England Once Accounted for a Majority of English-language Neologisms.
New Research Shows that the Number of New Words Generated has Fallen to Fewer Than 10% of the Total
Excerpt from the Report
AUSTIN, TEXAS, UNITED STATES, August 16, 2021 — The Sun might have set on the British Empire but the language continues to expand its global dominance though with fewer contributions from the ‘Sceptre’d Isle’. This is according to a new study to be released later this fall, by the Global Language Monitor.
English has been hailed as the first truly global language inserting itself into nearly every nook and cranny of modern life, thanks to its conquest of science, technology, education, film, fashion, and communications.
According to GLM, a new word is created every 98 minutes, about 14.7 words a day or 5400 words a year. As of today, GLM’s estimated number of words number is 1,066,095.9 words. Google’s Ngram word count of millions of English-language books also lists a similar number of words. According to a study with Harvard University, the count was 1,022,000 English-language words in 2010, within 1.6% of GLM’s estimate at the time. The study estimated about 8,000 neologisms/year joining the language, while GLM’s analysis put the number at 5400. Nevertheless, it is a large and growing language.
English über alles?
One problem with the UK maintaining proper ownership (and dominance) of the language it begot) is that it is becoming a smaller and smaller portion of the English-speaking world.
As the number of English Words has grown, so has the number of nations that have a large number of English-language speakers, each generating unique neologisms to suit their particular needs.
Today, tens of thousands of English-language neologisms bubble up from all corners of the planet each year, but only about 5,000 to 8,000 have enough staying power to make into any of the standard dictionaries, e.g., the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Collins, Macmillan, Webster’s Unabridged, American Heritage Dictionary, Macquarie Dictionary, among others.
The Global Language Monitor has three distinct criteria that each new word must meet to be included in the English-language corpus, which GLM refers to as ‘depth’ and ‘breadth’.
- The word must appear in a minimum of 25,000 citations in a variety of media (Internet, books, newspapers, research, television, radio)
- The word must appear in geographies dispersed across the globe
- The word must appear in differing cultural segments, industries, and/or demographic groups
According to the latest available statistics, the UK now stands in sixth place on the list of English-speaking countries, as shown below. Nevertheless, the list below does raise some interesting questions, for example, the UK is No.6? The U.S., of course, reigns in the top spot, and perhaps, India is in a well-deserved second place, but Pakistan, Nigeria, and the Philippines at Nos. 3-5?
List of Countries by Number of English Speakers
[Note: due to variations in statistical methods, some totals can appear slightly out of sequence.]
If you are looking at this list from the perspective of a champion of the former British Empire, you can think about this in two ways:
- Well done good and faithful servant, or
- Good riddance, fare they well, the Sun has indeed set upon thee ….
As shown below, Modern English, itself, is an amalgam of dozen or more Proto-Indo-European-Languages,
Of course, all these tongues are descendants of Proto-Indo-Europen, the hypothesized language family first proposed by William Jones, a Welsh philologist who in 1786 conceived of a single language from which Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek were descended. (See the section on the P-I-E roots of Global English.)
“So where will we find the final remnants of the King’s English?Windsor Castle? In the City? Or the hallowed halls of Oxford?None other than Broadcasting House. One has the distinct sense that longafter memories of the Blitz, BREXIT and the various unpleasantries of thecollapse of Empire, the echoes of the Bard, Churchill, and the Beatleswill still waft around the world, over the airways,emanating from the City — and Broadcasting House, home of the BBC..”— Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst
From a dictionary point of view, a good place to start tracking the development of Modern English is Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language published in 1755.
The dictionary was created at the beginning of England’s ascent as a global power. It contained some 40,000 words.
The next major entrant into the fray was Noah Webster’s Dictionary of the American Language (those pesky Yankees!); presaging what was to come, it now defined about 70,000 words.
By the time that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was published in 1880, the catalogue of English words had expanded to about 400,000.
What’s changed to help account for this startling growth?
- In the field of communications: The telegraph, the wireless, telephone, radio, television, cell phones, and the Internet and the web to name a few.
- On the wealth of nations: World per capita GDP finally surpassing that of the Roman and Byzantine Empires in the late 19th century.
- In food production: the Green Revolution, where both India and China become net exporters of food.
- In transportation: The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 paved the way for the Royal Navy to rule the seas until supplanted by the Germans and then the U.S. in World War II
- This will be expanded upon below.]
- The Scientific Revolution
- The Industrial Revolution
- Et Cetera …
New words, called, neologisms come from any number of sources, most prominently, the so-called -Lishes, combinations of English with the local languages of their former Colonies.
Perhaps the most prominent of these is Hinglish, the combination of English and the South Asian languages, primarily Hindu but also Urdu and Punjabi, among others. Hinglish has blossomed to the point where England is now a net importer of Hinglish words and phrases.
A few examples of new words from the Subcontinent include:
- Chuddies (panties)
- Prepone (the opposite of postpone)
- Fundoo (just as it sounds)
- Jai Ho! (Popularized worldwide from the movie Slumdog Millionaire)
- Badmash (Naughty)
These words join the thousand words of Indian origin currently found in the O.E.D, such as:
Other of the more prominent -Lishes include:
- Spanglish (Spanish and English)
- Taglish (Tagalog and English)
- Ozlish (Australian and English)
- Denglish (German and English)
- Poglish (Polish and English)
- And more than a dozen more
What Fields do New English Words Come From?
GLM’s Studies show that Most New English Words Come from a Relatively Small Number of Fields.
- Technology – The underpinnings of the Web have been invented by a Brit, Sir Tim Berners-lee. The words here are HTML, URL, and
- Hollywords – Unfortunately for the UK, there are many words generated every year from Hollywood, and a smaller but steady number from Bollywood. A third source is the booming Independent film scene scattered in a dozen or so locations around the world.
- Theatre: Andrew Lloyd Webber – His most clever phrases are from T.S. Elliot and the Gospels.
- Global Call Centers – Particularly in India and the Philippines,
[End of Excerpt.]
advanced orders For Copies of the Report when published can be ordered by emailing PJJP@Post.Harvard.edu with “English as an English-language Word Generator” in the title.