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date: 06 June 2020

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

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