Tag Archives: how many words enter the english language each year

Why Do Some New Words Last and Others Fade?

atkins-bookshelf-wordsAccording to the Global Language Monitor (GLM), there are 1,019,729 words in the English language. The Google/Harvard Study of the Current Number of Words in the English Language also arrived at a similar number — 1,022,000 (a difference of .0121%) — after an analysis of the Google Corpus (more than 15 million English language scanned by Google). The GLM estimates that in the modern world a new word is created every 98 minutes. Each year, an estimated 800 to 1,000 new words are added to English language dictionaries (in the 20th century alone, more than 90,000 words have been added). Editors of the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), to be completed by 2037, estimate that the rate of inclusion of new words into the OED are about 4,000 per year. In 2014, the OED added more than 2,500 new words.

This dramatic increase in new words is largely due to technology, and how people spontaneously coin new words in their email and text transmissions that spread quickly and efficiently via social media. A large percentage of new words are portmanteau words, also called blended words — a word that combines the meaning of two discrete words; for example, cineplex is formed from cinema and complex, bromance is formed from brother and romance, staycation is formed from stay and vacation. You get the idea.

Linguists Constantine Lignos and Hilary Prichard, from the University of Pennsylvania wanted to know why do some blended words last and others fade away? In January 2015, they presented their findings (“Quantifying Cronuts: Predicting the Quality of Blends”) at a meeting of the Linguistic Society of America. The researchers asked study participants to rate 88 blended words on a five-point scale. There are six key factors that determine whether a blended word will survive long enough to be added to a dictionary:
1. Completion Probability: Unique word parts that be processed and completed faster will most likely succeed. The brain works like an autotype app that completes the word quickly. For example, you read “brother,” when you see “bro.”
2. Association: Two discrete words making up a blend that are related work better; for example, friend and enemy are associated with one another, so frenemy will likely last.
3. Fun Factor: Words tied to pop culture tend to work well; for example, “sharknado” that was the title of an over-the-top horror film in 2013 (yes, flying sharks) or the cheeky “sheeple” (sheep + people).
4. Applicability: A blend must apply to different situations; for example disastrophe is general, whereas snowquester is very specific to a winter storm in Washington, D.C.
5. Naturalness: The more natural a blend word sounds (similar to the root words), the most likely it will survive; for example bromance sounds like the root words (bro + romance), while dunch does not contain the natural sound of both root words (“d” from “dinner” + “inch” from “lunch”).
6. Understandability: The easier it is to deduce the meaning of the blend word, the more likely it will last; for example it is easy to understand the meaning of punny (pun + funny) as opposed to wonut (waffle + donut).

In the final analysis, the researchers noted that the two most important factors are naturalness and understandability. Here are some of the highest scoring blended words from the study:
Sexpert (sex + expert)
Mathlete (math + athlete)
Guesstimate (guess + estimate)

Televangelist (television + evangelist)
Mockumentary (mock + documentary)
Bromance (brother + romance)
Frenemy (friend + enemy)
Dramedy (drama + comedy)
Affluenza (affluent + influenza)
Sharknado (shark + tornado)

Here are some of the lowest scoring words:
Fozzle (fog + drizzle)
Mizzle (mist + drizzle)
Brinkles (bed + wrinkles)
Wegotism (we + egotism)
Wonut (waffle + donut)
Swacket (sweater + jacket)
Framily (friends + family)
Dunch (dinner + lunch)
Coopetition (cooperation + competition)
Snowquester (snow + sequester)

Read related posts: How Many Words in the English Language?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order

What is the Longest Word in English?

For further reading: http://lignos.org/blends/
Why Did Frenemy Stick?, Time Magazine, July 6/13, 2015 Issue.


How Many Words in the English Language?

atkins-bookshelf-wordsAccording to the Global Language Monitor’s (GLM) “English Language WordClock,” there are 1,005,366 words in the English language. The millionth new word (a neologism in lexicographer lingo), “Web 2.0,” entered the 1,400-year-old English lexicon on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 am. The Google/Harvard Study of the Current Number of Words in the English Language also arrived at a similar number — 1,022,000 (a difference of .0121%) — after an analysis of the Google Corpus (more than 200 billion words from American and British datasets mined from books scanned by Google). The Oxford English Dictionaries (OED) comes up with an estimate of 750,000, when counting only distinct senses and excluding variants.

The GLM estimates that in the modern world a new word is created every 98 minutes (approximately 14.7 new words per day). Each year, an estimated 800 to 1,000 neologisms are added to English language dictionaries (in the 20th century alone, more than 90,000 words have been added). Editors of the third edition of the OED, to be completed by 2037, estimate that the rate of inclusion of new words into the OED are about 4,000 per year.

Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading who studies the evolution of language, observes: “What’s interesting about a million is that it’s such a tiny number compared to all the words we could have.” Pagel is right — the English language has the potential to contain more than 100 million words using any combination of seven consonants with two vowels!  The Oxford English Dictionary, the most comprehensive dictionary of the English language published from 1989 to 1997 in 23 volumes, contains only 301,100 words — full entries of 171,476 words and 47,156 obsolete words, and about 9,500 derivative words.

Paul Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor, notes that English is the lingua franca of the modern world: “English has become a universal means of communication; never before have so many people been able to communicate so easily with so many others.” Half a century ago, in 1960, there were approximately 250 million English speakers; today, there are more than 1.53 billion people who speak English as a primary, secondary, or business language.

Fortunately for most English speakers, you do not need to master all million words to converse and write effectively. The average high-school educated English speaker knows about 45,000 words (as high as 60,000 when including proper names and foreign words). David Crystal, a linguist and world-renown expert on the English language, provides these estimates of how many words people know: a person starting school: 500-6,000; a person without a formal education: 35,000; a high-school educated person: 50,000; a college-educated person 50-75,000.

Read related post: Words Invented by Dickens

For further reading: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language by David Crystal, Cambridge (2003)
The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker, William Morrow (1994)
http://www.languagemonitor.com/global-english/no-of-words/

oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/how-many-words-are-there-in-the-english-language
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8013859.stm
n.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_English_Dictionary
http://googlebooks.byu.edu/x.asp
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/explore/how-many-words-are-there-in-the-english-language


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