The Economist, “Babelicious”

January 26, 2010

Bigger languages are also simpler ones

“WHY do some languages drip with verb endings, declensions that show how a noun is used, and other grammatical bits and pieces, while others rely on word order and context? The former category tends to include languages spoken by small groups in isolated settings like the Amazon or New Guinea. The latter include such languages as English and Mandarin.

This fact has made scholars wonder if languages simplify as they spread. Researchers have wondered if second-language learning of such conquering languages as English have led them to shed grammatical baggage