English Vocabulary

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An English Vocabulary is a vocabulary of English words.



References

2014

  • (Wikipedia, 2014) ⇒ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language#Vocabulary Retrieved:2014-1-6.
    • English vocabulary has changed considerably over the centuries. [1] Like many languages deriving from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), many of the most common words in English can trace back their origin (through the Germanic branch) to PIE. Such words include the basic pronouns I, from Old English ic, (cf. German Ich, Gothic ik, Latin ego, Greek ego, Sanskrit aham), me (cf. German mich, mir, Gothic mik, mīs, Latin , Greek eme, Sanskrit mam), numbers (e.g. one, two, three, cf. Dutch een, twee, drie, Gothic ains, twai, threis (þreis), Latin ūnus, duo, trēs, Greek oinos "ace (on dice)", duo, treis), common family relationships such as mother, father, brother, sister etc. (cf. Dutch moeder, Greek meter, Latin mater, Sanskrit matṛ ; mother), names of many animals (cf. German Maus, Dutch muis, Sanskrit mus, Greek mus, Latin mūs ; mouse), and many common verbs (cf. Old High German knājan, Old Norse kná, Greek gignōmi, Latin gnoscere, Hittite kanes ; to know). Germanic words (generally words of Old English or to a lesser extent Old Norse origin) tend to be shorter than Latinate words, and are more common in ordinary speech, and include nearly all the basic pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, modal verbs etc. that form the basis of English syntax and grammar. The shortness of the words is generally due to syncope in Middle English (e.g. OldEng hēafod > ModEng head, OldEng sāwol > ModEng soul) and to the loss of final syllables due to stress (e.g. OldEng gamen > ModEng game, OldEng ǣrende > ModEng errand), not because Germanic words are inherently shorter than Latinate words (the lengthier, higher-register words of Old English were largely forgotten following the subjugation of English after the Norman Conquest, and most of the Old English lexis devoted to literature, the arts, and sciences ceased to be productive when it fell into disuse. Only the shorter, more direct, words of Old English tended to pass into the Modern language.) Consequently, those words which tend to be regarded as elegant or educated in Modern English are usually Latinate. However, the excessive use of Latinate words is considered at times to be either pretentious or an attempt to obfuscate an issue. George Orwell's essay “Politics and the English Language", considered an important scrutinisation of the English language, is critical of this, as well as other perceived misuses of the language. An English speaker is in many cases able to choose between Germanic and Latinate synonyms: come or arrive ; sight or vision ; freedom or liberty. In some cases, there is a choice between a Germanic derived word (oversee), a Latin derived word (supervise), and a French word derived from the same Latin word (survey); or even Germanic words derived from Norman French (e.g., warranty) and Parisian French (guarantee), and even choices involving multiple Germanic and Latinate sources are possible: sickness (Old English), ill (Old Norse), infirmity (French), affliction (Latin). Such synonyms harbour a variety of different meanings and nuances. Yet the ability to choose between multiple synonyms is not a consequence of French and Latin influence, as this same richness existed in English prior to the extensive borrowing of French and Latin terms. Old English was extremely resourceful in its ability to express synonyms and shades of meaning on its own, in many respects rivaling or exceeding that of Modern English (synonyms numbering in the thirties for certain concepts were not uncommon).

      Take for instance the various ways to express the word "astronomer" or "astrologer" in Old English: tunglere, tungolcræftiga, tungolwītega, tīdymbwlātend, tīdscēawere. [2] In Modern English, however, the roles of such synonyms have largely been replaced by equivalents taken from Latin, French, and Greek, as English has taken the position of a diminished reliance upon native elements and resources for the creation of new words and terminologies. Familiarity with the etymology of groups of synonyms can give English speakers greater control over their linguistic register. See: List of Germanic and Latinate equivalents in English, Doublet (linguistics).

      A commonly noted area where Germanic and French-derived words coexist is that of domestic or game animals and the meats produced from them. The nouns for meats are often different from, and unrelated to, those for the corresponding animals, the animal commonly having a Germanic name and the meat having a French-derived one. Examples include: deer and venison ; cow and beef ; swine/pig and pork ; and sheep/lamb and mutton. This is assumed to be a result of the aftermath of the Norman conquest of England, where an Anglo-Norman-speaking elite were the consumers of the meat, produced by lower classes, which happened to be largely Anglo-Saxon, although a similar duality can also be seen in other languages like French, which did not undergo such linguistic upheaval (e.g. boeuf "beef" vs. vache "cow"). With the exception of beef and pork, the distinction today is gradually becoming less and less pronounced (venison is commonly referred to simply as deer meat, mutton is lamb, and chicken is both the animal and the meat over the more traditional term poultry. Use of the term mutton, however, remains, especially when referring to the meat of an older sheep, distinct from lamb ; and poultry remains when referring to the meat of birds and fowls in general.)

      There are Latinate words that are used in everyday speech. These words no longer appear Latinate and oftentimes have no Germanic equivalents. For instance, the words mountain, valley, river, aunt, uncle, move, use, and push are Latinate. Likewise, the inverse can occur: acknowledge, meaningful, understanding, mindful, lavish, behaviour, forbearance, behoove, forestall, allay, rhyme, starvation, embodiment come from Anglo-Saxon, and allegiance, abandonment, debutant, feudalism, seizure, guarantee, disregard, wardrobe, disenfranchise, disarray, bandolier, bourgeoisie, debauchery, performance, furniture, gallantry are of Germanic origin, usually through the Germanic element in French, so it is oftentimes impossible to know the origin of a word based on its register.

      English easily accepts technical terms into common usage and often imports new words and phrases. Examples of this phenomenon include contemporary words such as cookie, Internet and URL (technical terms), as well as genre, über, lingua franca and amigo (imported words/phrases from French, German, Italian, and Spanish, respectively). In addition, slang often provides new meanings for old words and phrases. In fact, this fluidity is so pronounced that a distinction often needs to be made between formal forms of English and contemporary usage.

  1. For the processes and triggers of English vocabulary changes cf. English and General Historical Lexicology (by Joachim Grzega and Marion Schöner)
  2. Baugh, p. 50.


  • (Wikipedia, 2014) ⇒ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language#Number_of_words_in_English Retrieved:2014-1-6.
    • The vocabulary of English is undoubtedly very large, but assigning a specific number to its size is more a matter of definition than of calculation – and there is no official source to define accepted English words and spellings in the way that the French Académie française and similar bodies do for other languages.

      Archaic, dialectal, and regional words might or might not be widely considered as "English", and neologisms are continually coined in medicine, science, technology and other fields, along with new slang and adopted foreign words. Some of these new words enter wide usage while others remain restricted to small circles.

      The General Explanations at the beginning of the Oxford English Dictionary states:

      The current FAQ for the OED further states: </ref> }}

      The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (OED2) includes over 600,000 definitions, following a rather inclusive policy: </ref> }}

      The editors of Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged include 475,000 main headwords, but in their preface they estimate the true number to be much higher. Comparisons of the vocabulary size of English to that of other languages are generally not taken very seriously by linguists and lexicographers. Besides the fact that dictionaries will vary in their policies for including and counting entries, what is meant by a given language and what counts as a word do not have simple definitions. Also, a definition of word that works for one language may not work well in another, with differences in morphology and orthography making cross-linguistic definitions and word-counting difficult, and potentially giving very different results. Linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum has gone so far as to compare concerns over vocabulary size (and the notion that a supposedly larger lexicon leads to "greater richness and precision") to an obsession with penis length. In December 2010 a joint Harvard/Google study found the language to contain 1,022,000 words and to expand at the rate of 8,500 words per year. [1] The findings came from a computer analysis of 5,195,769 digitised books. Others have estimated a rate of growth of 25,000 words each year.

  1. English language has doubled in size in the last century, Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent, The Telegraph, 16 December 2010

2009

  • How many words are there in the English language? http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutenglish/numberwords
    • There is no single sensible answer to this question. It is impossible to count the number of words in a language, because it is so hard to decide what counts as a word. Is dog one word, or two (a noun meaning 'a kind of animal', and a verb meaning 'to follow persistently')? If we count it as two, then do we count inflections separately too (dogs plural noun, dogs present tense of the verb). Is dog-tired a word, or just two other words joined together? Is hot dog really two words, since we might also find hot-dog or even hotdog?

      It is also difficult to decide what counts as 'English'. What about medical and scientific terms? Latin words used in law, French words used in cooking, German words used in academic writing, Japanese words used in martial arts? Do you count Scots dialect? Youth slang? Computing jargon?

      The Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries. Over half of these words are nouns, about a quarter adjectives, and about a seventh verbs; the rest is made up of interjections, conjunctions, prepositions, suffixes, etc. These figures take no account of entries with senses for different parts of speech (such as noun and adjective).

    • This suggests that there are, at the very least, a quarter of a million distinct English words, excluding inflections, and words from technical and regional vocabulary not covered by the OED, or words not yet added to the published dictionary, of which perhaps 20 per cent are no longer in current use. If distinct senses were counted, the total would probably approach three quarters of a million.


  • http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/howmany.htm
    • What we mean by word sounds obvious, but it’s not. Take a verb like climb. The rules of English allow you to generate the forms climbs, climbed, climbable, and climbing, the nouns climb and climber (and their plurals climbs and climbers), compounds such as climb-down and climbing frame, and phrasal verbs like climb on, climb over, and climb down. Now, here’s the question you’ve got to answer: are all these distinct words, or do you lump them all together under climb?

      That this is not a trivial question can be proved by looking at half a dozen current dictionaries. You won’t find two that agree on what to list. Almost every word in the language has this fuzzy penumbra of inflected forms, separate senses and compounds, some to a much greater extent than climb. To take a famous case, the entry for set in the Oxford English Dictionary runs to 60,000 words. The noun alone has 47 separate senses listed. Are all these distinct words?

      And in a wider sense, what do you include in your list of words? Do you count all the regional variations of English? Or slang? Dialect? Family or private language? Proper names and the names of places? And what about abbreviations? The biggest dictionary of them has more than 400,000 entries — do you count them all as words? And what about informal and formal names for living things? The wood louse is known in Britain by many local names — tiggy-hog, cheeselog, pill bug, chiggy pig, and rolypoly among others. Are these all to be counted as separate words? And, to take a more specialist example, is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the formal name for bread yeast, to be counted as a word (or perhaps two)? If you say yes, you’ve got to add another couple of million such names to the English-language word count. And what about medical terms, such as syncytiotrophoblastic or holoprosencephaly, that few of us ever encounter?

      The other difficult term is vocabulary. What counts as a word that somebody knows? Is it one that a person uses regularly and accurately? Or perhaps one that will be correctly recognised — say in written text — but not used? Or perhaps one that will be understood in context but which the person may not easily be able to define? This distinction between what linguists call active and passive vocabularies is hard to measure, and it skews estimates.

      The problem doesn’t stop there. English speakers not only know words, they know word-forming elements, such as the ending -phobia for some irrational fear. A journalist rushing to meet a deadline might take a word he knows, like Serb, and tack on the ending to make Serbophobia. He’s just added a word to the language (probably only temporarily), but can he really be said to have that word in his vocabulary? If nobody ever uses it again, can we legitimately count it? By reversing the coining process, a reader of the newspaper can easily work out the word’s origin and meaning. Has the reader also added a word to his vocabulary?


2007

1999