Last year Keith Chen, an economist at Yale, published a paper with a fascinating hypothesis.
There has been a lot theorized and written about how language affects how we think and how different languages might shape the very thought patterns of their speakers in different ways. But Chen’s research suggests that the structure of a person’s language affects them in very concrete and measurable ways going so far as to affect their health and spending habits.
Chen’s key finding was that speakers of so-called “futured” languages, like English – that is to say languages with a distinct future tense – saved significantly less than speakers of “futureless” languages like Finnish (which has no future tense). According to Chen the futureless language speakers saw the future “as equally important” because the underlying structure of their language made no distinction between future and present; meaning that tomorrow was considered as important as today and leading to an increased emphasis on saving for the future.
These findings held true in different countries and after controlling for socio-economic factors and held true on a macro scale as well, with “futureless” language countries saving an average of 6% more of their GDP annually.