In English the words "mathematics professor" are 2:

mathematics professor

We get 3 meanings from these 2 words: Mathematics, professor and mathematics professor. In Swedish the words are

  • matematik
  • professor

but "mathematics professor" is a 3rd word on its own i.e. matematikprofessor. So in Swedish we have 3 words for 3 meanings while in English the building blocks are just the 2 words. So in this case Swedish has more words than English. But on the whole, English has many more words than Swedish. Why when we in Swedish make new words in a way that English doesn't? Are there so many words in English that simply aren't translated?

  • Not every language is the same, and "mathematics professor" would count as one noun, apart from either "mathematics" or "professor". That being said, I think this may possible be better on Linguistics.SE--I'm going to ask them.
    – simchona
    Nov 8, 2012 at 4:05
  • Headmaster ⊃ {head, master, head master, headmaster, head-master}? Nov 8, 2012 at 5:19
  • 1
    I reject your premise that "English grammar doesn't allow for concatenating". The English mathematics professor is exactly the same as the Swedish matematikprofessor, and control flow graph visualization software is exactly the same as the German Kontrollflußgraphvisualisierungssoftware. Some languages opt for writing compounds as single words, others use whitespaces. But they are still compounds. Spoken language is primary, and orthography is a random approximation. We could start putting whitespaces before all suffixes, but that would not affect their function in the least.
    – RegDwigнt
    Nov 8, 2012 at 10:25
  • You could have raised this interesting question on linguisticsSE. Linguistics-specific questions may be off-topic on ELU.
    – Kris
    Nov 8, 2012 at 11:22
  • 2
    I suspect it's the same reason that German philosophers wrote long, intricate, incomprehensible sentences—they were showing off their erudition to one another (one of my German professors in college confessed he never understood Kant until he read him in English). Most English speakers don't use all that many words, but as long as a few intellectuals did, the words remained in the language. And different regions have different vocabularies. How many people distinguish between a skillet and a frying pan? But both words remain in the language because skillet is still used in some places. Nov 8, 2012 at 12:20


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