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 Post subject: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 5:27 pm 
Sanci
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What is the difference (if any) between "big" and "large" in English?

I'm not a native English speaker. I know they are at least near-synonyms, but I want a more precise and accurate understanding.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 3:10 am 
Avisaru
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Off the top of my head I can't think of a consistent semantic difference between the two words , though they're generally used in different contexts. "Big" strikes me as somehow less formal and more imprecise than "large." When products are offered in a variety of sizes, "large" is usually used to refer specifically to the largest available size, while someone might comment on how "big" the "medium" sized version is. Likewise, it would have seemed very strange if they had named a new research installation the "Big Hadron Collider." On the other hand, you might refer to a tall friend as "a big guy," but calling him a "large man" would seem more formal and distant, at least to me.

There's a similar difference in usage between the terms "small" and "little." One would order a "small" drink, but generally refer to a friend's young daughter as a "little girl."

Incidentally, I'm a native American English speaker from the central coast of California.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 3:37 am 
Boardlord
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I think you're mostly going to get collocational variations-- that is, areas where one word of the other is conventionally but quirkily preferred. E.g. "big" can be used to imply importance (a big man, big event, big mistake) or non-physical size (big program, big income), while "large" is more likely if you're describing scales, amounts, or font size. A "large animal" seems to comment on the class; a "big animal" on the individual. And so on.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 7:30 am 
Smeric
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Quote:
"big" versus "large"

"big" versus "large" versus "great" versus "grand"

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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 8:30 am 
Avisaru
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CatDoom wrote:
On the other hand, you might refer to a tall friend as "a big guy," but calling him a "large man" would seem more formal and distant, at least to me.


IMD referring to anyone as "big" or "large" is a comment on their weight, specifically being euphemisms for calling someone fat (sometimes it can refer to stature, if they are very muscular), not their height. "Tall" is the exclusive adjective to denote height.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 11:06 am 
Smeric
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Rui wrote:
CatDoom wrote:
On the other hand, you might refer to a tall friend as "a big guy," but calling him a "large man" would seem more formal and distant, at least to me.


IMD referring to anyone as "big" or "large" is a comment on their weight, specifically being euphemisms for calling someone fat (sometimes it can refer to stature, if they are very muscular), not their height. "Tall" is the exclusive adjective to denote height.

I concur. If I hear a person described as "big" or "large," I'm going to think of their width, not height. Of the two, "big" is, to me, more likely to refer to muscle, whereas "large" would always be fat.

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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 1:07 pm 
Avisaru
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Yes agreed. The only exception I can think of is in reference to babies and children. "You've/They've gotten so big" tends to mean they've grown since you saw them last, usually in height.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 1:42 pm 
Smeric
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I would say that large is bigger than big. But I also agree with most of what has been said so far. :P

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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2014 3:13 am 
Avisaru
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zompist wrote:
A "large animal" seems to comment on the class; a "big animal" on the individual. And so on.

There are counterexamples, though. Consider "big game".

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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:01 am 
Avisaru
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In conclusion: It's a mess, often thanks to the large amounts of (near-)synonyms taken from Norman French.

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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2014 9:43 am 
Sanno
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zompist wrote:
I think you're mostly going to get collocational variations-- that is, areas where one word of the other is conventionally but quirkily preferred.

I think one of the oddest of these is "great big" since I don't know that I can think of any other adjective that great collocates with like this. In fact great big parses for me like a disambiguating coordinating compound of the sort which is so common in modern Standard Chinese.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2014 2:31 pm 
Avisaru
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Surely the comparandum is "tiny little".


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 9:28 am 
Sanci
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The story behind my question is this:

I have been reading about Natural Semantic Metalanguage. One of the primitives in it is glossed with the word "big". I haven't seen "large" contrasted with "big" in this context, but "large" isn't mentioned as an alternative exponent of the primitive either. I guess it is because of differences in meaning, and that "big" is an exponent of the proposed primitive and "large" is not.

As far as I can see, the word "big" is used in NSM to refer to physical objects and places, and it contrasts the referent with other possible referents: "A big dog" is a dog that is bigger compared to other dogs.


I have also been reading about Simplified Technical English. STE has the word "large" and not "big". The dictionary of STE says this:

big (adj) – not approved – approved alternatives: large – approved example: "Install the larger bolts" – not approved: "Install the bigger bolts".

large (adj) (larger, largest) – approved meaning: more than average in dimension, quantity, or capacity – approved example: "Clean your skin with a large quantity of clean water".


When I wrote the OP I had just read the Conlanger's Thesaurus, which in map 18 has "big" and "large" as different nodes. It links to Perrin 2007, but I haven't read it yet.


I am contemplating on whether "large" could be synonymous to "high" in "high speed" and "high temperature".

Maybe it is something like this:

big –
1. having large size
2. old
3. important

large –
1. synonymous to "high" in "high speed" and "high temperature", more than average in dimension, quantity, or capacity
2. big, having large size

Maybe "large" isn't polysemous, and it has a single meaning which is not equal to "big".


If "big" and "large" have different meanings, then perhaps Swedish "stor" means yet something else.


Right now my conlang has a word, ʔo̞, which I gloss as "big, large", but I want to tidy up the semantics and glossing. My conlang is a loglang and polysemy is strictly forbidden. Thus my question is more about semantic space than polysemy.

If "large" doesn't mean the same as "big", then maybe I should gloss ʔo̞ as "big, having large size", and create another word for "large", but then perhaps there is some better way to gloss that other word, and maybe that other word shouldn't be synonymous with the English word "large".


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 12:01 pm 
Avisaru
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English clearly needs both words so that the robots on Mystery Science Theater 3000 can refer to an over-muscled lump of an actor as "Big McLargehuge." :P


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 3:56 pm 
Boardlord
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Julanga wrote:
My conlang is a loglang and polysemy is strictly forbidden.


Well, there's your problem right there.

If you mean you want to reduce synchronically opaque polysemy (like 'trip' = 'stumble', 'travel'), fine. But languages are built upon polysemy. If you think it can be done, you're probably either not really using it to talk about things, or not aware of how much polysemy remains.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:20 am 
Avisaru
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You've got a couple of issues going on here:

Julanga wrote:
My conlang is a loglang and polysemy is strictly forbidden.


If that is one of your design criteria, your not going to want to do

Julanga wrote:
. . . something like this:

big –
1. having large size
2. old
3. important

large –
1. synonymous to "high" in "high speed" and "high temperature", more than average in dimension, quantity, or capacity
2. big, having large size


Looking at least through an English lens, your lexical entries "big" and "large" are polysemous, i.e. a single lexical entry covering multiple sememes within a related semantic field.

But, as you note in stitched together form:

Julanga wrote:
Maybe "large" isn't polysemous, and it has a single meaning which is not equal to "big" * * * If "large" doesn't mean the same as "big", . . . perhaps there is some better way to gloss that other word, and maybe ["big"] shouldn't be synonymous with the English word "large". * * * Thus my question is more about semantic space than polysemy.


I think you are hitting on the intuition that both lexical entries roughly have the following basic format (glossing over many other possible meanings for such entries):

"big" = Relatively.GreaterToSomeNorm: extent of an object in an unspecified dimension
"large"= Relatively.GreaterToSomeNorm: extent of an object in an unspecified dimension

Or,

"long" = Relatively.GreaterToSomeNorm: extent of a primarily one dimensional object (strings, rods, rivers, etc.)

Similarly, and more specifically:

"Fat" = Relatively.GreaterToSomeNorm: extent of a three dimensional object's central point to (various points on) its surface (possibly also: spherical dimension, presence of lipids, etc.)
"Thick" = Relatively.GreaterToSomeNorm: extent of one side of an object to a roughly parallel side of that object in its smallest dimension
"Wide" = Relatively.GreaterToSomeNorm: extent of one side of an object to a roughly parallel side of that object in its largest dimension
"Old" = Relatively.GreaterToSomeNorm: Age (perhaps: extent of an object's inception in time to the present moment or some end point in time)

Perhaps, you are just looking for the following entry:

"______" = Relatively.GreaterToSomeNorm: extent of the object of comparison relative to a stated or unstated object which establishes the type of comparison.

Notice how "big" and "large" are fairly generic, maybe you need a ______ generic term.

Consider you could take _______ + a bound morpheme == _____.1dimension; ______.2dimension; ________.time(a specific type of 1dimension . . . or, a forth dimension?!)

But, then, of course, you turn your language into an oligosynthetic language, which may be not to your liking. Though, it does seem useful if you are making a LogLang.

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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2014 11:01 am 
Sumerul
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Rui wrote:
CatDoom wrote:
On the other hand, you might refer to a tall friend as "a big guy," but calling him a "large man" would seem more formal and distant, at least to me.


IMD referring to anyone as "big" or "large" is a comment on their weight, specifically being euphemisms for calling someone fat (sometimes it can refer to stature, if they are very muscular), not their height. "Tall" is the exclusive adjective to denote height.

Maybe it's a dialect difference, but I would refer to tall ppl as big but not large, although fat ppl as either. Large sounds like a euphemism for fat, while big seems to be valid for any dimension, eg height, weight, muscularity or, ahem, length.

There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to this, though. Logically they occupy the same semantic space.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2014 4:13 pm 
Sanci
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zompist wrote:
Julanga wrote:
My conlang is a loglang and polysemy is strictly forbidden.

Well, there's your problem right there.

If you mean you want to reduce synchronically opaque polysemy (like 'trip' = 'stumble', 'travel'), fine. But languages are built upon polysemy. If you think it can be done, you're probably either not really using it to talk about things, or not aware of how much polysemy remains.

I suspect you draw the line between "polysemy" and "vagueness" differently from me. I am not trying to create a language without vagueness. E.g. my conlang has the word tʰäŋgu which covers both "pen" and "pencil" (except that the English words "pen" and "pencil" are polysemous while tʰäŋgu is always a noun that refers to the writing instrument) which might be thought of as "polysemous".

There is also a grey area between "polysemy" and "vagueness". When I say "polysemy is strictly forbidden" I don't mean that everything in that grey area is strictly forbidden, only that what is clearly outside that grey area on the polysemous side is strictly forbidden, and that I want to conquer a reasonable part of the grey area.


2+3 clusivity wrote:
Julanga wrote:
Maybe "large" isn't polysemous, and it has a single meaning which is not equal to "big" * * * If "large" doesn't mean the same as "big", . . . perhaps there is some better way to gloss that other word, and maybe ["big"] shouldn't be synonymous with the English word "large". * * * Thus my question is more about semantic space than polysemy.

I suspect you didn't understand me completely, since the way you stitched together what I wrote isn't true to the intent of the original.

The word ʔo in my conlang now matches the primary sememe of the English word "big". Let's call this concept "A". Maybe the primary sememe of the English word "large" is also A, in which case ʔo matches "large" too. But I suspect that the primary sememe of the English word "large" isn't exactly synonymous with the primary sememe of "big". If so, then let's call the primary sememe of the English word "large" "B". Now, let's call the smallest possible hypernymous concept of both A and B "C".

I am contemplating on whether I should let the word ʔo mean A or C, and what the difference would be. My intent with the OP was to ask for what exactly is A and what exactly is B, since I feel I need this knowledge to be able to device a good concept C, and to be able to tell what the difference is between A, B, and C. A vaguer word may be more versatile, but if it becomes too vague it might fail at expressing the intended meaning precisely.

Then, let's call the sememe of "high" in "high temperature" and "high speed" "D". It seems to me that "large" in such phrases as "a large number" is similar to "high" in "high temperature" and "high speed". Let's call the smallest possible hypernymous concept of B and D "E". A thought I have is to create another conlang word which doesn't have any phonological form at the moment, and let this conlang word represent the meaning E. Having a word for E might be more useful that having a word for B if I already have a separate word for A.

I find it difficult to come up with accurate definitions of A, B, C, D, and E, that capture the subtle differences between them.


What about this?:

23 17

17 is the bigger number, but 23 is the larger number.

Do you natives agree with that above?


2+3 clusivity wrote:
I think you are hitting on the intuition that both lexical entries roughly have the following basic format (glossing over many other possible meanings for such entries):

"big" = Relatively.GreaterToSomeNorm: extent of an object in an unspecified dimension
"large"= Relatively.GreaterToSomeNorm: extent of an object in an unspecified dimension

This may be the concept C that I am looking for. Or is it the concept A?

If you increase the resolution of those definitions so that they could capture the difference, if any, between "big" and "large", what would those be?


2+3 clusivity wrote:
"______" = Relatively.GreaterToSomeNorm: extent of the object of comparison relative to a stated or unstated object which establishes the type of comparison.

Notice how "big" and "large" are fairly generic, maybe you need a ______ generic term.

Consider you could take _______ + a bound morpheme == _____.1dimension; ______.2dimension; ________.time(a specific type of 1dimension . . . or, a forth dimension?!)

I am always looking for useful words, but I'm biased against bound morphemes (a previous version of my loglang was 100% isolating, with exactly one morpheme per word, but I have abandoned that purity), and every word in my conlang has a fixed arity.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 4:40 am 
Smeric
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Julanga wrote:
What about this?:

23 17

17 is the bigger number, but 23 is the larger number.

Do you natives agree with that above?

Yes.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 12:35 pm 
Sumerul
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No, 17 is the ("physically" to be clear) bigger/larger number and 23 is the higher number.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 1:09 pm 
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17 is bigger/larger, 23 is greater.


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 2:50 pm 
Avisaru
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They're both bigger and larger than eachother in different aspects (the 17 physically, the 23 numerically), but only the 23 is greater or higher.

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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 6:01 pm 
Boardlord
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Julanga wrote:
23 17

17 is the bigger number, but 23 is the larger number.

Do you natives agree with that above?


No, either word can be used in either sense. But this is a nice springboard for questioning what you're doing, again. :)

In the above example, you're essentially making a pun— comparing two things first by value, then by the size of their graphical representation. This is usually a highly artificial or jocular thing to do, and I'd expect a language not to have many conventions on how to do it.

I think you'll soon tie yourself in knots if you try to maintain that this is a case of polysemy. You're just looking at two different dimensions.

Do you think you need a different word for every possible dimension— that is, every type of size? Then you need a different size word for every class of things in the universe. If numerical amount is different from graphical size, it's also different from weight, or height, or monetary value, or wavelength, or absolute value, or order of magnitude, or anything other measurable.

And if you accept that, why not allow your word to apply to the scale of importance, as we do with "big"?

To put it another way, it's a feature of language, not a bug, that adjectives can be applied to different kinds of things. This is perhaps easier to see with a word like "good", which refers to very different qualities when applied to children, architects, fruit, investments, weather, chess moves, books, meals, textiles, knives, villains, jokes, sex, etc.

Since we do have two words "big" and "large", they tend to specialize somewhat, but it's pretty quirky. If you're doing a loglang, you might consider removing the quirky restrictions rather than trying to duplicate them.

(Also, of course we do have specialized words for quality + object combinations. E.g. large in monetary value is also "valuable". This allows us to quickly pick out both a dimension and a relative value.)


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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 4:29 am 
Avisaru
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Julanga wrote:
What about this?:

23 17

17 is the bigger number, but 23 is the larger number.

Do you natives agree with that above?


No.
I can't untangle this whole big/large issue for you but i can tell you that in this particular case the overlap between "big" and "large" in the usage i'm accustomed to is total. Outside of this particular case, however, I feel like register is part of the issue as well. Like an instruction manual will always refer to a "large" or "small" part or thing and never to a "big" or "little" one.

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 Post subject: Re: "big" versus "large"
PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2014 11:22 am 
Sanci
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@zompist:

My plan is to have one word that refers to physical size, and a second word that is vaguer. You have given me food for thought. Maybe the vaguer word will encompass importance. I have to think about it.


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