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What are the most regular & irregular languages?

( my posts feel incomplete without a drawing so here it is )

I've heard people say that Finnish and Russian both contain very few exceptions and are overall quite regular. While English and to a smaller extent French, are quite infamous for their irregularities. Most notably for how un-phonetic their spelling is.

In my personal experience, I've found Faroese to be quite irregular, which is unfortunate considering that Faroese learning material is scarce. Faroese is un-phonetic ( or maybe there are some complicated pronunciation rules that I've yet to hear of ) , forming plurals is difficult, and like German, has three grammatical genders.

What are your thoughts?

August 12, 2017



Russian verbs are very regular (there are only 4 un-prefixed irregular verbs), but what passes for a regular verb in Russian...

And there are plenty of irregular declensions.

I've read that agglutinative languages tend to be quite regular in general.


"but what passes for a regular verb in Russian..."

bwahahahaha, yes, this. The spelling is pretty user friendly, though.

I would say an awful lot of English verbs are very regular, especially in the present tense, BUT the ones we use the most are the least regular. (I read, you read, he reads, etc, but I have, she has, I am, you are, he is, etc.) The basic pattern is really basic, but when we go irregular, we really go for it! And our spelling is just a gigantic mess.


It's often the case that the most common verbs in a language are irregular. Constant use and verbal laziness way back in the mists of time warped what would have once been regular verbs into what we know now. :)


Suppletion is also a phenomen that seems to arise preponderantly for very common words.


Love the cartoon, by the way!


Saying a language is irregular usually refers to verb conjugations and noun declensions. The Germanic languages tend to have a large number of irregular verbs, around 200 for both English and German for example. German has a large number of nouns with irregular plural forms. Japanese has very few irregular verbs - two that are quite irregular, another with just one irregular form, and then a group of five or so that are conjugated in a similar fashion.


Swedish is very regular. So are Norwegian, Danish and Afrikaans. I don't think those languages have many exceptions with conjugation. In my experience Chinese, Swahili, Zulu and Japanese are also very regular. I've also read that Korean and Thai are regular in terms of conjugation but I know very little about them personally.

The Romance languages and the non-Scandinavian Germanic languages have quite a few irregularities. From the top of my head I can already think of several examples of irregular Spanish verbs (ir, ser, estar, ver, dar, hacer, decir).


"I don't think those languages have any exceptions with conjugation. "

I can think of about 75 irregular verbs in Swedish, but that's still considerably less than either English, Dutch or German.


And, for good measure, a few verbs that are used in both regular and irregular forms.


Oops, you're right about that. I thought I typed "many" there. Of course, Swedish "to be" is irregular. That's why it's very regular but not completely.


There was a discussion about the regularity of Finnish verbs recently and I think the result wa that we have one truly irregular verb and two with an irregular stem (both formed the same way so it's like a seventh pattern that is only used by two verbs). As for the nouns, well, there sure are a lot of rules for them if they are regular. Slovak has four declension patterns for each of its three genders. I'm not surprised if Finnish also has 12 but without the help of a gender system.


Georgian seems to be very irregular, especially in the verbs.


Old post, but I can't believe no one pointed out that it's знать and not *знаеть.


Yeah.. English is so irregular! Especially, if it comes to pronunciation and spelling. I don't know if there are specific rules for it but you have to listen a lot to get them. I don't like some words with 'g' cause at first I never know when I should pronounce it like 'j' and when normally (like word 'guess'). Other languages I am learning have exceptions but it's clear and not about speaking.


I think part of the problem is that the rules for how to write different words and quite old (I'm sure someone can correct me, but I think the way words are spelled has not changed since the 15th Century or so). So even if it was logical back then the way people speak changes continuously, so the way people write and the way people speak will become increasingly different. I remember reading about some English professors that suggested a spelling reform. However, since English is spoken in so many different ways that would be hard as well.


Interesting. I remember watching a video explaining how English spelling once made sense, and how there was a time when the vowels in both blood and moon where pronounced the exact same way. But then spoken English slowly evolved while written English stayed behind. Thus, creating the un-phonetic mess of a writing system we have nowadays. I wish I remembered the title of the video so I could link it here.


I've heard that Turkish only has around a dozen irregular verbs, and Swahili only has one


What about Modern Hebrew. Is there a list of irregular verbs such as I have found with German? How does it relate to other languages in terms of irregular verbs.

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