Comments on Fear of Failing

1 Comment.

This was fun, thanks! Reminds me of something I read:

One extraordinary feature of the lexicon is the
sheer capacity for memorization that goes into building
it. How many words do you think an average person knows?
If you are like most writers who have offered an opinion
based on the number of words they hear or read, you might
guess a few hundred for the uneducated, a few thousand
for the literate, and as many as 15,000 for gifted
wordsmiths like Shakespeare (that is how many distinct
words are found in his collected plays and sonnets)....
The most sophisticated estimate comes from the
psychologists William Nagy and Richard Anderson. They
began with a list of 227,553 different words. Of these,
45,453 were simple roots and stems. Of the remaining
182,100 derivatives and compounds, they estimated
that all but 42,080 could be understood in context by
someone who knew their components. Thus there were a
total of 44,453 + 42,080 = 88,533 listeme* words. By
sampling from this list and testing the sample, Nagy
and Anderson estimated that an average American high
school graduate knows 45,000 words -- three times as
many as Shakespeare managed to use! Actually, this is
an underestimate, because proper names, numbers, foreign
words, acronyms, and many common undecomposable compounds
were excluded. There is no need to follow the rules of
Scrabble in estimating vocabulary size; these forms are
all listemes, and a person should be given credit for
them. If they had been included, the average high school
graduate would probably be credited with something like
60,000 words (a tetrabard?), and superior students,
because they read more, would probably merit a figure
twice as high, an octobard.

- *LISTEME: An uncommon but useful term corresponding to
one of the senses of "word," it refers to an element of
language that must be memorized because its sound or
meaning does not conform to some general rule. All
word roots, irregular forms, and idioms are listemes.
-- Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct, pp. 149, 150

-- steve 2015-07-09 16:13 UTC