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  #1  
Old 02-03-2003, 09:10 PM
Blalron Blalron is offline
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How many words in the average person's vocabulary?

This is divided into two questions:

How many words are in the average person's vocabulary?

Throughout a typical day, how many different words does an average person use?
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  #2  
Old 02-03-2003, 09:22 PM
Jiminy Jiminy is offline
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1. Depends mostly on your word input capacity. I have a high one myself *wink*. Over 100 at least
2. There's 86,400 seconds in a day. On average, it takes 1-5 seconds to say a word (if you know how to pronounce it correctly and/or if it's a short or long word). So, if someone went from the beginning of the day to the end saying completely different words (probably using the dictionary), they would say 17,280-86,400 words
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  #3  
Old 02-03-2003, 09:33 PM
stringy stringy is offline
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To answer your first question: Stephen Pinker's book "The Language Instinct" tells about some researchers who figured the average American high-school graduate knows approximately 45,000 words. This is an underestimate because the researchers (Nagy and Anderson) excluded proper names, numbers, foreign words and acronyms. Pinker feels that if these types of words were included the total would be about 60,000.

Pinker states that most people know more words than they have an opportunity to use in everyday life. The brain reserves a lot of storage space and a particularly fast transcribing system just for a mental dictionary.

I've got no idea about your second question, though.
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  #4  
Old 02-03-2003, 09:37 PM
stringy stringy is offline
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Just wanted to add that a person with more education or who was widely read would certainly have a larger vocabulary than 60,000 words.
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  #5  
Old 02-03-2003, 10:55 PM
Blalron Blalron is offline
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So I'm assuming that multi lingual people would have vocabularies in the hundred thousand range?
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  #6  
Old 02-03-2003, 11:01 PM
Stan Doubt Stan Doubt is offline
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yes
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  #7  
Old 02-03-2003, 11:35 PM
StephenG StephenG is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Blalron
So I'm assuming that multi lingual people would have vocabularies in the hundred thousand range?
While I would love for someone to come along and prove me wrong, my first instinct says that you can't simply add vocabularies from different languages to compute a total vocabulary. For instance: sure, the English word "soft" and the French word "doux" mean the same thing but are completely different words. But the English word "table" and the French word "table" also mean the same thing and appear to be the same word. (And a native speaker of either language will the store the second pair of words much differently than the first pair.

On a related note: Vocabulary in a second language is developed much the same as in a first language, but very few people have the vocabulary in any other language that can match their first language -- this is one reason translation is so highly prized.
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  #8  
Old 02-04-2003, 08:30 AM
Epimetheus Epimetheus is offline
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There is also a difference between having a large working vocabulary and being able to recognize and remember words when they are heard. I would say the AVERAGE man or womans working vocabulary is no more than 1,000 words not including names. Some of the guys at my job seem to have working vocabularies of even less, every other word being *F* this and *F* that, Sh%$ this, Da^% them, etc.
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  #9  
Old 02-04-2003, 08:35 AM
Epimetheus Epimetheus is offline
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Ahh, I guess I am wrong- This site says the Average working vocabulary is 10,000 words. The average 14 year olds vocabulary in 1950 was 25,000. This sounds suspect, but who knows.
Oh, as a heads up- it is a pdf file.

Quote:
Working vocabulary of the average 14-year-old in the United States in 1950 .............................. 25,000 words
Average vocabulary in 1999................................................................................................ ........ 10,000 words
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  #10  
Old 02-04-2003, 08:56 AM
Phlosphr Phlosphr is offline
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palaver
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  #11  
Old 02-04-2003, 09:34 AM
aahala aahala is offline
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The more words you know the more likely you will use more in a given day. But the percentage of your total vocabulary in daily use will likely go down as your vocabulary goes up.

As far as the average person's vocabulary, I haven't seen any statistically valid samples of average people. Actually, I haven't seen any samples of average people period.
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  #12  
Old 02-04-2003, 10:27 AM
Ivar Ivar is offline
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I have three
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  #13  
Old 02-04-2003, 12:05 PM
Tomcat Tomcat is offline
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When you start talking about foreign languages, though, you bring up a whole mess of problems. Actually, even in English this will hold true: do you count tenses and conjugation as different words?

In English, let's take the verb 'to have' : Have, has, and had (having being a noun too!). Are those 4 separate words, or 1? I say four. Have has a different context than had has, however had you counted has as the same as have, then we would be having a different conversation altogether. (Which, BTW, is a sentence that would be impossible to translate into many languages).

Slavic languages have a different twist for their words. The prefixes and suffixes of words determine their role within a sentence. 'Mit' is 'to have' in Czech, so that leaves us with:
Mit - to have
Mam - I have
Mas - you have
Ma - he, she, it has
Mame - we have
Mate - y'all have, or proper as in "Mate time Mr. President?"
Maji - they have
(no noun 'having' in Czech, but some verbs do- being is 'byty' for example)

So 1 verb has 7 (sometimes 8) different words which you have to remember in this f****d-up language. And I say that because I am a person who cannot Rote memorize for dink...so for me to learn 1 new verb requires memorizing 7 (8) different spellings, depending on usage. (yeah, there are general rules, but it still sucks)

And then you have the conjugation of nouns depending on usage...In Slavic languages there are cases (6 or 7), as well as sex (M, F, Nueter)...so the combinations are extreme, to say the least.

When you take these into consideration, I'd say that the number of words a multi-linguist knows actually reaches into the millions. But that might be an argument for how your brain stores information. Do you allocate a brain cell for every different spelling of a verb or noun, or do you have a base spelling that goes through some rule or filter? So all Czech verbs that end in -it have the -am -as -a -am -ate -aji ending, which is 1 verb brain cell plus 6 verb declination cells, or is each declination its own brain cell?

-Tcat
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  #14  
Old 02-04-2003, 01:10 PM
jonpluc jonpluc is offline
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<homer> Mmmmm Brain Cells <homer>
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  #15  
Old 02-04-2003, 02:27 PM
Splanky Splanky is offline
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And then there's foreign phrases which are commonly used in English. Like "Soup du jour", "Mi casa es su casa", "Bon appetit".

You don't need to know a lick of a second language to know what these phrases mean. I'd say they count as part of your vocabulary.
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  #16  
Old 02-04-2003, 02:28 PM
zev_steinhardt zev_steinhardt is offline
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Hmm... let's see...

1. aa
2. aardvark
3. Aaronic
4. abacus

[check back with me in about a year]


Zev Steinhardt
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  #17  
Old 02-04-2003, 03:02 PM
Flymaster Flymaster is offline
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Actually, I can imagine an easy (effortwise, not on the server) way to figure this out. If you just counted the unique words used on a message board, such as this, it'd give you a pretty decent estimate of the average vocabulary, although I'd be that it would run about 10% too high.

I'm sure that someone out there has a site of this volume that they'd be willing to take down for a day or so to allow a search like this to take place. It would be quite a contribution to science.
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  #18  
Old 02-26-2013, 11:52 AM
Kirosaka Kirosaka is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jiminy View Post
1. Depends mostly on your word input capacity. I have a high one myself *wink*. Over 100 at least
2. There's 86,400 seconds in a day. On average, it takes 1-5 seconds to say a word (if you know how to pronounce it correctly and/or if it's a short or long word). So, if someone went from the beginning of the day to the end saying completely different words (probably using the dictionary), they would say 17,280-86,400 words
100 is terribly low, even lower then the average american's vocabulary and believe me, the average american has a low (excuse me for my words) fucking vocabulary
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  #19  
Old 02-26-2013, 02:18 PM
EdwardLost EdwardLost is offline
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Apparently, the best way to attack zombie threads is to flame them.
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  #20  
Old 02-26-2013, 03:23 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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Zombies have a very limited vocabulary, considering how much brains they are working with.
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  #21  
Old 02-27-2013, 04:35 AM
Blue Mood Blue Mood is offline
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Here's a pretty good test:
http://testyourvocab.com/
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  #22  
Old 02-27-2013, 08:43 AM
moriah moriah is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
Zombies have a very limited vocabulary, considering how much brains they are working with.
I hear zombies have 32 words for 'brains.'
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  #23  
Old 02-27-2013, 08:58 AM
Sigene Sigene is offline
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How can this thread have 38,000 views and only 22 replies? Is that some kind of record?
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  #24  
Old 02-27-2013, 09:07 AM
hogarth hogarth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Mood View Post
Here's a pretty good test:
http://testyourvocab.com/
Interesting (and the test was kind of fun). They claim that the average is about halfway between stringy's cite of 45K and Epimetheus's cite of 10K.
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  #25  
Old 02-27-2013, 06:33 PM
EdwardLost EdwardLost is offline
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I'll eat my hat if any two posters can agree on the same definition of "word".
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  #26  
Old 02-27-2013, 08:38 PM
Imasquare Imasquare is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirosaka View Post
100 is terribly low, even lower then the average american's vocabulary and believe me, the average american has a low (excuse me for my words) fucking vocabulary
Certainly not compared to the British or Australians. I have found Americans to be far better communicators than other English speakers.
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  #27  
Old 02-27-2013, 11:47 PM
j_sum1 j_sum1 is offline
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Originally Posted by EdwardLost View Post
I'll eat my hat if any two posters can agree on the same definition of "word".
I agree with you 100%. (Whatever your definition may be.)

Now for the hat-eating...
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  #28  
Old 02-28-2013, 01:41 AM
EdwardLost EdwardLost is offline
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Originally Posted by j_sum1 View Post
I agree with you 100%. (Whatever your definition may be.)

Now for the hat-eating...
I've never come up with a definition that I agree with myself -- so my hat is safe so far.
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  #29  
Old 02-28-2013, 02:36 AM
kambuckta kambuckta is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Imasquare View Post
Certainly not compared to the British or Australians. I have found Americans to be far better communicators than other English speakers.
Interesting observation, I for one would like to know how you came to draw such a conclusion.

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  #30  
Old 02-28-2013, 02:45 AM
Glazer Glazer is offline
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Similar thread on sister site. Here.
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  #31  
Old 02-28-2013, 04:44 PM
dracoi dracoi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kambuckta View Post
Interesting observation, I for one would like to know how you came to draw such a conclusion.

The second amendment helps.
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  #32  
Old 02-28-2013, 05:18 PM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is online now
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two weeks
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  #33  
Old 02-28-2013, 05:35 PM
Pasta Pasta is offline
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For the first question --

I have a 173,000 entry word list in a text file. I just drew 40 random words from it and I knew 30 of them, so I guess I know in the ballpark of 140,000 words. My vocabulary is probably pretty standard for an educated native speaker (not poor but not freakish), so there's my vote:

--> about 140,000 words
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