Query: How Many English Words?
Pafra & Scott Catledge
scplc at GS.VERIO.NET
Thu Nov 18 14:42:41 UTC 1999
There can be no answer other than a broad estimate. How many words in the
OED has no clear answer; how many entries in Webster's Third International
still requires a definition. Major headings or all the subentries? I was
told in Elementary school that the word 'run' has 700 meanings in English;
if true, is 'run' one word or 700? When words become obsolete, are they
still words? When a dictionary publisher states that 3,000 or 300,000 words
are included, I take that number to mean 3,000 or 300,000 main entries? And
that bis not the question or is it? Any dictionary publisher can include
only a sample (high ever high a percentage that sample might represent) of
the word population at a snapshot in time. If we can define word as "main
entry" in a dictionary and specify whether obsolete and dialectical forms
are included, perhaps we could reach a consensus, but I doubt that we could
or would. There is no clear answer among linguists as to how many languages
are spoken; obtaining unanimity on how many "words" are in a particular
language is even more doubtful. I look forward to comments. Scott Catledge
To: <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 1999 8:02 PM
Subject: Query: How Many English Words?
> This is a broad query, but the broad spectrum of answers might be
> Dictionary editors? Everyone? Please reply to the sender, although replies
to the list
> would be interesting, too.
> How many words are there in the English language?
> Dana Nagler
> dnagler at forbes.com
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