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Which Language Has the Most Phrases?

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Some languages are recognized for his or her difficult grammar guidelines or troublesome pronunciation, however which language has the most important vocabulary? You may suppose that this might be a easy query to reply. In any case, languages are extremely studied and documented. There should be somebody who conclusively is aware of the language that has essentially the most phrases, proper?

Whereas there are theories and arguments from totally different linguists, the one you imagine will rely by yourself view of language. Listed below are some potential solutions that mirror totally different approaches to answering the query:


English has included the vocabulary of many languages, and it has developed into one of the spoken languages on the earth.

English is a Germanic language that developed from the identical Proto-Germanic language as German and Dutch. Because it developed, it was additionally closely influenced by Romance languages, corresponding to Spanish and French, and included vocabulary from them.

These worldwide additions proceed so as to add to the already in depth variety of phrases English audio system can draw on, creating what could possibly be the world’s most in depth set of vocabulary.

English has acquired a big vocabulary due to its historical past. Nevertheless, if we evaluate the variety of phrases within the dictionaries of varied languages, would English have the most important vocabulary?


Dictionaries are considered authoritative collections of phrases in a given language, so they may appear to be a very good supply to make use of for answering this query.

This chart exhibits the variety of headwords in quite a few authoritative dictionaries. A headword is the type of the phrase beneath which associated types of the phrase are organized. For instance, the headword for the noun “badger” would include definitions for each the animal and and a local of a sure midwestern state, in addition to details about compound phrases and idioms through which these kinds seem. The verb type of “badger”, the act of pestering somebody, may additionally seem beneath that headword, or it might be a separate headword, relying on the dictionary. Have a look:

Language Dictionary Approximate variety of headwords
Korean Woori Mal Saem, 2017 1,100,373
Portuguese Aulete Digital 818,000
Finnish RedFox Professional 800,000
Tamil Sorkuvai 776,567
Kurdish Authority of Kurdish Language Dictionary, Kurdish Language Unit Dictionary 744,139
Swedish Svenska Akademiens ordbok 600,000
English English Wiktionary 578,707
Korean Normal Korean Language Dictionary 511,282
Italian Grande Dizionario Hoepli Italiano 500,000
Japanese Nihon Kokugo Daijiten 500,000
Lithuanian Lietuvių kalbos žodynas 500,000

It appears like Korean tops the listing with over 1,000,000 phrases! So, Korean should have essentially the most phrases of any language, proper? Korean positively has a big vocabulary. Like English, Korean has additionally been traditionally influenced by different languages which have contributed to its vocabulary. Korean contains many phrases of Chinese language origin, and borrows phrases from English and different languages as effectively.

Nonetheless, it’s a stretch to say that Korean has essentially the most phrases of any language on the earth as a result of certainly one of its dictionaries has over 1,000,000 headwords.

You could have seen that Korean dictionaries take each first and eighth place on this listing, which demonstrates a serious problem with this technique of measuring the variety of phrases in a language. Completely different dictionaries for a similar language can listing vastly totally different counts of phrases. 

Woori Mal Saem has practically double the variety of headwords because the Normal Korean Language Dictionary, and it’s straightforward to see why while you take a look at the variations between the 2. Woori Mal Saem is an open on-line dictionary that lets customers add new phrases. It covers vocabulary particular to each North and South Korean dialects, slang phrases, and even correct nouns that almost all dictionaries wouldn’t embrace. 

Conversely, the Normal Korean Language Dictionary is revealed by the Nationwide Institute of Korean Language. Its standards for what constitutes a Korean phrase is extra strict than Woori Mal Saem.

You possibly can see this discrepancy with English, too. The Wiktionary (one other open on-line dictionary) has 578,707 headwords, whereas Webster’s Third New Worldwide Dictionary solely has 470,000, and the Oxford English Dictionary lists a mere 273,000 headwords. 

Agglutinative languages

Since even dictionaries for a similar language differ in how they decide the variety of phrases within the language, how else may you assess the variety of phrases in a language? You could possibly take a look at a language’s potential to create new phrases.

For instance, in agglutinative languages, corresponding to Turkish, Finnish, and Tagalog, audio system repeatedly kind new phrases as a part of on a regular basis speech. They will do that as a result of agglutinative languages simply mix morphemes—the smallest constructing blocks of that means in a language—to create new phrases. 

Some languages can wind up with extraordinarily lengthy phrases created by way of agglutination, such because the Turkish phrase Çekoslovakyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınız, which interprets to “You might be a type of that we weren’t in a position to convert into Czechoslovakians.” (Sure, there’s a phrase for that.)

Does this means to simply create new phrases from smaller items imply these languages have bigger vocabularies than others? Once more, it will depend on your definition of a phrase.

There’s no single reply

Although it’s straightforward to think about a phrase as a easy concept, what counts and doesn’t depend as a phrase is up for interpretation. Do compound phrases, slang phrases, or mortgage phrases taken from different languages qualify? Mix this with the truth that languages create phrases in numerous methods from each other, and also you’re left with a query that lacks a ultimate reply.

Even when we did have a definitive reply, it wouldn’t be significantly helpful to most language learners. An English dictionary might have lots of of 1000’s of headwords, however the common native speaker solely is aware of about 15,000-20,000 lemmas (consider a lemma as a phrase and all of its kinds, like previous tense, plural, and so forth.). One linguistic professor estimates that individuals have to know simply 800 lemmas of a language to grasp most day by day conversations. 

So, whereas it’s a enjoyable statistic, realizing what number of phrases a language has doesn’t inform you a lot about how troublesome it’s to be taught. What issues are the a number of hundred most often used phrases, which Rosetta Stone will help you perceive. Rosetta Stone’s Phrasebook function works like a set of digital flashcards that helps you be taught frequent phrases you’d use in on a regular basis interactions, and contains pronunciation examples from native audio system. Get began now at www.rosettastone.com



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