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English has the most words?

 
 
Reply Wed 10 Aug, 2016 10:46 am
Why do a lot of people say/think English has the biggest vocabulary/the most words?

This morning I was thinking about how people always say that English has the biggest vocabulary, and then I talked to my dad later asking what he thought, basically asking if he thought we couldn't talk as precisely and specifically in Arabic as English. We both decided we didn't know, but figured we always talk in English about "big" things, such as politics and philosophy. Then I began wondering if maybe English has a bigger academic vocabulary, or if colloquial English is extremely similar to standard English and, for that reason, I know more of those types of words in English even though they may exist in Arabic, and simply aren't used often. But Arabic's kind of different in terms of spoken and written, so maybe it's not the best ex.

Anyway, I want to know what you guys think. If you speak English and another language fluently, do you find one easier to/has more words for you express yourself with? Or is it just a different, equally good/easy way?

Thanks!
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 1,068 • Replies: 3
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cicerone imposter
 
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Reply Wed 10 Aug, 2016 10:59 am
@perennialloner,
English wins hands down. That's because many books are translated into English, and most people around the world speak English. It's the language of commerce. Even airline pilots are required to speak English, and people on all control towers have that requirement.

https://hbr.org/2012/05/global-business-speaks-english

What language has the most words?
English
[English] certainly has the largest vocabulary ... by a long, long, long long, way. Rather as China is to the rest of the world in population, English is in the population of its words.
Counting words: The biggest vocabulary? | The Economist
www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2010/06/coun
perennialloner
 
  1  
Reply Wed 10 Aug, 2016 11:21 am
@cicerone imposter,
Did you read that article from the Economist you linked? It says that figuring out which language has the most words is problematic to determine in a way that everyone finds fair. The writer implies there are no set criteria on what constitutes a word and how words should be counted. It gives the example of run/ran/runs/running. In some languages, there are fewer ways of saying "to run" and in others, like Arabic, there are way more.
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perennialloner
 
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Reply Wed 10 Aug, 2016 11:25 am
@cicerone imposter,
I don't deny that English is the language of commerce. It is, without a doubt, taking over the world. I just question whether it is in fact the language with the largest vocabulary. Just because English has the biggest dictionary or is the most widely published language doesn't necessarily that there are fewer avenues of verbal expression in other languages. It just means that an English dictionary was printed with more words than a dictionary of any other language. Dictionaries of other languages may not include all their words or represent words in the same way.
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