halong bay tour
0 votes
in Education by
recategorized by
Does Vietnamese language have the highest information density per syllable in the world?

4 Answers

0 votes

You, as a Vietnamese speaker, may have noticed that your language is really great at expressing certain things. However, every language is efficient at expressing things that matter in the culture of its speakers but less efficient at what they care less about. Is it possible that the examples that started this thought were things that Vietnamese culture cares more about than the culture of the other language you compared it to? Such as specific kinship terms, or encoding the relationship of the speakers, or similar?

To answer the actual question, all languages are used and refined by the same species with the same mental strengths and limitations, so I doubt any of them would have significantly different information density than the rest.

0 votes

Interesting question, and thanks for the A2A. There was a paper published by the University of Lyon that says yes.

Across-Language Perspective on Speech Information Rate

You can read the paper to see how they define ‘informational density’ per syllable (ID) but they use Vietnamese as a reference 1 (meaning it has the highest among the languages they surveyed). Note ID is different from ‘information rate’ which refers to the amount of information transmitted per second.


In fact they found that Mandarin Chinese comes closest ( ID = 0.94\pm 0.04 ) to Vietnamese. This could be due to the similarities between Chinese and Vietnamese, both having a large inventory of monosyllabic and disyllabic words whereas other languages (English, Japanese, etc.) have words with more syllables.

Both Chinese and Vietnamese are also very analytic, which means they don’t really add extra morphemes to words to inflect meaning (cf. agglutination in Japanese or conjugation in Spanish).



Another reason Vietnamese and Chinese can compress meaning into fewer syllables could be that they are both tonal, so a given syllable can be pronounced multiple ways to convey different meanings.

Depending on dialect Vietnamese has 5–6 tones, which is just a bit more than Mandarin’s 4 tones, but around the same as Cantonese, so this could also account for the slight difference between Mandarin and Vietnamese. Also, Vietnamese has more possible phonemic syllables (and thus fewer homonyms) than Chinese, which could also help with the data compression.

But these are among widely spoken languages. There are some artificial languages such as Ithkuil that try to compress information per syllable even further.

0 votes

You can compare translations across specific words and phrases. And the language which has an exact word for the concept, will have fewer syllables for that concept. That is a practical way to look at information density for each syllable, comprised within a word. You can also look at how a word is constructed in the phonological sense, aside from meaning or usage in a sentence. This will clue you into how much is required to form a word, an implicit concept, and how the language creates new words. If you are comparing syllables between a language with frequent monosyllable or disyllable, you can look at how an equivalent word for the concept is expressed in a language with multisyllable. Further, you can look at the concept of a syllable itself, and see how the language makes syllables in each word, what constitutes that syllable.

0 votes

It's correct.

1. Language develops in two directions:

1.1. Add new syllables to existing syllable to create a new word.

1.2. Keep the same syllable but add tones to create a new word.

2. Information density is the ratio between the meaning of a sentence (1) and the number of syllables in that sentence (n): d = 1 / n

Thus, the information density of monosyllabic languages will be higher than multi-syllable languages.

3. The total number of different syllables in monophonic languages

3.1 Vietnamese: s ~ 20.000 ( The number of possible syllables in Vietnamese language )

3.2 Thai: s ~ 10.000

3.3 Chinese: s ~ 2.000


The higher the s, the lower the n. The lower the n, the higher the d. That means that Vietnamese has the highest information density, followed by Thai, then Chinese.

These are purely mathematical studies. If the information density is low, people will speak faster. The human brain is miracle.

+++There is a monosyllabic language of an Asian minority: Hmong. I was impressed, extremely impressed with their complex consonant system. Unfortunately, there is not much research on the language of this ethnic group. But I think the information density in their language will also be very high.

You are using Adblock

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.

I turned off Adblock