Tuesday, March 31, 2009

That's Greek To Me

(Click on image for a larger version)

This graph was inspired by a comment by a reader on the blog Language Log:
When an English speaker doesn't understand a word one says, it's "Greek to me". When a Hebrew speaker encounters this difficulty, it "sounds like Chinese".
I've been told the Korean equivalent is "sounds like Hebrew".
Has there been a study of this phrase phenomenon, relating different languages on some kind of Directed Graph?

The most interesting observation was made by commentator Rachel Fulton:
It's fascinating that when the Chinese find something unintelligible, they assume it is a product of Heaven while everyone else (according to the graph) assumes that it is another human language they can't understand.

I wonder why the author has forgotten to put an arrow from Hindi to Farsi...

I find this graph very interesting - I didn't know mutual incomprehension could be mapped...Also, I didn't know that for Arabs the proverbial unintelligible language is Hindi and for the French - Javanese...Where and when did the French hear and learn about the existence of Javanese?
(The data for the graph has been taken from Wikipedia and Omniglot)