Which language has the most complicated grammar

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by Polak2008, Jul 30, 2008.

  1. Polak2008 Banned

    I know that Polish grammar is considered hard.
    But there are any harder languages?
    I know that Chinese and Japanese are considered the hardest languages, because of characters.
    But I wanna talk about grammar.
    We have 7 caes.
    and many irregularities.
    kot = cat
    vocative case = kocie.
    and verbs are complicated too.
  2. StefKE

    StefKE Senior Member

    French - Belgium
    I think each language has its grammatical difficulties. It also depends on the language you speak.

    For example, it will probably be easier for a French speaker to learn the Spanish grammar than the German one, because there are cases in German and not in French or Spanish. But this is of course not universal.

    I think French grammar can be a real hell to learn, notably because of the place of the words which is particularly difficult. I think conjugation is also quite complicated...
  3. Aligarro Senior Member

    Spanish (Spain) - Finnish
    I think Finnish grammar is very difficult. There are more than 12 declinations (for singular and plural), no prepositions, no masculine or feminine, no articles!!
  4. Tagarela Senior Member

    Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
    Português - Brasil

    If you continue the list, I'll start to believe that Finnish is just a matter of imagination :p

    Now, seriously, I agree with StefKE, your mother tongue has a big influence on the level of difficulty. We had some similar discussions here on the forum. Perhaps, there are in general, languages that have more or less complex grammar for the most of people. And native testimonials are always too biased... anyway, StefKE mentioned French conjugation, I imagine that it's very similar to Portuguese's one, and it is sometime hard indeed - many possibilities - but other things compessate. I'm learning Czech, it also has many cases as Polish, but, the verb conjugation is easier than Portuguese's - so, it's hard to tell, perhaps with some effort it's possible to have some less unbiased measuarement of grammar complexity.

    Good bye.:
  5. Demurral Senior Member

    Catalan, Spanish
    I totally agree with Tagarela.

    All human languages are "designed" by a human brain. They all were born more or less the same way, or at least constructed using the same capacities, holded by the same limits, those of human brain. Since all humans have the same type of brain (I'm not talking about its quality), they all can learn the same types of languages with the same easiness. (something of universal grammar?)

    So, I mean, if you start from scratch, any language will be learnt at the same speed (all humans start talking at two-three). -->NOTE: Language is natural, writing is artificial.

    If you learn years later a second language you are, somehow, forcing or remodelling the mechanisms of your brain, that are first-language-shaped, and as a result of this, your second language is affected by your first language. The more one language differenciates from the other, the harder it will be learning the second (or more) ones.

    PD: 12 cases, but I'm sure they are sooo regular, isn't? I'd say more: why do I need prepositions if I pass its functions to the inflection?
    PPD: Are you sure that having "no gender" is a problem? GO the three genders of German TO HELL!! (just joking, I love German, and its genders!)

    See you!
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2008
  6. kusurija

    kusurija Senior Member

    Lithuania, K. city
    Lithuania Czech
    My case is other: The more one language differenciates from the other, the easier it will be learning the second and vice versa. Especially it cases remembering/forgotting: The more one language is similar to othter, the faster I'll forget it after relatively long time not using it.
    I find some difficulties in Lithuanian grammar: Vocative case has its own grammar; adjectives has 147 forms at all.
    As to many languages (with exception of Esperanto and similar): The trunk flexions in differrent gramm. cases is in more than only Polish, Czech, Lithuanian etc. languages; this is nothing extraordinal. I must agree with others, that "difficulty: of language or its grammar is rather subjective case: what is difficult for one, may be not so difficult for other, namely if You can see some racional explanation and analogy to other languages...
    Good day to all!
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2008
  7. DrWatson

    DrWatson Senior Member

    More precisely 14 or 15 cases. And I hate to shatter the myth but there are some prepositions. The majority of Finnish adpositions are postpositions, however.
    The endings are regular, but there's more to it, since the root often changes when the ending is attached. The changes are, however, often regular :D
    I agree. I'm probably in no position to comment on the difficulty of Finnish, since I'm a native and the language comes naturally.
  8. Polak2008 Banned

    But has Finnish many exceptions?
    in Polish there is even special if there is alive or not alive.
    Yesterday I saw writting "czekolada z nadzieniem z Adwokatu" (chocolate with Advocat filling).
    but if it would be
    "czekolada z nadzieniem z adwokata".
    it would mean "chocolate from fillinf from lawyer".
  9. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)

    Probably the other 6399 languages are harder than Polish.
    Or easier, depends on the way you look at it.
    Probably the other 6399 languages are harder than Dutch.
    Or easier, depends on the way you look at it.

    [Or, as StefKe pointed out -- and I'm sorry to say so, as already pointed out by 10s of other posters in 10s of similar threads: it probably depends on the languages you already know].

    I do understand that it's very human to grant the mother tongue a special status, but still I don't see how this question can be answered in a way that makes sense.

    But probably you can answer me following questions:

    * What exactly do you mean by grammar?
    Please keep in mind that anything you do not consider to be part of the grammar of a language, cannot be taken into account for the comparison.
    So, what would you include and exclude in your comparison, and why?

    * You wrote: "But I wanna talk about grammar. We have 7 caes. and many irregularities".
    Why would you reduce grammar to morphology, to inflection and possible exceptions?

    * What exactly are you going to compare?

    * How are you are going to measure what?

    * How are you going to add up the various comparisons to come at something that might resemble sesnible a conclusion?

    * Just out of curiosity.... you do know the grammar of all the languages mentioned so far?
    If not, how are you going to compare the data?
    If so, I'll state that compared to Bachten-de-Kuppens, Polish grammar is peanuts... (personal inflections (sic) of the word yes (jo-), just to give you an idea).


  10. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Hello, Polak2008. You may find the following previous threads of interest:

    Languages have (no) tenses or lack one of them
    Are analytic (or synthetic) languages harder to learn?
    Evolution of Language

    Many Portuguese think that Portuguese is a very hard language. :rolleyes: :D
    I've noticed a "nationalistic" tendency, sometimes even among English speakers, to assume that one's language is one of the hardest in the world (or some other absolute superlative), as though this were some kind of badge of honor. As we well know, most people also think their country is one of the best in the world. ;)
  11. JIBE1982 Member


    I learnt German and it's not that hard, you get use to the new structure of the sentences very easily, and if you make a few mistakes, the sentence is still understandable, really it's no big deal, you just have to understand the logic of the language.
  12. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    I think, Japanese with all its simplicity, is one of the hardest :p. There are 5 vowels and 8 consonants in Japanese, which make up a total of 46 syllables. And it's really too few, resulting in a huge number of homonyms. I often have difficulties understanding what the person has meant, because of those homonyms. Also the honorifics are quite complicated.

    By the way, most Turks say that Russian is very difficult. I don't know though...My Russian classes start on 31.07.2010 (i.e. tomorrow), I'll have an idea then :D
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2010
  13. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    I am having a hard time with the position of personal object pronouns in Portuguese (not to mention those in Brazilian Portuguese, which to me is just odd in this aspect), although I manage very well these pronouns in French, Italian and Spanish.
    I also don't cope very well with the pronunciation of Portuguese.

    However, I have to admit that I never took courses or lessons of this language and, consequently, don't have little to no practice. All my knowledge comes from Spanish, one or two books about Portuguese grammar and then little practice: some hours of conversation in a Portuguese (more specifically, PB) language talk round, reading Saramago (I am at the third novel: "O Evangelho segundo Jesus Cristo", after "Ensaio sobre a segueira" and "Ensaio sobre a lucidez") and two films in Brazilian Portuguese.
    The possibilities to learn spoken European Portuguese are next to none...

    In Russia I've heard the affirmation that the Russian language is the third most complex after Chinese and Japanese.
    I wouldn't go as far as to subscribe that because I don't know how Russian grammar is perceived as to its difficulty, but I've noticed that I haven't heard a single Western European with a perfect Russian pronunciation. Moreover, I spent half an our to teach a German friend the correct pronunciation of one sentence (or was it one word?) and he didn't manage it at all.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2010
  14. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Don't you think that understanding the logic of a language can be an impossible task for some learners?
  15. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    I thought that, nonwithstanding the total of 46 syllables in Japanese, the homonyms in this language were not so difficult because of the number of syllables in a words.

    Good luck!
  16. phosphore Senior Member

    And how many Russians have you heard who spoke perfect English or French? Not to mention that we non-natives can actually never tell, my guess would be none or very few.

    Anyway, I don't see why Chinese of all languages would be the most complex in the world, but I might affirm that in many aspects Russian is less complex that Serbian, thus Serbian should get in the top 3. :D
  17. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    I wouldn't go as far as to say perfect, but near to perfect - not English or French, but Italian - I've heard from Russians, and perfect German also).
    However, none of them learned the language in Russia.

    Anyway, I don't support such claims, because languages make easily up in one area if they lose in another, and because the difficulties of languages vary accordingly to the learners' personal disposition and some objective facts like the proximity or distance of the native and the studied language.
  18. Tazzler Senior Member

    American English
    I hate this kind of topic. First off, everyone always sticks to European languages, maybe Arabic or Japanese. Does anyone here know much of the indigenous languages of the Americas, Africa, Australia, and places like the Caucasus? Native American languages at first glance appear very very hard. Then, secondly, everyone has a tendency to tout their own language's difficulty all the time. We all know how simple English is; there's no need to rub it in! But it's all the same; no one is less smart because of what language they instinctively know.
  19. JIBE1982 Member

    No actualy, I think some people are so convienced that laguages are complicated that they give up before even trying. The same goes for every thing. The human brain have enough space to store dozens of language, even a mediocre one can store a couple. Anyway as long as someone speaks one langage, he is smart anough to speak other. I don't they are big differences in terms of complexity from one to another language, precilsy because humans have pretty mutch the same level of intelligence all over the world and they express pretty mutch the same width range of ideas, impressions ect
  20. Orlin Banned

    Ja mislim da je bugarski teži od sprskog u najvećoj meri zbog našeg glagolskog sistema (o tome je mnogo diskutirano na slovenskom forumu) i video sam kako se stranci (uključujući Srbi) potpuno zbunjuju u komplikovanom sistemu bugarskih glagolskih vremena i načina. Mislim da ima i drugih teškoća - npr. upotreba postpozitivnog određenog člana, glagolski vid (za neslovenske govornike itd.).
  21. phosphore Senior Member

    Oh, I was just kidding about Serbian being in the top 3. There are more than 6000 languages in the world of which we know only a few and all such comparisons are ridiculous anyway.
  22. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Well, it's a bit like asking which drop in the ocean is the wettest or the saltiest.
  23. Perkele Member

    Finland, Finnish
    If English had prefixes instead ofprepositions, some people wouldconsiderit more-exotic.

    Calling a language easy or difficult in general is ignorant. It might be similar to your language and thus easy for you but mark my words: no language is simpler than another. A lot of people would be offended if you call their language simple: if you think about it a language is a brainchild of the people that speak it. Simple language < simple people. You'll never understand a foreign language quite just like you understand your own. But the more you know about different languages, the clearer it is that languages all have their differences and they all have their intricacies.

    For example, Finnish naida means 'to marry' or 'to have sex with' depending on the case the object takes. Spanish abuelos might mean 'grandfathers' or 'grandfather(s) and grandmother(s)' and you can have words where the stress is the only differentiating factor between them (think límite - limíte - limité). Finnish has vowel harmony but some languages have vowel harmony based on oral/nasal vowels (Guarani) and some languages have consonant harmony (Navajo) etc.

    Don't think the way your language is built is the only, the right or the best way.
  24. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    Indeed. What I would call complicated grammar is when it has many features, and not simple ones. Then, I say: English is simple because you almost don't change a verb or a noun. The tenses are expressed by auxiliaries, and they tend to have only 1 meaning. Most things about conjunctions are simple. For instance you only use ''than'' to express all kind of comparatives, while in other languages such as Polish you have 2 ''than'' depending on if you compare clauses or not.

    I will add a few ones. Navajo (Diné Bizaad). It has a complicated phonetic system, it has 33 consonants (and not the usual ones), it has 4 vowels, and each one can be short or long, nasalized or non-nasalized, and it has 2 tones. Navajo uses a lot of prefixes. But I think the hardest part of Navajo is its verbal system, in Navajo the verbal system does many many things including adjectives function! it's the key in a sentence. Its verbs change so much and take so many things that it takes quite a lot to use them properly.

    I would like to add the fictional language Na'vi. Surely its creator achieved his goal, creating a weird and complicated language. The most difficult part in Na'vi is its verbal system, it uses infixes, which is really weird for most languages, and besides that, they express many things like if you are happy or not about doing the action. Nouns are declined for case in a tripartite system. In a tripartite system, there are distinct forms for the object of a clause, as in "he kicks the ball"; the agent of a transitive clause which has such an object, as in "he kicks the ball"; and the subject of an intransitive clause, which does not have an object, as in "he runs". An object is marked with the suffix -ti, and an agent with the ergative suffix -l, while an intransitive subject has no case suffix. The use of such case forms leaves the of Na’vi largely free. And one of weird features is that it has 4 numbers, singular, plural, dual and trial. You use dual if you are counting pairs of something, shoes, socks, eyes, etc but you use trial for counting 3 things.

    The verbs are conjugated for aspect and tense but not for person, for example you have:

    Taron =to hunt
    Tìmaron =just hunted (recent past)
    Tayaron = will hunt
    Teraron = hunting
    Tolaron= hunted
    Tìrmaron= was just hunting

    And you have many infixes more for many more things. It has a complicated system.

    And the final language I add is a south Caucasian language; Georgian. It has a kinda complicated phonetic system. It uses many suffixes and prefixes to give the verb the right meaning, it has 7 cases, nominative, ergative, dative, genitive, instrumental, adverbial and vocative. Georgian does not distinguish between adjectives and nouns but modifiers from modified by relative position in the nominal clause. Georgian uses a lot of postpositions, But once again, the worst part of Georgian is its verbal system, it is extremely complicated.

    Georgian verbal system has 4 classes, transitive verbs, intransitive verbs, medial verbs and indirect verbs. There are many irregular verbs in Georgian. Each verbal class uses a different conjugation. One also could add the ''stative verbs'' not exactly a class, its conjugation is similar to the indirect verbs, but it has its own functions. To make it worse, many verbs in Georgian do not seem to conform to the conjugation of one class. There is also the ''preverb'', they have distinctional meanings, most of the time it is totally arbitrary which verb takes which preverb.

    The functions a verb can take in Georgian are: Present indicative, imperfect, present subjunctive, future indicative, conditional, future subjunctive, aorist indicative, opative, perfect, pluperfect, perfect subjunctive. And each one of them is different in conjugation for 1 of the 4 classes of verbs, there are many rules to those, and many irregular verbs. Georgian has no articles or gender, even the pronouns are neutral gender.

    To me, Georgian has been the most complicated in grammar I have seen so far. Perhaps someone who knows Tamil and knows Georgian can make a comparison to know which one is more complex.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2011
  25. Moro12 Senior Member

    Oh, yes! Gerogian has the most complicated grammar among all the languages I ever used to learn. What you forgot to mention, is the Georgian poly-personal verb conjugation.

    In the Indo-European languages, a verb is conjugated in agreement with its subject. For example, in French:
    je parle, tu parles, il parle, nous parlons, vous parlez, ils parlent.

    In Georgian, a verb comes into agreement with both its subject and direct object. And sometimes with its indirect object as well:
    me vkhatav - "I draw him" (I'm making a drawing of him)
    me gkhatav - "I draw you (sg)"
    shen khatav - "you draw him"
    shen mkhatav - "you draw me"
    shen gvkhatav - "you draw us"
    is khatavs -"he draws him"
    is mkhatavs -"he draws me"
    is gvkhatavs - "he draws us"
    is gkhatavs - "he draws you"
    etc. etc.

    To be honest, the grammar complexity is something subjective and depends on what your native language is and what languages you are familiar with. However, Georgian being a member of the Kartvelian family has a very few languages which are close to it. It means, if you learn Georgian as a foreign language, you will find it very different from your mother tongue regardless what your mother tongue is.

    As for other complicated grammar systems, I would also mention Hebrew and Arabic. But that's my subjective opinion.

    Exteremely complicated is the grammar in some Northen Caucasian languages (they are not related to Georgian). Some languages of Dagestan republic in Russia have more than 50 noun cases (!), 4 noun classes (male, female, animals and "things") and an extremely complex verb system. Some verbal forms even display the information source: how did you learn about the action (i.e., you've seen it being performed, or you've heard about it from someone's words, or you just happen to know the fact).
  26. LilianaB Banned

    US New York

    Hi, what do you mean by the adjectives function in Navajo? Do the adjectives behave in some unusual way? Navajo is a polysynthetic languages so the words do not even have clear boundaries very often. It is spoken only by about 170,000 people. It is a interesting language.
  27. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    Hello, What I meant was that in Navajo, there is nothing that corresponds to what are called adjectives in English. In Navajo, the verbs provide the adjectival functionality, it does not have adjectives. Yes, Navajo is really interesting, verbs are composed of an abstract stem.

    Here you have some verbs. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Navajo_verbs
  28. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Yes, thank you. I know what you mean that to walk in a nice manner would be different than to walk in a sloppy manner. There will be to different verbs, instead of one verb being modified by adverbs, I think. I think the nouns will have the adjectival function included not the verbs. It will be done by the way of different affixes.
  29. OneStroke Senior Member

    Hong Kong, China
    Chinese - Cantonese (HK)
    To those who hate grammar, Chinese must be the simplest language in the world. No noun cases, no agreement, no verb tenses. Want to talk about time? Simply grab a few adverbs! A lot of words can be used in multiple parts of speech, and if a word can't be used in the part of speech, call it art and Bob's your uncle, your creativity will be immortalised! (That's an allusion to 春風又綠江南岸 - the spring winds 'green' the shore south of the Chang Jiang again.) No extra-hard spellings - 'computer' is 'electronic brain' and 'car' is 'gas vehicle'. Come to think of it, name one grammar rule, and you can probably think of ten exceptions. (Classic example of 舉一反十! :D)

    I've read that Finnish, Hungarian and Estonian have the most complicated grammars.
  30. A-ni-wo-di New Member

    English and Cherokee
    Realizing that this is a very old thread, I can't speak for difficulty or the other 6k+ languages in the world, but American languages are often left out of these conversations. There aren't but about 20k speakers of our Cherokee language, so it's a minority language here in the States, but I think it qualifies as pretty complex. There are more than 600 non-repetitive ways to conjugate the verb "to have", for instance. That class of verbs is ergative with five modes (alive, lump, liquid, flexible, and rigid) which change the way the verb is conjugated in all tenses (we have 12 main ones) and has to be conjugated with how many people are involved in the conversation and whether they are 'included' or 'excluded' when the subject pronoun is plural. You can only use 'to want' in 120 different ways (accusative verb), but "pass me" (ergative verb) in 600 ways and you have to memorize which are which or you won't be understood. The language has changed and no longer requires you to decline sentences with evidentiary particles to be understood, but you still might hear that in backwater places, so it helps to know a bit to avoid confusion. Particle changes can happen at the beginning, ending, and the middle, and often all at once. Interrogatory Particles (usually an 's' or a 'sgo' sound) happens after the third syllable of the sentence, if there is one. The writing has 86 characters, but that actually makes it easier, not harder.

    Dunno if that qualifies for your list, but there it is. Wa-do!
  31. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Hello, A-Ni-Wo-Di. Would the structure of the sentences in Cherokee depend also from whose point of view the content is expressed: if the conversation is just between two or three insiders, or whether it involves some third party people -- outsiders in a way. I have heard that things like that are common in some Native American languages. Would Lacota have somehow similar structures or as many ways to conjugate verbs as Cherokee. Are they at least somewhat similar?
  32. A-ni-wo-di New Member

    English and Cherokee
    Yes, we call it 'inclusive' and 'exclusive' plurals. So, if I say to you "gi-tli gi-ni-ka-ha", I am saying to you, "we (two, you and I) have one (live) dog", but if I say, "gi-tli o-gi-ni-ka-ha", I am saying to you "we (two, someone else and I) have one (live) dog". "We (you included)" and "we (you not included)" also works the same for more than two people. That what you were asking?
  33. A-ni-wo-di New Member

    English and Cherokee
    Oh. Sorry. I don't speak Lakota/Dakota/Nakota, but their tonals and cadence sound familiar to me. I think they might be Iroquoian, too. I would imagine basic grammar like that should be similar, but I don't know. Sorry...
  34. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Yes, thank you, A-Ni-Wo-Di. This was exactly what I meant.
  35. A-ni-wo-di New Member

    English and Cherokee
    Hello again. I'm not really a linguist, so I may have misinformed you re: your Lakota question. I worked briefly for the Bureau of Indian Affairs after college out in the Dakotas and Montana, mostly on Sioux reservations and helping organize education initiatives through pow-wows and other events. So, I got to hear a lot of those languages spoken. Some of the words sounded similar and I'll bet they could use our syllabary. Like, when they would say 'wow', it was just like what we would say for 'wow' or 'alright' (ho-wa or ha-wa, depending on emphasis) and they have an Oglala Band and we have an Ogala Band (though their dialect is strange to me); things like that. My undergraduate work is in foreign languages, so I get grammar a bit, but I did not study my own Cherokee grammar until I was older. For my family, it's just 'talking'. :)

    So, I did a little research, which I'm sure you've already looked at yourself, but the Iroquoian connection hypothesis has never been proven for Siouxan-Caddoan languages, I guess. To me, though, they sing the same way.


    A-ni-wo-di (Paint/Hawk Clan)
  36. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    Interesting that such language has that, but that's not a so weird feature, Indonesian, a more common language, has the same feature of 'inclusive/exclusive'.

    Ini buku kita = our book (yours and mine)
    Ini buku kami = our book (someone else's and mine)

    Languages with so few speakers are always very interesting. Cherokee looks very complicated from the little you described.
  37. A-ni-wo-di New Member

    English and Cherokee
    I didn't know about Indonesian. Interesting. Come to think of it, many Malay languages may do that. I know Tagalog and Visaya do. Very slippery languages; I've never been able to get my head around them beyond a few words and phrases.

    From talking to Yo-neg (whites) and Sv-k'-ta (uninformed Cherokee Citizens) alike, it seems that the ergative aspects of our language and object modes befuddle them the most. For instance, we use our grammar to make jokes and jibes quite often, such as:

    A-su-s-ti de-s-ki-ne-hv-si = Pass me the gravy

    A-su-s-ti de-s-kv-si also = Pass me the gravy, however, since the solid/lump mode is used, the phrase is meant to jibe/insult the cook in a humorous way.

    Another possible 'pass me' foible lies in something that is alive or could be food. If I use a non-living conjugation for a baby, for instance, it sounds a bit alarming or if I mistakenly ask for a 'living' turkey on Thanksgiving, it would be funny. A turkey can be living (de-s-ki-ka-si), dead/flexible (de-s-gi-nv-si), or as food (de-s-kv-si). So, things get confusing for everybody until the novice gets it right!

    Most non-native speakers would just use a non-ergative verb (i.e. "I want") for this, but it's not as polite sounding.

    Nice talking to you!
  38. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    Mandarin has indeed a very simple grammar, but such simplicity comes with problems and complications for people whose mother tongues are rather complicated. Chinese gets rid of many connectors that are used in most languages, such as 'and' to connect clauses, or some others like 'which', 'whose', etc. The great and alluring thing about having hanzi as the writing system is the great creativity you can achieve by playing with the meanings of the hanzi, a special effect can be achieved if played well, something that other languages couldn't do. For that I love hanzi and kanji! Great writing system!

    我需要学习汉语,因为它很真牛,但是我最喜欢的是粤语. :D

    My Goodness! So many things to take into account, if you are a native speaker of that language, do you happen to know a non-native who learnt it very well? Ergative languages are always complicated overall, like Georgian and Greenlandic.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2012
  39. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    If you love it, you could learn any language I guess, you may just a have to live in the community for at least 20 years. :)
  40. A-ni-wo-di New Member

    English and Cherokee
    I'm a native speaker and there are only about 20k of us from the hills of NE Oklahoma where we speak the Otali (Overhill) dialect mostly (I found a native speaker out east, but we had a LOT of trouble understanding each other). There are a few non-native speakers in the area who can speak it well enough and one of my ancestors was a missionary (Ka-ni-wi-s-gi they called him) and said to be fluent, but I don't know anyone personally who has learned my language later in life and can speak nearly as well as a native. My dad is white and speaks it very well, but he grew up in the area and learned Cherokee alongside English early on. There are more and more trying to learn and most can make themselves understood, but to me, they never fully get the nuances of the language. For example, we have six tonals which have grammatical impacts that non-native speakers rarely get right, even if they are perfect with the mechanical parts of the grammar. So, for descriptives or when a noun is made into a verb where agentive (quality of the actor), some modals (ability, some subjunctives, etc.), subordinating one section of the discussion to another, or evidentiary are expressed, the non-native misses entire swathes of conversation and depth of meaning, because they just don't hear the changes in pitch.

    This is actually doing something strange to our language and not altogether bad. It's causing it to evolve, I think. There are now far more non-native speakers than native and they have a strong tendency to simplify some of those aspects of our language which do not fit well with English. In Tahlequah, Ok (the Seat of our Nation), the local university has immersion programs that I've heard are very popular and churn out many passable communicators every year. The students are eager and dedicated, and although I can understand the very few I've talked to, they still miss a lot. Humor, especially, but poetry and storytelling loses a lot for them, too. I think all that is an unfortunate necessity if we want our language to survive. When my generation passes, there may be a new 'modern' Cherokee standing in place of the one we take with us. Of course, there is an experimental primary school in Oklahoma called the Sequoya School which teaches all courses from pre-K through 6th grade in Cherokee. Last year the school graduated its first 6th grade class and though I've never spoken with any of those kids, I've read local news reports that they all know the language as well as any native speaker! Perhaps these children will become keepers of the old stories, lore, and ancient language as the rest of our Nation express themselves using their modern version. These are all good signs in my opinion. It would be a shame if our song fades away and I feel that much is being done to prevent that.
  41. olaszinho Senior Member

    Central Italian
  42. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Apparentemente non hai mai udito me parlare italiano. :)))
    La pronuncia russa è difficilissima., in vita mia ho incontrato solo pochissime persone straniere capaci di parlare russo senza un accento marcatissimo.
  43. rayloom

    rayloom Senior Member

    Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
    Arabic (Hijazi Arabic)
    I think Arabic grammar is easier than many seem to believe.

    It's very systematic . Not a lot of exceptions.
    You have:
    -3 cases (foreign names and certain forms are diptotes).
    -3 states, definite, construct and indefinite. The definite article is always al-, and never changes regardless of the case, gender or number of the following noun.
    -2 verbal aspects. And around 12 tenses expressed using the auxillary verb "to be" (or particles) + verbal aspect.
    -10 basic verb forms (with the G-stem having 3 ablaut forms depending whether the verb is stative or dynamic), and a verbal conjugation for the 2 aspects which agrees with the subject in number (singular, dual, plural) and gender (2 genders).
    -5 verbal moods, 2 of which you might never need as a beginner in Arabic.
    -3 numbers (singular, dual, plural)
    -Word order VSO, but is quite flexible, and the object pronoun always follows the verb.

    Vous y voilà, halfway through Arabic grammar :D
  44. sollilja90 New Member

    I am surprised that no one threw out an honorable mention for Icelandic. I am a native English speaker, and Icelandic is considered to be a closely related language (though far more archaic than modern English) and I find learning Icelandic to be quite a challenge. It's grammar is quite complex, and I have heard that it is comparable to Latin in terms of grammar difficulty. Another language I was surprised not to see mentioned was Kalaallisut or Greenlandic, I know this thread is a bit out of date, but I just felt the need to represent these two ancient, unique and beautifully complex languages, :)
  45. 涼宮

    涼宮 Senior Member

    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    YES! Greenlandic is another bastard hard to tackle just as Georgian is. But usually Indigenous languages tend to be hard. Although it isn't about grammar ǃXóõ must be the hardest lang to pronounce or one of the hardest, just check out the crazy amount of sounds and clicks it has, plus it's tonal.

  46. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Perhaps because not many people around know Icelandic (and I'd like to know how much more difficult it is than German, which also has conserved nominal inflection) and the myth abouth the X terms for snow is almost the only item of information commonly know about Kalaallisut?
  47. His Grace New Member

    English--United States, Kannada--India
    I am surprised that no one mentioned Sanskrit. Sanskrit has absolutely THE most complicated grammar in the world. Languages like Finnish and Hungarian outweigh Sanskrit in number of cases, but Sanskrit has three grammatical numbers (singular, dual, and plural), eight cases, extremely complex sandhi rules (which many consider to be the hardest part of the language), and literally over a thousand verb forms for every single verb.
  48. ancalimon Senior Member

    How do people speak this language? It would take more time to think and form your sentences than to actually say them :)
  49. leolucas1980 Member

    Brazilian Portuguese
    In my opinion, not having prepositions, gender or articles would make a language easier, not harder.
  50. gynari New Member

    The prepositions are included in the substantive as grammatical cases. There are lot of different possessive suffixes which depend on the word.
    G.e. here is a page which contains 2253 different and totally legit and everyday-usable forms of the word "shop" (kauppa in Finnish):
    www . ling.helsinki . fi/~fkarlsso/genkau2 . html

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