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Which Language Has the Most Phrases?

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Some languages are recognized for his or her difficult grammar guidelines or troublesome pronunciation, however which language has the largest vocabulary? You may suppose that this may be a easy query to reply. In spite of everything, languages are extremely studied and documented. There have to be somebody who conclusively is aware of the language that has essentially the most phrases, proper?

Whereas there are theories and arguments from completely different linguists, the one you consider will rely by yourself view of language. Listed below are some potential solutions that replicate completely different approaches to answering the query:


English has integrated the vocabulary of many languages, and it has advanced into probably the most spoken languages on this planet.

English is a Germanic language that advanced from the identical Proto-Germanic language as German and Dutch. Because it developed, it was additionally closely influenced by Romance languages, akin to Spanish and French, and integrated vocabulary from them.

These worldwide additions proceed so as to add to the already intensive variety of phrases English audio system can draw on, creating what may very well be the world’s most intensive set of vocabulary.

English has acquired a big vocabulary due to its historical past. Nonetheless, if we examine the variety of phrases within the dictionaries of assorted languages, would English have the biggest vocabulary?


Dictionaries are thought to be authoritative collections of phrases in a given language, so they could seem to be a very good supply to make use of for answering this query.

This chart exhibits the variety of headwords in a lot of authoritative dictionaries. A headword is the type of the phrase beneath which associated types of the phrase are organized. For instance, the headword for the noun “badger” would include definitions for each the animal and and a local of a sure midwestern state, in addition to details about compound phrases and idioms wherein these varieties seem. The verb type of “badger”, the act of pestering somebody, can also seem beneath that headword, or it might be a separate headword, relying on the dictionary. Have a look:

Language Dictionary Approximate variety of headwords
Korean Woori Mal Saem, 2017 1,100,373
Portuguese Aulete Digital 818,000
Finnish RedFox Professional 800,000
Tamil Sorkuvai 776,567
Kurdish Authority of Kurdish Language Dictionary, Kurdish Language Unit Dictionary 744,139
Swedish Svenska Akademiens ordbok 600,000
English English Wiktionary 578,707
Korean Normal Korean Language Dictionary 511,282
Italian Grande Dizionario Hoepli Italiano 500,000
Japanese Nihon Kokugo Daijiten 500,000
Lithuanian Lietuvių kalbos žodynas 500,000

It appears to be like like Korean tops the listing with over one million phrases! So, Korean will need to have essentially the most phrases of any language, proper? Korean positively has a big vocabulary. Like English, Korean has additionally been traditionally influenced by different languages which have contributed to its vocabulary. Korean contains many phrases of Chinese language origin, and borrows phrases from English and different languages as properly.

Nonetheless, it’s a stretch to say that Korean has essentially the most phrases of any language on this planet as a result of considered one of its dictionaries has over one million headwords.

You’ll have seen that Korean dictionaries take each first and eighth place on this listing, which demonstrates a significant situation with this methodology of measuring the variety of phrases in a language. Completely different dictionaries for a similar language can listing vastly completely different counts of phrases. 

Woori Mal Saem has practically double the variety of headwords because the Normal Korean Language Dictionary, and it’s straightforward to see why if you have a look at the variations between the 2. Woori Mal Saem is an open on-line dictionary that lets customers add new phrases. It covers vocabulary particular to each North and South Korean dialects, slang phrases, and even correct nouns that the majority dictionaries wouldn’t embody. 

Conversely, the Normal Korean Language Dictionary is printed by the Nationwide Institute of Korean Language. Its standards for what constitutes a Korean phrase is extra strict than Woori Mal Saem.

You may see this discrepancy with English, too. The Wiktionary (one other open on-line dictionary) has 578,707 headwords, whereas Webster’s Third New Worldwide Dictionary solely has 470,000, and the Oxford English Dictionary lists a mere 273,000 headwords. 

Agglutinative languages

Since even dictionaries for a similar language differ in how they decide the variety of phrases within the language, how else might you assess the variety of phrases in a language? You possibly can have a look at a language’s potential to create new phrases.

For instance, in agglutinative languages, akin to Turkish, Finnish, and Tagalog, audio system commonly type new phrases as a part of on a regular basis speech. They will do that as a result of agglutinative languages simply mix morphemes—the smallest constructing blocks of that means in a language—to create new phrases. 

Some languages can wind up with extraordinarily lengthy phrases created by agglutination, such because the Turkish phrase Çekoslovakyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınız, which interprets to “You’re a type of that we weren’t capable of convert into Czechoslovakians.” (Sure, there’s a phrase for that.)

Does this means to simply create new phrases from smaller items imply these languages have bigger vocabularies than others? Once more, it will depend on your definition of a phrase.

There’s no single reply

Although it’s straightforward to think about a phrase as a easy concept, what counts and doesn’t rely as a phrase is up for interpretation. Do compound phrases, slang phrases, or mortgage phrases taken from different languages qualify? Mix this with the truth that languages create phrases in numerous methods from each other, and also you’re left with a query that lacks a remaining reply.

Even when we did have a definitive reply, it wouldn’t be significantly helpful to most language learners. An English dictionary could have a whole lot of hundreds of headwords, however the common native speaker solely is aware of about 15,000-20,000 lemmas (consider a lemma as a phrase and all of its varieties, like previous tense, plural, and so forth.). One linguistic professor estimates that individuals must know simply 800 lemmas of a language to know most each day conversations. 

So, whereas it’s a enjoyable statistic, understanding what number of phrases a language has doesn’t inform you a lot about how troublesome it’s to be taught. What issues are the a number of hundred most often used phrases, which Rosetta Stone can assist you perceive. Rosetta Stone’s Phrasebook characteristic works like a set of digital flashcards that helps you be taught frequent phrases you’d use in on a regular basis interactions, and contains pronunciation examples from native audio system. Get began now at



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