How many words in English?

I’m fascinated by the English language – partly because it’s the only one I speak and partly because so many other people around the world speak it. Two books that I’ve enjoyed reading are “English As A Global Language” [my review here] and “Mother Tongue” [my review here].
According to “The Secret Life Of Words” by Henry Hitchings, “English has existed for only 1,500 years” and “A thousand years ago, there were about 50,00 English words: today, according to whose estimate you accept, there are 700,000, 1 million or even double that number”.
Now I’ve been reading “The Economist” publication “The World In 2009” and this has a leader which refers to the claim of an organisation called the Global Language Monitor that the number of words in English will pass the one million mark on 29 April 2009.
Whichever way you look at it, the English language has a huge vocabulary – probably the largest of any language – and, even after 60 years, I continue to learn new words all the trime.



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