Re: "English has the most words of any language"
- On Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 12:42 AM, Douglas Koller
> > Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2013 22:21:07 -0400stevo
> > From: danny.c.bowman@...
> > Subject: "English has the most words of any language"
> > To: CONLANG@...
> > I was talking to someone today, and he stated that English has the most
> words of any language. I'm pretty suspicious when I hear such claims, and
> he did not have direct evidence to back up his assertion. However, he is
> one of the smartest and most knowledgeable people I know, and his father
> happened to be chair of the department of linguistics at one point. It's
> hard to chalk his claim up to ignorance or misinformation, so I started
> wondering: is this in fact true?
> > I was wondering what list members think. Is this something that's been
> claimed before, and if so, how is it regarded in the linguistic community?
> Does anyone have a (reputable or suspicious) source that says English has
> the most words? If this is a legitimate claim, how is it determined?
> I've heard this one before, certainly. But it makes no bones about it --
> you're supposed to include *every*thing. *All* the hyper-specific jargons,
> *all* the legalese and its Latinisms, *all* the taxonomies, *all* the words
> like "yclept" (though I'm guessing Shakespeare or thereabouts may be the
> cut-off point), *all* the coinages from even the remotest, farthest-flung
> corners of Empire, *all* the slang, *all* the slithy toves... Put it
> *al*together and you have, well, one rather impressively large corpus -- or
> at least, a hefty, multi-volume edition of the OED (and the number
> "1,000,000" is bandied about). Is that useful in any practical or
> linguistic sense? I think not. But it does make English speakers feel warm
> and fuzzy about themselves somehow, and will keep a respectable cocktail
> party conversation going for at least fifteen minutes. Like fireworks,
> you're supposed to ooo and aah at it while you're there, but not really
> discuss it in gross detail the following morning.
> Barring that, let me arbitrate: English has 1,087,562 words, full stop. ;)
> I thought it was 1,048,576. My bad.
>Thanks. Your permission means a lot to me.
> Argue what you will, then.
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