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Iversen’s Multiconfused Log (see p.1!)

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Iversen
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 Message 3665 of 3959
30 July 2014 at 3:59pm | IP Logged 
In my newspaper today I found an overview of the admission for the autumn semester 2014 to all the universities and other institutions at the same level in Denmark, with all their organisatorial units listed one by one. And of course I first checked the university in Århus, where I took my exam in French and 'sammenlignende og moderne' Literature in January 2014. Literature? OK, the word is mentioned in several places, but not as an isolated study, encompassing a number of languages. Besides I haven't followed this part of my studies up later - I prefer non fiction. But languages then? Well, there is of course English and Nordic language and literature, furthermore German, Spanish and then some studies that don't tell whether the students actually have to learn the languages in question: Japan Studies, China studies, Eastern European studies and finally Linguistics. In addition to this there is a number of more business oriented study branches: "eng.og eur.studier", "eng.og komm.", "eng. og spansk", "eng. og tysk", "spansk og komm.", "tysk.komm". I'm not quite sure whether "komm." here stands for 'communication' or 'blatant commercialism' - maybe both.

But there is one glaring hole in this list: WHERE THE **** IS FRENCH????? (and where are Italian, Portuguese etc)? It seems that you have to go to Copenhagen now to study any Romance language apart from Spanish, and this suggest that I made the right decision i 1982 when I decided not to base my future on Romance languages at the university level. It has been a downwards spiral ever since I escaped.

As a follow-up to this horror story I did some Google look-ups and quite by accident I found the story of the old Romance institute where I once studied just about every Romance language except Spanish, and it was quite interesting to be reminded of the names of my teachers from the olden days of yore. But I was there during the numeric heydays of the institute, so where the final theses of earlier students and all kinds of details about their teachers are mentioned almost in loving detail, my period at the institute is treated in a far more cursory and haphazard way, and with a clear bias towards theses about literature and sociology (which was introduced in my time there). The autor of this historic overview - a lady named Villemoes - seems to be thoroughly happy that strictly linguistic themes were pushed into the background or redefined into more political and/or literary directions (although this mostly happened after I left the place).

And I feel that I just as well could have written dirty words on the toilet walls as writing a thesis about a grammatical theme that drew on all Romance languages (and a few more) and was honoured with the highest note you could get at the time. The only Romance language that has survived is the one I didn't study. In the published typewritten list of theses names up to 2006 the title of my 'speciale' (no. 231) has even been misquoted. But frankly it doesn't matter. I was not there when 'my' institute at this irrelevant university was abolished.

Apart from that: in relation to a discussion at Polydog's place I have decided to make at parallel tests with 100 Russian words in my own wordlist system and 100 words in goldlists. In two months time I'll then see how many of the original 2 x 200 words I remember. Russian has been chosen because I already have a decent, but not sumptuous vocabulary in this language, and because I will be reading some texts in it during the test period, but not study it intensively (mostly because I spend so much time on Serbian and I want to avoid interference).    

EDIT: I just found out that 'my' university still has some courses in French (placed under 'Arts' - and yes, it is an English word they use). But apparently all students can be in one room now.

Edited by Iversen on 30 July 2014 at 4:31pm

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Iversen
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 Message 3666 of 3959
08 August 2014 at 4:35pm | IP Logged 
I'm actually working fairly consistently on my French right now (details will follow), but I also get time for other languages. I have revised mo Serbian wordlists from June, and even though I have stopped making complete statistics it seems that I still have problems remembering around a third of the words. However that almost all look wellknown to me when I check the translations on the original lists, so I would say that even the recalcitrant third is close to being part of my passive vocabulary - most of it should probably be classified as "guessable" rather than "unknown". I have also been thinking through the things I might say about vocabulary learning in Novi Sad. My main problem right now is that there may be some kind of translation going on, and if that is done as successive translation (which is the most likely scenario) then it will take time away from the things I have to say. OK, time will tell...

I have worked with texts from an excellent site called [url=http://www.scienceinschool.org]Science in school/url], which contains a lot of translations of popular science article. In some cases there are translations of an article into several languages. which might be useful for making bilingual texts. I have so far not checked to hich extent the versions are truly parallel, but given that it's science and not poetry it would be reasonable to expect fairly loyal translations.

RO: De pilda, am fost doar citind un articol despre studii de vechi roci africane. Ideea este că a fost presupus până acum că farfurii mici să aibă coagulat într-un singur supercontinent Rodinia în urmă cu aproximativ 1.000.000.000 de ani. Rodinia apoi a fracturat în plăci continentale mari, și aceea a fost situația până sacum (cu excepția faptului că continentele au unit din nou în timpul Permian - acest lucru nu este menționat în articol). Cu toate acestea geologii au găsit roci două ori mai vechi, care pare să fi fost formați în condiții care se aseamănă de condiții la zone de subducție - și să aibă zone de subducție ai nevoie de plăci continentale. Plăci continentale, deci, au existat cel puțin în urmă cu 2.000.000.000 de ani - și poate fi a existat un supercontinent unită înainte de supercontinentul Rodinia.
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Iversen
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 Message 3667 of 3959
17 August 2014 at 8:42pm | IP Logged 
ENG: I'm back home after almost two weeks in Québec and Northern New Brunswick and a weekend with my family. I only brought home one science magazine, the excellent "Science et Vie", but more about that later -I found enough subjects to write about from that magazine to warrant a separate message.

Otherwise I would mention that I did the first destillation of my four goldlists earlier today - although I had to make a break during no. 4 due to to arrival of my sister, who for some reason started to read aloud from a TV program listing and make comments about recent and upcoming programs, including some I wouldn't want to watch. And Uncle Davey/Huliganov specifically says you should have a nice and quiet time with your words during the process without too many outside disturbances.

I have also make a repetition of the 3-column wordlists with 4 x 25 words I made before leaving home, with one repetition round a day later and then the one now, almost three weeks later. The percentages of recall were not too impressive - around 30% loss both times with a 9% overlap. But the interesting thing is that the loss was almost the same both times, and that the overlap as usual was rather small. Whaich raises the question: did I relearn the 21% efficiently during the first repetition, or is it in part a generalized recall-problem that lowers the scores, and which can hit random words? Probably a combination of both things...

DK: Jeg vil nævne noget uhyggeligt fra et interview med to personer fra en nordjysk lokal-TV station (placeret i Ålborg). Den ene var en dame, der udtrykkeligt var blevet ansat af den daværende leder på grund af hendes dialekt. Den anden var en mandsperson, der uden at fortrække en mine glædede sig over at brugen af de nordjyske dialekter var i aftagende i stationens programmer - 'for det nyttede jo ikke noget at man kun kunne følge dem hvis man forstod dialekten på mors' (citeret efter hukommelsen). Manden er helt galt på den. For det første var damen ved siden af ham nem at forstå, for det andet kan det ikke være en lokalsenders opgave at slå en vigtig del af egnens kultur ihjel ved at fortie den, og for det tredje er det en syg tanke at programmer i nordjysk TV skal censureres af hensyn til folk i andre områder af landet eller folk i regionen der ikke har gidet lære at forstå deres egne naboer. Der findes mere end nok af TV-stationer på flimmerkassen, inclusive nogle på engelsk (som de højst sandsynlig ikke vil indrømme de ikke kan forstå). Desværre hørte jeg ikke resten af interviewet - af hensyn til mit blodtryk og min fortsatte (men vaklende) tro på menneskehedens generelle intelligensniveau måtte jeg skifte til en anden kanal.

ENG: I would like to mention an incident from an interview on a local Northern Jutish Channel with one of the first employees, who had got the job precisely because she had a nice Northerly dialect, and another person, who apparently also was employed at that station. This individual positively lauded the declining use of dialect in the programs of the station with the utterly idiotic pretext that "the programs should be possible to follow also for people who didn't know the dialect of Mors" (Mors is an island in the area). But it can't be the job of - of all - a local TV station to undermine the local dialects by ignoring them just because some Danes in other parts of the country or one linguistically challenged employee of the local TV station might not understand every word said, and if the lady beside the type in question was a typical dialect speaker on TV then the risk would be rather minimal. It was very easy to understand everything she said.

A Danish former education minister is quoted for the maxime "what not everybody can learn, nobody should learn". Which is a thoroughly sick mentality. If people living in Northern Jutland can't understand the local dialects they could for goddams sake learn to understand them - or watch something in Standard Danish on another channel. Or in English, if they find that easier than the traditional speech of their own community.

FR: Et mon voyage? Eh bien, j'ai passé les deux premières nuits à Montréal (ou plutôt à Dorval, près de l'aéroport international), et depuis j'ai passé par Trois-Rivières à Québec ville, où j'ai visité d'abord l'Aquarium et depuis la vielle ville. De Québec je suis allé à Campbellton in Nouveau-Brunswick, visitant trois musées en route. De Campbellton j'ai fait une excursion au Village Acadien et l'aquarium de Shippagan, et après ceci j'ai passé deux nuits à Rivière du Loup, une nuit à Granby et ma dernière nuit dans le même motel à Dorval où j'ai commencé le circuit. Un des plus intéressants lieux que j'ai visité pendant mon voyage était le Village Acadien, où tout le monde (à part quelques touristes anglophones) parlaient quebecqois. Nouveau-Brunswick est officiellement bilingue, mais selon le guide de Lonely Planet seuls 18% sont des Acadiens (i.e. membres de la communauté française) - et pas tous parlent en effet le français comme langue maternelle. Cette situation réflète une décision faite par le gouverneur anglais en 1755, où il a expulsé la population française et confisqué tous leurs biens. Québec est officiellement francophone, mais en effet environ un tiers de la population à Montréal est Anglophone. Personellement j'ai su me débrouiller assez bien avec mon français européen, et j'ai en effet appris plusieus mots provenant de la langue du monde technique, puisque j'ai lu certains parts du manuel de la voiture Ford Focus que j'ai loué. Et même après plusieus jours avec ma famille il m'arrive de penser en français sans avoir choisi consciemment de le faire.   

Edited by Iversen on 17 August 2014 at 10:05pm

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Iversen
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 Message 3668 of 3959
18 August 2014 at 4:10pm | IP Logged 
I have just read an interesting article on the net, which claims that Wu-Tang Clan has a bigger vocabulary than Shakespeare. I have no idea who that is (except that it is a rap group), but a certain Matt Daniels counted 35.000 words of works by Shakespeare, Herman Melville and 85 hophop artists and found that Shakespeare used 5.170 unique words, "Melville scored 6,022 for his novel Moby Dick, only beaten by Kool Keith, GZA and Aesop Rock. Aesop Rock came top with 7,392 unique words, while DMX sat at the other end of the scale with 3,214 unique words". Shame on DMX. "The highest scoring female was Lil Kim on 4,474 unique words, followed by Nicki Minaj on 4,162 and Missy Elliott with 3,874.". But Shakespeare may not have been as linguistically challenged as it seems, because "across his entire corpus, he uses 28,829 words, suggesting he knew over 100,000 words and arguably had the largest vocabulary ever."

These figures made me remember an exercise I did way back in May 2014. I collected 75838 English words from 2008 and 2009 from this log thread, "which I gave a first rough cleaning to remove long quotes and other conspicuous, but unwanted elements. That brought it down to 73172 words, which I divided into two packages of 36304 resp. 36868 words". You see, that's not far from 35.000 words. But "then I cleaned these lists. Foreign words, acronyms, nonsense and proper names were removed (...). After this I had 4421 resp. 4738 unique words left." It turned out that the overlap only was 1979 words, which has some important consequences for language learning, but that's not relevant for the comparison with Shakespeare, Melville and the 85 rappers.

There is however a snag here: I counted headwords, whereas Daniels apparently counted wordforms - this isn't quite clear, but he states that "pimps, pimp, pimping, and pimpin are four unique words" in his study. I would propably have counted two words, one for the forms that could represent the verb and one for the substantive (although none of the forms above unequivocally are substantival). So to compare you need an unknown conversion factor. I have a vague memory that the final set of headwords represented about two thirds of the unique wordforms, but I'll try to find my original speadsheet with the original lists. With a bit of luck the unreduced unique wordforms still are listed there, and else I can do a bit of spreadsheet magic to get them back.

It would be quite fun if I could compete with truly exuberant word equilibrists like mr. Aesop Rock, GZA, Kool Keith and Herman Melville.

Edited by Iversen on 18 August 2014 at 6:08pm

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montmorency
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 Message 3669 of 3959
18 August 2014 at 4:48pm | IP Logged 
Iversen,

I suppose you have seen the Youtube video lectures by Professor Arguelles, in which he,
among other things, compares the vocabulary needed to read Moby Dick to that needed to
read Pinnocchio (in English). He was really making more general points (and also
demonstrating some quite useful software), but I think by his calculation, you'd "only"
need a vocabulary of about 17,000 word-families to read Mpby Dick. I'm pretty sure it
was less than 20,000 anyway.

By defining it as word families, that would encompass a lot more actual words of
course, so "pimps, pimp, pimping, and pimpin" would probably all be one word-family. So
it may not be easy to compare like with like.

(I won't bother giving links, but part 1 is "Extensive Reading and Vocabulary Range",
part 2 is "Selecting Appropriate Texts for Expanding Vocabulary Range Through Extensive
Reading", and I think "Moving from Intermediate Toward Advanced" which comes next
chronologically, is also relevant).

...I just looked again at the relevant part of the 2nd vid. and it's actually "only"
14,000 word-families. But looking at the video reminded me that he is talking about
being able to read a book at the 98% comprehension level, which is his criterion for
being able to read extensively without assistance (i.e. without a dictionary or other
aid).

...

In passing, thanks very much for your recent update on "Wordlist vs Goldlist".

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Iversen
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 Message 3670 of 3959
18 August 2014 at 5:33pm | IP Logged 
All the pimp-words would definitely belong to the same word family, but it depends on the dictionary whether homonymous verbs and nouns are quoted in the same article or divided on two articles. I prefer separating them because few languages have the same proportional of homonymes of this kind, and I prefer a standard that can be used across languages. But in my word counts I am more focused on the percentages of known and guessable words, and then it doesn't matter how the dictionary is organised - if you know a third of the thing you are counting in a dictionary then it would probably also be a third if the definition of headwords had been different. And in the study back in May I reduced the unique word forms to 'headwords' using my experience from the many word counts I have done.

As for the total number of words in Moby Dick I would guess that 35.000 running words hardly covers the first chapter, but I simply don't know. I have however from the test I mentioned plus my experiences with other counts concluded that the overlap between different samples may be large for the most common words, but it is rather small for less common words. And this means that adding pages actually will result in a parallel growth in the number of unique wordforms/headwords/word families. The curve must flatten at some point, and the point where this happens will represent one of the interpretations of the notion of 'active vocabulary' for that author - but I have no idea where this happens would happen for me in English. The samples I have made aren't large enough. In most other languages it would happen earlier, but my writings in digital form aren't large enough to show where the flattening occurs.

As for the estimate that Shakespeare knew four times as many words as he ever used: there is absolute no way to prove that.

ProfArguelles touches on another hot subject with the 98%, namely the proportion of unknown words you can allow if you want to understand a text. I have recently read an article by Hu and Nation, in which they tested comprehension by substituting different percentages of nonsense words for the rarest words in texts which the test subjects normally would be able to read and comprehend in their original untampered state. And it turned out that even 5% nonsense words posed problems - apparently 98% known words were necessary to make people comfortable. Some readers may be smarter than your average Joe to fill in the holes, and the ability to skip problem words and get on with the reading also differs from person to person. But the percentages are nevertheless interesting, bordering on scary. 2% unknown (or nonsense) words allegedly corresponds to one unknown word per 10 lines in an ordinary novel.

Luckily you can 'cheat' by using bilingual texts and dictionaries, but the morale still is that a large vocabulary and good guessing skills are necessary if you want to read Melville. Or listen to Aesop Rock, whoever that is.

---

PS: I just noticed that the numbers I have given actually were taken before the last cleansing round which transformed wordforms into headwords, so 4421 resp. 4738 are actually not far from Shakespeare's score, but far below those of both Melville and A.Rock. In the report from May I actually did write the final numbers for unique headwords after cleansing: 3498 resp. 3914, with an overlap of 1979 headwords.

Edited by Iversen on 18 August 2014 at 6:22pm

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montmorency
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 Message 3671 of 3959
18 August 2014 at 11:30pm | IP Logged 
In the Professor's video, he demonstrates the effect of unknowns by showing (English)
text, with words being progressively blocked out, representing 98% known, 95% known,
90%....etc.

And it clearly gets more difficult below 95, and between 95 and 98 it's still not easy.

Quote:

As for the estimate that Shakespeare knew four times as many words as he ever used:
there is absolute no way to prove that.


No. I wonder where they get that idea from. It's hard to believe there even were
100,000 words in the English language at that time, given that printing had only been
around for 100-150 years.

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Josquin
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 Message 3672 of 3959
18 August 2014 at 11:39pm | IP Logged 
montmorency wrote:
It's hard to believe there even were 100,000 words in the English language at that time,
given that printing had only been around for 100-150 years.

What does the one have to do with the other? You underestimate the power of oral tradition.


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