All languages equally efficient at conveying meaning
London: There is no difference in the time it takes people from different countries to read and process different languages, new research has found.
The research, published in the journal Cognition, found that the same amount of time is needed for a person from, for example, China to read and understand a text in Mandarin as it takes a person from Britain to read and understand a text in English — assuming both are reading their native language.
“It has long been argued by some linguists that all languages have common or universal underlying principles, but it has been hard to find robust experimental evidence to support this claim,” said one of the researchers Simon Liversedge, professor at University of Southampton in Britain.
“Our study goes at least part way to addressing this — by showing there is universality in the way we process language during the act of reading. It suggests that no one form of written language is more efficient in conveying meaning than another,” Liversedge noted.
The study compared the way three groups of people in Britain, China and Finland read their own languages.
The 25 participants in each group — one group for each country — were given eight short texts to read which had been carefully translated into the three different languages.
The researchers used sophisticated eye-tracking equipment to assess the cognitive processes of the participants in each group as they read.
The results of the study showed significant and substantial differences between the three language groups in relation to the nature of eye movements of the readers and how long participants spent reading each individual word or phrase.
For example, the Finnish participants spent longer concentrating on some words compared to the English readers.
However, most importantly and despite these differences, the time it took for the readers of each language to read each complete sentence or paragraph was the same.