100-word limit

I’m translating a 100-most-used-words novel into Russian from Spanish with the permission of the author. I’m closing in on the end of the draft process, and did a word count to find out how many individual different words there are. The 100-word count is to limit the vocabulary; any one “word” can include all the different forms (usually of verbs, in Spanish). The glossary at the back of the book has about 350 words listed with all the different forms from Spanish into English.

Hah! In Russian, not only verbs, but nouns and adjectives have 12 forms each (luckily some forms overlap in spelling). Add to that the fact that you can’t “go” anywhere in Russian. You have to have gone, to have arrived, to have left, to have entered, exited, or approached. There’s a different prefix for each of those basic necessities, attached to the roots of “ran,” “flew,” “drove,” and “walked.” And then there are two forms for each of the second group, depending on whether it was just one direction, one time, or both ways, or several times. Gotta love Russian.

So I guess it’s not surprising that, even really cutting bits of the story line, I came up with 1,417 different word forms, as compared to the 350 forms in Spanish. Is that crazy, or what?!

Oh! Forgot that I get to put cognates onto a separate list. There are probably about 70 of them. That still doesn’t take the list under 1000.

But the lowest vocabulary level book that is currently published, other than Poor Anna, is at 1,200 words, and that series doesn’t count all the individual forms. Now I see why it’s hard to get below that.

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