[lg policy] What Is the Most Complex Language in the World?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 3 17:44:22 UTC 2010

What Is the Most Complex Language in the

 *The Economist* has an article about how languages can be said to be,
comparatively speaking, more or less complex. The grand prize for most
complex language goes to one in the Amazon:

*With all that in mind, which is the hardest language? On balance The
Economist would go for Tuyuca, of the eastern Amazon. It has a sound system
with simple consonants and a few nasal vowels, so is not as hard to speak as
Ubykh or !Xóõ. Like Turkish, it is heavily agglutinating, so that one word,
hóabãsiriga means “I do not know how to write.” Like Kwaio, it has two words
for “we”, inclusive and exclusive. The noun classes (genders) in Tuyuca’s
language family (including close relatives) have been estimated at between
50 and 140. Some are rare, such as “bark that does not cling closely to a
tree”, which can be extended to things such as baggy trousers, or wet
plywood that has begun to peel apart.

Most fascinating is a feature that would make any journalist tremble. Tuyuca
requires verb-endings on statements to show how the speaker knows something.
Diga ape-wi means that “the boy played soccer (I know because I saw him)”,
while diga ape-hiyi means “the boy played soccer (I assume)”. English can
provide such information, but for Tuyuca that is an obligatory ending on the
verb. Evidential languages force speakers to think hard about how they
learned what they say they know.


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to its
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner or
sponsor of the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman,

For more information about the lgpolicy-list, go to
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lgpolicy-list/attachments/20100103/b1f344e9/attachment.html>
-------------- next part --------------
This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list