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LING 100 (74)
Brad Bart (2)


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LING 100
Brad Bart

Chapter 7 How many words do the Eskimos useOne of the great linguistic myths surrounds this question It raises important and difficult issueso what is a word o are some languages disadvantaged if they lack words for particular things o how do languages categorize the world And whyConsider Box 71 BHW p74 This illustrates the relationship between words called hyponymy semantic relationships here not conceptual ones o eg even animal can be a hyponym of living thingso not necessarily always going to be the superordinate term or hypernym o missing terms in these hierarchies are called lexical gapso Gaps are not always a big deal eg do English speakers miss not having a word for fruits of plants from the gourd family Compoundingo a fertile source of word creation in English and many other languageso Why would speakers invent a wholly new word when combining existing ones works fineo Considerkot elum Korean literally straight ice icicleGasthof German literally guest inn hotel o hyphenation or lack of word separation are not necessarily characteristics of compounds set screw setscrew setscrew Theyre all fine o A special kind of compounding occurs in Inuit and Yupik languages called incorporationo Almost any noun and an appropriate verb can be combined to form a new wordeg fishkill fisheat fishcook o All of this is quite unlike English although we have an approximation of it in words like babysit and bookburningpolysynthetico tem to describe languages of the Inuit and Yupik families that routinely create words that would be sentences in other types of languageso see pp 7778 and hears samples of Yupik speech on YouTube What constitutes a word and how many do we know o The example in BHW of walk walks walking and walked illustrates the issueo Do we know four different words or just one that takes different forms depending on grammatical needs o we know now that plural forms of words are stored separately in our mental dictionary the lexicon from singular forms o But the bigger question is this how much of language is meaning and how much is structureo This is the issue of the semanticssyntax interface A lexeme is the inclusive term that includes all word forms created around a central form lemma by various word formation processes like pluralization inflection not possible to say how many words a language has unless we state what we mean by word More interesting are studies that try to show how many words one needs to know to function within a language at a particular level of proficiencyThis venture is easier now thanks to cheap computing power and the subdiscipline of corpus linguistics in which huge corpora or bodies of linguistic data both spoken and written from different genres are tabulated and contextualized o The claim that 6000 words lexemes will allow you to understand 90 of what you read sounds OK at first especially if youre learning a second languageo That much control is indeed quite an achievemento But it also means that you dont understand one out of every ten words you read Box 72 p77 talks about idioms Special expressions that may contain several lexemes but its meaning doesnt relate to them o The meaning of an idiom is said to be unitaryo The classic example from English is kick the bucket meaning to die Ling 100Page 13
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