Blame it on future tense

Language>> Health• US

Published: Monday 30 April 2012

A US study suggests that the language one speaks affects one’s attitude towards healthy habits, comprising everything from diet to how much money one saves for retirement. M Keith Chen, associate professor of economics at Yale University, claims that languages whose grammar contains no explicit future tense—Mandarin, Japanese, German and Estonian—are spoken by those who, statistically, are healthier and wealthier.

Germany, where people can forecast weather without using a clear future tense by saying “morgen regnet es” or “it rains tomorrow”, is one of EU’s strongest economies, while people speaking English, Czech, Russian and Persian—languages with a strong future tense—fare poorly on health and fiscal issues. The study has sparked a sensation within the linguistic community. Julie Sedivy, who teaches linguistics and psychology at University of Calgary in Canada, says connecting language to behaviour is preposterous.

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