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Strange

Which language has most words

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19 hours ago, Strange said:

Nothing at all wrong with "least" in this context.

 Sadly, this has become true. For a generation brought up to speak and write with precision, and to acknowledge nice distinctions, it grates on the ear.

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56 minutes ago, Area54 said:

Sadly, this has become true.

It has always been true. Sadly, a few pedants have recently discovered this zombie rule and think it’s clever to pick on people 

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40 minutes ago, Strange said:

It has always been true. Sadly, a few pedants have recently discovered this zombie rule and think it’s clever to pick on people 

Contemporary common usage is what defines a word for the period.

Edited by StringJunky

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1 minute ago, StringJunky said:

Contemporary common usage is what defines a word for the period..

I don't think common usage distinguishes "less" and "fewer". But you are right, that might be changing.

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4 minutes ago, Strange said:

I don't think common usage distinguishes "less" and "fewer". But you are right, that might be changing.

As we've said before dictionaries record, not dictate, contempoary usage. Does 'gay' mean now, in common usage, what it meant when we were young? I certainly remember older folks at the time using it in a now-archaic sense. My point being that pedantry is pointless when language is constantly evolving.

Edited by StringJunky

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1 hour ago, StringJunky said:

As we've said before dictionaries record, not dictate, contempoary usage. Does 'gay' mean now, in common usage, what it meant when we were young? I certainly remember older folks at the time using it in a now-archaic sense. My point being that pedantry is pointless when language is constantly evolving.

Good point. +1

Well, from what I'm told there is descriptive linguistics and prescriptive linguistics. Prescriptive linguistics I think should be something like a set of recommendations with different degrees of emphasis on how much of a good expression a given one is if you want to sound like a well-read person, remove ambiguity, and so on. But some people go completely berserk with norms.

I think we all know who we're talking about. The split-infinitive, hanging preposition, dangling participle crew.

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23 hours ago, Strange said:

Nothing at all wrong with "least" in this context.

 

Except that it means something different.
Specifically, it's an insult to the Hawaiian language to say that it's phonemes are "least", rather than that they don't use many.

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17 hours ago, Strange said:

It has always been true. Sadly, a few pedants have recently discovered this zombie rule and think it’s clever to pick on people 

Personal remarks do nothing for your argument.  In this instance reviously accepted usage, that facilitated valuable distinctions, has been largely abandoned. That contradicts what appears to be your claim that current usage "has always been true". Equally, your assertion that "there is nothing at all wrong" with the current usage, abuses the use of the absolute.

In summary, the current usage was wrong though it is now largely seen as acceptable. The vitality of the English language, of most languages, is fuelled in large part by their ability to change. However, not all changes are positive ones. If it is pedantry to call out examples that detract from the language then I am proud to be called a pedant.

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14 hours ago, John Cuthber said:

Except that it means something different.
Specifically, it's an insult to the Hawaiian language to say that it's phonemes are "least", rather than that they don't use many.

I agree with the nuance. In my case, it wasn't meant as an insult, by I understand how it might be construed as such.

Words matter.

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1 hour ago, joigus said:

I agree with the nuance. In my case, it wasn't meant as an insult, by I understand how it might be construed as such.

Words matter.

Meaning matters more, I think an oral tradition is far more likely to convey meaning over time; a dictionary is only valid now, while a well told story is valid for millenia... 

And a well told story can be told to an infant with less than 100 words.

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8 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Meaning matters more, I think an oral tradition is far more likely to convey meaning over time; a dictionary is only valid now, while a well told story is valid for millenia... 

+1. You're particularly brilliant today.

Meaning is the most important part. The only catch is that, in the last analysis, original meaning is unreachable, you must assume there is one and build it in your brain. Brains make it up.

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3 minutes ago, joigus said:

The only catch is that, in the last analysis, original meaning is unreachable, you must assume there is one and build it in your brain. Brains make it up.

I was thinking of Shelley and Donne and etc... But Jesus did have a point.

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22 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

I was thinking of Shelley and Donne and etc... But Jesus did have a point.

I was thinking more of Homer and whoever wrote The Epic of Gilgamesh, and not at all of Jesus.

Come on. Shelley and Donne are not that old!

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1 minute ago, joigus said:

I was thinking more of Homer and whoever wrote The Epic of Gilgamesh, and not at all of Jesus.

Come on. Shelley and Donne are not that old!

Their older than the meaning of gay; but they all seem to be telling the same story...

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It's always the same story. Narrative is pretty boring. It's all "I was there, I met some people; things happened". That's always the same story, after you peel the layers.

It's the tidbits of wisdom that make it interesting, the universal lessons. Like in Gilgamesh:

Quote

Gilgamesh,

What you seek you shall never find.
For when the Gods made man,
They kept immortality to themselves.
Fill your belly.
Of day and night make merry.
Let your days be full of joy.
Love the child who holds your hand.
Let your wife delight in your embrace.
For these alone are the concerns of man.

 

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21 hours ago, joigus said:

It's always the same story. Narrative is pretty boring. It's all "I was there, I met some people; things happened". That's always the same story, after you peel the layers.

It's the tidbits of wisdom that make it interesting, the universal lessons. Like in Gilgamesh:

Indeed, that's why I like Donne (my signature is my favorite) and Shelley (a strong second with "look on ye mighty and despair"), and me (if your not content with now, when will you be? (just lack's poetry 😔)).. But back to the topic, do more words lead to more wisdom or understanding?

Edited by dimreepr

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56 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

But back to the topic, do more words lead to more wisdom or understanding?

I'll run the gauntlet of trying to answer that question.

My idea is that not necessarily. But the more words with different nuances you have, the more qualified you're going to be to add to wisdom and understanding. But how you combine those words is very important, I think. Language offers you a combinatoric, almost limitless horizon of possibilities.

In poetry, you probably look for beauty and evocative power.

In philosophy, you look for logical consistency. In science it's the same, but adding experimental verification.

Consider the sentence:

"The tortoise initiated an unabated discourse in terms of lettuce and gravy."
Probably no one has said that before. You can build a sentence that "kind of" makes sense and the chances of it having been used in the history of mankind are pretty slim. Part of the challenge of successfully creating something new and interesting is finding a combination of words/concepts/mathematical formulas that no one has thought of before and yet immediately resonate with other people's feelings or manage to complete sought-after meaning.

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5 hours ago, dimreepr said:

But back to the topic, do more words lead to more wisdom or understanding?

If they do not then the technical terms to be found in all the sciences are pointless. It seems to me clear that these words, through their precision, enable - or at least facilitate - understanding within the relevant scientific discipline. In part they do this by reducing the number of words needed to convey a concept in a discussion of presentation. Thus a larger reservoir of words reduces the number needed to construct a message. My argument for pedantry is that by extending this approach to everday communication we can acquire the same benefits.

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If I may,  I'd like to ask a question. 

In  the "Ancient" or " Classical"  Greek language,  there's a frequently used word:

"LOGOS"

My question is  -  what exactly does it  mean?

If anyone here can give a precise, unambiguous,  definition of this word,  I will personally post a nude photo of myself on the forums.

And to those who rightly shy away from such a hideous prospect,  may I offer this reassurance::

The word "LOGOS"  is so vague, indeterminate, and ambiguous, that it utterly fails the test of translation into precise, lucid English. 

Therefore I'm confident that no personal exposure will be required.

Can you prove me wrong?

Edited by Charles 3781

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26 minutes ago, Charles 3781 said:

In  the "Ancient" or " Classical"  Greek language,  there's a frequently used word: "LOGOS"

My question is  -  what exactly does it  mean?

If anyone here can give a precise, unambiguous,  definition of this word, 

A single word can have multiple definitions.

What's wrong with the definitions on this page?

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/λόγος

The definitions are not fixed. They evolve over time.

The context in which a word is used can also change its meaning.

Edited by Sensei

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1 minute ago, Sensei said:

A single word can have multiple definitions.

What's wrong with the definitions on this page?

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/λόγος

The definitions are not fixed. They evolve over time.

Thanks Sensei.  But the definitions on your page are too many for precision?  How can a word how so many different meanings, and still be clear?

I've often thought that was why the Ancient Greeks never made much progress in Science.  

Science requires precision, and the ability to distinguish fine shades of meaning - such as between work, force, and. energy.  The Ancient Greek language  did not make these distinctions. It had no word for our modern concept of "energy".  Their Greek word "energia" meant literally "in work".  Which misses the point.. There was a similar lack of precision in most Greek abstract nouns.  

For example, they had no word for "science" - there was only the word ""techne" which connotes "making,  art, craft"  and so on.  This blurriness extends to words like "pneuma", which seems to connote mist, vapour, soul, spirit, wind and steam. So it's little wonder the Greeks experimented with a primitive steam-turbine, but never carried it much further,, when they didn't have a proper word for "steam".

May I add that this lack of precision in the Ancient Greek language is shown in fields other than purely scientific.  Many translators of Thucydides have complained about the difficulty of understanding what he was trying to say.  It all comes down to lack of enough words.  When I look at my "Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary", the lexical impoverishment is stark. Every Greek word has dozens of different meanings. Some completely contradictory.  All the nuances of meaning, such as we have in modern English, are lost.

And that, I think, explains why the Greeks got nowhere in Science.  Their language didn't permit it.

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On 9/2/2020 at 7:49 PM, Charles 3781 said:

And that, I think, explains why the Greeks got nowhere in Science.  Their language didn't permit it.

T'is a silly take. Words for scientific concepts were developed after the discovery of the concepts. Sometimes existing words are used, but the recast in new contexts. Heck many words used in scientific language nowadays are derived from Latin and Greek words. Often, the words have a massive change in their meaning from their origins or their original use. In other words, due to the flexibility of language itself, it is unreasonable to assume that it constrains the development of new meaning. 

In essence, that argument is a strong form of Linguistic determinism, which has generally been discredit. There is a potential impact of language in the neurolinguistic sense, but the impact is far more subtle.

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On 9/3/2020 at 2:49 AM, Charles 3781 said:

How can a word how so many different meanings, and still be clear?

Context.

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On 9/3/2020 at 2:49 AM, Charles 3781 said:

 How can a word how so many different meanings, and still be clear?

Well, if you carved the word from glass and polished it, then it would be clear.

Or did you not realise that the word "clear" had two meanings?

If you don't like Greek- fine; don't use it.
It's absurd to complain that they didn't have a word for "energy"; nor did anyone else. Because there was no requirement for such a word.
For some other words, like electron or entropy, we even know who coined the word.

But - if they happened to be native Greek speakers, they could equally well have invented the word in Greek.
 

The idea gets even sillier when you recognise that most of these new science words were actually invented in Latin.
I doubt that your average roman soldier or Catholic priest had much call for a word for quantum in the technical sense it now has.

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