Keith Chen

Professor of Economics, Yale University School of Management
New Haven, CT, United States

About Keith

Languages

English

TED Conference

TEDGlobal 2012

Areas of Expertise

Behavioral Economics

Comments & conversations

164732
Keith Chen
Posted over 1 year ago
Keith Chen: Could your language affect your ability to save money?
A number of thoughtful posts have asked why languages like Swedish, Norwegian, and German are considered “futureless”, when they have words to express future time very similar to the English “will” or “going to”. Swedish has “ska / kommer att”, Norwegian has “vil / skal”, and German has “werde”, as many thoughtful posts point out. The key distinction is that “futureless” is not the same thing as “has no future tense” (perhaps an unfortunate choice of terms). Futureless languages are those that, in most situations, do not OBLIGE speakers to use these words, they are OPTIONAL. In all three of these languages, speakers get by much of the time without them. You can make this a precise statistical statement, which I describe on my blog post here: http://blog.ted.com/2013/02/19/saving-for-a-rainy-day-keith-chen-on-language-that-forecasts-weather-and-behavior/ But you shouldn’t take my word for it: see for yourself! Open your local newspaper and look at the weather forecast. In Swedish, you’ll find sentences like: “Norrbotten får fortsatt snöfall, men eljest så är det mest uppehåll.” In Norwegian, like: “Men vintervær i lavlandet slipper vi.” And in German like: “Zum Sonntag: Es donnert und blitzt, örtliche gehen Gewitter nieder.” For more details a paper I’ve written about the work is here: http://faculty.som.yale.edu/keithchen/papers/LanguageWorkingPaper.pdf I’d love your thoughts and comments, and thanks for taking the time to engage with the work.