010 at 5:35pm | IP Logged 
Captain Haddock wrote:
Although the OP specified living languages, I think Ancient Greek is the hardest language I've tried learning.


I had heard that Ancient Greek was quite difficult, and Sanskrit, too, which is why I focused on living languages.

Linguist Robert Lindsay wrote a massive blog post on the difficulty of various (actually most) IE languages. http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/more-on-the-ha rdest-languages-to-learn/ He rates Classic Greek, Icelandic, Faroese, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Irish, Armenian, Albanian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian all as Level 5, which is the most difficult rating he gives languages. He doesn't really compare them, but he linked to a forum post that stated that Polish was voted the hardest language in the world to learn, but he did it to make the point that Albanian might be more difficult than Polish.
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Juаn
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 Message 26 of 69
25 June 2010 at 6:36pm | IP Logged 
Raincrowlee wrote:
Linguist Robert Lindsay wrote a massive blog post on the difficulty of various (actually most) IE languages. http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/more-on-the-ha rdest-languages-to-learn/ He rates Classic Greek, Icelandic, Faroese, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Irish, Armenian, Albanian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian all as Level 5, which is the most difficult rating he gives languages. He doesn't really compare them, but he linked to a forum post that stated that Polish was voted the hardest language in the world to learn, but he did it to make the point that Albanian might be more difficult than Polish.


According to the author Sanskrit ranks a paltry "Level 4". This guy evidently knows nothing about Indo-Iranian languages and should restrict himself to discussing and ranking their European cousins.

As a student of both Sanskrit and Russian, and while I lack direct experience on how the latter compares with other Slavic languages, I'll venture to ascertain that none of those "Level 5" languages comes close to matching the complexity of Sanskrit. Just taking apart sandhi so you can actually identify individual words in long sequences of script with hundreds of possible compound characters (which you then you must consider according to eight cases, effectively nine declensions, dual number, and many other niceties) would match the bulk of the grammatical structure of some languages.

Sanskrit is a monument I'd be surprised any other language could rival.

Edited by Juаn on 25 June 2010 at 6:48pm

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Splog
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 Message 27 of 69
25 June 2010 at 7:19pm | IP Logged 
Juаn wrote:

As a student of both Sanskrit and Russian, and while I lack direct experience on how the latter compares with other Slavic languages, I'll venture to ascertain that none of those "Level 5" languages comes close to matching the complexity of Sanskrit.


The whole question of "which is hardest" is too multi-dimensional to give an answer other than "it depends".

For example, I haven't looked at Sanskrit for more than 20 years, but I do remember the script being very complicated. Contrast that with Czech - which the author of the article you referred to claims is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the hardest language. Yet the Czech script is (almost) entirely phonetic and can therefore be learned in a day.

On the other hand, Czech grammar is so complicated that some people claim that there are more exceptions than there are rules. As an example, nouns have 14 cases (7 singular, 7 plural), plus there are the three genders to think about, then each noun may follow one of a whopping 59 declension patterns.

Adjectives and pronouns are almost as complicated as nouns. Verbs, of course, have the complexities of perfective and imperfective, but also each verb can fall into one of 45 different conjugation patterns.

The combinations are mind boggling - and trying to do all that on the fly is enough to make a grown man cry.

So, yes, all languages have complexities of different types, and comparing them isn't very helpful unless you qualify a lot of things in advance (e.g. are you talking about script/grammar/vocabulary/sounds? are you already a speaker of a slavic/germanic/elvish language?)

Edited by Splog on 25 June 2010 at 7:28pm

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Juаn
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 Message 28 of 69
25 June 2010 at 7:33pm | IP Logged 
Splog wrote:
As an example, nouns have 14 cases (7 singular, 7 plural), plus there are the three genders to think about, then each noun may follow one of a whopping 59 declension patterns.


If you count number as a separate "case", then Sanskrit would have 24 of those.

I don't know how you reached the 59 figure.

Probably the only simple aspect of Sanskrit are adjectives, which decline as nouns.

Edited by Juаn on 25 June 2010 at 7:35pm

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Splog
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 Message 29 of 69
25 June 2010 at 7:54pm | IP Logged 
Juаn wrote:
Splog wrote:
As an example, nouns have 14 cases (7 singular, 7 plural), plus there are the three genders to think about, then each noun may follow one of a whopping 59 declension patterns.


If you count number as a separate "case", then Sanskrit would have 24 of those.

I don't know how you reached the 59 figure.



I looked at the grammar tables in my Czech dictionary. Every noun in the dictionary has a number against it (from 1 to 59). You must then look that number up in the grammar tables to find one of 59 sub-tables. Each such sub-table then has 14 different word endings you have to apply to that noun for its cases (dative, genitive, accusative, etc).

Edited by Splog on 25 June 2010 at 7:56pm

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trance0
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 Message 30 of 69
25 June 2010 at 8:02pm | IP Logged 
Czech noun declensions are notoriously complex, probably the most difficult of all Slavic languages, though Polish, Slovak and Sorbian aren`t that much easier, I suspect.
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liddytime
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 Message 31 of 69
25 June 2010 at 8:45pm | IP Logged 
Splog wrote:


On the other hand, Czech grammar is so complicated that some people claim that there are more exceptions
than there are rules. As an example, nouns have 14 cases (7 singular, 7 plural), plus there are the three genders
to think about, then each noun may follow one of a whopping 59 declension patterns.

Adjectives and pronouns are almost as complicated as nouns. Verbs, of course, have the complexities of
perfective and imperfective, but also each verb can fall into one of 45 different conjugation patterns.

The combinations are mind boggling - and trying to do all that on the fly is enough to make a grown man cry.


Wow!

I don't speak Czech (yet :-) ) but if it is really that complicated, how on earth can native Czechs speak it
flawlessly? ?!?!

Don't you find that foreigners that don't have perfect command of every declension can still be understood?
More or less?
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Splog
Diglot
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anthonylauder.c
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 Message 32 of 69
25 June 2010 at 8:56pm | IP Logged 
liddytime wrote:

I don't speak Czech (yet :-) ) but if it is really that complicated, how on earth can native Czechs speak it flawlessly? ?!?!


They study the grammar and are drilled on it for the whole of their time at school. Even then, many Czechs make mistakes from time to time, which (if they realise it) they catch and then correct themselves, or if they don't realise it others will often raise an eyebrow at how "uneducated" they are.

liddytime wrote:

Don't you find that foreigners that don't have perfect command of every declension can still be understood?
More or less?


Yes. In fact, one of the benefits (?) of Czech being hard is that most Czech speakers are amazed if you can say anything at all. So, they are often forgiving of mistakes - but are also quick to point them out. It can be a disheartening experience. But, hopefully, it is only a question of time.


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