One of the faculties that differentiate human beings from the rest of living beings is language. Language is the greatest social technology developed by man , capable of reflecting in the mind the content of stories that we elaborate and tell. There is certainly no single universal idiom, but thanks to language we are able to communicate and share emotions, which leads us to think that there are more positive idioms than others. In fact, for a long time one of the themes that has created the most controversy concerns the effect that languages have on the configuration of our way of thinking.
The Pollyanna hypothesis
In 1969, Bocuhes and Osgood, psychologists from the University of Illinois, put forward the hypothesis that there is a trend towards positivity in human communication. They then began to study how people from different cultures used the language, coming to the conclusion that, regardless of culture, people tend to use more positive than negative words. This study was baptized as “Pollyanna Hypothesis”, but over the years has been questioned because of the volume (too small and too homogeneous, ndt ) of persons under investigation.
How was the happiest idiom in the world determined?
Five decades later, a study carried out by a team of scientists from the United States and Australia has been able to confirm this hypothesis: the idioms are innately positive, work that has been published in the journal PNAS.
For the research, more than 10 representative languages of different cultures around the planet were analyzed, based on 24 corpus consisting of the 10,000 most used words. Scientists used the University of Vermont’s “Laboratory of Computational History” to examine an impressive amount of words extracted from Google Books, media, Twitter, web pages, television and cinema subtitles and from song lyrics. Computers used algorithms to identify the 10,000 most used words, which were later evaluated by the natives of each language.
Among the languages analyzed are English, Spanish, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Indonesian and Arabic. The aim was to demonstrate the innate positive character of idioms and verify the frequency of the positive and negative words used in different languages.
A group of natives were therefore asked to classify words on a scale, from the most negative and sad to the most positive and happy, obtaining an average of 50 classifications per word. Despite the habitual tendency of the interviewees to give high scores, a rather significant sample of five million evaluations was obtained.
Through these data it was possible to create a distribution of the representation of happiness for each language : it was a question of assessing which feelings were generated by different terms, and it was seen that words that have the same meaning in two different languages can have positive connotations in one and negative in the other.
In order for all those who wish to access the database and test the degree of happiness or sadness of the words, the team of researchers has made all the information available to the public on the University of Vermont website.
The analysis of these words highlights how languages represent a profound expression of human sociability. Words have a universal tendency towards positivity regardless of the frequency of use of the various terms.
On the basis of all this, a ranking of the happiest languages has been created . And guess who’s in the lead? The Spanish. In fact, in all the consulted sources it has been shown that in this language happy words excel over sad ones . Then follow English and Portuguese. On the opposite side are Korean, Russian and Mandarin Chinese, the latter proving to be the language that generates less happiness.
In any case, beyond the competition between the languages, the results reveal that the emotional value of the words is very similar in all idioms and that in all the analyzed languages the happy words are used more than the sad ones. For example, if we compare the scores of the words in English and Spanish we notice that in both languages the word with the worst evaluation is “death” while the one with the best evaluation is “love”.
Furthermore, through this method, scientists have developed a hedonimeter , a system that can determine the degree of happiness that a written text contains. The next step is to apply this method to other languages and to different population groups.
Despite the results obtained from the study by the University of Vermont, there are certainly many outstanding doubts. It is very nice to know that Spanish is considered the happiest language in the world but we would also like to know why. However, it will be necessary to wait until they continue to analyze other aspects to answer this and other questions relating to the remaining languages.
On the other hand, there are further researches that affirm that those who speak Spanish are more affectionate : through twitter it has been found that countries such as Argentina and the Dominican Republic are among the top ten countries that boast more posts with the expression “I love you ”, Which makes Spanish one of the languages of the world that expresses most affection .
Finally, a study carried out by the messaging company Viber asserts that the Spanish-speaking users who use this messaging service are those who send the most positive messages of love, with cheerful icons and jovial contents. Curiously, however, the Chinese appear on the opposite side.