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The Role of Ofsted   Part Two
Posted: 21 March 2012 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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dougsmith - 21 March 2012 08:30 AM
George - 21 March 2012 08:16 AM

An Argentinean’s vocabulary is, for example, a lot smaller than that of a Spaniard.

Based on what evidence?

Just an observation. You’ll rarely hear an Argentinean say “has dicho,” for example. It’s almost always “dijiste.” They don’t seem to be bothered by the two different examples of past tense at all. I am not obviously talking about people like Borges here, but rather about the common man.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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George - 21 March 2012 08:59 AM

You’ll rarely hear an Argentinean say “has dicho,” for example. It’s almost always “dijiste.” They don’t seem to be bothered by the two different examples of past tense at all. I am not obviously talking about people like Borges here, but rather about the common man.

But that says nothing about the size of their vocabulary, just that they have regional dialects, as we all do. They also say “vos” instead of “vosotros”, and people from the American South have a second-person plural which those of us from the North do not.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Actually, that’s wrong. “Vos” is the equivalent of the traditional Castellano’s “tu.” They use “Ustedes” instead of “vosotros.” And yes, you would be correct here when you say that’s merely a matter of a different dialect. But that’s not what I am talking about. To say “dijiste” in an instance when clearly “has dicho” is more appropriate, simplifies the language and automatically decreases the size of the vocabulary. You’ll seldom hear an Argentinean say, I dunno, “usualmente,” a word every child in Spain will use in their everyday speech. In Argentina it will more likely be “casi siempre” or “casi nunca.” Once again, I am comparing a common Spaniard here with a common Argentinean.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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George - 21 March 2012 09:16 AM

To say “dijiste” in an instance when clearly “has dicho” is more appropriate, simplifies the language and automatically decreases the size of the vocabulary.

Every dialect has its simplifications and complexities (e.g., second person plural in the Southern US), though this has nothing to do with vocabulary size, which IIRC is virtually the same across linguistic groups.

I recall similar arguments about the supposed simplicity of Black American English, that Pinker exploded as simple racial prejudice in Language Instinct.

[ Edited: 21 March 2012 10:11 AM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 21 March 2012 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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So a person who will describe another as a “nice guy” has the same vocabulary as the person who may instead use “altruistic individual”? They are both the same thing, but the later one is just a little more descriptive than the first. The same goes for “has dicho” vs. “dijiste.” “Dijiste” is good enough, (it’ll do the job), but “has dicho” is simply more descriptive in some cases. Of course, people vary in how precise they feel they need to be when communicating, and the dialect only reflects that.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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George - 21 March 2012 10:51 AM

So a person who will describe another as a “nice guy” has the same vocabulary as the person who may instead use “altruistic individual”? They are both the same thing, but the later one is just a little more descriptive than the first. The same goes for “has dicho” vs. “dijiste.” “Dijiste” is good enough, (it’ll do the job), but “has dicho” is simply more descriptive in some cases. Of course, people vary in how precise they feel they need to be when communicating, and the dialect only reflects that.

I’m not sure what you’re saying. People in different communities may have different typical ways to get across the same information, and may be more or less precise depending on the situation, but this has nothing essentially to do with vocabulary size. Typical usable vocabularies are much, much smaller than dictionary vocabularies, anyhow.

Viz., see HERE: “These estimates suggest that well-educated adult native speakers of English have a vocabulary of around 17,000 base words.” The OED has an active word count roughly ten times that size, and they estimate around 250,000 total words in the language. That means an average well educated adult English speaker has a vocabulary somewhere in the neighborhood of 5% of the total word count of the language.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I don’t know why you’re not sure what I am saying. The word “usualmente” exists in Spain as it does in Argentina. It is a part of every-day vocabulary of a Spaniard, but not that of an Argentinean. The same goes for “has dicho.” An Argentinean will use instead a less descriptive (!) word, just like one person (or a group of people) may use “nice guy” instead of “altruistic individual.” Not sure why you find it so difficult to understand what I am saying here.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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George - 21 March 2012 11:15 AM

Not sure why you find it so difficult to understand what I am saying here.

I understand that, but I don’t see what that (materially) has to do with the claim that an Argentine’s vocabulary is significantly smaller than a Spaniard’s.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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dougsmith - 21 March 2012 12:19 PM
George - 21 March 2012 11:15 AM

Not sure why you find it so difficult to understand what I am saying here.

I understand that, but I don’t see what that (materially) has to do with the claim that an Argentine’s vocabulary is significantly smaller than a Spaniard’s.

If a person (an Argentinean, or Argentine, or however one is suppose to spell it) uses less words in his day-to-day vocabulary (e.g., using “dijiste” instead of “dijiste” and “has dicho”) than another person (a Spaniard), then that person has automatically a smaller vocabulary.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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George - 21 March 2012 12:41 PM

If a person (an Argentinean, or Argentine, or however one is suppose to spell it) uses less words in his day-to-day vocabulary (e.g., using “dijiste” instead of “dijiste” and “has dicho”) than another person (a Spaniard), then that person has automatically a smaller vocabulary.

Sorry, this won’t work. First of all, if an ordinary vocabulary is on the order of 10-20k words, a word or two more or less is statistically irrelevant. Further, that assumes that an average Argentine doesn’t know what “has”, “dicho” or “has dicho” means, which is itself false.

It’s one thing not to use an expression in an everyday context, and another not to understand what it means or be able to use it.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 01:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Well, there are obviously more words they don’t use than the two examples I have given here. If they actually know them is more problematic; I am sure they know the words “has dicho,” but if they know when and how to correctly use them is debatable.

Also, I don’t know if knowing the word and not using it counts as being a part of one’s vocabulary. If I ask a South American how to say “hobby” in Spanish he may either respond “pasatiempo” or “hobby” (I swear to Zeus a lot of them do; I have tried it.) If you, however, ask them if they have ever heard of the word “afición” they may respond they have. Is, then, the word “afición” a part of a South American’s vocabulary?

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Posted: 21 March 2012 01:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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George - 21 March 2012 01:19 PM

Well, there are obviously more words they don’t use than the two examples I have given here.

That’s the question. Enumerating examples at random is a broken methodology of counting a vocabulary, though.

George - 21 March 2012 01:19 PM

If they actually know them is more problematic; I am sure they know the words “has dicho,” but if they know when and how to correctly use them is debatable.

Also, I don’t know if knowing the word and not using it counts as being a part of one’s vocabulary. If I ask a South American how to say “hobby” in Spanish he may either respond “pasatiempo” or “hobby” (I swear to Zeus a lot of them do; I have tried it.) If you, however, ask them if they have ever heard of the word “afición” they may respond they have. Is, then, the word “afición” a part of a South American’s vocabulary?

If they know what “afición” means and how to use it, it is.

Additionally, if they have the word “hobby” and know how to use it, but Spaniards do not, then on that count the Argentine’s Spanish is one word larger than the Spaniard’s.

And just to forestall an obvious potential objection: languages always grow their vocabularies by borrowing words from other languages. There is no such thing as a “pure” language. It may happen in a century or two that the Spanish spoken in parts of Latin America becomes a version of Spanglish so different from the language of Spain as to be mutually unintelligible. (I doubt it, but it could happen). That would not mean that the new Spanglish was any worse, less “pure”, less expressive, simpler, etc. than the native tongue. English, which by some accounts has the largest dictionary vocabulary in the world (a meaningless statistic, but I’ve heard it said) is cobbled together from both Latin and Germanic derivates in much the same way.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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dougsmith - 21 March 2012 01:33 PM

And just to forestall an obvious potential objection: languages always grow their vocabularies by borrowing words from other languages. There is no such thing as a “pure” language. It may happen in a century or two that the Spanish spoken in parts of Latin America becomes a version of Spanglish so different from the language of Spain as to be mutually unintelligible. (I doubt it, but it could happen). That would not mean that the new Spanglish was any worse, less “pure”, less expressive, simpler, etc. than the native tongue. English, which by some accounts has the largest dictionary vocabulary in the world (a meaningless statistic, but I’ve heard it said) is cobbled together from both Latin and Germanic derivates in much the same way.

I do agree with everything you say here.

Did you know, for example, that the expression “¿cuanto sale?” (i.e., “¿cuanto vale?” in Spain) comes from the English word “sale”? (So I was told no too long ago.) Spanglish can be a very interesting language indeed.

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Posted: 21 March 2012 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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George - 21 March 2012 01:56 PM

Did you know, for example, that the expression “¿cuanto sale?” (i.e., “¿cuanto vale?” in Spain) comes from the English word “sale”? (So I was told no too long ago.) Spanglish can be a very interesting language indeed.

Didn’t know that, no. I assumed it came from “salir”. (C.f., “How much does that go for?”) But it certainly wouldn’t surprise me ...

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Posted: 21 March 2012 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Yeah, that’s what I thought as well.

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