so language, lets have a look at you…
If I were to climb a mountain, as long as it didn’t end in the clouds, I would be able to see the top from the bottom and have some scope for how high it is and how much hard work it would be to climb. Language isn’t like that, I can’t even see a language at all – sure snippits here and there, but never all of it at once. The closest to physically grasping how big a language is, is by having a look at a dictionary, one of those big ol chunky dictionaries. Now they contain lots of words that aren’t often used so I’d say I could halve it and that would be about the words done with the language. BUT words themselves are only about half of the language, the order of the words, when they are used, how they are changed all really affect their meaning. For instance in French if the word ‘ grand’ is put before the word ‘écrivain’ it means that you have a great writer but if ‘grand’ is put after ‘écrivain’ then you have a tall writer. So I think if you compiled the words you need to use and then added instructions on how to use them you would have a solid dictionary sized book on a language.
That is volume one.
Volume two entails how to pronounce each word, and then how to understand other people who are saying them all smeared together and mixed with slang terms. Volume two is much harder than volume one.
So I guess it’s not that hard after all to visualise how big a language is. It’s just two dictionary sized books that need to be memorised.