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On Mon, Jan 21, 2013 at 5:29 AM, Mathieu Roy <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> Christophe: << easy to learn" for languages boils down to one thing, and
> one
> thing only: *familiarity*>>
> I have read "Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard"
> (http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html) and I agree with this
> essay.
> My hypothesis is that it would be easier for Chineses to learn a language
> with an alphabet than another one with different symbols for each concept.
> Is their Chineses on the list that can approve or disapprove this? Anyway,
> I
> agree that familiarity has a lot to do with the easiness of learning, but I
> don't think it's the absolute only thing. Moreover, in creating a spoken
> language from a signing language, the phonology will have to be created
> based on no previous languages, so the concept of familiarity does apply
> for
> that, but I don't think that means that all possible phonology these people
> can chose will be equally learnable.
>

It would probably be easier to learn *to read* Chinese if it used an
alphabetic script, but that doesn't affect how easy or hard it is to learn
to speak.  Reading and writing are different skill from speaking and
listening.

I do see your point, however, on how switching modalities would cause some
problems in learning a new language.  Would these hypothetical ASL-only
humans have difficulty with a spoken language?  I don't know.  To some
extent, I think it may be a moot point -- hearing humans who only speak a
sign language is highly unlikely.  In fact, considering that I have only
heard of sign languages arising where there are significant numbers of Deaf
individuals, it may well be that humans default to using spoken languages
when possible, probably because of the inherent advantages of auditory
communication (you don't have to be facing the speaker, for example -- and
it can be understood over longer distances).