Method and Conclusion. See here.
Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.
Ratings: Languages are rated 1-6, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = extremely difficult, 6 = most difficult of all. Ratings are impressionistic.
Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer. Level 6 languages = more than 4 years.
This post will look at the Sakao language in terms of how difficult it would be for an English speaker to learn it.
Sakao is a very strange langauge spoken by 4,000 people in Vanuatu. It is a polysynthetic Austronesian language, which is very weird. It allows extreme consonant clusters. Sakao has an incredible seven degrees of deixis. The language has an amazing four persons: singular, dual, paucal and plural. The neighboring language Tomoko has singular, dual, trial and plural. The trial form is very odd. Sakao’s paucal derived from Tomato’s trial:
“they, from three to ten”
“the five of them” (Literally, “they three, five”)
All nouns are always in the singular except for kinship forms and demonstratives, which only display the plural:
ðjœɣ – “my mother/aunt” -> rðjœɣ – “my aunts”
walðyɣ – “my child” -> raalðyɣ – “my children”
It has a number of nouns that are said to be “inalienably possessed”, that is, whenever they occur, they must be possessed by some possessor. These often take highly irregular inflections:
œsɨŋœ-ɣ "my mouth"
œsɨŋœ-m "thy mouth"
ɔsɨŋɔ-n "his/her/its mouth"
œsœŋ-... "...'s mouth"
uly-ɣ "my hair"
uly-m "thy hair"
ulœ-n "his/her/its hair"
nøl-... "...'s hair"
Here, “mouth” is either œsɨŋœ-, ɔsɨŋɔ- or œsœŋ-, and “hair” is either uly-, ulœ- or nøl-
Sakao, strangely enough, may not even have syllables in the way that we normally think of them. If it does have syllables at all, they would appear to be at least a vowel optionally surrounded by any number of consonants.
“Having sung and stopped singing, thou kept silent.”
Sakao has a suffix -in that makes an intransitive verb transitive and makes a transitive verb ditransitive. Ditransitive verbs can take two arguments – a direct object and an instrumental.
Mɨjilɨn amas ara./Mɨjilɨn ara amas.
“He kills the pig with the club”/”He kills with the club the pig.”
Sakao polysynthesis allows compound verbs, each one having its own instrument or object:
Mɔssɔnɛshɔβrɨn aða ɛðɛ.
“He-shooting-fish-kept-on-walking with-a-bow the-sea.”
“He walked along the sea shooting the fish with a bow.”
Sakao gets a 5 rating, extremely hard to learn.