Hello,

How many words do you think you use in your everyday life? What kind of words do you use in day-to-day interactions? What kind of words do you use only on special occasions? What kind of words would you recoginse in context even though you never use them yourself?

What kind of words do you need to know in a second language? As we're learning English here I decided to list some 'words' that I'd like you to rate. How important do you think it is for people to know the 'words' in group 1? What about the words in groups 2, 3, 4, and 5?

Group 1: he, I, the, however, quite, at, a, you, we, after

Group 2: cat, boy, house, church, train, letter, door, lamp, book, TV

Group 3: scrap, colander, hex-key, dismount, attic, cursor, speedometer, handlebars, embroidering, abattoir

Group 4: mellow, innocuous, quintessence, lumber, meticulous, obsolete, deference, consort, mollify, ambiguous

Group 5: saprophyte, scutes, ventricle, cotylendron, maggot, eugenics, mesentry, pseudopod, villus, ptomaine
Englishuser
Hello,

How many words do you think you use in your everyday life? What kind of words do you use in day-to-day interactions? What kind of words do you use only on special occasions? What kind of words would you recoginse in context even though you never use them yourself?

What kind of words do you need to know in a second language? As we're learning English here I decided to list some 'words' that I'd like you to rate. How important do you think it is for people to know the 'words' in group 1? What about the words in groups 2, 3, 4, and 5?

Group 1: he, I, the, however, quite, at, a, you, we, after

Group 2: cat, boy, house, church, train, letter, door, lamp, book, TV

Group 3: scrap, colander, hex-key, dismount, attic, cursor, speedometer, handlebars, embroidering, abattoir

Group 4: mellow, innocuous, quintessence, lumber, meticulous, obsolete, deference, consort, mollify, ambiguous

Group 5: saprophyte, scutes, ventricle, cotylendron, maggot, eugenics, mesentry, pseudopod, villus, ptomaine

English is my first language. My thoughts:

Group 1 and Group 2 - both absolutely necessary

After that, individual circumstances become important.

Group 3) 'Scrap', 'dismount', 'attic', 'cursor', and 'speedometer' would be useful for some people. 'Handlebars' might be useful. 'Embroidering'..OK 'Colander' - only if someone cooks. 'Hex-key' and 'abattoir' - why bother?

Group 4) 'Obsolete' is a good word to know, if only to understand its meaning when applied to words and phrases you see and hear. 'Ambiguous' (unclear) is useful because the concept of ambiguity (lack of clarity) is very important for someone studying another language. The others would be nice to know.

Group 5) You're getting specialized. "Maggot' and 'eugenics' seem the most general.. For most people, there are many better words to learn!!
Hi Nef,

I appreciate your reply. I agree with you when you say that the words in group 5 are a bit unnecessary for most people. But if a person wants to learn all the words there are to learn they'd naturally learn those too. And many more.
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Englishuser
Hi Nef,

I appreciate your reply. I agree with you when you say that the words in group 5 are a bit unnecessary for most people. But if a person wants to learn all the words there are to learn they'd naturally learn those too. And many more.

You have interesting posts, Englishuser. I admire your English and your attitude. But I think that most of Group 5 is completely unneccessary for most nativespeakers! Emotion: smile Most of Group 5 wouldn't even show up on the general part of the GRE (Graduate Record Exam), in my opinion. If someone works in a highly specialized field or is very interested in a specialized line of study, it makes sense to learn the associated vocabulary. But as you know, there arelots of specialized fields.

I also am struck by the difference between 'reading vocabulary' and 'speaking vocabulary'. For instance, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say 'abattoir', except in a script. (Where I am, 'slaughterhouse' is a lot more common.)
Hi Nef,

I hope you will permit me to quote you in my post.
I admire your English and your attitude.
Thank you!
Group 5 is completely unneccessary for most native speakers!
You never know. My goal has always been to learn as many words as possible, and honestly, I wouldn't mind knowing as many words as a native professor of English at an Ivy League institution would. Speaking of professors of English, do you think they have vaster vocabularies than other native speakers (including English teachers)?
I also am struck by the difference between 'reading vocabulary' and 'speaking vocabulary'. For instance, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say 'abattoir', except in a script. (Where I am, 'slaughterhouse' is a lot more common.)
Regional variation. 'Abattoir' is more common in British English, whilst 'slaughterhouse' is the normal choice amongst North American speakers. This also makes learning English so exciting; you need to learn British English, Canadian English, Caribbean English, Nigerian English, Australian English... Not to speak of learning the vocabulary of Chaucer and Shakespeare, something that's paramount to all of us, I should think.

Let me know what you think.
EnglishuserHi Nef,

I hope you will permit me to quote you in my post.
I admire your English and your attitude.
Thank you!
Group 5 is completely unneccessary for most native speakers!
You never know. My goal has always been to learn as many words as possible, and honestly, I wouldn't mind knowing as many words as a native professor of English at an Ivy League institution would. Speaking of professors of English, do you think they have vaster vocabularies than other native speakers (including English teachers)?
I also am struck by the difference between 'reading vocabulary' and 'speaking vocabulary'. For instance, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say 'abattoir', except in a script. (Where I am, 'slaughterhouse' is a lot more common.)
Regional variation. 'Abattoir' is more common in British English, whilst 'slaughterhouse' is the normal choice amongst North American speakers. This also makes learning English so exciting; you need to learn British English, Canadian English, Caribbean English, Nigerian English, Australian English... Not to speak of learning the vocabulary of Chaucer and Shakespeare, something that's paramount to all of us, I should think.

Let me know what you think.

This also makes learning English so exciting; you need to learn British English, Canadian English, Caribbean English, Nigerian English, Australian English...

You have a lot more energy than I do, but that's good.

Not to speak of learning the vocabulary of Chaucer and Shakespeare, something that's paramount to all of us, I should think.

I have never thought it was paramount to anyone except the people who thought it was paramount to themselves. I'm not one of them. Emotion: smile

Speaking of professors of English, do you think they have vaster vocabularies than other native speakers (including English teachers)?

I think there's a huge amount of individual variation.

----

Where are you from, EU?
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Hi Nef,

Once again, please forgive me for quoting you in a clumsy way.


This also makes learning English so exciting; you need to learn British English, Canadian English, Caribbean English, Nigerian English, Australian English...

You have a lot more energy than I do, but that's good.

I think you definitely need to know 'world English'. It's a must, really. I'm currently studying South African and Nigerian Englishes.


Not to speak of learning the vocabulary of Chaucer and Shakespeare, something that's paramount to all of us, I should think.

I have never thought it was paramount to anyone except the people who thought it was paramount to themselves. I'm not one of them.

Perhaps you're right. At least people will be impressed with your English if you manage to use seventeenth-century vocabulary (and grammar). Perhaps I should try to imitate Shakespeare in my posts.


Speaking of professors of English, do you think they have vaster vocabularies than other native speakers (including English teachers)?

I think there's a huge amount of individual variation.

Interesting. I somehow find it unlikely that a Professor of English at the University of Harward, for instance, would know fewer words than a native speaker who hasn't studied English. English majors are, after all, required to read quite a lot.
Where are you from, EU?
Your question is a bit cryptical: EU could be an abbreviation for the European Union (in which case you'd want me to confirm your assumption that I'm an EU national, and not an AU national, for instance). Yes, I'm from the EU. Of course EU could also be an abbreviation for EnglishUser (which is probably what you meant), but as you can see I decided to answer the question my own way.

As we've been discussing the importance of knowing various words, I think I should mention that people know words differently. For instance, it's very obvious to most native speakers that 'tonga' refers to a small, light two-wheeled horse- or pony-drawn carriage or cart originating in India, but very few people would know that the word entered the English language sometime between 1870 and 1899 and that the word came from the Hindi word taga (my apologies for not being able to use appropriate punctuation marks or Hindi characters here). I personally think it's important to know a word well, so to say, which basically means you know something about its origin, various acceptable pronunciations, etc. Also, one should never forget to learn every known meaning, past and present, for each word in the language, no matter how archaic and obsolete some of them might be. To give you an example, the word 'pudding' means at least 15 different things (2 of which are archaic). (Not everyone knows that 'pudding' was used for a 'pudding' roasted within the body of an animal, for instance. 'Pudding' was used in this sense c. 1570 - 1799, and, in my opinion, this is an important piece of information.)

I was intending EU to stand for Englishuser. Sorry that wasn't clear.

I'm not arguing that English professors don't have excellent vocabularies. Of course I think they have very extensive vocabularies compared to most people. But not everyone who has an extensive vocabulary is an English professor!

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Our emphases are different. I incline very much to the functional. That's because I work with students who need the most immediately practical kind of English they can get. You're a scholar. I respect that (truly). But it would be strange if we had exactly the same priorities.
Hi Nef,

And thanks for your reply. I totally agree with you: you don't need to be a professor of English to have an extensive vocabulary. The truth is, however, that I have never met anyone who is not a professor of English (or a researcher) who would have known a lot about obsolete and archaic Old English words, for instance. It's true that most people don't need Old English in their daily lives, but as I find the Toronto corpus fascinating I feel I need to know something about Old English.

What exactly do you mean when you say:
But it would be strange if we had exactly the same priorities.
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