RE: [OT] Call for contributions to new 1,000 Language Online Arch ive

Date: Wed May 23 2001 - 12:15:37 EDT

On 05/23/2001 08:31:40 AM Marco Cimarosti wrote:

>Thou art right saying that thou doest not normally speak like an
>international treaty. But wouldst thou say that these

>ype=vocab&version=1&scale=six> really are the 100 most common words in thy
>language? :-)

How can anybody characterise "the 100 most common words in thy language"?
The words I use most commonly today are different from what John uses most
commonly today, and is also different from what either of us used most
commonly a year ago. I suppose that you could take statistical counts of
large corpora, like a month's worth of some large newspaper, but then even
there it can be debated whether the sample is representative of common
everyday speech -- but that brings us back to the very question of how we
can decide what everyday common speech consists of.

On the other hand, when I look at that list, it strikes me that my son
probably knew and used all or nearly all of those words before he was five
years old. To me, that is indicative that those words are pretty basic
within my culture. It has been debated whether those exact semantic
categories apply across all cultures or whether they can be considered
basic across all cultures, but in the end, lots of linguists have found
that list to be of some practical use.

There are variations on the Swadish 100 list. In some situations I'm aware
of, linguists have created regionally-tailored lists that basically extend
the Swadish list by adding another 50 or 100 words that have been chosen
with the cultures of only the given region in mind (not necessarily
culture- or region-specific in the sense that they wouldn't exist
elsewhere, but rather terms that are known to be appropriate for a given
culture or region regardless of whether they would be appropriate elsewhere
or not). But as far as I know, I believe linguists have typically extended
the Swadish list rather than substitute a different list.

- Peter

Peter Constable

Non-Roman Script Initiative, SIL International
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd., Dallas, TX 75236, USA
Tel: +1 972 708 7485
E-mail: <>

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