Longest autological loop?

2018-01-31 19:47:54

A word is said to be autological if it describes itself. This can be a property of both nouns and adjectives; for example, "noun" is a noun and "pentasyllabic" is pentasyllabic.

We can also construct what one might term "autological loops"- closed sequences of words that describe each other. As an example, a loanword is a word borrowed verbatim from a foreign language, such as "kindergarten", and a calque is a borrowed term that has been translated, such as "beer garden" (from "Biergarten"). Interestingly, "loanword" is a calque (from the German "Lehnwort") and "calque" is a loanword (from the French "calque"). Thus, "calque" and "loanword" form an autological loop.

(While loops of adjectives are possible, often these become subjective and depend on shades of meaning. For example, "long", "terse", and "diminutive"- "long" is terse, "terse" is diminutive, and "diminutive" is long. But what does it mean for a word to be long? Does 10 letters really qualify? Can a word tr

  • I think we can

    make rather a long "loop" in a rather cheaty way, by finding lots of nouns that are all (at least roughly) generalizations of "noun". So, e.g., consider these: "lexeme", "word", "noun", "term". "Lexeme" is a word; "word" is a noun; "noun" is a term; "term" is a lexeme. We can add more by including more nouns with very broad meanings; "thing", "entity", etc.

    Of course it's possible that

    there are loops longer than one can achieve in this way. For instance, we can insert "monosyllable" or "lexeme" immediately after "word", "noun", or "term". But I expect that making as long a loop as possible will use this technique to achieve at least part of its length.

    Anyway, here's a straw example using these ideas:

    "String" is a word. "Word" is a monosyllable. "Monosyllable" is a noun. "Noun" is a lexon. "Lexon" is a term. "Term" is a tetragram. "Tetragram" is a vocable. "Vocable" is a lexeme. "Lexeme" is a string.

    This has length


    It's not clear that

    2018-01-31 20:25:03
  • English is Up First (the word English is first in the list)

    Up First is a Podcast

    Podcast is a portmanteau

    Portmanteau is French

    French is English

    Your mention of loanwords gave me the idea of starting with a language. I did keep accidentally using adjectives and falling prey to picking synonyms rather than neighbour-autological words! Harder than it appears at first glance! But I’m sure I could get this longer.

    Most of the words on the right are used as adjectives, but always as nouns on the left, I’m not sure if this is allowed.

    2018-01-31 20:30:38