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#2343 - 06/18/00 03:38 PM Re: vocabulary size
David108 Offline
member

Registered: 05/09/00
Posts: 112
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
It's an an old thread, but I came across this article and thought it would be of interest.

http://www.quinion.com/words/articles/howmany.htm

It's really a good site to explore. I've sent a query regarding public/private schools, but I notice that the Author is away until the end of July - we might have a long wait!


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#2344 - 06/23/00 02:40 PM Re: vocabulary size
Verbist Offline
stranger

Registered: 06/23/00
Posts: 4
Loc: Northern CA
The Biggest question is how would someone measure someone's vocabulary. You can't just ask someone to List all the words they know. Thatís impractical and many words would be left off.

And another question is how do you define vocabulary? Is it words we understand? Because a large percentage of the time we understand the word only because of context and not the word its self.



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#2345 - 06/23/00 03:03 PM Re: vocabulary size
ammelah Offline
stranger

Registered: 06/22/00
Posts: 18
Loc: Vienna, Austria
Regarding the controversy about what to include in an estimation of a person's vocabulary: estimates of the size of Shakespeare's vocabulary range from 15,000 to 30,000 words, depending on what you decide to count. Here the question of counting method is crucial, since the scholars working in this area base their estimates on the same body of texts. The one who arrived at the highest word count regards the different forms of a word (such as cry, cries, cried, criedst) as separate words. He also includes proper names in his estimate. This does not address your question directly, I know, but indicates another kind of problem encountered when estimating vocabulary: what is a word? Regarding the question whether passive vocabulary should be included in such a count, I would say yes, since most of us use only a small part of our vocabulary actively and otherwise the numbers we would be looking at as estimates would hardly serve to satisfy our vanity. Isn't that what this question is all about, anyway?


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#2346 - 06/23/00 08:27 PM Re: vocabulary size
Verbist Offline
stranger

Registered: 06/23/00
Posts: 4
Loc: Northern CA
So maybe a better way to count someone's [someplace] used vocabulary would to strap a tape recorder to them and
record a few days worth of usage. Then enter all the words they used and have a computer count them and
remove redundancies. Do this 5-6 times and I bet you would have a very good idea as to how big
someone's used vocabulary would be.


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#2347 - 06/24/00 12:38 AM Re: vocabulary size
Bingley Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
But you would still have the problem of what counts as a word (do inflections and compounds count?) and would still only get the most commonly used part of their spoken active vocabulary. For example, I certainly know the word "fraternisation" but have only used it once or twice in my life.

Bingley
_________________________
Bingley

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#2348 - 06/24/00 11:54 AM Re: vocabulary size
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11610
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Here's another spanner in the works:
in counting someone's vocabulary, how many languages
do you allow ? Do you allow extremely well-known
words (e.g., pro bono, c'est la vie) from another language?
And what if the person speaks several languages?


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#2349 - 06/26/00 03:36 AM Re: vocabulary size
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1027
Loc: Switzerland
It seems to me that most contributors to this thread assume at least implicitly that vocabulary size stands for a certain quality of a person: the larger the better.. This is certainly valid up to a point. Rather than speculating about the maximum possible vocabulary size, it would be interesting to know the "most useful" size, i.e. the point where further increase only appeals to collectors of rarities, and does not contribute anymore to the precision of communication. Accessibility of information quite generally decreases with growing volume.


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#2350 - 06/26/00 07:43 AM Re: vocabulary size
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11610
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
Excellent, wsieber! The whole point of using words is to
communicate, and it is interesting to speculate on what
you're communicating if no one knows what you're saying.
One difficulty, though: who gets to decide at what point
>>"where further increase only appeals to collectors of rarities, and does not contribute anymore to the precision of communication."<<
As an example, I use in my normal speech words that many of
my church friends don't seem to know, but my Mensa friends do. And Tsuwm and our old friend Jeff, at least, are clearly light-years ahead of me in the vocabulary dep't.
Response eagerly anticipated!


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#2351 - 06/26/00 03:36 PM Re: vocabulary size
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
>Accessibility of information quite generally decreases with growing volume.

I find age a big factor, my recall is not what it once was. Perhaps it is because my brain is so full of useless information, for example where to buy the cheapest petrol (gas) in a place I no longer live. I know so many road names of places I may never visit again (one of the problems of moving house so much) I just wish I could archive some of the useless stuff and make room for some more information.




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#2352 - 06/27/00 12:42 AM Re: vocabulary size
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1027
Loc: Switzerland
Hi Jackie,
>and it is interesting to speculate on what
you're communicating if no one knows what you're saying.<
Sorry to repeat myself, I have been harping on that before, in connection with Latin etc. In the case you mention, I am communicating: "Look what an intelligent and learned person I am and how lucky you are to know me" .



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