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Features English is missing – but most other languages have

English, you’re not normal. Compared to most languages, there are things
you’re just lacking. You’re a fine tongue, don’t get me wrong. But take an animated moment to consider some
of the main linguistic skills you’re missing, and what it might take to unlock them. Turns out there’s a lot that languages around
the world share but English doesn’t have access to. It has to make you wonder, what features are
you missing, which languages have them, and if you were English (like you were a whole
entire language) how could you achieve the same things? And can I talk about these without messing
up the pronunciation? Let’s go! First one – easy to spot, easy to hear and
super common: reduplication. Say sounds, say them again. Do this to change meaning: take Indonesian
saya, me, and turn me into saya-saya, oh poor me. Do it with only part of a word, Pangasinan
style: one amigo, many amimigo. Do it because Australia is chock full of reduplicated
place names. Do it for so many reasons! This happens seemingly everywhere outside
Europe. If you decide to join the reduplicating world,
just look to the English… -based creole in Ghana. Reduplicate light in “som lait-lait-lait-lait-lait-lait”,
and it is lights scattered all over the place. One language reduplicates its way into another
skill English doesn’t have. If you spoke it, it’d be easier for you to
solve the following puzzle. Here are three children. They’re proud of themselves today. Why? Let them tell you: “hi, uhm, did you know
we read three books”? Question: how many books total were read by
these children? Well, ask a Georgian. If the children said the number “sami”, it’s
three total. If they reduplicated “sam-sami”, it’s three
each. So, English, a proposal for you. Try adding onech, twoch, threech. You’re so polite to make that distinction. But wait, you’re English, you don’t have politeness. Which actually makes you like most of the
world, but very unlike most Europeans, who almost unanimously have an informal and a
formal way to address “you”. Du/Sie, tu/vous, εσύ/εσείς, and the
list goes on. Throughout India languages get even more polite. Malayalam has at least seven yous ranging from intimate to high honorific, and Marathi
even has one for when you meet a stranger and don’t know which you to use yet! If you want to add some politeness to your
English, don’t look far, get back in touch with your inner “thou”. Which, pro tip, was not the polite you! You know what else most languages have that
English doesn’t? Adjectives. That act like verbs. In Kenya the Luo have a word for “tall”, which
they can treat just like a verb. And they’re far from alone in this strategy. She happies, she doesn’t happy. It’d be so simple. Here’s a big tip you can take from the rest
of the world: better ways to ask questions. From the data we’ve got the single most common
question-asking strategy is to add a question particle, usually to the end or less the beginning
of your sentence. So in Majang, in Ethopia, you tack on an /ŋ/:
you went to work today-ŋ? Or why not put the particle near the exact
words you’re asking about, like -chu do in Kichwa: wasimanchu rinki, you going to the
HOUSE?, or wasiman rinkichu? you GOING to the house? Another way English can follow the global
norm is to stop forcing whos and whats to the front. Whom did you see? No, that’s awkward, so awkward. Just do it like Swahili. Instead try you saw who, wewe uiona nani. The who is enough to let you know it’s a question,
and the parallel word order between your Qs & your As is beautiful. See, better questions. It’s time to talk about China. In Mandarin, you can be someone or something
with shì, but you are somewhere with zài. This kind of split between being versus being-at
is very common, and it looks really normal outside of a broad Europe-y area. Languages that do this often take advantage
of verbs for temporariness or a change of state, so take a page from Irish history and
make that difference: You are a student, but you stand here. Talk about the weather in English, and you’ll
use a lot of its. It rained. It’s sunny. Who or what does this “it” refer to anyways? Well, maybe nothing. So why not drop it? In many languages, you do just that! If you studied Spanish or Italian, you know
about llueve or piove. No subject ever. So it’s your turn, English. Save yourself a syllable: snowed, rained. One of my favorites is instrumentals versus
comitatives. Tell me, English, how many withs do you have? Just the one, the one “with”. But how many could you have? In a normal language, the answer is two! I built it with friends; we built it with
hammers. In the Ainu language of Hokkaidō, there’s
a word “tura” for going-with, and a different “ani” for the, uh, using-with. Finnish makes the same difference but with
suffixes. If they can have two withs, why can’t you? Before I get to my number one thing you’re
missing out on as an English speaker, an honorable mention I appreciate in some languages I’ve
met. It doesn’t seem to be the most popular strategy
around the world, but in certain areas it absolutely is: clusivity. If we’re talking about us, we just have a
“we” to use. But languages in the Pacific like te reo Māori
distinguish tātou, a bunch of us including you, from mātou, me and some other people
but excluding you. They also complicate this by having duals
for two of us or plurals for three plus, so you’ll need to juggle tāua, māua, tātou
and mātou just to say “we”, and that’s not even the biggest Oceanic strategy. That’s right, Lihir, you know who you are,
keep doing your thing. One last one for you, English. C’mon, the longtime language nerds out there
saw this coming. Welcome to the world of evidentials. So many languages give you a way to encode
the evidence you have for what you’re saying. These can include markers for auditory evidence,
visual evidence, indirect inference, or quoted hearsay. In the Sherpa language, evidentials tell you
whether the person speaking witnessed the event they’re talking about. This is a stretch for English, but let’s get
crafty and try. The patio’s wet and you infer it rained. You were there when it was raining. And if you’re into this, there’s someone else
you should be listening to. Ok, look English, you’re unusual. Be happy being you. But if you’re feeling it why not try out some
of these awesome features you don’t have. Also, what about the opposite, the things
you do have but other languages don’t? Hmm, says he, maybe someone should animate
that… Thanks for watching. This was fun. I leaned a lot on WALS for maps and data. As usual, dig into my sources doc for more,
though recognize this one was about sparking interest and not proving points. With my patrons supporting me, I am hard at
work on a more epic history, too. Meanwhile, thanks for letting me get a bit
playful. Stick around and subscribe for language!

100 Replies to “Features English is missing – but most other languages have”

  • How does English's "weirdness" compare to other languages? Do most languages lack at least some features that are common across other languages, or is English actually special for being different from most others?

  • But what English has is loads of words. It's roots lay in Germanic, French, Latin, Greek and many more. Every adjective and verb has loads of synonyms, and that makes things like stories and poetry so amazing.

  • Dutch uses the word "zitten" for location in contrast to the copula "zijn", like "ik ben een meisje en ik zit in mijn huis" meaning "I am a girl and I'm in my house" but literally saying "I am a girl and I sit in my house"

  • I always thought the lack of the plural "you" is the most glaring linguistic omission English has. Unlike the lack of a you/thee distinction, the plural "you" actually causes communications difficulties, and unfortunately the solutions to it, including the most popular one (y'all) get derided as ungrammatical when they are solving an actual problem.

  • On one hand all these linguistic features might make English a cooler language, but on the other hand it might make English harder to learn, as more time would be put towards learning these features

  • Actually Lluve in Spanish is the 3rd person present conjugation. The endings already indicate the person, so no need to pronouns.
    As to English, the conjugations having almost disappeared, therefore, putting the pronoun is compulsory to properly know what/who makes what.

  • Mu current theory: Modern English was invented during the reigns of Elizabeth and James, by Shakespeare, who was probably someone else, or a composite of others. Francis Bacon and his 47 Freemason/Rosicrucian scholars wrote the English Bible in the newly invented English essentially to codify British statutory "law", with the Deep State agenda of programming the masses to submit to alleged authority (Romans 13). There are more layers to English, especially as written in the KJV, but you'd have to be a Freemason to have that info, though we can make certain assumptions based on the evidence, such as the Freemason Bible, being essentially the KJV with the Egyptian pantheon attached.

  • I can name one instance of Reduplication in English. The classic question you often end up getting asked in High School "Do you Like her? or do you Like-Like her?" Good Video, I would like to see one about the features English has that's unique or fairly unique to it.

  • Sometimes, I's really wish English would use the French word order for reflexive verbs:
    I am taking a bath = I me wash
    You got lost = You you're lost
    We paint each other = We we paint!

  • This actually reminds me of the way we do South African Sign Language; of course its not "spoken" but the gloss format is similar. Or we'd say "He going to shop. He who?" Kinda like that. Dont take my word, only first year student,

  • I'm so happy that English doesn't have "thou" and so one. It's so annoying to think about how to address someone. It's relaxing to use "you" regardless of the age or familirity of a person.

  • YES!! Inclusive/Exclusive-We! I've noticed the lack of it when I was studying my third language. English, Portuguese, Spanish, Polish, these are languages I know that lack this feature and I didn't know until now any language actually implemented this.

  • there's a common mockery in Latin languages which is to conjugate verbs that refer to forces of nature:
    Eu chovo – I rain
    Você chove – you rain
    Ele chove – he rains

  • Things English has but other languages don't:
    – Using "do" as a linking verb. If we want to negate a sentence, we have to use “do not”, if we want to ask a question, we have to use “do” … I think some Celtic languages do that too, but Arabic, French, Italian, German and Hindi definitely don't
    – I haven't learnt many languages, but it seems to me that the passive voice is very commonly used in English, while other languages seem to always find ways to avoid it.

  • Great video! We sometimes use reduplication in English—though not super commonly—for diminutives, speaking of features we don't explicitly have… haha

  • Is he talking about the तू, तुम्ही, आपण difference in Marathi while referring to the second person?

    तू is informal.
    तुम्ही is for parents and elderly
    आपण is for unknown age (reserved for extremely formal talks such as marriage or death )

    Woah, nice NativLang. I didn't know that it was such a rarity

  • It's funny cause in Portuguese we have the verbs "ser", that means "to be (permanent, continuous)" and "estar", that means "to be (state, momentary)".
    So, when I say "eu estou bêbado", I'm saying that I am drunk, in this moment. And when I say "eu sou bêbado", I'm saying something like "I am a drunk", saying that I am "crazy" all the time.
    I think that Spanish has this as well

  • Thank you a lot for talking more slowly 😘🙏❤️ I'm french and it's easier to understand like that and I took a lot more fun enjoying the video 😉😉

    Continue like that 😊😊

  • The only thing I've ever personally wished English had but it doesn't, is a non-gendered word to address a group. We've begun using "they" to talk about a single person in a neuter way, and I'm for that. But the ways to address a group directly (the "you" of a group) are either two or more words, or gendered, or both.

    you guys; ladies and gentlemen; etc

    "Folks" is almost an exception, but it tends to be used with another word, like "these folks," and it works better when pointing to a group, rather than addressing a group directly.

    That's why I'm fully in favor of using "y'all" as our de facto way to address a group. Sure, it sounds a little … hickish … a little quaint … but that connotation will fade over time with increased usage. So come on y'all, spread the word! 🤔😁

  • In louisiana french we say stuff like good good or fast fast to mean very good or very fast as other ways of saying très bien ou très vite. And replace beaucoup with très fairly regularly. Bien bon = beaucoup bon = très bon = bon bon (not the candy, inflection affects this). And these spilled over into English when we were forced to not speak french for decades.

  • Also in louisiana French we tend to use the form of speech you mentioned that uses the who and what at the ends quite often and just raise tone on the end

  • I live in Germany and go to an English drama group. First Thing we´ve learned there "For the slang English we use in the plays you can forget the gramer you´ve learned so far."

  • reduplication in English.
    (not specifically american english tho'.. so you be lost bruv'. lol)
    ''my my'' – [[oh wow'']]
    ''oh-oh'' [[ oops, fuck up! ]]
    ''no-no'' ''no no no'' [[most (certainly) not.]]
    yeah, yeah [[no it fucking isn't]]
    you never heard any of those?
    and variant polite terms for you 'ye'' ''youz'' ''y'all'' ''yourself'' you 'n' yours'' ''yer kin''
    ''thee'' ''thou'' ''your person'''.
    and the Who thing? lol
    ''you saw who?'' isn't English??? dude, you need to get out of USA and come to UK.
    i dunno what they're teaching' ye over there, but it's clearly deficient, come HEAR English rather than reading about it kid.
    and the ''we'' thing.. what do you think ''we'' ''us'' ''all us'' family'' ''tribe'' ''clan'' ''nation''' 'community'' ''creed'' ''culture'' and ''race'' are if not various terms for various sizes of groups of ''us''
    bro'.. you've not even begun to study english.

  • I love English exactly because it is "simple". For me, the most evoluted language Is the one that can express things with less words: if i say "each of us read 3 books", isn't It easier than learning different ways for every number like Georgian?, No to mention the exceptions that would come out. If i had a way to say "me and the others, without you" people would ask "you and who else?…" every time and i would be forced anyway to say who the others are. for me Is never about "laking a feature/way to express things", it's about a different way to express things, perfectly related to the history of the language. Every single time i think about the differences between italian and English, i say things like "wow in english you can't understand the gender of people in the songs lyrics so you can adress It to a boy or a girl, while in italian it is always obvious because we change past participles according to gender", "wow in english they dont have subjunctive Mood, while in italian we struggle with that", "wow in English you don't have to live under the shadow of latin, while in Italy Italian teachers continue underlining the "super" similarity with latin, dragging history all over the place, even where similarities have completly disappeared with the time"…. Well… This Is what I believe. Interesting video, It made me think.

  • A minor nitpick: In natural speech, I would understand someone saying "You saw WHO?" or generally placing the question word at the end of the phrase like that, especially if they were shocked or surprised or maybe if the information presented in the previous sentence was questionable; e.g. if I said I saw Michael Jackson at the grocery store, "You saw WHO at the grocery store?" would absolutely be an expected response from a native speaker.

    Otherwise, excellent video as usual!

  • Wow.. it reminds me of my late father's saying, who himself was a maestro polyglot: "O English, you are regularly irregular." .. And after watching your great video, I can enjoy his words more.. thanks for another smart work, NativeLang.
    Having said this all, I myself being language lover, humbly think that younger languages like English and Urdu, notwithstanding the logic of "missing some global features" which others have, still they are complete and all pragmatic … and these apparent linguistic anomalies; for that matter lacking and "irregularities" have actually proven to be catalyst of accelerated adaptations world-over, in matter of few centuries; a feature which other great languages miss.
    Regards from Asim at Axinstitute for Chinese Language, Karachi, Pakistan.

  • Reduplication: English does in fact have it, though it's not highly productive. We reduplicate words to indicate they're the real deal. "It's a salad salad (and not a pasta salad or something)" with that latter part often but not always going unsaid.
    Okay, that's pretty much it, we do have an extremely limited use of questioning particles, but they're not formal or productive, and they're usually in addition to other question words, but just think, how often do you end a question with hmm or mmh or huh, even if you don't need to.

  • I would love to see a video about the history of U, V, and W.  How come in some languages it's double-U and in others it's double-V?  Why was W developed in the first place?

  • I believe that if thou was reintroduced back into english it would be reinterpreted as a formal second person pronoun because of its associations to the bible and the informalization of you

  • I want a universally agreed upon gender-ambiguous pronoun, dag nabbit!! I wouldn't mind an imperfect past tense either. And while we're on it, I'd like a less ambiguous designator for past-tense habituals. Yesterday, I spent 5 minutes trying to parse a 2-sentence comment just because I couldn't spot that "[object] used to [verb]" was supposed to signify a habitual past-tense act, as opposed to meaning "[object] employed for the purpose of [verb]",

  • 8:20 Yep, now do the opposite. Talk about "skills" English requires or has that other languages don't, but do it earnestly, and with the same positive bent that you give other languages for their quirks or features in your videos. Anyone intimately familiar with a variety of English dialects knows how it's being used in ways unofficially similar to many of the things you mentioned here. But there are also taken for granted features like how we can technically choose between "Karen's dog", or "the dog of Karen," how we can add "ey/y" to almost any noun to make an impromptu adjective for added expression, or our extremely unique "r" pronunciation which should've been in the uncommon sounds video if it wasn't already and I just forgot.

  • I think Australian English is great for being informal as it can build community.
    Doesn't have to be, how are you today etc
    I'd rather my neighbour be casual than formal!

  • 4:50 oh he did it! Any Spaniard's worst fear. Turns out maybe Europe does end in the Pyrenees, cuz the very Iberian split ser/estar (Spanish and Portuguese), ésser/estar (Catalan) has just been kicked out of the broad Europy area! 😂😂😂

  • Something else English could really use: a rhetorical 'you', to differentiate between a specific person you're talking to and a hypothetical person you're talking about. I know French has one, and so do some Germanic-based auxlangs, so I'm guessing German does (or at least did at one point).

  • 5:34 spanish "llueve" literally translates exactly to "it rains", it's just a pro-drop language. not a good example there.

  • On the face of it, Majang's "…ng?" seems very similar to just saying "hm?" after a sentence (including phonetically… I feel that English really allows any nasal consonant here, not just /m/)… Basically you're just asking "Is what I just said right?" by doing this. So your example "You went to work today-ŋ?" should really be 100% intelligible to English speakers already, as much as just appending "right?". It's definitely not the standard way to do things, but you can do it this way.

    Additionally, we can just indicate use of an instrument by saying "using" instead, or "together with" to indicate cooperation. I'm not entirely sure how much there is to be gained from having two separate words, as you'll rarely be swinging people around like a hammer, or have an animate wrench hold something while you bolt it into place. Disambiguation only makes sense when there's actual ambiguity going on, and even despite that, we can still disambiguate these in English pretty easily should the need for that ever arise. I think it actually almost makes more sense to say that English has an additional way to say "by using or cooperating", rather than lacking a using vs. cooperating distinction.

    Note: I'm not a linguist, so I don't know whether what I'm saying is entirely right, but these things did stand out to me.

  • English has a bit of reduplication though; to like someone vs to like like. A friend or friend friend. (Can’t italicise) here

  • Newfoundland English has a few of these. We sometimes say "he turns" meaning "he's annoys [the person making the statement]. You typically don't hear "he turns me", but you DO hear it in Ireland, especially in Belfast. Weather verb? "Splitting" usually meaning very hot and sunny. Sometimes it's said as "splittin' rocks". Sometimes we do away with "the" in some action tenses like :He's home spewin'" [he's at home throwing up", or "dog's chewing bone" [and uses inflection as question or answer. Reduplication in english? Cray-Cray, go-go, bye bye, fair fair [lots of beauty].

  • Whaaaaat?! Thaaaaaanks! Just today, I went through WALS and I got so much trouble to understand the features for hours and you just explain them in a single videos!
    My God, just thank you very much! Tausend Dank! Огромное спасибо! Tusen takk! Велике дякую! とてもありがとうございます! बहुत धन्यवद!

  • People with stutters must really suffer with some of these languages.

    "Take what i said and minus 3 off it, and thats what i meant"

  • Japanese can specific animate and inanimate when saying existence with いる or ある and Spanish does it with permanency in the same instance with es and esta

  • I feel like this video is destined to become very popular, I tell you what. What a cool idea! Thanks for your videos, man.

  • Greetings from Russia
    It would be nice to see some examples from Russian
    As far as I know English does not have grammatical genders unlike many other languages, although they are kind of pointless 😀 On the other hand they are poetical

  • Hi NativLang. Because this is channel about langauge, I think it's relevant that the hyphen in the title should be a spaced en dash or an unspaced em dash :-).

  • Actually, in German there is some sort of duplication. We don't have a seperate word for girlfriend or boyfriend. Instead, when someone says: "Das ist mein Freund." (That's my friend.), we often ask: "Ist er dein Freund oder Freund-Freund?" (Is he your friend or friend-friend, meaning boyfriend.)

  • Finnish also has a question particle -ko. You can combine it with other particles to change the meaning even further. -kohan at the end of a word makes the sentence mean "I wonder if". It combines -ko with -han. Among other things, -han also can be used to Express of uncertainty.

  • If what I've read & heard is correct, "thou" is "you". "Thou" was written with the character called "thorn", which the German printing presses didn't have, but their "y" looked like it, so they used that where they could but "thy", also written with thorn, was a problem so they used the "th" for that. Though I'm not clear on how printed material led to a change in pronunciation or general use.

    Also I'm not sure that any European language originally had formal "you"s. German's "Sie" was invented when the Middle Class was arising, & there were older forms which were modifications of other pronouns. The Spanish "Usted" was borrowed from Arabic. I think Russia uses the plural "you" for formal occasions. I suppose a people has to come up with the idea that you should talk differently to people depending on how well you know them before inventing a formal "you", so perhaps no language originally had that feature.

  • Every single item you mentioned in the foreign languages, you were able to construct an English equivalent. As for having only one level for "YOU," you failed to realize that English is a very egalitarian language. One You, one class. Many Yous, many snobby racist classes. Having only one word for YOU puts everyone on an even footing. Some languages like Thai have measure words for people with skin color (khaak malayu). English is therefore the LEAST RACIST language around!

  • In Italian, informal is "Tu" and formal is "lei" (3rd singular feminine) or "voi" ( 2nd plural )
    In France informal is "Tu" and formal "vous" (2nd plural)
    And in your language(s)?😁

  • This isnt just about english, besides the formal& informal ~you~ (jij/je and U/Uw) this is about all germanic languages

  • i agree with the "clusivity" one. there's been a bunch of times where, for example, i tell my friend "we went to the zoo" then he says "no, I didn't go!" and then i have to clarify "i mean me and x, y, and z went to the zoo, not you" lmao

  • The 'it' in the clause 'It is raining' is called a dummy pronoun. In Spanish, the pronoun is often omitted as the conjugation of the verb provides the information. I learnt that this is called a small pro. However, I think Spanish and English belong to the same category, namely Subject-prominent language. In Japanese and Chinese however, they are literally topic-prominent language as they can express the clause 'It is raining' without a subject at all

  • I'm an Indonesian and sure, Indonesian language DO heavily features reduplication; but….

    what the fk is saya-saya…????

  • The verbification of adjectives is also present in Esperanto. Not sure what you think of constructed languages compared to organic ones, but there you go

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