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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: March ::
Re: Shakespeare's Vocabulary
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0232.  Thursday, 21 March 1996.

(1)     From:   James Schaefer <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Mar 1996 11:53:24 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Shakespeare's Vocabulary

(2)     From:   Nora Kreimer <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Mar 1996 18:51:10 ARG
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0231  Shakespeare's Vocabulary

(3)     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Mar 1996 19:45:32 +0200
        Subj:   Shakespeare's Vocabulary


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Schaefer <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Mar 1996 11:53:24 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Shakespeare's Vocabulary

Dom Saliani asks about Shakespeare's vocabularly, including his record of first
known uses of words.  Perhaps others on this list subscribe to the periodic
emailings (is that a word?  is this a first use?) from the Oxford University
Press editors who are working on the next edition of the OED.  I've deleted the
last one, but I think it was there that I read of the recent discovery of many
printed first-uses older than the previous attributions to Shakespeare.
Perhaps others with better memories or less active delete keys (and larger hard
drives) than I could add specifics.

Jim Schaefer

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nora Kreimer <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Mar 1996 18:51:10 ARG
Subject: 7.0231  Shakespeare's Vocabulary
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0231  Shakespeare's Vocabulary

In McCrum, Robert, Cran, William, amd Robert MacNeil's THE STORY OF ENGLISH --A
COMPANION TO THE PBS TELEVISION SERIES , 1986, Elizabeth Sifton Books,
Viking,there's a very interesting chapter on Shakespeare's language. The
presence od Dr. Randolph Quirk as a general consultant is a source of
confidence to the academic world.

Chapter 3 "A Muse of Fire" deals with the linguistic development of the
Elizabethan age. The authors set the number of Shakespeare's active vocabulary
at 30,000. Examples of coinages by Shakespeare abound. I would recommend the
reading of this most attractive book!

Hope I've been of help,
Nora Kreimer

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Mar 1996 19:45:32 +0200
Subject:        Shakespeare's Vocabulary

In reply to Dom Saliani (March 19th)

The total vocabulary of Shakespeare is likely to be closer to 17,000 words than
to 26,000.  Something just over the former figure is Joseph T. Shipley's
estimate in *In Praise of English: The Growth and Use of Language* N.Y. 1977.
The research of J=FCrgen Sch=E4fer and Bryan Garner would support Shipley.
Sch=E4fer's work is easy to find.  Garner's is not.  Two chapters of the honors
thesis Garner submitted at the University of Texas in 1980 have appeared in
print (I can dig up the bibliographical references for anyone who wants them).
The thesis, "Shakespeare's Latinate Diction", is the best study of that
dimension of Shakespeare's vocabulary that has yet been done.

Garner's "Tentative List" of Shakespeare's neologisms from Latin contains 625
items, but he emphasizes that this is suggestive, not definitive, indeed it is
an enlargement of his original appendix in the thesis.

Where did the 26,000 figure come from?  I would be interested to know. Scholars
probing  Shakespeare's vocabulary over the years differ radically with one
another on some other points, as well, e.g. the number of noncewords in
Shakespeare; the number of neologisms; the number of latinate words, etc.
Wordcounting is a hard task, but one would think that we could easily enough
establish definite facts in such matters, especially in the age of the
computer.

John Velz
 

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