LINGUIST List 9.112

Fri Jan 23 1998

Disc: Vocabulary Density

Editor for this issue: Elaine Halleck <>


  1. solovyev, Vocabulary density

Message 1: Vocabulary density

Date: Thu, 22 Jan 98 10:46:16 +0300
From: solovyev <>
Subject: Vocabulary density

 Dear Linguists,

 How densely packed can vocabularies be ?

 What kind of discussion has there been about
 'vocabulary density' in natural and artificial
 languages ?

 Density could be depicted crudely as the ratio
 of recognised lexemes to phonemes in each
 category or word classed by size. For example,
 for one-syllable sounds recognised in a language,
 a subset of these are recognised as 'words' -
 equally for two-syllable sound-strings, only a
 subset have established meanings.

 Presumably the closer the ratio is to 1.0, that
 is the more completely dense or packed the
 vocabulary is said to be, then the more ambiguity
 problems users and translators of the language
 will encounter. A single phonetic or spelling
 error will be more likely (in a dense language)
 to inadvertently create another meaningful word.

 A lot of redundancy in a vocabulary - that is
 plenty of dummy words, made up of sound-strings
 not recognised as words, clustered 'around' each
 recognised word - may make a language more
 efficient for communicating.

 There must be many papers examining these
 issues, and I am hoping to find them on the
 web and catch up on where the discussion is
 at so far. I guess it must be somewhere
 where linguistics meets information theory ?

 Mark Griffith, journalist

 This question was placed on the Web-site of
 "Web Journal of Formal, Computational and
 Cognitive Linguistics" (FCCL). Please send your
 opinion to e-mail address: <>

 Valery Solovyev, Editor of the FCCL.
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