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Can you pick up the ‘core’ of ten languages in a year?

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I previously wrote about how Scientific English is a specialized form of language used in formal presentations and publications. It is rich in ‘rare’, or extremely low frequency words, and the colocations that define them (i.e. we ‘sequence a genome’ or ‘stretch of ‘DNA’). Learning to comprehend the meaning of such formal language requires considerable exposure and writing it well truly exercises one’s knowledge of the ‘long tail’ of vocabulary. By contrast, ‘the’ is the most common word in English and we use ‘a’ and ‘or’ in the above examples all the time. High and low frequency words can easily be identified by getting computers to do the heavy lifting counting and frequencies vary considerably. In the 560-million-word Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) (the list of the first 5,000 words is free) one can look up the rank of any word. In this corpus, for example, ‘attic’ is 7309, ‘unsparing’ is 47309, and ‘embryogenesis’ is 57309. This considerable variation has many. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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