Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 30 March 2017

Abstract and Keywords

Dictionaries are supposed to list all the words of a language. But how many words are there? We would like a nice answer—a number—but, I’m sorry to say, I am not going to give you one. The question does not stand up to scrutiny. There are many reasons why, from the language of scientific specializations to that of restaurant menus, and the chapter talks through a number of them, drawing data from chemistry, my local vegetarian restaurant, and very large databases of English to illustrate what happens when you start to enter the murky zone where things that might possibly be English words start to be outnumbered by things that you think really can’t be.

Keywords: dictionary, dictionaries, English, words, vocabulary, language, import, variation

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.