quote for the day

“A normal educated adult speaker of English has an active vocabulary– i.e., words that he actually uses in everyday speech– of about 30,000 words. A speaker makes the the right choice from among those 30,000 or so alternatives not just once but, in fluent speech, continuously two to five times per second– a rate that can be maintained without any clear temporal limit. There is no other cognitive process shared by all normal adults whose decision rate is so high.” — Willem J.M. Levelt, Speaking: From Intention to Articulation¬†


  1. This might seem slightly tangential, but — I’ve been reading Steiner’s AFTER BABEL, and this puts the sheer scale of his discussion of polylingualism into some useful perspective. And it makes me feel much less insecure about my 20-second delay when someone starts speaking at me in a language I supposedly “know” other than English. (But that delay is also what I get for thinking that “reading knowledge” is sufficient/learning Latin before anything spoken.)

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