I was recently browsing through OED and discovered their timeline feature. This shows a histogram that represents the number of words added to English during 10, 50, or 100 year ranges, and I was a little surprised by the shape. I think you can see this graph at the URL below (assuming you have online access to OED).
My verbal description won't be great, but there are local peaks around the years 1400, 1600, and 1900, with valleys around 1500, 1750, and the present day...while the overall trend is to have more and more words included in the language, this graph suggests there are periods where many words are included, and others where there are much fewer included, and that this tends to alternate. The valley around 1750 is quite dramatic as compared to the peaks of 1600 and 1850, for example.
What's going on here? Does this tell us something about English, or about how OED was compiled, or ... ?
Thanks! Ted -- Ted Pedersen http://www.d.umn.edu/~tpederse