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Are Some Languages Better than Others?$
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R. M. W. Dixon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198766810

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198766810.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 October 2021

How many words should there be?

How many words should there be?

(p.147) Chapter 7 How many words should there be?
Are Some Languages Better than Others?

R. M. W. Dixon

Oxford University Press

It is good for a language to be specific. For example to distinguish (as Hungarian does) between the two kinds of ‘queen’—she who is a ruler in her own right, and she who is the wife of a king-ruler. There is discussion of the bothersome nature of homonym, as in when confusion arises in English between the two senses of funny, ‘peculiar’ and ‘amusing’. Synonymy is then discussed—how does it come about, and why do we need it? The semantics of word classes may overlap; there can be an abstract noun corresponding to a gaggle of adjectives. Is this a good thing? The final section mentions the 275,000 entries in the on-line Oxford English Dictionary, and then asks: How many words does a language really need?

Keywords:   Key words: specification, homonymy, hyponymy, synonymy, vocabulary, word classes

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