Which language has the largest vocabulary?
While it may be a pointless question, it's still fun for language geeks to compare languages and argue about something as un-provable as "largest vocabulary".
It is interesting to note that most English sources say that English has the largest vocabulary but this is probably just self-aggrandizing or wishful thinking.
The Johnson blog over at The Economist dealt with this question yesterday. Counting words: The biggest vocabulary? uses the opportunity of Stephen Fry's proclamation
[English] certainly has the largest vocabulary ... by a long, long, long long, way. Rather as China is to the rest of the world in population, English is in the population of its words.as a starting point for investigation.
After a thoughtful and detailed look at the question, the blog post comes to the obvious conclusion: Who knows?
It is impossible to compare the size of vocabularies in a way that everybody finds fair. But it makes for fun reading and learning about different languages.
Take a read through the Johnson article, and while you're at it, subscribe to the blog - it's terrific.
For more on the English language, take a look at these past articles:
- 10 reasons why English is so difficult to translate
- British English A to Zed
- English is toughest (European) language to read
- Sometimes English is not sexy but stupid
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