The ANC (was: Using the BNC)

Mark A Mandel mam at THEWORLD.COM
Fri Dec 20 00:56:52 UTC 2002

On Thu, 19 Dec 2002, Michael Quinion wrote:

#The tools to research it in the same way as one does a corpus don't
#exist; I'm not at all sure how easy it would be to create them for
#such an inchoate mass of material.

This is an interesting semantic shift that I think is on-topic here.
"Inchoate" means -- used to mean? -- 'just beginning to take form'. ...
Ah; AHD4 says:


1. In an initial or early stage; incipient. 2. Imperfectly formed or
developed: "a vague, inchoate idea".


But almost every time I have seen it used in current writing, the sense
seems to be simply 'vague or formless'. I'm certain, without being able
to prove it, that for many people the sense is strongly influenced by
the visual similarity of the part after the prefix to "chaotic".

I'm not sure how you meant it, Michael, but the Web certainly isn't
'incipient' any more, and in your use above I think the sense I describe
fits somewhat better than AHD4's #2 -- but I can't be sure.

Lexies, are you keeping up with this development? Me, I've got my
prescriptivist hat on, and I'm agin it.

-- Mark A. Mandel

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