80 Percent Greek Vocabulary by Frequency
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About this Vocabulary List The goal behind compiling this list of words is to provide a set of words which are likely to be a core vocabulary for a wide range of ancient Greek texts.
The "80%" Idea Although speakers of any language know a great many words, in practice they repeat some words a great many times and these words are crucial for any comfort level with a language. In English, for example, a hundred common words make up half of an average text (think about how many times the word "the" would appear). In many languages, 80% is a rough boundary between core standard words and more specialized vocabulary. In other words, 80% of the words in a typical passage of English would be repetition of a relatively small core vocabulary, while the remaining 20% contains most of the more specialized vocabulary. So, if you read a book about, say, boats, 80% of the book is likely to be made up of words everyone would know, but a portion of the remaining 20% would be more specific vocabulary referring to naval vessels.
The 80% List in Greek: As students of ancient Greek know, some Greek words can appear in multiple forms. Did the Greeks have a memory vastly superior to speakers of other languages? No. They knew multiple forms of many words but Greek uses a smaller number of different words. Many languages have a core of about 2,000-3,000 words generate the 80% portion (in English it's about 2,300). Greek, however, reaches the 80% mark with half the number of vocabulary items. The goal, here, then is to capture those words which make up 80% of most Greek.
Generating the List: The Perseus Project (http://perseus.tufts.edu
) includes 3.8+ million words of text from many ancient sources. It also has a tool for generating vocabulary lists based on these texts. An 80% list based on these texts yields a list of 1,193 words (compiled September 2, 2004).
The current list modifies the raw list in three ways: (1) proper names have been removed (2) some rarer words which appear simply because they resemble more common words have been deleted (3) a few words have been added, such as culturally important words or uncompounded forms of verbs whose compounds are very common.
The resulting list contains approximately 1,100 words.
Taken from http://www.dramata.com/
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