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word
Posted: 13 January 2012 02:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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How many words are in the following statement?

You put the grr in grrl.

Most, if not all, English speakers would say no less than four.

Some would say four, arguing that grr has no distinct semantic content, being simply a guttural utterance, and that grrl is nonstandard.

Some would say five, arguing that grr has no distinct semantic content, but grrl is an alternative spelling of girl that carries a meaning distinct from the standard spelling.

And some would say six, accepting that in this context grr has a distinct meaning.

What qualifies as a word is not so clear cut, even if we have commonly understood criteria for making that determination.

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Posted: 13 January 2012 04:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Dave Wilton - 13 January 2012 02:54 PM

How many words are in the following statement?

You put the grr in grrl.

...

I am temped to consider that ‘any series of letters not separated by white-space’ qualifies as a ‘word’. I know this is a very loose guideline. There would be six in this case.

What if “grr” was actually an obscure ‘word’ that could have been found in literature, speech, and even in medium-sized dictionaries but I just happened not to know it as a ‘word’?

If the consideration that ‘any series of letters not separated by white-space qualifies as a ‘word’’ is a poor choice, I imagine it to be a choice more to the side of descriptive possibility. Come to think of it, I think I have seen “grr” in comic books.

If it were simply: “Put the grr in grrl”, would the implied “you” count as a ‘word’ in some analyses?

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Posted: 13 January 2012 05:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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For the record, I’d count six, and would hope that grr and grrl would both be in an up to date dictionary. They aren’t _that_ obscure.

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Posted: 14 January 2012 12:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Happydog’s post seems perfectly reasonable to me.

“What we all recognize as such” (my opening post) varies according to our individual perception and I now suspect that no amount of linguistic argument will convince anyone that what they recognize as a word is wrong and that subjectivity overrides analysis.  The number of words I recognize here is six.

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Posted: 14 January 2012 04:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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I am temped to consider that ‘any series of letters not separated by white-space’ qualifies as a ‘word’. I know this is a very loose guideline. There would be six in this case.

That works for anything printed using modern practices, but what about speech? There’s no “white space” between words orally delivered. Nor are there necessarily corresponding pauses. Yet we speak in words.

And I would count six too, but I can see why someone might exclude grr and wouldn’t say that’s necessarily “wrong.” However, grrl is most definitely a word.

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Posted: 21 January 2012 05:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Dave Wilton - 13 January 2012 02:54 PM

How many words are in the following statement?

You put the grr in grrl.

“grr” here is shorthand for “the initial phoneme of ‘grunt,’ the sound which, by itself, can convey growling and . . . “ (whatever else the sound “grr” conveys or suggests)

So “grr” is not a word in the lexical sense, but is a word in that the orthography represents a sound which conveys meaning.

The fact that we can read that statement and know what it means is a bit wondrous.

btw: Hebrew has at least three different words for “word”. One is “davar”, which can also mean “thing” or “matter”.  The Bible often says “davar” of God, translated as the “the word of the Lord/God”.

Another word for “word” is “teivah”, which literally means a vessel or “ark”, (as in the ‘teivah’ of Noah, or the ‘teivah’ in which baby Moses was put by his mother). Teivah in Hebrew specifically means the orthographic word, the letters. (the term “holy ark” does not use the word “teivah”, it uses the word “aron” which in modern Hebrew means “closet”, etc.)

Another word is “milah”, from the little used Hebrew word root M.L.L., speak. Interestingly, the Hebrew word root “M.L.” means “cut”, thus the Hebrew word “milah” can mean “word” or “circumcision” as in “brit milah” “the covenant of circumcision”.(the mystical/Chasidic tradition has taken this coincidence of meaning and made much of “the covenant of word(s)” i.e. the sacred use of language). The link between the two , MLL and ML is only theoretical, but if a “word” is a distinct phoneme or set of phonemes that convey some given specific meaning, a connection between MLL - “speak” and ML “cut “ may not be entirely out of the question.

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