2012-02-01

Can we measure the complexly of natural language by an entropy based compression method? (2)


Gruenkohl Party

At January 20th, 2012, We had a Gruekohl party at Daniel's place. The gathered people were from Holland, Germany, US, Canada, and Japan. At a such international party, we often talk about own languages and compare their properties.

For example, one told us how the Chinese pronunciation system is complex and almost impossible to learn that according to his Chinese course experience. German's Noun gender and article system is also a popular topic.

A friend pointed me out, Japanese has special counting system.  When we count objects, how to count depends on what you count.  For example, how to count person and how to count paper are different, yet I explain we always uses units like English saying, two piece of papers and three pairs of jeans. Japanese has this counting system all the time.

I usually heard many languages are so difficult to learn. However, I suspect it may be not complex as it sounds. People tend to pick the most difficult aspect of a language. But it is not always complex as sounds. For example, Japanese uses 3000 characters, but, most of these characters are combination of around 100 basic characters. Many people succeeded to learn Japanese, Chinese, German, and so on.

By the way, my favorite example of Chinese characters is the combination of ``person + tree''. What does ``person + tree'' means? A lumberjack is the most popular answer from my friends, but, I never heard the correct answer so far. I will put the answer in the appendix of this article.

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