100 Words of English

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janMato
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100 Words of English

Postby janMato » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:42 pm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12894638

England's Italian football manager Fabio Capello claims he can manage his players with just 100 words. So how far could you get with a vocabulary of that size?


If I was clever, I'd write up a long response using the 100 suggested words. Unfortunately, it appears to be mostly function words (don't ask me what a function word is! I know 'em when I see 'em).

Ah, here are the actual challenge entries:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/magazinemoni ... enge.shtml

janKipo
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Re: 100 Words of English

Postby janKipo » Sat Apr 02, 2011 10:16 am

Well, "mostly" seems a bit steep. I have been trying to figure out what you mean by "function words" and have a few hypotheses. On all of them, the following from the list count in at least some of their uses: the, be, to, a/an, that, have, do, by, will, one, would. Under various hypotheses one or more of the following would also get in:
and, it/its, he/his/him, they/their/them. What did I miss? What did I put in incorrectly? Any clearly about criteria?

janMato
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Re: 100 Words of English

Postby janMato » Sat Apr 02, 2011 10:34 am

Maybe the taxonomic impasse is that English isn't perfectly isolating. (1 narrow meaning per morpheme) "He" covers a grammatical role (I'm referring back to a previously mentioned referent) and a few more not so grammar-related concepts are in the word (probably an adult or child, probably not a baby, probably human, probably not an animal, literally animate, still alive, literally a male). And in Icelandic, it would have one more grammatical meaning -- refers back to a previously mentioned referent that is a member of a semantically arbitrary lexical class.

Yes, all the words you listed are mostly function words.

Also, when you read the examples, of the longest sentence people could write using the top 100, it is mostly stuff that is near impossible to imagine what's happening on the stage, or it's lexicalized phrases ("He won't have of it" = "He doesn't approve"), that don't seem like they automatically mean that from just looking at their parts.

janKipo
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Re: 100 Words of English

Postby janKipo » Sat Apr 02, 2011 10:45 am

In both lists? Did I miss any in the full list?
So, in tp, 'ona' and to an extend 'ni' are function words? What else (after 'li, la, e, pi' and maybe 'o')?

When you say that something is mainly functional, do you mean that most of its uses are functional or that, in a given use, most of it is functional. For "do", for example, do you mean that the greatest number of occurrences are in that Welsh thing the Tudors left us in negations and questions, or that in the expressions "What do you do" the greatest part of the role of the second "do" is also functional?

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Re: 100 Words of English

Postby janMato » Sat Apr 02, 2011 11:27 am

janKipo wrote:In both lists? Did I miss any in the full list?

I don't follow the question. The first link is a BBC article that lists the 100 statistically common words in English. The 2nd link is readers attempts to write something long with only those words.

On the list I see, "year", "work", "day", "think" and a few more as content words.

Anyhow, maybe your right. Pinker, Paine and everyone else writing conventional linguistic text books are a bunch of crackpots and no languages have content words, function words (nor predicates, nominal, adjective or otherwise), nor both, nor neither, not the conlangs, nor the natlangs, because at the end of the day, I can't slot those conjectures into algebraic proofs, turn the crank and generate an evaluation of contradiction, contingency or tautology from it. But that goes for everything you say as well.

Amateur linguistics isn't like philosophy, where scholars tilt at windmills and universally fail to answer any questions and are only judged on how valiant their struggle was before it's all revealed as an edifice built on hot air it all falls apart because the questions just don't have answers (what's Ethical & Moral? Not that I care much, it's a theoretical issue and not knowing the answer doesn't cause me any problems. If people had to understand Kant before they could be moral, we'd all be Charles Manson)

Likewise, reference grammars need to be written, lessen plans drawn up to teach the fans, and that doesn't require airtight mental models. In fact, even the reference grammars written by Spanish missionaries that treat all languages as a dialect in Latin, while grossly wrong in their taxonomy is probably good enough to (painfully) teach someone how to say something intelligible.

Now this guy on WoTC, has a taxonomy that looks promising, certainly all words can be usefully categorized as Okra, Twinkie and Tofu, and arguments about taxonomy as well.

Anyhow, seriously, I feel like I'm the guy in Being John Malkevich, who has lived with someone with a listening impediment for so long that he suspects no one understands him, so I'm going to go back to blogging and writing fart jokes in toki pona.

janKipo
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Re: 100 Words of English

Postby janKipo » Sat Apr 02, 2011 12:36 pm

I meant the list of 100 from the Beeb.

I think you are going a bit overboard here. The fact that you can't give criteria doesn't mean you are not looking at a real natural class of some sort, though, not, I think, the same one I have in mind when I say "function word." Criteria take a while to work out, starting with intuitions and building as details emerge. Now, from one of your remarks just now, it sounds as though you think that, in fact, almost all the words on that list of 100 are function words (in at least some of their uses), with very few that are unequivocally content. If that is the case, I have to expand my hypothesis about your criteria considerably, since most of the items not on my two lists I would have thought you considered purely content. Sorry if this bugs you, but it is what I do by nature (philosophy just happened to think it a virtue).

Actually, linguistics is a lot like philosophy. To be sure, linguistic overtly pays more attention to empirical data -- and ignores it when it doesn't fit a theory -- than philosophy, which uses its empirical data more covertly -- and still ignores it if it doesn't fit. Both build elaborate structures which are ultimately untestable and pretty clearly have little relation to reality. And both end up with the same practical advice as their opponents did with an incompatible theory. There is not a penny's worth of different between the practical outcome for a Kantian and a Utilitarian, nor for the teaching grammar of a Chomskian and a Latinist. though each may talk about it in their own strange way.

Really? Fart jokes in tp" Lay some on me!


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