English Communication

(information about English words and communication)

The two words "information" and "communication" are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.

—Sydney J. Harris

Good Communication Comes from a Superior Vocabulary

As stated previously, English words come in all sizes and degrees of difficulty from numerous languages past and present to give us English-vocabulary words for better communication.

  • Communication can not be achieved without words except for a few superficial methods; such as, a twitch, a wink, a nudge, a kiss, a hug, a caress, or with some kind of physical violence.
  • Real communication, creative communication, communication that can sustain and uplift and inspire, is only possible with words.
  • The richest of the world's languages, which number over two thousand, is English in its various modes of expression.
  • The English language is rich because it is not pure.
  • It is a vast ocean that has received global contributions from just about every language.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82, U.S. essayist, lecturer, and poet) described English as, "the sea which receives tributaries from every region under heaven."
  • It has taken just about two thousand years to evolve.
  • Over the centuries, major contributions came from the Celts, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Greeks, Romans, Danes, Normans, Dutch, Germans, Spaniards, Arabs, and the French.

A Very Large Number of Modern English Words
Come from Latin and Greek Sources

  • The main additions to vocabulary during the early Modern English period are learned words from Latin and Greek, frequently called inkhorn terms because of their bookish character.
  • Some were introduced in a conscious effort to increase the resources of the English language; others originated in affectation.
  • Many proved to be superfluous and have since fallen into disuse.
  • During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the English language has continued to be hospitable to foreign words.
  • The blossoming of all the sciences has kept the classical languages alive as formative elements in English, and the international nature of the scientific community facilitates the adoption of technical terms from European and non-European languages.
  • That the ancient languages of Greek and Latin have significantly influenced the vocabulary and grammatical structure of English has long been recognized in learned circles.
  • For this reason, serious students of language and those whose professional fields require an in-depth understanding of a very sophisticated and technical vocabulary have for many generations devoted a portion of their academic program, either in secondary school or at the college or university level, to the study of these classical languages in the traditional manner.
  • The results of their efforts on the whole have been easy to predict.
  • The study of Latin as a language or the study of Latin and Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes have easily received the highest verbal scores in standardized national tests over other groups of students studying a modern foreign language or no foreign language at all.

All Students, Especially the "Gifted," Need a Concentrated Study of Latin and Greek Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes

  • With the realization in recent years that too many of today’s most gifted students for various reasons have not enrolled in traditional Latin or Greek courses, special efforts have often been made in academic circles to introduce them; at least, to a concentrated study of important Greek and Latin roots commonly found in English vocabulary.
  • In addition, it is necessary to set forth for their benefit the basic principles upon which new words are coined annually even to this day from these ancient languages.

How Many Words Are There In The English Language?

This is an indeterminate question. First, there is the problem of what exactly is a word. Are mouse, mice, mousy, and mouse-like separate words or just forms of one root word? Is a computer mouse the same word as the rodent?

To demonstrate the difficulty in counting words, over the centuries many scholars have attempted to count how many different words Shakespeare used in his works. The counts run anywhere from 16,000 to 30,000.

Second, unlike French, English has no official body to determine what is proper and what is not. English dictionaries are (usually) descriptive in nature, not prescriptive.

In other words, they describe how the language exists and is used, they do not prescribe or determine its "proper" use. Just because a word "is not in the dictionary", doesn't mean that it is not a legitimate word. It simply means the dictionary editors omitted it for one reason or another.

The OED2, the largest English-language dictionary, contains some 290,000 entries with some 616,500 word forms. Of course, there are lots of slang and regional words that are not included and the big dictionary omits many proper names, scientific and technical terms, and jargon as a matter of editorial policy (e.g., there are some 1.4 million named species of insect alone).

All told, estimates of the total vocabulary of English start at around three million words and go up from there!

Of these, about 200,000 words are in common use today. An educated person has a vocabulary of about 20,000 words and uses about 2,000 during a week's conversation. These estimates vary widely depending on who is doing the counting, so don't take them as wholly verified facts.

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