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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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What is English? And Why Should We Care?

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To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

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Query Details

Query Subject:   Statistics of English Vocabulary
Author:   Richard Hudson
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Text/Corpus Linguistics

Query:   Dear All,

I wonder if someone could help me with two statistical question about the
vocabulary of English (as found in corpus work - at this point I'm not
asking for figures for individual speakers, though they would be really
fascinating to know if anyone has them).

Q1. How many morphemes are there? (I'm sure I've seen a figure somewhere,
the point being, of course, that it's much smaller than the number of
lexemes (lemmas, lexical items).

Q2. What percentage of the total vocabulary belongs to the various major
word classes? Better still, how does this percentage vary with frequency?
(I assume for example that rare words tend to be nouns.)

If there's enough response I'll summarise back to the list.

Best wishes, Dick Hudson
LL Issue: 20.284
Date posted: 29-Jan-2009


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