LINGUIST List 3.219

Fri 06 Mar 1992

Qs: Russian, Vocabulary, Eggs

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Queries about Russian
  2. , Vocabulary size (query)
  3. Carstairs-McCarthy, French 'eggs' after numerals

Message 1: Queries about Russian

Date: Mon, 2 Mar 92 17:25:26 ESTQueries about Russian
From: <>
Subject: Queries about Russian

Generative phonologists have at various times accepted

 (a) Trubetzkoy's claim that the word 'solnce' ('sun')
 has a higher [o] vowel than normal and this reflects
 the underlying (and orthographic) /l/,

 (b) Jakobson's claim that /f/ does not undergo voicinh=g
 assimilation before a voiced obstruent, and/or

 (c) Reformatskij's claim that in sequences of voiced
 obstruent plus /v/, when the /v/ devoices, the preceding
 voiced obstruent stays voiced, e.g., 'trezv' ('sober')
 is supposed to be pronounced [trezf].

All these claims seem to be weakly supported, and I would
appreciate any helpful comments (one way or the other) from
linguists who are native speakers and/or experts on Russian.

Please direct responses to me. I will post a summary.
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Message 2: Vocabulary size (query)

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 92 15:27-0500
From: <DONALDMQUCDN.bitnet>
Subject: Vocabulary size (query)

 Subject: Vocabulary size (query)
 How can you measure the number of words in a language with any reliability? An
 secondarily, how can you measure the number of words in the vocabulary of an
 ndividual speaker? Simply listing every word you hear would obviously not suf
 ice; and in languages without writing, there would be no dictionaries to consu
 t. Sampling discourse would only approximate the real number of words in use.
 I ask this because I have read claims that "neolithic" vocabularies contain on
 y a few hundred, or at most a few thousand words (a related claim is that the
 ore vocabulary of IndoEuropean is only a few hundred words); but are such clai
 s based on a really reliable estimate?

 Estimating the vocabulary size of an individual speaker or writer is even more
 difficult (Shakespeare used more words than Hemingway in writing, for stylisti
 reasons; this does not imply that his actual working vocabulary was less than
 Shakespeare's). Presumably we might employ the word-frequency counts of Engli
 h to roughly estimate vocabulary size; on this strategy a person's vocabulary
 ould bear a lawful relationship to the number of "rare" words inhis or her wor
 ing vocabulary. Estimating the "average" vocabulary size of a modern English-
 peaker thus appears to be largely a guessing game, and estimating the size of
 ocabularies in preliterate cultures a very rough guessing game. Am I right?
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Message 3: French 'eggs' after numerals

Date: 6 Mar 1992 11:13:29 +1300 French 'eggs' after numerals
From: Carstairs-McCarthy <>
Subject: French 'eggs' after numerals

How do French native speakers pronounce 'quatre oeufs'? Is it [...o]
or [...oef]? The standard pronunciation of 'oeufs' is said to be [o],
but Swiggers in Folia Linguistica 19 (1985) 63-66 claims that [oef]
is used when the preceding word does not end in [z]. Opinion among
the few native speakers I have consulted is divided.

Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy
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