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 How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?

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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Thu 26 Jan 2017, 22:10

Sparked by Pricsilla's be- thread I wondered how many real "one concept" single words there were, without prefixes, suffixes, nouns as core to verbs, adjectives, adverbs and so on...in English or any other language, as languages seems to be built along the same lines...
During two evenings I struggled on the internet without finding anything substantial, I guess because I fail to define the concept of such words...the last what I found was the one syllable words..but that don't cover entirely what I mean...
As a parting shot:
I think that the Chinese writing is constituted with signs which correspond with monosyllable words and with this few monosyllable words they can compose with addings all existing words in Chinese?
http://www.chinese-word-roots.org/
And further about the "core" words:
https://www.scribd.com/document/257277798/List-of-English-Morphemes
http://www.yougowords.com/1-syllables-14
http://learnersdictionary.com/3000-words/alpha/a


But it is all not real "that" in my humble opinion...what I mean is for instance the German "flugzeug" or the Dutch "vliegtuig"...it is composed of two core words "vlieg" from the noun "vlucht" from which: vliegen, vluchten, vlieger, vluchteling and so on...
For "tuig" I haven't directly correspondants Wink ..or it has to be "aftuigen" (beat up, mug)
But I think you see the hint...?

So again my question, to start with English:
How many such "core words" (or whatever you want to call it) in English?
8000? 12000? 15000?

Kind regards, Paul.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Thu 26 Jan 2017, 23:10

You're presenting several definitions of what should be considered "core", Paul. There are certainly morphemes, a list of which you have linked to, which retain the same meaning no matter in which more complex word they appear, but these in fact are regarded in semantics as being as dependent as they are intelligible. Or put another way, they have no real meaning unless conjoined. -Er, for example, conveys one pretty constant meaning when it turns up as part of an occupation name for example, but quite another when it turns up in others (like "other" itself, as a prime example, since we do not need telling - even when learning English as a second language - that "other" does not mean a person who "oths" for a living).

Semantics is the study of intelligibility as it applies to language and its elements, and in a semantic sense I would class the genuine "core" words as those which actually transcend language in the sense we normally mean it - a precisely distinct amalgam of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation which corresponds to equally distinct and separate cultures and communities as defined over time. However if you just take language in its broadest use of the term - verbal communication - and irrespective of its myriad developments and applications over countless millennia, then genuinely "core" words do then appear, and in the case of European and semitic languages these are normally the ones for which etymological descriptions assign an original "PIE" value, all more recent manifestations regarded as cognates of this proto-Indo-European root.

I'm not sure anyone's ever really counted them (a research grant going a begging there for some sad individual, I suppose), nor even how much latitude one should employ when tackling their consistency, but there is no denying that there is a body of sounds which display amazingly consistent semantic delivery, pronunciation and application all the way back to PIE. Some have obviously onomatopoeic origins but the vast majority do not. However what they all have in common is that they have served as a semantic fundament in the conveying of particular concepts throughout a huge variety of consequent languages in the many thousands of years and many languages evolved from that origin over this time.

Some are obvious. The PIE "H₂ster" for example (and remember the "r" and "l" phonetic has swapped back and forth in language development depending on its specific cultural application) can be pronounced "'st-l" or "'st-r". From this we can identify historically about three hundred distinct instances of it throughout ancient and modern languages (eg. "stairno" in Gothic, "sterenn" in Breton, "astl" in Armenian, "stā̆rǝm" in Iranian etc), so that now we do not even think about it or find it in any way weird when confronted with "stjerne" in Norwegian, "aster" in Greek, "stella" in Latin, or indeed "star" in English. Even apparently wild deviations, such as the Irish word for a star, "réalta", make sense as a cognate. In Gaelic, thanks to a particular convention having achieved grammatical primacy within that language over time, the application of the received word risked semantic confusion if it had left a sibilant in the construct. This would have conferred a quality of "goodness" about the subject, which in the case of expressing a "star" would have diminished rather than focused the semantic payload. The PIE word therefore, when it washed up in that Celtic language, had to be stripped of that sibilant element to retain its semantic consistency, no matter how much the resultant pronunciation and spelling might now make it appear etymologically inconsistent. This kind of unique imposition of new paradigms of pronunciation as words are relayed throughout cultures - a Ship of Theseus Paradox when it comes to etymological progression - occurs so frequently that it renders the task of the research graduate charged with counting these core words rather Sisyphean.

But that said, in my mind therefore this is still a true "core" word, as are also "seH₂wol" (sun), "swepv" (sleep), "ĝr̥H₂-no" (grain, corn) etc. Except for these quite explicable variations in pronunciation over time they consistently reveal themselves to be the central and indivisible components of a huge amount of words employed throughout as many languages afterwards to convey the same concept.

PIE does not imply an absolute origin either, it is simply as far back as we dare go in tracing linguistic history of a group of languages now spoken by over three fifths of the world's population. Countless millennia of communication preceded PIE and we can be pretty sure many of these words arrived in the proto-Indo-European tongues having already enjoyed a long and established linguistic pedigree in much the same form prior to that. Just why ancient people decided a "swepv" sound best symbolised and represented a few hours of nightly unconsciousness is anyone's guess, but once it was thus decided we can see that the symbol consolidated itself semantically to the point that any deviation from it in any subsequent language still had to retain something more than just a vestige of the original to avoid risking losing the meaning altogether. In language terms things just don't get any more "core" than that.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 10:19

Blimey Normann ... I didn't understand any of that ... but I'm very impressed.

And I do mean that sincerely.

Now that I've looked up the ship of Theseus paradox and PIE, I think I need to read it through again ... very slowly.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 10:36

I'm tackling it too, MM, but slowly and only after a strong coffee. The Ship of Theseus stuff is My Granny's Broom' for posh folk, isn't it?

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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 10:55

PIE words will be essential words in basic communication - so I suggest that the broad A sound with w sound also is related to sounds that identify water/rivers in many languages - arb, av, water vasser, pani (very broad in a Punjabi accent.)This is still reflected in river and place names Avon, Avignon - Punjab actually means 5 rivers . Is that what you mean Paul?.. sorry I do not have the erudition of nordmann nor the quirky manner of writing phonic script  only my ordinary layman's observation.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 11:32

Avon/Avignon may be names of rivers now, Priscilla, but both stem from a Celtic root - "aoibheann" for example in Gaelic - which means simply "river", so your point is even stronger than you made it sound. In PIE terms this one has a fascinating route through etymology. What began as "wódr̥" or "wédōr" (the choice is between accentuating the first or last sounds) has worked its way into English as "water", for example, and into Indian, Semitic and Celtic languages as words beginning with variations of "wah" or "awah" as their stressed element. Germanic languages took a compromise route and initially stressed both ends, beginning as "ahwasse" and leaving us eventually with "wasser" (and ultimately the English form too).

The Punjabi plosive sound at the start of its variant is a good example of what happens when particular languages have to employ rather drastic measures to retain the intelligibility of the root - in the case of Punjabi when it lost its "voiced aspirant" series of consonants (also called "murmured" consonants) that had initially distinguished it from its neighbours and which died out as its speakers congregated initially in societies less conversant with these neighbours (a process in linguistics called "stagnation" but this is not actually a bad thing). The solution, such as the Irish also did with b-, g- and m- (and for similar stagnative reasons), is to introduce one of a limited remaining series of hard consonants to the start of words in order to make them audibly distinct from that which precedes them when talking. Take away the plosive so one is left with a very broad sounded "-ani" (viz. the Irish "aoibheann", pronounced as "auhwan" in English) and the etymology suddenly makes rather more obvious sense.

You can see why the graduate doing the counting of these has his or her work cut out. In terms of Theseus's ship we're still only talking about replacing one plank on the deck.

Regarding your first point, PIE words definitely relate very much to what might be considered essential communication, and crucially expression of those terms readily identifiable to people of every culture over all intervening time periods. But to think this is all that comes from proto-Indo-European roots is doing all our ancestors a disservice, and some remarkably consistent semantic survivors relate to life's less vital but certainly more pleasurable facets. One word for example which has been relayed unbelievably intact throughout what we think by now has been almost 10,000 years is "médʰu".

Hence we have the English and German "mead" (a drink based on honey), the Celtic "míd", the Sanskrit and Slavic "medu" (honey), and of course in Punjabi which lost its murmured consonants a long time ago,"èihd".
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 12:55

This is just lifted from wiki:

"The basic kinship terms mama and papa are said to comprise a special case of false cognates. The cross-linguistic similarities between these terms are thought to result from the nature of language acquisition. These words are the first word-like sounds made by babbling babies (babble words), and parents tend to associate the first sound babies make with themselves and to employ them subsequently as part of their baby-talk lexicon. Thus, there is no need to ascribe to common ancestry the similarities of !Kung ba, Aramaic abba, Mandarin Chinese bàba, Persian baba, and French papa (all "father"); or Navajo amá, Mandarin Chinese māma, Swahili mama, Quechua mama, Polish mama, Romanian mama and English"mama" (all "mother"). However, some scientists believe that 'ma' and 'pa' were among the first words that humans spoke."
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 13:27

This is actually incorrect (on wiki you say? never!) and if it should be believed would render any search for intelligible consistency in human speech irrelevant.

I have read the same said about onomatopoeic words too, and the basic logical flaw is in assuming that sounds which retain a semantic consistency across cultures and time but which may have coincidental origin in physiological development or imitative sound production therefore cannot be classed as cognates as they evolve.

The problem is that this argument conveniently ignores the fact that they do demonstrably evolve, and in cognate sequences too. It also insinuates that only those cognates traced back to non-imitative or non-physiological causes "count" as genuine, which of course would be absolute rubbish.

What the author is actually succeeding in stating despite themselves is that some semantic consistency stretches so far back, well beyond proto-Indo-European for example, that it almost certainly originated with the most primitive communication achieved by homo sapiens, or even among that species' predecessors. This does not eliminate cognates from that progression, it just lends them a vastly extended pedigree. The author misunderstands the role of the cognate in etymology, and also misunderstands the purpose of tracing intelligibility. In fact the final sentence as quoted above from the wiki article does not need a "however" at its start. These may indeed have been some of the first words ever spoken, and for the reasons stated, but that does not remove them from the etymological process or its study.

(I notice the author simultaneously states that all these cultural variants stem back to a basic physiological property of infant expression which is as old as the species, and then states there is no reason to ascribe common ancestry in their case. Huh? Linguistic ancestry in fact cannot get more ancient or common than that!)

Having traced your quote back to the wiki article in which you found it I see the editors have placed this at the top: This article needs additional citations for verification. I agree. The most credible citation on the page refers to a 1999 publication "Historical Linguistics 1999: Selected Papers from the 14th International Conference on Historical Linguistics." and one paper in particular "Nichols, J. (1999) - Why me and thee?". Had the author actually read this paper regarding language acquisition then he or she might have understood that the whole point was to demonstrate that sounds originating from within physiological tendencies peculiar to humans will tend to produce words with the most cross-cultural semantic consistency, by far the longest unbroken consistency in meaning, and therefore justify the claim that they are at the very root of linguistic development itself.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 17:52

Punjab never had any explosive bits. It's very basic. Panche means five in several local tongues and arb is for river its just the spelled form thus an economical way of saying the land of the 5 rivers. In truth I did know the Celtic av word connection but had no way of expressing it visually - or sensibly.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 18:38

Plosive (not explosive) consonants punctuate words in speech, either naturally or as an introduced element when voiced aspirants no longer have a context in which they can be assumed or "heard" - normally as inter-dialectic communication decreases due to demographic changes or when one dialect becomes critically dominant within a language ("stagnation"). Punjabi is just one of many languages in which this occurred. It's found in English too in more recent centuries when the Saxon ð, once removed of its significance, became a hard "d", even though the hard "d" was already alive and well and used in other words anyway. The aspirant element was no longer required in most cases so it disappeared. Where it stubbornly refused to depart (words in frequent use, for example, or which start many sentences) it was replaced with the "th" sound, which also had already been much in use in other words anyway. But if you look at a Saxon-Modern English dictionary you'll see the ratio of "d" to "th" for translations of older "ð" words is about ten to one. The plosive won. It always does - we speak words more than we think them.

PS: If "arb" is "river in Punjabi then this also betrays the same PIE root as "pani" ("water").


Last edited by nordmann on Fri 27 Jan 2017, 18:55; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 18:44

Oh, I see. Nothing intended just saying - wrongly as it turns out. Plosive - sounds like a little girl word for fireworks..... and not one I use, myself. I am not at all into this language stuff - as you must have gathered, just interested. Me? chastize? You? Here? Good grief. If it happens you wouldn't have to ask.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 18:51

I edited the above while you were replying to it - sorry about the confusion - just to explain the plosive thingy better.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 22:08

nordmann wrote:
You're presenting several definitions of what should be considered "core", Paul. There are certainly morphemes, a list of which you have linked to, which retain the same meaning no matter in which more complex word they appear, but these in fact are regarded in semantics as being as dependent as they are intelligible. Or put another way, they have no real meaning unless conjoined. -Er, for example, conveys one pretty constant meaning when it turns up as part of an occupation name for example, but quite another when it turns up in others (like "other" itself, as a prime example, since we do not need telling - even when learning English as a second language - that "other" does not mean a person who "oths" for a living).

Semantics is the study of intelligibility as it applies to language and its elements, and in a semantic sense I would class the genuine "core" words as those which actually transcend language in the sense we normally mean it - a precisely distinct amalgam of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation which corresponds to equally distinct and separate cultures and communities as defined over time. However if you just take language in its broadest use of the term - verbal communication - and irrespective of its myriad developments and applications over countless millennia, then genuinely "core" words do then appear, and in the case of European and semitic languages these are normally the ones for which etymological descriptions assign an original "PIE" value, all more recent manifestations regarded as cognates of this proto-Indo-European root.

I'm not sure anyone's ever really counted them (a research grant going a begging there for some sad individual, I suppose), nor even how much latitude one should employ when tackling their consistency, but there is no denying that there is a body of sounds which display amazingly consistent semantic delivery, pronunciation and application all the way back to PIE. Some have obviously onomatopoeic origins but the vast majority do not. However what they all have in common is that they have served as a semantic fundament in the conveying of particular concepts throughout a huge variety of consequent languages in the many thousands of years and many languages evolved from that origin over this time.

Some are obvious. The PIE "H₂ster" for example (and remember the "r" and "l" phonetic has swapped back and forth in language development depending on its specific cultural application) can be pronounced "'st-l" or "'st-r". From this we can identify historically about three hundred distinct instances of it throughout ancient and modern languages (eg. "stairno" in Gothic, "sterenn" in Breton, "astl" in Armenian, "stā̆rǝm" in Iranian etc), so that now we do not even think about it or find it in any way weird when confronted with "stjerne" in Norwegian, "aster" in Greek, "stella" in Latin, or indeed "star" in English. Even apparently wild deviations, such as the Irish word for a star, "réalta", make sense as a cognate. In Gaelic, thanks to a particular convention having achieved grammatical primacy within that language over time, the application of the received word risked semantic confusion if it had left a sibilant in the construct. This would have conferred a quality of "goodness" about the subject, which in the case of expressing a "star" would have diminished rather than focused the semantic payload. The PIE word therefore, when it washed up in that Celtic language, had to be stripped of that sibilant element to retain its semantic consistency, no matter how much the resultant pronunciation and spelling might now make it appear etymologically inconsistent. This kind of unique imposition of new paradigms of pronunciation as words are relayed throughout cultures - a Ship of Theseus Paradox when it comes to etymological progression - occurs so frequently that it renders the task of the research graduate charged with counting these core words rather Sisyphean.

But that said, in my mind therefore this is still a true "core" word, as are also "seH₂wol" (sun), "swepv" (sleep), "ĝr̥H₂-no" (grain, corn) etc. Except for these quite explicable variations in pronunciation over time they consistently reveal themselves to be the central and indivisible components of a huge amount of words employed throughout as many languages afterwards to convey the same concept.

PIE does not imply an absolute origin either, it is simply as far back as we dare go in tracing linguistic history of a group of languages now spoken by over three fifths of the world's population. Countless millennia of communication preceded PIE and we can be pretty sure many of these words arrived in the proto-Indo-European tongues having already enjoyed a long and established linguistic pedigree in much the same form prior to that. Just why ancient people decided a "swepv" sound best symbolised and represented a few hours of nightly unconsciousness is anyone's guess, but once it was thus decided we can see that the symbol consolidated itself semantically to the point that any deviation from it in any subsequent language still had to retain something more than just a vestige of the original to avoid risking losing the meaning altogether. In language terms things just don't get any more "core" than that.

 Nordmann,

thank you for your immediate reply. I will comment it later and I think I understand it all Wink .
But further to explain where I am after...
One can in any language already say a lot with one concept short basic words.

For instance the Sona language
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sona_language_(artificial)
"Sona is an agglutinative language with a strong tendency towards being an isolating language. The language has 375 radicals or root words whose meanings are based on the categories in Roget's original thesaurus. Ideas and sentences are formed by juxtaposing the radicals. Thus, ra "male" plus ko "child" makes rako "boy"."

With 375 root words one can already make a language...I am thinking about creole languages...simplified languages...just saying the essential...as a kid...and from there in any language during praxis and during the years one comes to the "rich" language...and also from the beginning you can add prefixes and suffixes for a further fine tuning...? Yes and I forgot grammatica...I think it was Noam Chomski who said that we have an inherent grammatical hiearchy in our mind? For instance substantive-verb-object...


It is from 1935-36 from a Dutch linguïst (and still in old spelling preWWII) but it gives an interesting account of what words are used in novels and so on. It gives also an account of how the vocabulary develops from childhood on. Will also seek what Noam Chomski says about it.
http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/_taa011193501_01/_taa011193501_01_0042.php
[th]Schrijvers of werken[/th][th]Aantal lexicale woorden[/th][th]Onderzoekers[/th]
Victor Hugo38.000Dr. E.P. Ponçot
Notre Dame van Victor Hugo27.000Dr. E.P. Ponçot
Shakespeare24.000Dr. E. Holden
Shelley16.000Dr. E.W. Doran
Milton13.000Dr. E.W. Doran
Cowper11.300Dr. E.W. Doran
Tennyson10.600Dr. E.W. Doran
Rig Veda10.000Friedr. Kluge
Homerus8.500H. Dunger en Kluge
Qud Testament5.800Friedr. Kluge
Theodor Storm5.458A. Procksch
Vergilius5.200H. Dunger
Nieuw Testament4.800Friedr. Kluge
Ovidius4.600H. Dunger
Horatius4.600H. Dunger
Arrianos4.000H. Dunger
Xenophon3.200H. Dunger
Cornelius Nepos3.100H. Dunger
[th]Leeftijd (age)[/th][th]Woordenschat (vocabulary) active and passive and third column the difference between the two[/th][th][/th][th][/th][th][/th][th][/th]
 
1¼ jaar20128
1½ jaar1006040
1¾ jaar20012080
2 jaar600400200
3 jaar800600200
4 jaar1.000800200
5 jaar1.5001.200300
6 jaar2.0001.700300
7 jaar3.0001.8001.200
8 jaar4.0001.9002.100
9 jaar5.4002.0003.400
10 jaar6.8002.1005.700
11 jaar8.2002.2006.000
12 jaar9.6002.3007.300
13 jaar11.0002.4008.600
14 jaar12.4002.5009.900
15 jaar13.7002.60011.100
16 jaar15.0002.70012.300
17 jaar16.0002.80013.200
18 jaar17.0002.90014.100
19 jaar18.0003.00015.000
Jonge onderwijzers (young teachers)19.0003.50015.500
Universiteitsstudenten: (1ste jaars)20.0004.00016.000
And yes it is interesting that when one looks to etymology in the several European languages it appears that more or less indeed most words have common IE roots and it is IMO surprizing that in that large time lapse the root words have not changed that much?
For instance in Dutch:
"man neemt vaas" (man takes vase)
http://www.etymologiebank.nl/trefwoord/man1
http://www.etymologiebank.nl/trefwoord/nemen
http://www.etymologiebank.nl/trefwoord/vaas1

With the Chinese language I wanted to say that with pictures for each root word, one can already compose quite a bit of language with a reasonable number of signs?
And the advantage is as for instance a sign for "water" when a Frenchman see that sign he will see it as "eau" and the German will see it as "wasser"
Priscilla I wonder if the Indian languages are also alphabetic as the western languages and semitic ones as arabic and hebrew?

As I all read it I suppose! but it is a real guess, that one already with a few thousand root words can compose a fair deal of understandable language. Of course that will ever be a constructed language? and not "organical" grown as the real languages?

What I wanted to add: sometimes the original concept of a word is altered by using it, by making mistakes, for other reasons, but once it is admitted in the general patrimonium and the general public recognizes it in that wrong concept it is nevertheless a new word of a language?

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Fri 27 Jan 2017, 22:41

Paul wrote:
As I all read it I suppose! but it is a real guess, that one already with a few thousand root words can compose a fair deal of understandable language. Of course that will ever be a constructed language? and not "organical" grown as the real languages?

Both are fallacies. Language is neither constructed nor organic, and no language is more or less real on that basis anyway. At any point in time one can point to elements of both in how most individual words came to be, and in doing so surmise (falsely) a validity to whatever language in which they are employed, but language does not exist frozen in time and no matter how well constructed or how spontaneously organic any individual word may appear to be in its development to that point, neither aspect of its evolution is a guarantee of anything regarding the word retaining its semantic import and character from any one moment to the next.

Which is why I reckon a search for "core" words is meaningless unless one means those words which have survived countless evolutionary stages in human linguistic history while retaining at least a large part of their pronunciation and semantic meaning to the listener along the way. This is why the reference to proto-Indo-European roots is important, it is at least one traceable spore back through time to a particular point against which this can be tested. I am sure other non Indo-European language families are also the same in that respect. But the bottom line is that if the core word, however it is adjudged, has not retained a consistent meaning to those who employed it along the way - alone or as part of another word - then it is not a core word at all, just a core sound.

Umberto Eco, whose academic career involved the study of semantics, maintained that etymology was the tracing of half-achieved thought transmissions back through phases of occasionally higher and occasionally lower clarity to an inevitable oblivion from which they sprang. This is just about all one can say about the matter with any confidence. Your final comment above hints at the fact that you also know this to be true. Semantics outweigh all else in linguistic importance. If the mental image invoked by an utterance changes in people's minds over time, even if the pronunciation and spelling of that utterance never deviates, then semantically it is a new "word" (check out the use of the English word "nice" over the last three hundred years to see what I mean). However if deviation occurs, but the mental image it invokes remains stubbornly constant, then it is the same "word". If one judges this over many thousand years and finds it still to be true then these are your "core" words. They can be nothing else, and their employment in all the languages in which they survive, and always to the same semantic end, proves it.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Sat 28 Jan 2017, 10:30

Priscilla wrote:
I am not at all into this language stuff - as you must have gathered, just interested.


I too find the "mechanics" of language difficult, in the same way that I find logic and philosophy difficult. Although (obviously) I have always been passionately interested in what we can do with language, semantics has always left me cold. But I am ashamed to admit this. I see it as a grave intellectual failing - just as my inability to engage with philosophy embarrasses me. I have struggled with Umberto, just as I have struggled with Saussure, Derrida and the rest of them. I have given up in despair.


nordmann wrote:

...but language does not exist frozen in time and no matter how well constructed or how spontaneously organic any individual word may appear to be in its development to that point, neither aspect of its evolution is a guarantee of anything regarding the word retaining its semantic import and character from any one moment to the next.


But that I can grasp - I think - and I agree with the poster. It immediately reminded me of something I read in one of my books about religion (no, I'm really not yet again trying to shoehorn religion into a discussion - I just hope the following has some relevance here) about the danger of trying to "freeze" words. And what, after all, are words for? Don't we have to go beneath the words and seek to enter the experience - the thought - that produced the words? Otherwise we may as well be programmed robots. This is the paragraph I remembered:

"There is a consistency to the experience of God in every age. The inconsistency, indeed the fallacy, is in the words used to articulate the experience, for words are both limited and dated. Literalised words always distort experience, and if these words are frozen so firmly they cannot change with the times, then finally literal words will render inaccessible in another time the meaning they once conveyed...

Words are such slippery things. It's what makes them exciting. Didn't Derrda or Saussure or one of that French crowd actually talk about "slippage" - the constant sliding of the signified under the signifier? One man's signified is another man's mystery...or madness, of course. I wonder sometimes if humans would have been better off sticking to mime and dance as a method of communicating - perhaps there would have been fewer wars had we done so.

Esperanto never really caught on, did it? I like the title of this article from the Economist: "Simple, Logical and Doomed", and this bit about Tolkien struck me:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/09/esperanto-0

Google “famous Esperanto speakers” and you will find Wikipedia’s list. Many names are not exactly famous. But one jumps out: J.R.R. Tolkien. The novelist (and language inventor) apparently briefly dabbled in Esperanto. But he later wrote to a reader that

“Volapük, Esperanto, Ido, Novial, &c &c are dead, far deader than ancient unused languages, because their authors never invented any Esperanto legends.

[From letter 180.]


I'm sorry, this is all a terrible muddle - but one feels one should at least try to contribute.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Sat 28 Jan 2017, 10:59

I agree with every point you made there, Temp, even the god reference. Another way of looking at it (and this applies to just about every metaphysical concept you can imagine) is that despite the semantic fluidity of the concept it refuses to go away and consistently demands expression. Umberto Eco called this the "inexpressible" but made the very valid point that in coining a word (and everyone understanding a word) like "inexpressible", which in turn describes a concept to which we have also ascribed a word, we have simply created an expression describing a thought. The inexpressible has in fact been expressed. It does not "prove" any metaphysical concept as "real", but it betrays the reality of the thought behind it. And that is what words are in most cases, vehicles of betrayal of our thoughts since they advertise their presence though we may not always have intended such advertisement at that moment of expression, compounding the crime even further by then so inadequately expressing them in most cases.

Getting back to Paul's point and your own regarding limited vocabulary languages; I am old enough to have had to learn Cobal and Fortran as first steps towards engaging in what is now called IT. These, quite correctly, were classified as languages. However due to the restrictions in expression imposed by computer mechanics (switch on, switch off) and the binary code in which they were written these languages, and others of their day, were basically (pardon the pun) restricted to 255 unique "expressions". Yet millions of more complex instructions could be potentially inputted into a computer through sequencing, conjoining, and other manipulations of these expressions. In other words a highly limited vocabulary could still be engineered to convey complex communication.

This is what Paul is referring to above regarding Sona, etc. However what these rather mechanical approaches to linguistics leave out is the rather obvious truth that words, in the vast majority of cases, refuse to consistently retain a specific semantic role. This in fact is the whole joy of language, in my view, and why it is worth studying at all. A computer must apply only one possible semantic interpretation to what is communicated or it is in fact faulty. A brain however is under no such restriction, and in fact finds it difficult to impose that restriction anyway, even when it wants to.

Language acquisition, as Paul also refers to above (he really is mixing up a lot of quite different things in his definition of "core"), is a red herring. That only accounts for how and why we might learn and remember a vocabulary, and possibly at what point we might erroneously assume we have amassed enough for our needs. However a bigger picture looks at the entire vocabulary, and indeed the entire range of languages, out there at this moment in time from which we can acquire and construct these linguistic tools. If history of language presents any great truth it must be that from the beginning of inter-human communication itself this resource has been inadequate to our needs, no matter how adept we are at plucking from it. Like the early Fortran programmers, we are forced to invent and adapt in order to make sometimes even the simplest concept conveyable to another person. We must repeatedly break the tool to make it work for us.

Which is why, as I said before, I am fascinated by those words as represented by their PIE stems which have withstood this assault through countless millennia and retained their original form and payload mostly intact. It is, in historical terms, almost an extreme privilege to employ them in speech today. They are artefacts of huge antiquity bequeathed to us by our earliest ancestors without which we could not survive today. That is a sobering thought.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Sat 28 Jan 2017, 14:36

nordmann wrote:
Semantics is the study of intelligibility as it applies to language and its elements, and in a semantic sense I would class the genuine "core" words as those which actually transcend language in the sense we normally mean it - a precisely distinct amalgam of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation which corresponds to equally distinct and separate cultures and communities as defined over time.

That exquisitely crafted sentence prompts one to consider an example from the Basque language. I'm not an expert on linguistics but my understanding is that Basque is not categorised as belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. This makes it intriguing in terms or core words and sounds. Many years ago I shared a house with a Basque-speaker who would occasionally seek to fry my brain with attempts at teaching me some of his unique language. One word I recall, however, is the word txotx (pronounces tchotch) which means a splinter of wood but also means the sound made when a plug hole is knocked out of a wooden barrel of wine or cider and the word thus derives a third meaning which is a toast "txotx!" as in "santé!" or "cheers!" or "slàinte!". I've often wondered if the 'tch' sound is a universal core unit relating to social greeting.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Sat 28 Jan 2017, 22:28

nordmann wrote:
Paul wrote:
As I all read it I suppose! but it is a real guess, that one already with a few thousand root words can compose a fair deal of understandable language. Of course that will ever be a constructed language? and not "organical" grown as the real languages?

Both are fallacies. Language is neither constructed nor organic, and no language is more or less real on that basis anyway. At any point in time one can point to elements of both in how most individual words came to be, and in doing so surmise (falsely) a validity to whatever language in which they are employed, but language does not exist frozen in time and no matter how well constructed or how spontaneously organic any individual word may appear to be in its development to that point, neither aspect of its evolution is a guarantee of anything regarding the word retaining its semantic import and character from any one moment to the next.

Which is why I reckon a search for "core" words is meaningless unless one means those words which have survived countless evolutionary stages in human linguistic history while retaining at least a large part of their pronunciation and semantic meaning to the listener along the way. This is why the reference to proto-Indo-European roots is important, it is at least one traceable spore back through time to a particular point against which this can be tested. I am sure other non Indo-European language families are also the same in that respect. But the bottom line is that if the core word, however it is adjudged, has not retained a consistent meaning to those who employed it along the way - alone or as part of another word - then it is not a core word at all, just a core sound.

Umberto Eco, whose academic career involved the study of semantics, maintained that etymology was the tracing of half-achieved thought transmissions back through phases of occasionally higher and occasionally lower clarity to an inevitable oblivion from which they sprang. This is just about all one can say about the matter with any confidence. Your final comment above hints at the fact that you also know this to be true. Semantics outweigh all else in linguistic importance. If the mental image invoked by an utterance changes in people's minds over time, even if the pronunciation and spelling of that utterance never deviates, then semantically it is a new "word" (check out the use of the English word "nice" over the last three hundred years to see what I mean). However if deviation occurs, but the mental image it invokes remains stubbornly constant, then it is the same "word". If one judges this over many thousand years and finds it still to be true then these are your "core" words. They can be nothing else, and their employment in all the languages in which they survive, and always to the same semantic end, proves it.

Nordmann,

"Both are fallacies. Language is neither constructed nor organic, and no language is more or less real on that basis anyway. At any point in time one can point to elements of both in how most individual words came to be, and in doing so surmise (falsely) a validity to whatever language in which they are employed, but language does not exist frozen in time and no matter how well constructed or how spontaneously organic any individual word may appear to be in its development to that point, neither aspect of its evolution is a guarantee of anything regarding the word retaining its semantic import and character from any one moment to the next."

Now I see it all a bit clearer as I looked again to the table I mentioned in my last message.
http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/_taa011193501_01/_taa011193501_01_0042.php
Schrijvers of werkenAantal lexicale woordenOnderzoekers (writer of novels, amount of "lexical words", researchers)

Victor Hugo38.000Dr. E.P. Ponçot
Notre Dame van Victor Hugo27.000Dr. E.P. Ponçot
Shakespeare24.000Dr. E. Holden
Shelley16.000Dr. E.W. Doran
Milton13.000Dr. E.W. Doran
Cowper11.300Dr. E.W. Doran
Tennyson10.600Dr. E.W. Doran
Rig Veda10.000Friedr. Kluge
Homerus8.500H. Dunger en Kluge
Qud Testament5.800Friedr. Kluge
Theodor Storm5.458A. Procksch
Vergilius5.200H. Dunger
Nieuw Testament4.800Friedr. Kluge
Ovidius4.600H. Dunger
Horatius4.600H. Dunger
Arrianos4.000H. Dunger
Xenophon3.200H. Dunger
Cornelius Nepos3.100H. Dunger
What I meant at the beginning (and I agree that as it was not clear to me I spoke of several things not related to each other and perhaps not realy connected with the subject, but I put each time question marks after it Wink ) was that in my opinion one could with a relatively small amount of (I found here in this table the new word: "lexical words". Will seek for translation in English) one concept words, nevertheless write a substantially understandable language.
And I agree, this understandable language will always exist at a given moment in time and that for a public of a given time, which can interpret these words as those in use on that moment and independant! from whatever roots in the past. Thus words as they exist at a given time and understood in a meaning common to a general public of that specific time.
Did also some small reserch in Dutch about "lexical words"
And in that I found also the relation with:
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semeem
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seem_(taalkunde)
Will later to seek the equivalents in English...

And in that option I repeat my question:
If an Ovidius that I studied or a Xenophon that I studied too, could write such a novels with respectively 4600 and 3200 lexical words, why can we at the present time not make an understandable novel in the same way. Lets say with about 5000 words.
If a Shakespeare can do it in his works with 24000 words, why not I with 5000 words (5000 signs in Chinese?) And that in each language? And perhaps as I know Dutch, English French and German and even a bit of Russian and the equivalents in two Dutch dialects, you think perhaps that it has to be then 20000 words, but no...if I read a word in English...I have immediately the equivalent in mind in one of the languages I mentioned and if it is the same concept of the word it is I.M.O not really a new word for me...
And I agree the be-words from Priscilla count also as words as they have each a concept on their own...

As about the question from Temperance I presume, yes the "concept" of the word is important and many times it is not so obvious as the word "water" (and even that). I read discussions, if I remember it well, from German and French historians, that each language had their own manner of expression, so to say that a French text was nearly not to translate in German and vice versa, because these two languages had another way to express thoughts...I don't subscribe these theories...in my opinion it is because readers even in the same English language interpret the concept of the words in another way...therefore in a text, which has to be accurate, one has the obligation to explain each time the concept of the "difficult" words, as it can be that the author has for the same word another concept as those understood by the readers...

So far for this evening...

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Sat 28 Jan 2017, 23:38

Semantically what you aver is the opposite to what pertains, Paul. You are basically talking about using as limited a vocabulary as possible to convey your meaning, hopefully without distorting that meaning. Or to put it another way, to communicate using an artificially limited vocabulary as succinctly as possible without sacrificing intelligibility in the process, and doing this by carefully choosing the least ambiguous words for the task of constructing this vocabulary. This will undoubtedly, if rigidly applied, result in the use of the least total number of words (ignoring repetition of certain of these) in both the vocabulary's construction and then, with this palette, in each utterance you compose from the colours and textures it affords. But what it will not signify is that the words deemed unnecessary to your task are therefore superfluous. In fact the opposite is true. You are intentionally selecting words which in comparison to others available for the same task will express all your thoughts henceforth, you hope, most succinctly, something which would be impossible to do however if those other words were not available for this act of comparison, known to you, and therefore also intelligible to you. You have given as much if not more consideration to the potential ambiguity of the words on this proposed palette as you have to the intelligibility of the ones you ultimately select or reject in relation to what you will try to convey regarding your thoughts from that moment on. You have used your large vocabulary assembled in response to avoidance of ambiguity in the past to construct a smaller one which you hope can achieve the same result in the future.

Which all sounds like a laudable, if totally academic, exercise except you have then also committed, in semantics terms, the cardinal sin of assuming that a word - however succinct and obvious it is in meaning to you - conveys exactly to the audience what it is that you are trying to say.

It is an interesting exercise nevertheless, I agree, and at least forces one to take a step back and evaluate the elements of one's vocabulary in a detached and unsentimental fashion. Much about the acquisition of language and how it happened for the individual engaged in that exercise could probably be deduced from giving it a go. But it neither proves the superfluousness of the omitted words nor the actual succinctness of the chosen ones. You can be as sure of your succinctness and success in conveying your meaning as much as I can be sure that I have conveyed my meaning to you now. And I am not too sure of that at all.

Nor do I go along with your notion of "difficult" words. All words pose a particular difficulty, and that is even before the extra difficulty posed by artificially limiting their verbal context in the exercise you suggest. You are familiar with how tone, timbre, stress, timing and sequence can drastically alter the conveyed meaning of just one word when spoken. Well the same applies to some extent to the written word too, and there are few words exempt from this (conjunctions are more immune than other parts of speech but even they can be nuanced through context of delivery). On top of this the mood, attitude, beliefs and predisposition of your audience or reader, something over which you have no control whatsoever, will also apply a meaning to the word you present quite different at times from your intention. None of these difficulties are resolved or circumvented through limiting one's own vocabulary.

When we communicate we omit as much as we include, whether we do so consciously or not. Even people with naturally limited vocabularies (young children for example) will select their words, sometimes with great deliberation and intelligence, to enhance their intelligibility, and will also place as much intelligence into how they are presented as into which ones they employ. Semantically the size of the vocabulary to hand is actually irrelevant, except of course were one to consciously restrict oneself to a fraction of the expressions available to one, in which case there is a very good chance that the original and intended meaning of your thoughts has already been corrupted before it even leaves your brain.

We all tend to get by in everyday speech with more or less the same number of words used to convey the vast majority of our communicable thoughts, and this has been shown to be true regardless of whatever language one most naturally speaks. However this does not mean that we are all equally proficient in communicating our thoughts successfully, or that we are ourselves always consistent in doing so successfully, and whether we have a huge or limited vocabulary at our disposal does not seem to matter either. What seems to be a constant however is that we forever probe the limits of our vocabulary, in whatever language, and forever adapt everything within that limit so that our utterances match as closely as possible the complexity of our thoughts. An artificial limit will not change this, only corrupt that process, and a natural limit just means we do this all the more.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Sun 29 Jan 2017, 11:25

I was just looking (for MM) for whale references in my Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf and I stumbled upon this in Heaney's introduction. It made me smile - but hope it is of some relevance here:

...early on, in my first arts year at Queen's University, Belfast, when we were lectured on the history of the English language by Professor John Braidwood...Braidwood could not help informing us, for example, that the word 'whiskey' is the same word as the Irish and Gaelic word uisce, meaning water, and that the River Usk in Britain is to some extent the River Uisce (or Whiskey); and so in my mind the stream was suddenly turned into a kind of linguistic river of rivers issuing from a pristine Celto-British Land of Cockaigne, a riverrun of Finnegans Wakespeak pouring out of the cleft rock of some pre-political, prelapsarian, ur-philological Big Rock Candy Mountain - and all this had a wonderfully sweetening effect upon me. The Irish/English duality, the Celtic/Saxon antithesis were momentarily collapsed, and in the resulting etymological eddy a gleam of recognition flashed through the synapses and I glimpsed an elsewhere of potential which seemed at the same time to be a somewhere being remembered. The place on the language map where the Usk and uisce and the whiskey coincided was definitely a place where the spirit might find a loophole, an escape route from what John Montague has called "the partitioned intellect", away into some unpartitioned linguistic country, a region where one's language would not be a simple badge of ethnicity or a matter of cultural preference or official imposition, but an entry into further language..."
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Sun 29 Jan 2017, 12:08

Temperance wrote:
... the word 'whiskey' is the same word as the Irish and Gaelic word uisce, meaning water, and that the River Usk in Britain is to some extent the River Uisce (or Whiskey); and so in my mind the stream was suddenly turned into a kind of linguistic river of rivers issuing from a pristine Celto-British Land of Cockaigne, a riverrun of Finnegans Wakespeak pouring out of the cleft rock ..."

From the same linguistic root as whiskey and the river Usk (and Esk), and geographically a lot closer to you,  are the rivers Exe and Axe. The former of course rises on watery Exmoor, while the latter resurges, "pouring out of the cleft rock", from Wookey Hole Cavern at the foot of the Mendips, whose name is a lovely bit of tautology: Wookey comes from the celtic, ogo, hence the modern Welsh, ogof, meaning a cave; hole is Saxon related to the German höhle, also meaning a cave; and the cavern bit was simply appended by Victorians to make it sound a bit grander for tourists.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Sun 29 Jan 2017, 13:14

Globally there is huge respect afforded to the names of rivers - newcomers to an area almost always traditionally have stuck with the existing name if it becomes known to them, albeit very often with little or no understanding of the words' original meaning in doing so and with huge phonetic liberties taken as a result. This makes them therefore an etymologist's dream, and as Seamus Heaney lyrically phrased it in Temp's quote above, quite literally a "linguistic river of rivers" in their own right.

If one is (rightly) impressed with the semantic consistency over thousands of years as exemplified by the Axe, Exe, Usk and Esk respecting a Celtic root, spare a thought for the river Ure. Etymologically one can trace this back only as far as the 11th century when it was recorded as the "Ear Ƿ" (and mistakenly for a while therefore as the "Earp", a typical Norman misunderstanding of the Saxon Ƿ in written form which they assumed was a "P", when in fact it was the Old English "wynn" or "w" and indicated water). However the "Ear" was itself a Norse attempt at emulating what must have sounded phonetically as "Yuhr", very close to its modern pronunciation in fact, and we must assume that they were affording the same traditional respect to the river's existing and very ancient name.

Which brings us round to Vizzer's Basque language, assumed to be an isolated remnant of a pan-European tongue or family of languages preceding even Indo-European language development, and which therefore plays a huge role in determining the antiquity of certain sounds having retained semantic consistency from way before even PIE. The modern Basque word for "water" is "ur", though pronounced using what linguists call the "close front rounded vowel" sound followed by the trailing "r" - just as the English today pronounce the river Ure in fact. Now there's an interesting - if tantalisingly unverifiable - proposition regarding just how much respect that particular river's name has received and how many times by however many new populations over how many millennia, isn't it?

Sticking with Basques and water (though of the non-whale variety) their word for "river" itself is "uibir", not a million miles from the Irish "aibheann", and even closer to the very ancient Erse word for Ireland itself which is assumed to mean at its root the land of rivers, "Eibhir".
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Sun 29 Jan 2017, 22:22

nordmann wrote:
Semantically what you aver is the opposite to what pertains, Paul. You are basically talking about using as limited a vocabulary as possible to convey your meaning, hopefully without distorting that meaning. Or to put it another way, to communicate using an artificially limited vocabulary as succinctly as possible without sacrificing intelligibility in the process, and doing this by carefully choosing the least ambiguous words for the task of constructing this vocabulary. This will undoubtedly, if rigidly applied, result in the use of the least total number of words (ignoring repetition of certain of these) in both the vocabulary's construction and then, with this palette, in each utterance you compose from the colours and textures it affords. But what it will not signify is that the words deemed unnecessary to your task are therefore superfluous. In fact the opposite is true. You are intentionally selecting words which in comparison to others available for the same task will express all your thoughts henceforth, you hope, most succinctly, something which would be impossible to do however if those other words were not available for this act of comparison, known to you, and therefore also intelligible to you. You have given as much if not more consideration to the potential ambiguity of the words on this proposed palette as you have to the intelligibility of the ones you ultimately select or reject in relation to what you will try to convey regarding your thoughts from that moment on. You have used your large vocabulary assembled in response to avoidance of ambiguity in the past to construct a smaller one which you hope can achieve the same result in the future.

Which all sounds like a laudable, if totally academic, exercise except you have then also committed, in semantics terms, the cardinal sin of assuming that a word - however succinct and obvious it is in meaning to you - conveys exactly to the audience what it is that you are trying to say.

It is an interesting exercise nevertheless, I agree, and at least forces one to take a step back and evaluate the elements of one's vocabulary in a detached and unsentimental fashion. Much about the acquisition of language and how it happened for the individual engaged in that exercise could probably be deduced from giving it a go. But it neither proves the superfluousness of the omitted words nor the actual succinctness of the chosen ones. You can be as sure of your succinctness and success in conveying your meaning as much as I can be sure that I have conveyed my meaning to you now. And I am not too sure of that at all.

Nor do I go along with your notion of "difficult" words. All words pose a particular difficulty, and that is even before the extra difficulty posed by artificially limiting their verbal context in the exercise you suggest. You are familiar with how tone, timbre, stress, timing and sequence can drastically alter the conveyed meaning of just one word when spoken. Well the same applies to some extent to the written word too, and there are few words exempt from this (conjunctions are more immune than other parts of speech but even they can be nuanced through context of delivery). On top of this the mood, attitude, beliefs and predisposition of your audience or reader, something over which you have no control whatsoever, will also apply a meaning to the word you present quite different at times from your intention. None of these difficulties are resolved or circumvented through limiting one's own vocabulary.

When we communicate we omit as much as we include, whether we do so consciously or not. Even people with naturally limited vocabularies (young children for example) will select their words, sometimes with great deliberation and intelligence, to enhance their intelligibility, and will also place as much intelligence into how they are presented as into which ones they employ. Semantically the size of the vocabulary to hand is actually irrelevant, except of course were one to consciously restrict oneself to a fraction of the expressions available to one, in which case there is a very good chance that the original and intended meaning of your thoughts has already been corrupted before it even leaves your brain.

We all tend to get by in everyday speech with more or less the same number of words used to convey the vast majority of our communicable thoughts, and this has been shown to be true regardless of whatever language one most naturally speaks. However this does not mean that we are all equally proficient in communicating our thoughts successfully, or that we are ourselves always consistent in doing so successfully, and whether we have a huge or limited vocabulary at our disposal does not seem to matter either. What seems to be a constant however is that we forever probe the limits of our vocabulary, in whatever language, and forever adapt everything within that limit so that our utterances match as closely as possible the complexity of our thoughts. An artificial limit will not change this, only corrupt that process, and a natural limit just means we do this all the more.


Nordmann,

your first paragraph:

of course I am aware of the academic of this exercise, but initially the purpose of my exercise was the wondering how Chinese do it with their "characters" writing...each character a morpheme or the composition of two morphemes...I suppose...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpheme
And now at the end I tried to understand the use of Chinese characters:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_characters
https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/why-native-english-speakers-can-learn-mandarin-easily
I also wondered about the Egyptian picture script...
http://www.omniglot.com/writing/egyptian.htm
And it seems to be alphabetically?

Second paragraph.
No Nordmann, I am fully aware, and it was that that I mentioned in my previous message as from Temperance, it is not easely to express with words exactly what one has in his own "thought" and even when expressed in the best way, a reader can interpret the concept of word or the sentence in quite another way, perhaps linked to the views the readers has about that particular concept...and yes one can only "try" in whatever "communication" to make it mutual understandable...but perhaps a longer dialogue wher the two or more test their mutual understanding by new conversation can act as a catalyst for the broadening of the picture, the whole picture...

Fourth paragraph.
"difficult" words...I meant with an ambigious concept...for instance the word "nationalism"...I am again engaged together with a certain "motorbike" on the Historum forum in a new, one of the umpteenth similar ones from the past, about what nationalim "is"...it quite different from the word "water", and even that word...


Nordmann, I thank you to have me guided to form a more complet picture about my "problem" and at the end I think I have now "borned" the complete thinking about the question...I hope...
And perhaps I am glad that we here use an alphabeth, where we can combining with a few letters make innummerable combinations for concepts...perhaps Meles meles can make with his academic background a rapid calculation how many combinations in a five letter word...?

So far for this evening...

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Sun 29 Jan 2017, 23:02

I leave MM to his calculations but I feel bound to offer my lowly bit in this elevated dialogue. Spoken words are use with nuance. The commonest one in daily use - among the less erudite, I suggest is the word 'Yeah' meaning yes and pronounced in my simple way as Yair to rhyme with hair.

Now this can be said in a multitude of ways that can convey agreement, disbelief, sorrow, empathy, sarcasm, wonder, delight understanding, misunderstanding and on and on..... script writers must indicate which manner in whatever banal dialogue it is to used. There are others e.g. 'Really.'...


Now this may not be within the scope of your thread but it is very relevant in discourse about using a limited vocabulary.....teenage speak is a revelation in using basic verbal communication with shared understanding.  And that is, I suggest, a sacred rite of passage these days.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Mon 30 Jan 2017, 08:34

A fair point, P. Semantics, for all its complicated jargon and esoteric departures into verbal fancy, is basically the study of the manipulation of sound to impart meaning, and the teenage manipulation of "yeah" is a perfect example of why we must never be fooled into thinking a word alone can contain an intrinsic meaning - the cardinal sin of the aspiring semanticist as said before. Instead it is better to assume that meaning is 50% inflection and delivery, 50% the state of mind of the audience, and roughly 0% intrinsic to the vehicle used to impart it (though really useful words might just about deserve a 0.00000001% valuation on that scale).

Paul, your big mistake I reckon is in specifying English when asking to identify stem words or sounds, and your second mistake is in your presumptions about how Chinese operates. For a start there are several Chinese languages, and while Mandarin may have been one of the first to attemptedly codify its morphemes and base sounds into pictographic symbols it is by no means as standard and homogeneous as its stated usage suggests, and nor is its originally codified alphabet particularly successful in its own right anyway, superseded as it has been by later and better models which, surprise surprise, approach phonetic symbolism in the same way as we are used to - with basic sound elements rather than combinations taking precedence. So while the Mandarin symbol for "A" might well also be a symbol originally signifying "the moon", and while the word for "moon" may also operate as a morpheme in pre-Standard Chinese, it is of no greater significance than knowing that our own symbol for "A" originated as a picture of an ox, with whatever associated morpheme that word may have doubled as in whatever tongue in which the symbol was used. However, try substituting the sound "ox" into every word in which you meet the "a" vowel and you'll see the challenge the Chinese also face, as well as why their approach to phonetics is so often misrepresented in the west.

But the big problem you have set yourself is in trying to reduce English to possible base phonetic elements which can retain enough meaning to constitute a usable language in their own right. In fact you could not have picked a worse language in which to attempt such a fruitless task.

Most languages develop through constant but subtle variations of elision, adoption, combination, adaptation, and shifting syllabics, etc, with an occasional traumatic mass intrusion of new words which can sometimes even threaten the language's existence but which, if successfully absorbed, leaves a hybrid in its wake. This is the basic pattern of events and influences in which the vast majority of surviving languages can be seen to have developed historically.

English, on the other hand, is the end result of quite a unique series of events which defy comparison with contemporary, or even historical, instances of language formation. Without getting too complicated regarding morpheme continuity (which English actually challenges as a concept) and other background processes which provide the phonetic building blocks of all speech, English as the culmination of a linguistic process - and without going into the thorny issue of which process has dominated, when, and why - has an origin in Celtic, has then undergone a rather sudden adoption of Romance, an equally sudden adoption of Germanic, and a final resurgence of Romance, over the last two thousand years. As linguistic development goes things don't get much more traumatic than this - for fifteen hundred years an indigenous population statically absorbed these influences in largely sudden, traumatic and emphatic waves. And all this while the other more usual and "benign" processes of elision, adaptation, adoption etc were also running in the background.

Traumatic adoption of an entire language from outside tends to lead to two things in cases where the existing language is not immediately eradicated - a subversion or obfuscation of meaning regarding the legacy words retained from the old, and a dualist linguistic mentality whereby old single-concept expressions acquire nuanced variations thanks to now having more than one word to describe the same thing. The human inclination is to retain the old and use both to create newly nuanced variants of the old expression.

The common language we now know as English underwent this normally unique violent process at least four times that we know of, and possibly even more times before the Iron Age if one wants to get properly linguistic about it, and its speakers' island habitat basically meant that each traumatic intrusion had to be taken on the chin when it occurred - there was nowhere to run to, something which also distinguishes linguistic development in Britain generally from contemporary European models where societies under such assault have often availed of the opportunity to just move somewhere else and bring their language with them.

But that which makes English truly unique as a language is what happened next. At a point in very recent history this static indigenous unique mish-mash of a tongue suddenly became not only super-mobile in terms of influence in a new age of mass communication, but thanks to an unprecedented access to new possibilities of influence in linguistic terms due to the equally new and emphatic possibilities to exert social control on a global level in which English was also the language of those exerting such control, English as a language suddenly found itself in the same position as others before it which had also found themselves incidentally attached in the past to their speakers' imperial expansion, huge migrations, opportunities for cultural and commercial dominance, and the like. One little studied aspect to linguistic expansion, especially when accelerated due to imperial acquisition etc, is the frequency with which the spreading language's limitations are exposed in the new environments in which it has impinged, and English has been no exception to this. Not only was it forced to adopt new words and idioms from its colonial "acquisitions" but in doing so it opened itself to avenues of influence governing semantic interpretation of its own previously sacrosanct and intrinsic base elements over which it had no control and which were truly global, receiving such fundamental influences from probably the greatest number of languages to which any one other language has ever been subjected. This is where we are now with English, and there is no sign of this process abating any time soon. In fact if anything it is accelerating.

Now, try tracing the life of the humble "English" morpheme and its fellow phonetic travellers through all that! I wish you luck. Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Mon 30 Jan 2017, 10:01

Interesting stuff. Remember Nadsat, the slangy new language Anthony Burgess created in The Clockwork Orange? However, Orwell's Newspeak - and the ideology which inspired that new language - is perhaps more relevant today. Chilling thought.

Newspeak v. Nadsat anyone?


http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2014/09/george-orwell-newspeak/


http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/05/language-of-a-clockwork-orange/
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Mon 30 Jan 2017, 10:30

Umberto Eco: "One word which will always defy semantic analysis is language itself".

When fictional jargons created by individual authors (and we can add Klingon to your list Temp) merit the same title as Mandarin, English and Swahili, then Eco's point is rather well made.

Though attempts to artificially manipulate language itself are not that uncommon in real life too. The French Revolution saw a concerted effort. Pol Pot had a go too. China has done it several times. And we are familiar with the ongoing assault on English from across the pond (though artifice takes a back seat to semplice in that case, bless 'em). But the good news is that English is simultaneously the most frequent target of such assault and also the one hardest to alter artificially. Forcing English speakers into standard modes of expression is the linguistic version of herding cats.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Mon 30 Jan 2017, 10:53

Klingon? Well, that's me put down yet again - thanks a lot. I was actually just mulling over the points you had made in your interesting post and trying to follow on. You can point an error out without being so bloody sarcastic, you know.

But I shan't bother again. I've got 'flu and I'm running a temperature. I'm going back to bed.

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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Mon 30 Jan 2017, 11:18

nordmann wrote:
Forcing English speakers into standard modes of expression is the linguistic version of herding cats.

And for all the considerable efforts of the Académie française to dictate and constrain "true French", that also has rather all come to nought in a global society. When confronted by le business of le facebook and le twitter etc it was inevitable that une courriel (the AF's approved shortened version of une courrier électronique) was never going to surplant un email in day to day usage by nearly every French person. Try as they might - and the Académie is still trying very hard - it is impossible to set a language to be unchanging for all time and 'uncontaminated' by outside influences.


Last edited by Meles meles on Mon 30 Jan 2017, 11:31; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Mon 30 Jan 2017, 11:22

You weren't being "put down", Temp. I thought that was your point - that "language" covers a multitude of sins as a word, and Klingon was the most offensive sin I could think of at a push in general agreement with you. But thanks for rather emphatically illustrating my own point above about the state of mind of the audience.

God bedring - as they say in another language. Hope you feel better soon.

Good point, MM. Though I admit to be one of those who will defend proper use of the apostrophe until my dying breath (which may not be that far off, it seems, given the irascibility of my interlocutors around here).
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Mon 30 Jan 2017, 11:38

Quote :
My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :-@ kids FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc.
Translation:
Quote :
My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York. It's a great place.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Mon 30 Jan 2017, 12:02

nordmann wrote:
You weren't being "put down", Temp. I thought that was your point - that "language" covers a multitude of sins as a word, and Klingon was the most offensive sin I could think of at a push in general agreement with you. But thanks for rather emphatically illustrating my own point above about the state of mind of the audience.

God bedring - as they say in another language. Hope you feel better soon.

Good point, MM. Though I admit to be one of those who will defend proper use of the apostrophe until my dying breath (which may not be that far off, it seems, given the irascibility of my interlocutors around here).

I apologise for my grumpiness and general snottiness (both literal and metaphorical) this morning. Thank you for get well wishes - that was kind of you. My bug is the By Royal Appointment virus - it's a good one.

I was going to say something about the rise of the rather Orwellian Newspeak expression "post-truth", but my head hurts too much. But isn't there an irony in the idea behind this trendy expression: after all, appeals to emotion rather than to fact - in politics and religion - have been going on for some time now?

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/15/post-truth-named-word-of-the-year-by-oxford-dictionaries

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/comment/post-truth-orwell-would-spot-the-doublespeak-in-the-word-of-2016


PS Any person who is willing to stand firm against the abuse of the apostrophe is OK in my book.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Mon 30 Jan 2017, 19:59

Priscilla wrote:
I leave MM to his calculations but I feel bound to offer my lowly bit in this elevated dialogue. Spoken words are use with nuance. The commonest one in daily use - among the less erudite, I suggest is the word 'Yeah' meaning yes and pronounced in my simple way as Yair to rhyme with hair.

Now this can be said in a multitude of ways that can convey agreement, disbelief, sorrow, empathy, sarcasm, wonder, delight understanding, misunderstanding and on and on..... script writers must indicate which manner in whatever banal dialogue it is to used. There are others e.g. 'Really.'...


Now this may not be within the scope of your thread but it is very relevant in discourse about using a limited vocabulary.....teenage speak is a revelation in using basic verbal communication with shared understanding.  And that is, I suggest, a sacred rite of passage these days.


Priscilla,

"I leave MM to his calculations"
I just realized last night that even for an academic as MM, it is nearly impossible to calculate. 5 letters would be I think 26 to the fifth power possibilities...but a lot of combinations isn't possible...as there can't be all consonants in it...at least one vowel...some consonant combinations can't be articulated...and as the written word has to be the nearby equivalent of the spoken one...in Italian and Spanish that equivalence is perhaps better to express than in English?
But what I wanted to say is that with these vowels and consonants it is possible to express "every" word in "any" language...and in fact I guess that the alphabet with its consonants and later its vowels is born as an easy manner to express equivalents to the spoken language...?

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Mon 30 Jan 2017, 20:26

nordmann wrote:
A fair point, P. Semantics, for all its complicated jargon and esoteric departures into verbal fancy, is basically the study of the manipulation of sound to impart meaning, and the teenage manipulation of "yeah" is a perfect example of why we must never be fooled into thinking a word alone can contain an intrinsic meaning - the cardinal sin of the aspiring semanticist as said before. Instead it is better to assume that meaning is 50% inflection and delivery, 50% the state of mind of the audience, and roughly 0% intrinsic to the vehicle used to impart it (though really useful words might just about deserve a 0.00000001% valuation on that scale).

Paul, your big mistake I reckon is in specifying English when asking to identify stem words or sounds, and your second mistake is in your presumptions about how Chinese operates. For a start there are several Chinese languages, and while Mandarin may have been one of the first to attemptedly codify its morphemes and base sounds into pictographic symbols it is by no means as standard and homogeneous as its stated usage suggests, and nor is its originally codified alphabet particularly successful in its own right anyway, superseded as it has been by later and better models which, surprise surprise, approach phonetic symbolism in the same way as we are used to - with basic sound elements rather than combinations taking precedence. So while the Mandarin symbol for "A" might well also be a symbol originally signifying "the moon", and while the word for "moon" may also operate as a morpheme in pre-Standard Chinese, it is of no greater significance than knowing that our own symbol for "A" originated as a picture of an ox, with whatever associated morpheme that word may have doubled as in whatever tongue in which the symbol was used. However, try substituting the sound "ox" into every word in which you meet the "a" vowel and you'll see the challenge the Chinese also face, as well as why their approach to phonetics is so often misrepresented in the west.

But the big problem you have set yourself is in trying to reduce English to possible base phonetic elements which can retain enough meaning to constitute a usable language in their own right. In fact you could not have picked a worse language in which to attempt such a fruitless task.

Most languages develop through constant but subtle variations of elision, adoption, combination, adaptation, and shifting syllabics, etc, with an occasional traumatic mass intrusion of new words which can sometimes even threaten the language's existence but which, if successfully absorbed, leaves a hybrid in its wake. This is the basic pattern of events and influences in which the vast majority of surviving languages can be seen to have developed historically.

English, on the other hand, is the end result of quite a unique series of events which defy comparison with contemporary, or even historical, instances of language formation. Without getting too complicated regarding morpheme continuity (which English actually challenges as a concept) and other background processes which provide the phonetic building blocks of all speech, English as the culmination of a linguistic process - and without going into the thorny issue of which process has dominated, when, and why - has an origin in Celtic, has then undergone a rather sudden adoption of Romance, an equally sudden adoption of Germanic, and a final resurgence of Romance, over the last two thousand years. As linguistic development goes things don't get much more traumatic than this - for fifteen hundred years an indigenous population statically absorbed these influences in largely sudden, traumatic and emphatic waves. And all this while the other more usual and "benign" processes of elision, adaptation, adoption etc were also running in the background.

Traumatic adoption of an entire language from outside tends to lead to two things in cases where the existing language is not immediately eradicated - a subversion or obfuscation of meaning regarding the legacy words retained from the old, and a dualist linguistic mentality whereby old single-concept expressions acquire nuanced variations thanks to now having more than one word to describe the same thing. The human inclination is to retain the old and use both to create newly nuanced variants of the old expression.

The common language we now know as English underwent this normally unique violent process at least four times that we know of, and possibly even more times before the Iron Age if one wants to get properly linguistic about it, and its speakers' island habitat basically meant that each traumatic intrusion had to be taken on the chin when it occurred - there was nowhere to run to, something which also distinguishes linguistic development in Britain generally from contemporary European models where societies under such assault have often availed of the opportunity to just move somewhere else and bring their language with them.

But that which makes English truly unique as a language is what happened next. At a point in very recent history this static indigenous unique mish-mash of a tongue suddenly became not only super-mobile in terms of influence in a new age of mass communication, but thanks to an unprecedented access to new possibilities of influence in linguistic terms due to the equally new and emphatic possibilities to exert social control on a global level in which English was also the language of those exerting such control, English as a language suddenly found itself in the same position as others before it which had also found themselves incidentally attached in the past to their speakers' imperial expansion, huge migrations, opportunities for cultural and commercial dominance, and the like. One little studied aspect to linguistic expansion, especially when accelerated due to imperial acquisition etc, is the frequency with which the spreading language's limitations are exposed in the new environments in which it has impinged, and English has been no exception to this. Not only was it forced to adopt new words and idioms from its colonial "acquisitions" but in doing so it opened itself to avenues of influence governing semantic interpretation of its own previously sacrosanct and intrinsic base elements over which it had no control and which were truly global, receiving such fundamental influences from probably the greatest number of languages to which any one other language has ever been subjected. This is where we are now with English, and there is no sign of this process abating any time soon. In fact if anything it is accelerating.

Now, try tracing the life of the humble "English" morpheme and its fellow phonetic travellers through all that! I wish you luck. Cheers


Nordmann,

"Paul, your big mistake I reckon is in specifying English when asking to identify stem words or sounds, and your second mistake is in your presumptions about how Chinese operates. For a start there are several Chinese languages, and while Mandarin may have been one of the first to attemptedly codify its morphemes and base sounds into pictographic symbols it is by no means as standard and homogeneous as its stated usage suggests, and nor is its originally codified alphabet particularly successful in its own right anyway, superseded as it has been by later and better models which, surprise surprise, approach phonetic symbolism in the same way as we are used to - with basic sound elements rather than combinations taking precedence. So while the Mandarin symbol for "A" might well also be a symbol originally signifying "the moon", and while the word for "moon" may also operate as a morpheme in pre-Standard Chinese, it is of no greater significance than knowing that our own symbol for "A" originated as a picture of an ox, with whatever associated morpheme that word may have doubled as in whatever tongue in which the symbol was used. However, try substituting the sound "ox" into every word in which you meet the "a" vowel and you'll see the challenge the Chinese also face, as well as why their approach to phonetics is so often misrepresented in the west."

At the beginning looking to prefixes and suffixes in combination with compounds of morphemes (I learned that word recently Wink ) and that, not only in English but in "any" language that I know, I wondered if that was not the trick of the Chinese pictography or any pictographic writing: for each morpheme an apart sign and also an equivalent for our pre and suffixes.
But now thanks to you I start to see that the question is more complex than that...but with all that I nevertheless learned a lot about language the last days... Wink

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Mon 30 Jan 2017, 21:53

Paul wrote:
But now thanks to you I start to see that the question is more complex than that...
Or simpler ...
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Tue 31 Jan 2017, 15:17

I was searching for 17th Century caviar, when I found this:

Early Modern English

may be of some interest.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Tue 31 Jan 2017, 19:20

Triceratops wrote:
I was searching for 17th Century caviar, when I found this:

Early Modern English

may be of some interest.

Indeed of interest Triceratops.

Kind regards, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Tue 31 Jan 2017, 23:35

A most interesting site, Trike, thanks. There it states that Shakespeare invented many words but I wonder if he did? Surely not all words in use had appeared anywhere in print? So such may not be new but were in common use. I think hurry is one of them - which perhaps at a guess meant 'harrie youself'  meaning  as in Phil Silvers / Top Cat speak - which I loved.... 'move it'

Language is such a lovely thing and for all  that has been written above perfect definition is surely like trying to pin down a live eel with someone else's finger. (Odd image but there, that is the joy of language - and proof that anyone can meddle with it.)
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PostSubject: Re: How many root? core? stem? single concept? words?   Wed 01 Feb 2017, 08:07

Priscilla wrote:
Language is such a lovely thing and for all that has been written above perfect definition is surely like trying to pin down a live eel with someone else's finger.

I don't think anyone would dispute / quibble with / bicker with / debate / question / remonstrate against / contradict / gainsay / quarrel with / disagree with that.
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