THE LANGUAGE WEIRDNESS INDEX. I found out about the Language Weirdness Index from the Lauren Collins article. She notes that English comes in 33rd in the Index with German, for example, coming in 99th. The least weird language is Hindi. The Index was constructed by Tyler Schnoebelen. This article by Asya Peretsvaig on the Languages of the World website explores the methodology and some conclusions of the Index. The approach adopted in the Index is not to determine weirdness in terms of deviations from English but rather to make “a multilateral comparison of numerous languages to each other.”

Schnoebelen used data from the World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS), which evaluates 2,676 languages in terms of 192 different linguistic features. “These features include word order, types of sounds, ways of doing negation, and a lot of other things” Schnoebelen says and gives the example that: “English word order is subject-verb-object—there are 1,377 languages that are coded for word order in WALS and 35.5% of them have SVO word order. Meanwhile only 8.7% of languages start with a verb—like Welsh, Hawaiian and Majang—so cross-linguistically, starting with a verb is unusual.”

To some one like me who assumes that subject-verb-object is the “natural way” to think, the statistic that less than 40% of languages do it that way was surprising. As is, the notion that there are at least 192 different linguistic features.

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