number; statistic

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Jul 10 02:55:44 UTC 2008

> if the OED has no entry for embaterion and also lacks the
> statistic=inconsequential usage, then is this really the best yardstick to
> gauge the veracity of claims that the English language has millions of
> billions of kajillions of unique words??
It's a pretty good yardstick. Not the best.

A little bit better: David Crystal's brief comparison of two big
dictionaries, OED and MW3 (_Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English
Language_ [1995], p. 119), gives _approximate_ or _roughly estimated_
numbers of English lexemes: my summary:

In OED 500,000 (many not in MW3)
In MW3 450,000 (many not in OED)
Total number of lexemes found in one or the other 750,000
Conservative estimate of 'actual' total 1,000,000
More inclusive estimate including more scientific nomenclature etc.

These could be refined by carefully adhering to objective criteria for
inclusion, etc., but why bother? I think these estimates are good enough.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society -

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