Questions tagged [vocabulary]

The set of words within a language.

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13
votes
5answers
26k views

How many “words” do I need to learn?

I am interested in learning a second language. To do this I have created a list of the 1000 most common words and phrases for a given language. I've also established sentences which contains each of ...
12
votes
1answer
165 views

Is there a name for a diminutive whose meaning has decoupled from the original word?

In languages where the diminutive is productive (such as Slavic languages), many words derived as a diminutive have a meaning completely decoupled from their origin, and do not anymore "convey ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

Why does the name of the flower 'Forget-me-not' have the same meaning in other languages?

The flower forget-me-not is named "Vergissmeinnicht" in German and "Незабудка" in Russian. The meaning is the same in all three languages. Is this a coincidence?
10
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6answers
3k views

Does knowing PIE roots help with vocab?

It is known that in theory (and in practice, but you need dedication in practice) learning Latin can help with vocabulary in English. (I know Spanish, it helped me with vocab words, and I'm learning ...
10
votes
2answers
382 views

Is the rate of vocabulary change more or less constant?

Has the rate of vocabulary change (that is, number of words falling out of use per decade, say) been found to be largely constant in human societies or does it strongly depend on circumstances? If ...
10
votes
1answer
387 views

Are there languages which use the negation of 'odd' to denote 'even'?

This question is influenced by another one I found on the German SE, "Warum nennt man in Deutsch die Zahlen 0, 2, 4 … “gerade” Zahlen?". It asks "Why call Germans the numbers 0, 2, 2 "even". The ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Pre-Proto-Basque: is there a methodology to establishing its vocabulary?

For example, say I have a list Basque/Euskera words, is there a way I can reconstruct these modern Basque words into a Pre-Proto-Basque version? beo (hot) lur (earth) izotz (ice) izuga (fear) ...
7
votes
2answers
390 views

Are there any online databases of kinship terms across languages?

Related to a question at ELU, I am interested in doing a comparative analysis of kinship terms in various languages. What would help me with this is an inventory of terms for individual languages. ...
7
votes
9answers
20k views

Which language has the biggest vocabulary?

I am thinking that it is English because it has so many borrowed words and most you French, Italian, or German words can be written in English as is. Am I right?
6
votes
3answers
1k views

Did Latin “cum” get replaced in French by “avec” because “con” sounded obscene?

While the words for "with" in most Romance languages seem to be direct descendents from Latin "cum" (e.g. Spanish/Italian "con", Portuguese "com", Romanian "cu") it got replaced by "avec" in French. ...
6
votes
1answer
105 views

How is the rate of evolution of a language measured?

Have linguists measured the rate of evolution of a language by analyzing the rate of change of the language's words' usages over time? Is there a term for this sort of measurement? For example, ...
5
votes
4answers
478 views

American English speakers needing subtitles more often

I often ask my American English native speaker friends this question: When watching a movie in American English, do you turn the subtitles on? Quite a lot of them say that they always do ("in ...
5
votes
2answers
136 views

Are there any extensive study on the vocabulary used in the Mongour and Bonan languages?

I have always been interested in examining Tu/Mongour and Bonan language. Mongour is a Mongolic language which is spoken by Mongour people who may be the descendants of Xianbei people who moved from ...
5
votes
2answers
334 views

Size of active vocabulary in hunter gather tribes

How big is the active vocabulary that an average hunter gather tribe in Africa uses? Is it comparable to the size of Western civilisation?
5
votes
1answer
803 views

Words and phrases more likely in everyday speech

I'm processing a large corpus for a given language. I've noticed that for certain sections of the corpus, I can go many tens of thousands of words without the word "me" being mentioned. These are ...
5
votes
1answer
535 views

Shannon's entropy as a measure of vocabulary richness

The Entropy formula for lexical richness is The probability p-ith is calculated by dividing V-ith by N, where N is the total number of tokens in the text and V is the number of types. However, I can'...
5
votes
0answers
112 views

Parent–child kinship terms for same- or different-sex relationships

Does anybody know of a natural language in which the kinship terms used for parents and children are governed not by the gender of the individual but whether or not the two people in the relationship ...
4
votes
1answer
178 views

How are meanings of a word ordered in a dictionary?

What base does vocabulary.com use for its hierarchy of meanings of a word? For example see http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/sound. Are top levels (numbered list) all homonyms? What structure do ...
4
votes
2answers
242 views

Is this a nonce word or is there another name for a regularly constructed neologism?

I had an argument with a friend, since he didn't find "claustrophilia" in the dictionary he thought it should be called a nonce word. I thought the term "nonce" was for one-off words that arose a ...
3
votes
6answers
719 views

Could the English language be learned purely by observing written texts?

I just asked this question on English Language Learners and there they suggested that it might better fit here. This is a high level and difficult question, however I think it is an interesting ...
3
votes
2answers
416 views

What decides the language family of a language the most structure/grammar or the vocabulary?

My assumed premise: Indo-European language classification is broad. We can always find two languages of this family which are grammatically so different, and also the languages grammatically similar. ...
3
votes
2answers
651 views

Why do we need erudite langage?

I am not a native English speaker and thus, am not sure whether 'erudite language' is putting it right. Yesterday, a friend of mine stated that he thinks that lots of people, including himself, do ...
3
votes
1answer
268 views

What is the evidence for laryngeal in *méh₂tēr?

Wikitionary shows a PIE word *méh₂tēr but I never seen this word spelled with a laryngeal. There was a long vowel there but how is it correct to analyze it to be *-eh₂- rather than just *ā?
3
votes
1answer
685 views

How it happened that evolution of “mater” and “pater” is different despite their similar origin?

With an addition of PIE relatives suffix *-ter-, Eurasiatic *ama, *apa became Old PIE *mā-ter-s, *pa-ter-s (the final -s was later lost in late PIE) But there is a difference: in Old PIE *māters the "...
3
votes
2answers
176 views

How has pair/couple ended up meaning both 2 and more in different languages?

Consider the following examples from different languages: (en) The bridge has been built a couple years ago. (de) Das Problem ist größer als vor ein paar Jahren. (pl) Poznaliśmy się parę lat temu. (...
3
votes
1answer
267 views

Active vocabulary for Anglophones compared to native speakers of other languages

A site search has turned me up Size of active vocabulary in hunter gather tribes, and Which language has the biggest vocabulary?, but neither of those seem to address what I want to know about. I ...
3
votes
1answer
72 views

Do people know more words or proper nouns?

I'm curious if the average adult knows more words in their language (excluding proper nouns), or more proper nouns? At first I'm inclined to think the former, but then I think of all the names I know: ...
3
votes
1answer
381 views

Examples of small, minimalistic natural languages?

I was reading about a constructed language called "Toki Pona" that is touted to have only 120 words. I wanted to know are there any examples of any natural languages notable for their simplicity or ...
3
votes
1answer
189 views

How can a human have such brilliant memory for vocabulary?

How is it possible that human beings are capable of remembering tens of thousands of words (later in life even being able to spell most of them correctly and increasing their vocabulary) and what ...
3
votes
2answers
106 views

What will form a minimum yet complete set of verbs that can define any action?

Let us think of a hypothetical situation where I need to identify a set of verbs, where the set can represent all possible actions that can be performed. For example, run can be tuned as a variation ...
3
votes
1answer
119 views

How is the differing reuse of words depending on language called in Linguistics?

My question is a little bit tricky (for me) to put in a title. I will try to describe: There are different types of writing systems, such as logographic, true alphabets and segmental scripts. Not ...
3
votes
1answer
139 views

Cumbrian sources

I'm interested in the cumbrian dialect, but I couldn't find good sources of vocabulary and pontual aspects of its grammar. Also, I was trying to understand the following poem: I'll tell the' We're ...
3
votes
1answer
329 views

What is the lexical relationship between 'kingdom' and 'phylum'?

In biology humans belong to the kingdom of animalia and the phylum chordata. Every organism that belongs to chordata belongs also to animalia but not the other way around. Animalia is a hypernym of ...
3
votes
2answers
160 views

Help identifying words in unknown language from the Caribbean

These words come from a language known as Guene or Lenga di Luandu (Language of Luando) spoken by blacks on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. They were recorded in the early 20th century and are not ...
3
votes
0answers
103 views

Did any indigenous American languages have/develop a word for “Native American”?

Obviously the political landscape of the Americas was a hugely complex thing during the period of European colonization, and what was true of one Native American group was almost never true of all of ...
2
votes
2answers
247 views

How to find most common expressions starting with “iron”?

I want to find a list of 2-word expressions starting with iron: i.e. ironing board, iron filings, iron bridge Can you suggest a vocabulary tool for that?
2
votes
2answers
205 views

Is the general concept behind “Eskimo words for snow” true?

The specific claim that "Eskimos have X words for snow" is heavily disputed. However, is the general concept that certain cultures' languages often have a large number of words for things that are ...
2
votes
2answers
50 views

What linguistic category would informal contractions fall under?

I'm sure this question has an extremely simple answer, but I'm comparing the dialects from two movies, one being a typical Hollywood movie, and one being a documentary. I am listing any linguistic ...
2
votes
1answer
295 views

Do all cultures have the 5 senses?

In English speaking cultures, we have the 5 traditional senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell), but I'm wondering if other cultures have only one word for two of those things, ie taste being ...
2
votes
1answer
347 views

How to determine difficulty of a word if its frequency in a corpus is known?

What is known in general about the relationship between word difficulty and word frequency? That is, for a given word, suppose I know the frequency with which it (or its word stem) is encountered in ...
2
votes
1answer
150 views

What is considered the smallest possible sample size for word frequency lists used in FL instruction?

I've been engaged in a conversation on another site pertaining to frequency analysis, particularly in relation to the 1966 work Buntús Gaeilge, Colmán Ó Huallacháin; Ireland. Department of ...
2
votes
2answers
7k views

What are the constituent morphemes in 'preposition'?

The word preposition. I am trying to break down a series of words into their constituent morphemes and am having trouble with the word 'preposition'. I can obviously see that the 'pre-' is a morpheme ...
2
votes
1answer
75 views

Animal or plant names used to describe children

I noticed in a few languages that people can address children using names of animals or plants, to show affection. For example in English you get: pumpkin, tiger (sorry, can't think of more examples,...
2
votes
1answer
186 views

When speaking a foreign language, why do people use the corresponding word of their native language for the word “so”?

I have noticed people using the word for "so" (in order to / therefore) in their language, rather than the language they are trying to speak. This happens with persons who are otherwise very ...
2
votes
1answer
264 views

Help understanding “degree of overall vocabulary divergence”

There was an article published with a diagram showing Lexical Difference: http://elms.wordpress.com/2008/03/04/lexical-distance-among-languages-of-europe/. It cites a Russian source "K. Tyshchenko (...
2
votes
0answers
149 views

Does Japanese have as many English-derived words as English has French-derived words?

According to current corpora and other tools used by language researchers, does the current vocabulary of Japanese already contain as many words borrowed/derived from English as the number of English ...
2
votes
0answers
131 views

Constructing/borrowing of complex scientific/technological/financial vocabulary in Esperanto [closed]

Most Esperanto scientific, some technology-specific, or financial dictionaries available online cover vast range, but mostly old terminology that was around for many years. How does one translate or ...
1
vote
4answers
276 views

Are there people who intentionally refuse to use some words even if the majority does it?

Suppose one person does not like one word or expression. He would have to use it though, so then he chooses a substitute. The majority of the people however use that word. Now, since one meaning of ...
1
vote
2answers
70 views

What purpose do obscure words serve?

Inspired by a question about a rare, obsolete word psithurism. What purpose in human language is served by having words, communicative acts, that are very unlikely to communicate anything due to the ...
1
vote
2answers
936 views

What languages other than English distinguish 'poison' and 'venom'

The English language distinguishes the terms "poison" and "venom", with "toxin" sometimes used as a general classifier for both: Venomous organisms deliver or inject venom into other organisms ...