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How many words does the Polish language have?


smurf 39 | 1,982
27 Jul 2011  #1
Hi,

very quick question, I'm researching an article on the amount of words in the English and Polish languages.....
English is said to have over 1,000,000 words, how many words does the Polish language have?

Lowest number I've seen in 60,000, highest was 160,000, it's got to be more than that, is it?

Cheers
mafketis 20 | 7,170
27 Jul 2011  #2
I'm mostly not posting here now (for mod reasons) but as a linguist I can't resist:

This is a pointless question for many reasons, including but not limited to:

- there's no real valild cross linguistic definition of 'word' (that is, you have to define word by language)

- there's no established way of 'counting' how many words are in a given language

- in the English tradition, once a word makes it into a dictionary it's there forever even if no one has actually used it for decades (or centuries) the English word count is boosted by thousands and thousands of words that almost no native speaker would recognize or be able to use. Most other European languages don't do that and treat obsolete words as .... osbsolete rather than as going concerns.

What you can say is that Polish and English work differently which is going to influence what dictinaries look like and word counts. For one thing, derivational processes (making new words from old ones) are usually less ambiguous in Polish so lots of potential words don't have to be listed in the dictionary. In English derivational processes are more unpredictable which means you need a lot more separate entries.

This is also reflected in spelling where English words have to be learned one by one whereas Polish depends more on general rules.

In some ways, for the very advanced learner, this makes Polish easier than English. While reading newspapers or books, I'm always coming across new words (for me) in Polish that are completely understandable in context. Even native speakers can find this difficult to do in English (less common with individual words but unfamiliar collocations with idiomatic meanings can throw me in English. I remember coming across 'belt up' in something British and it made no sense at all to me and I only learned what it meant when it came up again in a context where the meaning (shut up) was clearer.
OP smurf 39 | 1,982
27 Jul 2011  #3
but as a linguist I can't resist:

a cunning one no doubt :P

This is a pointless question for many reasons, including but not limited to:

is anyone on this forum ever helpful......?
I'm just looking for an estimate

ffs I'm not looking for your life story or a kurwa thesis on the lexicon regarding the complexity of the intricities of the language. Lighten up man, smile.

I've trawled the internet and the lowest number I got was 60,000, the highest was 160,000....one did say 350,000 but that was when you figure in all the changes that are applied to root words because of the nasty grammar rules in the Polish lingo.
ShortHairThug - | 1,103
27 Jul 2011  #4
one did say 350,000 but that was when you figure in all the changes that are applied to root words because of the nasty grammar rules in the Polish lingo.

What’s your problem? Kurwa mać!! That’s the beauty of the Polish dictionary; you look up the root word, no need to put every single one in the dictionary. That’s why people constantly ask that dumb question, what does that word mean? I can’t find it in the dictionary. If you know the root you can pretty much figure out the meaning but you won’t find it by looking it up unless you know the root.
f stop 25 | 2,513
27 Jul 2011  #5
or a kurwa thesis on the lexicon regarding the complexity

lol

Root words only, or all the weird-ass permutations count as separate words too?
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
27 Jul 2011  #6
How many words does the Polish language have?
Only two:

Kurwa mać!!

mafketis 20 | 7,170
27 Jul 2011  #7
is anyone on this forum ever helpful......?

No. Sorry for muddling your head with a few facts. It won't happen again. I'll be helpful now and let you know, the Polish language has exactly 236,817 words, not a word more or less.
Monia
27 Jul 2011  #8
not counting many varieties of cases or diminutives I guess
OP smurf 39 | 1,982
28 Jul 2011  #9
Root words only

yep, just those.

the Polish language has exactly 236,817

excellent, much obliged, that wasn't so difficult now was it?

If you know the root you can pretty much figure out the meaning but you won’t find it by looking it up unless you know the root.

Helpful, thanks, I'll remember that.

But I don't understand how kot, kotek and kotku aren't all different words in the dictionary, I know, I know the root of the word is kot, but as they have different uses (and slightly different meanings) then I don't really get why they aren't treated as different words.

However, it's not my language, I'm just trying to learn it, so it's really a moot point and it doesn't matter that I don't understand it I just have to learn them and remember them.

Cheers
Seanus 15 | 19,706
28 Jul 2011  #10
236, 816 wasn't it? ;) ;) I'm sure one word has become obsolete in that time.
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595
28 Jul 2011  #11
It is scientifically accepted that it is impossible to determine exactly how many different words you can find in a language.
OP smurf 39 | 1,982
28 Jul 2011  #12
it is impossible to determine exactly how many different words you can find in a language.

writing in bold does not make what you write any more important :P

anyway you're wrong,
check it

languagemonitor.com/global-english/number-of-words-in-the-english-language-1008879/
Magdalena 3 | 1,837
28 Jul 2011  #13
anyway you're wrong

Did you miss the word "estimate" in the article? ;-p
Seanus 15 | 19,706
28 Jul 2011  #14
Language is in a constant state of flux and you can't ascertain to any precise extent the number of words at any one time. For example, to what extent do you count incorporated words? How valid are dialectal words? You see where I'm going with this?
mafketis 20 | 7,170
28 Jul 2011  #15
Here's a post from language log (written by professional linguists) with links to even more posts about the futility and fatuousness of people trying to say how many words are in a language.

languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2363

I don't understand how kot, kotek and kotku aren't all different words in the dictionary

The root is kot, which is enough for a fluent (or even semi-fluent) user to generate the rest.

Kotek is a perfectly regular diminutive ending, kot = cat, kotek = kitty (roughly)

As for kotek and kotku, why aren't sing and sings different words in the dictionary?

Kotku is just the vocative (and locative) case of kotek. Again, 100% regular.

While beginning (and intermediate) learners of Polish might feel overwhelmed by the irregularities, the advanced learner is hardly ever bothered. Polish is overall much more regular than irregular.

With English it works in reverse, easy in the beginning and the steepest learning curves are for the most advanced students.
strzyga 2 | 993
28 Jul 2011  #16
But I don't understand how kot, kotek and kotku aren't all different words in the dictionary, I know, I know the root of the word is kot, but as they have different uses (and slightly different meanings) then I don't really get why they aren't treated as different words.

ok, so the dictionary I use most often has almost 133 000 entries. now, let's multiply that by 30 (14 cases for Sing and Pl combined for nouns and adjectives, plus diminutives - at least 3 are possible for each of the above, as for verbs - 6 persons x 3 tenses x 2 versions for animate and inanimate, minus prepositions and adverbs which only have 1-3 forms each, plus all the obsolete and specialist terms that my dictionary doesn't include). It's just an estimation, but the count comes to about half a million, and that's your number.
Monia
28 Jul 2011  #17
It will make more than 7 millions of different words if counting all forms of words ( declensions , conjugations , diminutives ) we use in Polish language, the same as you do in English by counting words, which have different meanings just by adding prepositions .
Hetka 1 | 4
27 Jul 2012  #18
Love the answer you gave.... I agree if there are a bunch of root words, they count but also their case endings and plural and singular endings count too because you have to recall it for every conversation. :)
PlasticPole 7 | 2,649
27 Jul 2012  #19
More words than can be counted.
Lyzko
27 Jul 2012  #20
What d'you consider "words"? Hej, z, No, Ah.......???

Determining word count's not easy. Sometimes one word is really two, and then, is one concept/idea made up of more than one word considered ONE or SEVERAL words??!
PlasticPole 7 | 2,649
27 Jul 2012  #21
If words have more than one meaning, each meaning is counted separately.
Lyzko
27 Jul 2012  #22
Thanks, P.P.

This sometimes proved a problem when I was translation manager eons ago and people would be charging me per word count of compound words, charging them as separate, when in fact they were written together, technically, ONE WORD, e.g. "Ausbildungsplatzgebuehr" in German. In English it means "fee for trainee position", one word in German, yet four in English:-):LOL
gumishu 11 | 5,012
27 Jul 2012  #23
I can give you one example of how valid Polish words can be created - krótki means short - you can create a multitude of diminutives of this word - like króciutki, króciuteńki, króciuśki, króciutenieczki - these are all seperate words in Polish but you won't find them in a dictionary

diminutives in Polish can be created from nouns, adjectives, adverbs and even verbs
treadsoftly
20 Aug 2012  #24
I've heard this before that Polish has far fewer words than English, and yet as a native English speaker withPolish parents, I have come across the occasional word in Polish for which I can't think of a single-word equivalent in English-I'd have to use a phrase or two, or even several to try to translate it adequately. One example is the verb

'przeoczyc", which used in a sentence like " ja sie przeoczyłem" means something like" I glanced glanced quickly at something or saw something in my peripheral vision and mistook it for something else, thereby requiring a second glance". And "doing a double take" isn't the same thing-besides it's still a phrase, not a single word. It seems to me that if English has many more words, I would be able to translate any word from Polish into English using only one word. Maybe it's just more AngloSaxon self-aggrandizement ;)
grubas***
20 Aug 2012  #25
One example is the verb 'przeoczyc"

I don't think this is a good example as you cannot przeoczyć się you can only przeoczyć something and translation (at least in Amglish) is to miss (someone correct me if I am wrong) e.g someone "Hey,you didn't tighten this screw/bolt" ,you (after checking) "You are right I missed this one".
DarthBunny
10 Feb 2017  #26
I am almost certain Polish has more words than English. For example, consider that there are far more words in English that have several meanings than there are in Polish (only count these that have no equivalents ofc). And while it's true that English has more distinct terms than Polish, they are often just composed of several pre-existing words. Now, it is possible that English does have more words than Polish if you count slang words (all the one-word expressions coined and used in thousands of English-speaking communities all over the world), but they aren't listed in dictionaries so we can just estimate their number and you'll never learn them all.

Also how do we define a word anyway? Do you want to count, for example, ordinal numerals as words? Well, if so, it's kind of a good idea, since it means Polish have an infinite number of words while English only has finite, which spared us some time and pointless discussion.
terri 1 | 1,620
10 Feb 2017  #27
There is not a person in the world that has the capability of knowing and using all the words that exist in their own language. The thing is to learn enough to do whatever you want with them. Some want to hold conversations, some academic discussions, some even more...but no one, no one ever uses all the available words.
Lyzko 22 | 6,534
10 Feb 2017  #28
Merely to weigh back into this discussion thread after a brief hiatus, word count is interesting to me as a translator!

In English, individual words, compound or otherwise, are counted as full words (excepting of course, sighs, expletives and the like). For instance, "newsstand", "highway" etc. are clearly single words, although originally composed of two words later contracted.

German compounding creates so many possible neulogisms, then there is the issue of to count vs. not to count prefixed endings of separable verbs etc., word count can be exceedingly challenging aka the question "How many words does German have?"

Polish too raises the question of when is a prefixed verb counted as a separate word, since prefixes are so productive, that it's all but impossible to calculate exactly how many "words" the Polish language actually has:-)
mafketis 20 | 7,170
10 Feb 2017  #29
it's all but impossible to calculate exactly how many "words" the Polish language actually has:-)

The same is true of any language. Linguists (nb I'm one) can't even agree on a cross-linguistic definition of 'word' which is concept that can only be defined in terms of a specifid language.
Lyzko 22 | 6,534
10 Feb 2017  #30
Perhaps though, substitute "word" (słowa) with "concept" (pojęcie) and it will become clear that utterances aka words may be divided into single units of meaning, i.e. lexemes, such as in English "big", "ground", "earth", "limit" and any number of seemingly "unrelated" ideas (itself almost a misnomer, e.g. "earth" and "ground" may in fact be the SAME word, figuratively or absolutely in certain languages), or, compounds such as my examples before "newsstand", "highway" and so forth:-)

Again, my point about Polish is that verbs as one instance, can most often be prefixed interminably, for example "pisać", "POpisać", "PODpisać", then "pisYWać", with "ROZpisywać" etc...., so that the total number of sheer expressions with this one simple, everyday word can be dizzying!


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