Language conveys mostly positive feelings, a new analysis reveals. Researchers also studied languages around the world, in order to determine which are the most positive.
The Pollyanna Hypothesis, first postulated in 1969, put forth the idea that human beings tend to use positive words more often than unhappy ones. This theory caused a great deal of controversy among researchers and the public alike. This new study reinforces that decades-old idea, and also shows which languages are the most positive.
University of Vermont researchers identified the 100,000 most common words in ten different languages. Investigators used a wide variety of sources to collect their data, including movie subtitles, posts on Twitter, novels, and more. Subjects quizzed were then asked to rate each word on how "happy" it is, on a scale from one to nine. Over five million answers were collected as part of the research.
One of the top-rated words in the English language was found to be "laughter," which averaged a ranking of 8.5, while the word "food" ranked at 7.44. At the other end of the scale, "terrorist" received a score of 1.3, and "greed" came in at 3.06. The word "the," which researchers believed would be designated at a neutral ranking of five, did almost exactly that, receiving an average rating of 4.98.
"[I]n every source we looked at, people use more positive than negative ones [so] it seems that positive social interaction" is inherent in all languages, Dodds said.
The Chinese language was ranked as the tenth happiest language in the world, and another Asian tongue, Korean, came in ninth in the study.
Eighth in the survey was Arabic, and Russian made it up to number seven on the list. The Indonesian language was found to be the sixth-happiest in the world.
French came in at number five on the list of the world's happiest languages, although a reduction in happiness was noted in the three days following the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks. German was found to be in fourth place in the happiness study.
Showing in third place is the English language, and that finding was further broken down by state. The happiest state in America, according to the research, is Vermont, while residents of Louisiana are least happy. Researchers found the happiest city in the United States is Boulder, Colorado, while Racine, Wisconsin, comes in last place.
Portuguese, the most popular language in Brazil, as well as Portugal, came in second place in the study.
Spanish was found to be the happiest language of those examined.
Study of happiness in languages was detailed in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.