Does language change the way we play games?

A friend posted a link to a list of 20 words that were not directly translatable into the English language. Most of the words appear to come from, a website that focuses on linguistics and understanding. A few highlights include:


  • Ilunga: Tshiluba (Southwest Congo) – A word famous for its untranslatability, most professional translators pinpoint it as the stature of a person “who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense.”
  • Tingo: Pascuense (Easter Island) – Hopefully this isn’t a word you’d need often: “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.”


While the initial posts were relatively old, my digging came across a much more interesting column from a year ago that surveys the literature on the word "fair" and if it is translatable into non-English languages.  This has some obvious, potential impliciations for game theoretic treatments such as the ultimatum game.

About Michael A. Allen

Michael is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Boise State University with a focus in International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Methodology (quantitative and formal). His work includes issues related to military basing abroad, asymmetric relations, cooperation, and conflict. He received his Ph.D from Binghamton University in 2011.

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