How many English words in a dictionary?

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Stephen Hughes
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How many English words in a dictionary?

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 9th, 2016, 8:29 pm

It seems that about 3 or 4 times as many Greek words are needed to define entries for New Testament words in Greek without English.

How many English words are actually needed to read and use a lexicon like Thayer's, BDAG or Abbott's? How large an English vocabulary would a non-English speaker need to learn to be able to use one of them?
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

cwconrad
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Re: How many English words in a dictionary?

Post by cwconrad » February 10th, 2016, 9:29 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:It seems that about 3 or 4 times as many Greek words are needed to define entries for New Testament words in Greek without English.

How many English words are actually needed to read and use a lexicon like Thayer's, BDAG or Abbott's? How large an English vocabulary would a non-English speaker need to learn to be able to use one of them?
Well ... you asked the question; you can "count your blessings, name them one by one ... "
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: How many English words in a dictionary?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » February 10th, 2016, 10:19 am

All of them? How many English words do you need to know to use a lexicon that gives definitions in English? The lexicons and dictionaries that we use are written for English speaking readers of Greek, and so guys like Arndt and Gingrich (Newt's uncle, BTW... :roll: ) expected users of their lexicons to be competent in that language.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
ἐγὼ δὲ διδάσκω τε καὶ γράφω ἵνα τὰ ἀξιώτερα μανθάνω

Jonathan Robie
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Re: How many English words in a dictionary?

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 10th, 2016, 11:15 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:All of them? How many English words do you need to know to use a lexicon that gives definitions in English? The lexicons and dictionaries that we use are written for English speaking readers of Greek, and so guys like Arndt and Gingrich (Newt's uncle, BTW... :roll: ) expected users of their lexicons to be competent in that language.
I think the kinds of definitions that we write for Greek students to learn Greek words are more like a children's dictionary. The Oxford dictionaries have a tool for selecting dictionaries based on the age of the child:

http://fdslive.oup.com/www.oup.com/oxed ... drens.html

It's interesting to compare children's dictionaries and thesauruses for English, they differ significantly, I could imagine creating various kinds of dictionaries for Greek learners and they would differ in the number of words they use for a given definition.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Stephen Hughes
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Re: How many English words in a dictionary?

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 10th, 2016, 6:05 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:All of them? How many English words do you need to know to use a lexicon that gives definitions in English? The lexicons and dictionaries that we use are written for English speaking readers of Greek, and so guys like Arndt and Gingrich (Newt's uncle, BTW... :roll: ) expected users of their lexicons to be competent in that language.
All of the words in the glosses and definitions, yes. But how many is that?

Seeing as there is something over six thousand Greek words to be defined, My very rough guess is that the number of English words needed to define them would be between five and thirteen thousand.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

cwconrad
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Re: How many English words in a dictionary?

Post by cwconrad » February 10th, 2016, 6:50 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:All of them? How many English words do you need to know to use a lexicon that gives definitions in English? The lexicons and dictionaries that we use are written for English speaking readers of Greek, and so guys like Arndt and Gingrich (Newt's uncle, BTW... :roll: ) expected users of their lexicons to be competent in that language.
All of the words in the glosses and definitions, yes. But how many is that?

Seeing as there is something over six thousand Greek words to be defined, My very rough guess is that the number of English words needed to define them would be between five and thirteen thousand.
Seeing as how we're going to have to know English in order to use a Greek lexicon, we'd better get started on learning our English vocabulary. I now remember being taken aback when I realized that German students at the University of Munich were relying on LSJ as a Greek lexicon; of course their English was pretty good. Langenscheidt's is a pretty good Handwörterbuch but it won't go very deep into Greek literature.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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