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Here’s to the optimists. A study has revealed that language has naturally evolved through history to be more positive than negative. This started as the “Pollyanna Hypothesis” in 1969 when two researchers from the University of Illinois proposed that the human language is naturally skewed towards positivity and happiness. It generated a lot of debate and resulted in research for years for definitive proof.
So Researchers from the United States, University of Vermont (UoV) and not-for-profit research and development organisation, the MITRE Corporation have compiled information from sources such as the internet, everyday life and professional life. They scanned words from 10 different languages, 24 different types of texts such as textbooks, news outlets, social media, television, movie subtitles, lyrics etc. Chris Danforth (mathematician from UoV) stated that just 100 billion words were collected from tweets.
A list of 10,000 most frequently used words in each language (English, Spanish, French, German, Brazilian Portuguese, Korean, Chinese (simplified), Russian, Indonesian and Arabic) were chosen. Fifty native speakers were hired to rate each word on a nine point scale from a frowny face at 1 to a broadly smiling face at 10.
Five million individual scores of the words were collected and averaged out to give each word a score, e.g. laughter was an 8.5 and terrorist was a 1.3. Then, Google was used to see how many times each word is used globally and Spanish came out to be the happiest language. But every source of words got an average score above the neutral 5 score. This proved the Pollyanna Hypothesis.
This research is part of a larger project to rate words on their happiness online called the hedonometer. It only recognizes English at the moment but will be modified to handle other languages too.
One other conclusion that comes out of this experiment is that some languages may make you happier than others.