Monday, January 02, 2006

Are the Slovenes the future?

A friend, who must have been bored over the break has just sent me this on linguistic brevity in the EU.

Most Succinct Language of the Brussels Club

Regarding the "contents"-pages of the Proceedings of the December 2005 plenary, I was most interested (which isn't saying much) by the differing lengths of the contents-entries, as given in the 20 languages used.

The entries are presumably equivalent, and yet the number of lines each occupies varies by more than 50%.

In the 25 nations of western and central Europe, dominated by the Brussels-network, 14 official languages are Indo-European, 4 are Finno-Ugric/Baltic, 1 is Arabic (Maltese) and 1 is Turkic (Magyar - referred to, in the said Proceedings, as "Hungarian") Ireland, Belgium, Cyprus, Austria and Luxemburg, of course, all mainly use languages spoken by larger nations.

Of the Indo-European languages, 5 are Germanic, 4 are Slavic, 4 are Latinic and 1 is Hellenic.

Counting the lines occupied by each entry, I found that the average length was 39.1 lines, with all the Slavic entries shorter than the average and all but one of the Latinic entries (Spanish) longer than the average. Indeed, the average Slavic entry was a bouyant 36 lines, and the average Latinic entry was a ponderous 41.

The reasonably snappy, Germanic average - 37.8 - was spoilt by German and Dutch, which boiled over into an obese 42 and 43 lines, respectively. Without German and Dutch, the rest of the Germanic group (English, Danish and Swedish) romp home with a very sleek 34.66.

Top of the league was Slovene, with a super-trim 32, and bottom was Greek with an appalling 49 - a full 53.13% longer than the streamlined winner. Italian was the next worst at 45 lines (140.63% of the most concise entry) Also performing poorly was French with a rambling 43.

Other, especially respectable performances came from English (33 lines) Danish (34) and Czech (35)

Clearly, those who dream of a single, European language will have to take account of the enormous savings in print-costs afforded by a tongue as pithy as Slovene, which can pip even its nearest rival (English) by a profitable 3.13%.

Dobrodoslica, Slovensk, future language of the Brussels administration!


As has been pointed out, not least by the first comment, there is an error in that most Magyars would consider their language to be in the Finno-Ugric family of languages.


Anonymous said...

Hungarian is finno-ugric

Anoneumouse said...

Ah but, yes, but no but, were they all singing the same hymn.

Aunty Marianne said...

I once shared a hymnsheet with that Romano Prodi. For the record, it was MY hymnsheet, and the hymn we were all singing was Adeste Fideles. In Flemish, not a language he was particularly known for handling well. So it's a little unfair to reveal that Mr Prodi can't sing. Not from anyone's hymnsheet. In any language.

Mr Kinnock, as he was back then, on the other hand, sight-read hard-ass barbershop when he sang with us in his beautiful Welsh baritone. But he was definitely singing from his own hymnsheet.

Anoneumouse said...

Daily Press Briefing

Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

(Paris, January 2, 2006)

[Please note that only the original French text issued by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs may be considered official.]


chris said...

This is related to the Rate of Language discovered by Claude Shannon back in the late 1940's, you can get more bits of information per character in English than many other languages.

Strange then how every regulation coming from Brussels ends up so much longer in Britian than everywhere else in the EU.