International and Comparative Librarianship

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This Blogosphere has a slant towards India [a.k.a Indica, Indo, South-Asian, Oriental, Bharat, Hindustan, Asian-Indian (not American Indian)].

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Who Has The Largest Individual Vocabulary?


Guess: Native speakers or non-native speakers?

Whatever may happen in the future, regardless of species, who has the largest English vocabulary right now? This is not a straightforward question. Michael Quinion explains why:

“What we mean by word sounds obvious, but it’s not. Take a verb like climb. The rules of English allow you to generate the forms climbs, climbed, climbable, and climbing, the nouns climb and climber (and their plurals climbs and climbers), compounds such as climb-down and climbing frame, and phrasal verbs like climb on, climb over, and climb down. Now, here’s the question you’ve got to answer: are all these distinct words, or do you lump them all together under climb? ...

"Of all the people I know, my meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy definitely has the largest vocabulary, however it’s measured. Growing up in East Bengal, English was not his first language, but I regularly come across English words in his writings which I have never seen before. Take my favourite example: sesquipedalian (meaning a very long word)." continue reading English as a Fecund Language @ Sumangali.org: In the Spirit of Serendipity

Much more about Sri Chinmoy from his fans: My Life with Sri Chinmoy / Photos of Sri Chinmoy / Sri Chinmoy on DVD

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Sharani said...

I have to absolutely agree. As a meditation student of spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy since 1985, I was often introduced to new words I had never learned in my days of schooling up to the graduate level. His creation of concepts with hyphenated words not usually used together also is impressive and beautiful.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous vocabulary builder said...

Interesting article and point. I remember an article (but I can't seem to locate) which compared the vocabulary between English and several other languages based on words used on the nightly news (spoken vocabulary), words used in the major newspapers (written vocabulary), and some other counts from films and television programs. Whatever the measure, English emerged as the heads-and-shoulder leader in terms of size of vocabulary.

Does this ring any bells?

7:15 PM  

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