The continuation of a debate that began initially on WordGamesWithRules:

My defense for "" is as follows: the null set is a subset (admittedly, the trivial subset) of every set. Therefore, the null word is the trivial subset of the set containing all English words, excluding proper names. Keep in mind as well that silence is as much a part of an English speaker's vocabulary as any uttered English word . . . -Will

Um, the null word isn't a subset of anything, as it's a word, not a set. Moreover, the question is not whether the null word is a subset of the set of English words (which is what you seem to be claiming); it's whether the null word is an element of the set of English words. The answers to such questions are generally determined by a commonly acceptable reference, and I defy you to find any such reference which claims that the null word is a word. It's true that English speakers are frequently silent; however, English speakers also frequently laugh, cough, sneeze, play musical instruments, say "um", and otherwise cause the existence of sounds which are not part of the English language, so this hardly seems relevant. Oh, well, it's certainly a word now, at least for the purposes of this game...--Micah

Initial response to Micah's Rebuttal: A quick sojurn to dictionary.com turned up the following . . . and unless otherwise noted, the following definitions are taken from the commonly-acceptable annals of Sir Miriam Webster.

Therefore: I define the null word to be a word consisting of the trivial combination/subset of letters from the Western alphabet, expressing by representation the English word 'silence.' I am, however, still searching for tighter proof that the null word is, as you say, an element of the set of English words. -Will

Your claim appears to be, based on the definition of "word", that a written word is a written representation of a spoken word, which I don't have a problem with. However, I really don't see how the empty string as being the written representation of any particular spoken word. If it's to be pronounced in the way suggested by its spelling, one should remain silent, which contradicts the "articulate or vocal sound" piece of the definition given above, and really doesn't make much sense anyhow. But to claim that it represents the *word* "silence" (as you seem to be doing) seems even less well-founded; it strikes me as analogous to saying that the written word "bob" expresses the English word "monosyllable".-Micah

I don't recall having "said" "" before. I do "say" "..." quite a bit, though. -Andrew

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Last edited November 1, 2003 19:42 (diff)