Re: Word count of minimum vocabulary





Peter T. Daniels wrote:

Mok-Kong Shen wrote:

What I meant is an encoding system that probably could be
economic in terms of bits, quite in the same sense of doing
compression today. It is my conjecture that that might
outperform compression. Of course, one has, as always in life,
to be content/ready to accept certain disadvantages, if some
advantages are to be achieved. As my quotes from the Basic
English site indicate, Basic English apparently couldn't
express (or express well) "everything" that can be expressed
with the full English vocabulary.


Do try to learn something about Basic English before talking about it.
They reduced the lexicon to 18 verbs because they didn't count every
separate combination of verb + "preposition" as a separate lexical item
-- even though every single one of them had to be learned separately.
Why is it more economical to have "go in" but not "enter," "go out" but
not "leave"?

I can't and have no intention to defend BE, which was only
used to help support my argument that a certain small
(probably yet to be researched) vocabulary should work well
for a large number of practical situations of communication.
(See also what I wrote concerning special domains of discourse.)


On the other hand let's,
for argument's sake, ask ourselves by how much one would
lose one's capability of writing, if one is restricted to
use only words (with derivatives) listed in, say, Collin's
Concise Dictionary. I guess the vast majority would respond
with none. Note on the otherhand, on the envelope of that
dictionary it is said that there is a "Bank of English"
containing more than 323 million words of current English!
Who needs and who could master even one million English words?


?? How many hours do you think it took to speak 323 million words?

Corpora of English (let alone any other language) are still far too
small for definitive results.

I suppose that in a few places I have made it quite clear that
I didn't (it would be foolish of me if I did) argue for
the abandonment of the full vocabulary, be that of millions of
words or trillions of words. But see above.

In the end it is a matter of economy in my view. Exeptional
cases may be handled exceptionally. For an average person
in normal life, one evidently doesn't need an extremely
huge vocabulary. I think that in that point Basic English is
certainly right, even if one may question whether its list
is large or good enough.

If I may say a few words in a more general context, I think
that it may be interesting to ask, independent of any concrete
natural laguage, whether it is possible to employ a very
limited number of different "words" (in the universal sense)
to express one's thought just as precisely as one would while
using one of the natural languages with its full vocabulary.


Why do the people who make this suggestion about once every other week
_never_ look into what has been done in this area before? If Leibniz
couldn't do it, it's not likely that Mok-Kong Shen can.

I don't see what's wrong in principle with my arguments. Let's
look at, for argument's sake, a computer programming language,
say, C. Isn't it that a very small number of key words are
sufficient there to fulfill the purpose of defining the
structure of programs? On the other hand, consider how many
different words one has actually employed in conversing with
one's friends today or even since one's birth.

Note, in particular, that all dictionaries explain words
in terms of other presumably more commonly understood words.


Secondly, there are telegrams, where one
employs the least number of words to express the same thing,
throwing away the redundant words.
And if one dot or dash is misplaced, the whole thing is garbled.

Fortunately modern technologies are rather good so that that
probability is neglibly small in practice.

Thirdly, it seems (though
I am ignorant in that subject, hence my conjecture) that
the sign languages for the deafs must have a rather limited
vocabulary and probably rather umcomplicted simple grammar.

You're certainly wrong about that.

In forming new words, especially in most languages with
alphabets, there is an almost unlimited possibility. That's
the reason, I think, the vocabulary of a natural language
could constantly be extended, achieving such huge number
in English as mentioned above. But gestures that could be
(unambigiously) recognized are apparently comparatively
limited in numbers. That's why I conjectured that the
vocabulary of sign languges would be rather small (and
unlikely in any case to reach hundreds of millions). Do you
have counter-arguments to that?


(I was very impressed to see the other day a simultaneous
translation for the deafs of a lecture on sociology.)
And that didn't convince you your guess had been wrong?

On the contrary, I think that could support the conjecture
that a small but efficient (powerful) vocabulary is used.

M. K. Shen

.



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