What is the world's longest word?
A difficult question. Some good candidates for English have already
been noded up, but for most other languages you have to limit the
question a bit more.
First of all, compound words are not fair game, since many languages
(like German) can pile them up to near-infinite length. Alas, this
disqualifies many family favorites like
Hottentottenpotentatenattentat ("an attempt to assassinate a
Pygmy regent"). Nearly all those really long place names are also compound words.
Second, chemical names are not really acceptable either, since they're
essentially compound words built out of Greek, more or less equivalent
to reading out "hydrogen and carbon and hydrogen
and oxygen and carbon and hydrogen and..." in English.
So we have to disqualify these too.
Next, we have the issue of agglutinative versus non-agglutinative
languages. Instead of English-style helper words ("of", "by", "your",
"through"...), agglutinative languages add prefixes and suffixes
to word stems, resulting in hideously long words if you just conjugate
them enough. One classic example is the Turkish
("Aren't you one of those people whom we tried,
unsuccessfully, to make resemble the citizens of
Afyonkarahisar?") -- although this contain a proper
noun and is thus a bit iffy.
Some people disqualify these too, because you obviously
won't find the conjugated forms in a dictionary, but most people
think they qualify.
And thus, according to some editions of the
Guinness Book of World Records, the world's longest word is the
following Finnish monster:
But what does it mean?
Let's analyze, step by step:
järjestelmä "system"; from järki, reason,
via järjestää, to organize
llis adjective indicator
t causative, action from outside
yttä "-zation", becoming something
mä noun indicator
ttöm from -ttä, "-less", abessive case
yyde from -yys, "-ness", quality of being something
llä "using", adessive case
n "with", instructive case
sä 3rd person possessive case
kö question indicator
hän "I wonder?"
Note: I'm not a grammarian and I've probably got some of those wrong,
corrections are welcome. Finnish cases all conjugate happily into
each other, mutating as they go along, so disentangling something
as purposely perverse as this word isn't easy...
Yeah yeah, but what does it MEAN?
(I was hoping I wouldn't have to answer that.)
This is a sentence
fragment, mind you, so I need to add a blank in the middle in
order to transform it into English:
Wonder if he can also ... with his capability of
not causing things to be unsystematic?
Or something along those lines. A very useful word indeed, yes?
Could you make something even longer?
But of course, and I believe some later attempts have made it past
the 100-letter mark. The word above is undoubtedly the most famous
of the bunch though, because unlike the longer candidates
it still remains barely comprehensible.
However, Finnish also has a method of generating infinitely long
non-compound words through a peculiar recursive verb construction.
Here's an example, using the verb tehdä ("to do"):
N Verb Meaning
0 tehdä to do
1 teettää to have someone do
2 teetättää to have someone have someone do
3 teetätättää to have someone have someone have someone do
N tee(tä)Nttää to (have someone)N do
The N=2 form is occasionally used even in real life, but forms beyond
that aren't spotted too often. Still, they are grammatically
perfectly valid Finnish
, and thus the N=∞ form is and shall
longest word in the world.
Much of this used to be noded under
epäjärjestelmällistymättömyydellänsäkäänköhän, which screwed
up softlinks with its length and was thus nuked.