Omniphagous English and language blowout
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Badger reports on an interaction she had with some classmates on the relative vocabularies of various languages. My reply, not necessarily reality-based:
(1) I've heard the same thing you have, that English is a happy borrower, nay ransacker, of vocabulary and by being a language of world conquest for a few hundred years has sucked up a lot of words.
(2) One should nevertheless not assume that just because the Academie de la Snootologie for a particular language hasn't sanctioned words, they aren't part of the real language anyway. Spanish in particular, between the Moors on the one hand and even more contact than English with indigenous American languages on the other, could possibly give English a run for its money whatever the Academía Española says.
(3) This all depends on how you define the boundaries of a "language". Do local dialects count? Even geographically dispersed or mutually incomprehensible ones?
(4) Finally, any competent debunker of the "Eskimo Words for Snow" myth would point out that lots of languages don't even have distinct "words" as we use the term, so counting the words in those languages is like counting the toes on a fish.
Clearing out a few other language links I've been hoarding:
Linguist and science fiction writer Suzette Haden Elgin has a language blog, Ozarque's Journal. One recent entry was a list and discussion of obsolete English words which deserve to be revived, excerpted from Lost Beauties of the English Language by Charles Mackay.
Another language blog by a real linguist is Anggarrgoon, by Claire Bowern, a specialist in Australian languages at Rice.
John Lawler's English Grammar FAQ nicely gives descriptive answers to questions which people might have expected to be answered prescriptively.
Ask-a-Linguist offers answers to language questions, including among other things two contrasting views of bilingualism among children. (Both say it's natural and in no way harmful for children to grow up speaking multiple languages, but the second addresses code-switching and the situation in places where multilingualism is the norm rather than the exception, such as Singapore and India.)
How to say cool in a bunch of languages. (Beware, though: get this wrong and instead of being cool you'll be Steve Martin's "wild and crazy guy".)
English Idioms is a site listing and explaining English idioms, sayings and slang.
Composite is a zine which compiles and compares many different translations of a single poem in each issue.
(Patrick Hall's Linguablogs list is down this morning. Anybody else had problems with it? Has he been updating it? I haven't checked lately.)