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--- On Sat, 10/4/08, deinx nxtxr <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> > [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Paul
> Bartlett
> 
> > for the moment,
> > > English has 400 different sounds;
> > 
> > False.  My dialect of General American English has
> forty phonemic
> > sounds (counting some diphthongs and affricates as
> phonemic.)  I
> don't
> > think that there is any language on earth that has 400
> different
> > sounds.  If I recall correctly from my reading, the
> top is about
> sixty
> > or seventy sounds (phonemes).
> 
> The most phoneme rich languages I've run across so far
> are the Indic
> languages.  I think they come in around 60 or so when you
> count the
> voicing and apiration contrasts, along with vowel length
> and
> nasality.

I think the winner here may be Ubykh:

It is phonologically complex as well, with 84 distinct consonants (four of which, however, appear only in loan words). According to some linguistic analyses, it only has two phonological vowels, but these vowels have a large range of allophones because the range of consonants which surround them is so large.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubykh_language 

Still shy of a hundred, though.

On the other hand, Paul, doesn't this business about letters as words and full-blown sounds begin to remind you of Babm? Perhaps this is new and improved Babm, now with Tones!
> 
> > >                                   on the other
> hand, any 
> > developed language
> > > has at least few hundred thousand words.
> > 
> > Some may have more, and some may have fewer.  I once
> took a class
> in
> > which the professor said that classical Latin had
> about 
> > twenty thousand words.
> 
Technically, that's how many words were recorded. Since the rabble didn't write much, we're probably missing a number of items that were in common use in some circles back then. 
> > 
> > > [...]
> > >                                                  
>           
> >         The
> > > Mandarin has 1200 different sounds 1,200x1,200
> makes 
> > 1,440,000 combinations
> > > it is quite enough for the vocabulary so the
> Chinese people 
> > familiar words
> > > between one sound (syllable) and two sounds
> (syllable).
> > 
> > I am not an expert on Chinese languages, but I will
> comfortably
> flatly
> > deny that Mandarin has 1200 different sounds.  It
> might have that
> many
> > syllables (I don't know), but sounds and syllables
> are different
> > things.  I have read an estimate that English has
> almost 8000
> different
> > syllables, but it still has only forty or so sounds
> (depending on
> > dialect).
> 
> Mandarin actually has very few sounds which is why there
> are so many
> homophone morphemes. Even with tone figured, the number of
> possible
> syllables is very small.  The excess of homophones is why
> there are
> so many compounds that otherwise could stand alone as
> monosyllables.
> 
> I've been doing a bit of work on Ingli lately.  One
> thing I've done
> is make a chart of "initials" and
> "finals" for monosyllables in
> English.  Already I show about 200 finals and 50 initials,
> though
> most are not in use, phonotactically most still work.

I could dig out my copy of Glan-ik, which was organized according to permissible initials and finals. It was rather ingenious in some ways. He cut a few corners, for example disallowing -rld as a final because it only occurs in "world" (which therefore becomes "wurl," as I recall).

Steve