Roughly 7,100 languages exist around the world. Which ones are the most complex or difficult to learn? It depends on your native language of course, but linguists generally agree these are three of the most complex languages on the planet:
Tuyuca, which is spoken in the Amazon region, appears universally on lists of difficult languages due to the high number of noun classes (over fifty) and verb suffixes. When you speak Tuyuca, you must add an ending to the verb depending on whether you know the information you’re stating because you’ve seen it with your own eyes or because you think it’s true based on second-hand knowledge. For example, the sentence, “The girl eats fruit,” has two ways of being communicated. If you’ve seen the girl eat fruit you would add a suffix to the word “eats” conveying that. However, if you haven’t witnessed it, but are assumimg she eats fruit, you would add a different suffix to the verb. These suffixes are mandatory, and the sentence doesn’t make sense without them.
Deep in the Caucasus mountains of southern Russia, Tsez is spoken by about 13,000 people. This language has the distinction of being one of the most complex for several reasons, but the one that stands out the most has to do with cases. A case can be thought of as a category a word belongs to that changes depending on its grammatical role. This isn’t very common in English, but an example would be how the first person “I” changes to “me” when it’s the object instead of the subject: I hit my sister becomes My sister hit me. In Tsez, speakers must learn sixty-four instances where nouns change according to the context. On top of this, Tsez, a primarily oral language, has some of the most difficult sounds to pronounce for non-native speakers.
If you’re a native or fluent English speaker, then you’re aware of how one must order words in a sentence. In English, the order goes subject-verb-object. For example, you would say, “The dog ate the bone.” Other languages order words differently, such as subject-object-verb, where the previous sentence would be said as, “The dog the bone ate.” However, Hungarian, along with a few other languages, has no definite word order. This means that whether the dog ate the bone, or the bone ate the dog isn’t immediately clear just from the way the sentence is set up. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean Hungarian word order lacks any rhyme or reason. In fact, the way you order a sentence allows you to emphasize certain facts, just the way we do in English with our tone. For instance, the sentence, “I thought she did it,” has a slightly different meaning than, “I thought she did it.”
By Kelli Drummer-Avendano
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