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Picture of shufitz
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It might be interesting to consider how we decide whether a particular item is, or is not, a "word" (and to consider that apart from the dispute about any specific purported word Smile ). OED's website has some interesting remarks on the subject. Without being exhaustive:
  • "A question commonly asked of every lexicographer is 'How do you choose which words go into the Dictionary?'" Notice the implication: there are some things which are "words" but that are excluded from OED, typically for insufficient use.
  • "The reverse situation does not apply: if a word has dropped out of use, it is not removed from the Dictionary." That is, OED includes entries that, as of current times, are not words in use. Almost 25% of the main entries (47,100 of 231,100) are words that OED calls "obsolete".
My point is simply that you can't say that something is-or-is-not a "word", in today's English, merely because it is-or-is-not in OED. OED's choices need to be suitable to its purposes. But this raises the question: what would be properly a "word" for purposes of this board?

Wink Edit by wordcrafter: shu, shouldn't that "almost 25%" be "over 20%"?

[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Thu Mar 11th, 2004 at 5:30.]
 
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A word is something you would allow in Scrabble
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Graham Nice:
A word is something you would allow in Scrabble


I just love those circular arguments. A word is something you would allow in Scrabble. How do I know if something is allowed in Scrabble? Only allow it if it's a word.

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This is a question that I have asked numerous times since this site was developed in the summer of 2002. While I think I've learned a lot about words and language since posting here, I confess that I am probably more clueless than ever about what a word is!

I am anxious to hear what others think. Is OED the answer? Or, is it completely subjective? If somewhere in between, where?

[This message was edited by Kalleh on Thu Mar 11th, 2004 at 8:35.]
 
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I'm glad that's cleared up, then.

Richard English
 
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Kalleh wrote: "I am probably more clueless than ever about what a word is!"


In the words of a former U.S. President, perhaps it all depends on the meaning of the word "is."
 
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That's a very, very sensible essay and I agree wholeheartedly with how it makes all those distinctions. That's the perfect linguistic treatment of the subject.
 
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That's the perfect linguistic treatment of the subject.
Surely it was a very good article, and I learned a lot from it. However, it really technically describes what a word is. They define words in 4 ways: orthographic words, or a written sequence; phonological words, or units of pronunciation; lexical items or lexemes, a unit of language with an identifiable meaning or function; and grammatical forms which are lexical items for grammatical purposes. Using this terminology, Shufitz is really asking, "When are the lexemes considered to have an 'identifiable meaning or function.'" That is, how do dictionaries or speakers decide when a word, with a specific meaning, is used enough to be acceptable? That, I think, is the actual question. While of course some of it is just subjective, there must be some parameters.

Now, as for the article, a few goodies that I have learned: What we have called "verbalizing nouns" is linguistically referred to as zero derivation or conversion. Further, the nouns "furniture" and "happiness" are defective lexical items because they have no plural forms; similarly, "oats" and "police" are defective lexical items because they have no singular forms.

Most importantly, the article acknowledges that even the best dictionaries are "sadly deficient" in defining words. So, I guess we are in good company! Roll Eyes

[This message was edited by Kalleh on Tue Mar %76, 2004 at 10:20.]
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
... similarly, "oats" and "police" are defective lexical items because they have no singular forms.

Yes, I noticed that, too, and wondered why oats is included. Surely the singular of oats is oat, isn't it?

Tinman
 
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Well, come to think of it, yes, Tinman! After all, there is an "oat cell cancer." I suspect a horse could eat an oat or two.
 
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In a poem I once wrote and hope to get published (the damn book project is taking forever) I needed a rhyme for "remote" in a poem that, in part, dealt with lovemaking. I coined the phrase "sewn a wild oat" refering to a single act of intercourse involving an unmarried man.

Works for me...


And the singular of "police" is "cop" or, if you're having 1960's LSD-enduced flashbacks, "pig" though I don't recommend the latter.
 
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