Vocabulary (What is Vocabulary?)
(Atheer Lateef )
What is vocabulary ?
Vocabulary is the group of words that a person or group of people knows how to use. Your
vocabulary is all the words you know and use regularly. The vocabulary word is the
fundamental component of communication. No matter what your age, it is the cornerstone
success in any situation. Vocabulary words carry with them the ability to effectively
communicate. Developing this very basic tool will open up opportunities in other avenues of
Diamond(2012) stated that, Vocabulary is the knowledge of words and word meanings.
Vocabulary knowledge is knowledge; the knowledge of a word not only implies a definition,
but also implies how that word fits into the world. Vocabulary knowledge is not something
that can ever be fully mastered; it is something that expands and deepens over the course of
a lifetime. Instruction in vocabulary involves far more than looking up words in a dictionary
and using the words in a sentence. Vocabulary is acquired incidentally through indirect
exposure to words and intentionally through explicit instruction in specific words and wordlearning strategies.
Vocabulary Words & The Average person
According to Google (2012), there are between 450,000 and 616,000 vocabulary words,
excluding scientific terms, currently recognized in the English language. An average high
school student has a vocabulary of 10,000 words and an average college graduate is said to
know approximately 20,000 words. Each are said to use approximately 10% of those words
on a weekly basis.
How vocabulary relates to ELLs
For English language learners (ELLs), vocabulary development is especially important.
The average native English speaker enters kindergarten knowing at least 5,000 words. The
average ELL may know 5,000 words in his or her native language, but very few words in
English. While native speakers continue to learn new words, ELLs face the double challenge
of building that foundation and then closing the gap.
What are the active and passive vocabulary
Hedge (2000) stated that, “Passive refers to vocabulary which can be recognized when
encountered, in a text for example, but which the learner cannot easily produce in speech or
writing as active vocabulary”(p.116).
How are words remembered ?
According to ( Thornbury, 2005), the learner needs not only to learn a lot of words, but to
remember them. In fact, learning is remembering. There are number of principles need to be
What makes a word difficult toward learners
Length and complexity
Range, connotation and idiomaticity.
How to train good vocabulary learners
According to ( Thornbury, 2005), there are some techniques for remembering words.
Guessing from context
Coping strategies for production
Aspects of vocabulary learning ( Types of vocabulary )
Polysemy :- Polysemy can be defined as one form ( written and spoken ) having multiple
meaning that are all related by extension. Or ( it is concerned with the way word often have
number of different meaning ). Examples are the word head used to refer to the object on the
top of your body , on top of glass of beer, person at the top of company or department , and
many other things . ( Thornbury, 2005)
Metonymy :- Yule, G. (2006) found that, the relatedness of meaning found in polysemy is
essentially based on similarity . The head of a company is similar to the head of a person on a
top of and controlling the body. There is another type of relationship between words, based
simply on a close connection in everyday experience. That close connection can be based on a
container—contents relation( bottle/water , can/juice ), a whole—part relation
( car/wheels, house/roof ) or a representive --symbol ( king/crown , the President/the
White House ).
Prototypes :- The concept of a prototype helps explain the meaning of certain words, like
bird , not in terms of component features ( e.g. has feathers , has wings ), but in terms of
resemblance to the clearest example. Thus , even native speakers of English might wonder if
ostrich or penguin should be hyponyms of bird ( technically they are ) , but have no trouble
deciding about sparrow or pigeon . These last two are much closer to the prototype.
Synonymy :- It is used to mean “ sameness of meaning “ . Two or more words with very
closely related meaning are called synonyms .
Examples, almost/nearly , freedom/liberty , big/large .
Hyponymy :- Thornbury (2005) stated that, when the meaning of one word is included
in the meaning of another, the relationship is described as hyponymy. Example are the pairs :
animal/dog , vegetable/carrot , flower/rose . The concept of ‘ inclusion’ involved in this
relationship is the idea that if an object is a rose , then it is necessarily a flower , so the
meaning of flower is included in the meaning of rose. Or , rose is a hyponym of flower .
Antonyms :- It is used for “ oppositeness of meaning “. Two words with opposite meaning
are called antonyms . Example, alive/dead , big/small , fast/slow , happy/sad.
According to Yule, G. (2006), antonyms are divided into two main types, ‘ gradable’ ( opposite
along a scale ) and ‘non-gradable’
( direct opposite ) .
Gradable antonyms , such as the pairs big/small , can be used in comparative
constructions like , I’m bigger than you and A pony is smaller than horse.
Non-gradable antonyms , ( complementary pairs ) , comparative constructions are not
normally used. We don’t typically describe someone as deader or more dead than other.
Also, the negative of one member of a non-gradable pair does imply the other member. That
is , My grandparents aren’t alive does indeed mean My grandparents are dead.
What do students used to be know
Words are generally considered to be the basic elements of languages.
Words can be divided into some categories: meaning, word use, word formation, and word
Words : Biber & et al. (2002) stated that, the notion of ‘word’ is complex, and so it is useful to
identify a number of slightly different sense of ‘word’ .
Orthographic: : These are the words that we are familiar with in written language,
where they are separated by spaces. For example. He played football last night.
Grammatical words: A word falls into one grammatical word class ( part of speech ).
The orthographic word leave can be either of two grammatical words: a verb
( present tense –s form of leave ) or a noun ( the plural of leaf ).
Lexemes : This is a set of grammatical words which words share the same basic
meaning, similar forms, and the same word class. For example, leave, leaves, leaving,
and left are all members of the verb lexeme leave.
2_ word uses
Connotation:- O’Grady, W. et al. (1997) suggested that, one notion that is closely linked
with the concept of meaning is connotation, the set of associations that a word’s use can
evoke. For example, the word winter evokes thoughts of snow, bitter, cold, short evenings,
frozen fingertips and the like. These associations make up the word’s connotation, but they
cannot be its meaning. This is because winter could still be used for the season stretching
from December to March.
Denotation:- O’Grady, W. et al. (1997) found that, one well-known approach to semantics
attempts to equate the meaning of a word or phrase with the entities to which it refers its
denotation, The denotation of the word winter , for example, corresponds to the season
between autumn and spring ( regardless of whether it is cold and unpleasant).
Metaphor :- Metaphor is concerned with using is abstract rather than literal ways. Yule, G.
(2006) stated that, metaphor is a way of expressing something by comparing it with
something else that has similar characteristics.
Example, If we say that someone lights up our life. We are using metaphor .
We are suggestion that person is like light in our life that they bring us great happiness.
Collocation :- According to ( Nation, 2001 ), collocation is concerned with the way words
occur together , often in unpredictable ways. It is a very good idea when learning new words
to learn any typical collocations that go with them . Examples .
_ adjective + noun collocations , the real thing , great detail , the genuine article .
_ adverb + adjective collocations , very good .
_ verb + object collocations , we can visit a website on the Internet.
_ verb + adverb collections, let’s move quickly.
McCarthy, M. (2002) stated that, register is concerned with the overall tone of a text or
conversation, and the relationship that is built between the speaker and listener, or reader
and writer. It is important to speak and write in the appropriate register for the situations.
3_ Word formation
Parts of speech When you look up a word in a dictionary, you will find not only the
meaning of the word but also what part of speech it is. This information is very helpful in
understanding the full meaning of the word and knowing how to use it. According to
(Harmer, 1998), there are eight types of part of speech that are used to describe English
1_ Lexical word classes
_ Nouns : such as, book, girl, boy, gold, car, river … etc.
_ Verbs : such as, admit, look, take, record, go … etc.
_ Adjectives : such as, heavy, dark, light, long, dirty, happy … etc.
_ Adverbs : such as, now, there, usually, often, quickly, easily … etc.
2_ Function word classes
_ Pronouns : such as, he, him, his, himself, our, you, I, me, it, its …etc.
_ Prepositions : such as, from, with, by, into, up, at, off, of, in, on, between … etc.
_ Conjunctions : such as, so, and, but, because, since, so that, as, therefore, if … etc.
_ Determiner : such as, a, an, the, some, any, many … etc.
_ Interjections : such as, wow, oh, eh, err, yea, hmm, ah … etc.
Prefixes, suffixes, and roots
Prefixes: creating new meaning .
There are some examples about prefixes.
Antibiotic, autograph, exchange, misunderstand, multi-media, pre-historic, replay, semi-final.
Unhappy, incorrect, bicycle, impossible, dislike, irregular, illegal, …etc.
Suffixes: productive suffixes and word class.
There are some examples about suffixes. Freedom, childhood, Turkish, friendship, purify,
active, ability, washable, nationalize, useful, homeless, sadness, loving, refusal, treatment,
sender, addressee, actor, teacher, action, oldest.
Many words in English are formed from Latin roots. These words are often considered fairly
formal in English. Here are some example of the more common Latin roots, with some of the
English words derived from them.
= respect, prospect, suspect
= convert, reverted, diverted
Spelling and pronunciation
Words commonly mispronounced
The letters below in bold are silent in the examples.
Psychology, climb, debt, should, half, hour, whistle, often, knight, island, muscle, sight,
McCarthy, M. (2001) stated that, onomatopoeic words are those which seem to sound like
Examples: cows moo , horses neigh ,
Homonyms and homophones
Homonyms :- We use the term homonyms when one word has two or more unrelated
Examples, pupil ( at school ) ----------- pupil ( in the eyes )
Mole ( on skin ) ------------- mole ( small animal )
Bat ( fly creature ) --------- bat ( used in sports )
Homophones :- When two or more different words have the same pronunciation , they are
described as homophones. Examples, meat/meet
bare / bear
, flour/flower ,
write/right , pale/pail.
Abbreviations and acronyms.
McCarthy, M. (2001).
Abbreviations like WHO, BBC, UN, ID, Dr., Mr., etc., e.g., i.e., TV … etc.
Acronyms, some abbreviations are read as words, we call them acronyms.
Examples: NATO, OPEC, AIDS, PIN, laser, radar … etc.
4_ Word grammar
Noun A noun is often defined as a word which names a person, place or thing. Here are some
examples of nouns: boy, river, friend, Mexico, triangle, day, school, truth, university, idea,
John F. Kennedy, movie, aunt, vacation, eye, dream, flag, teacher, class, grammar.
_ proper noun and common noun.
_ singular noun and plural noun.
_ abstract noun and concrete noun.
_ countable and uncountable noun.
Verb. According to Dowing & Philip (2006), a verb is often defined as a word which shows
action or state of being. The verb is the heart of a sentence - every sentence must have a verb.
Recognizing the verb is often the most important step in understanding the meaning of a
sentence. In the sentence The dog bit the man, bit is the verb and the word which shows the
action of the sentence.
According to their main function and their grammatical behavior, verbs, as elements of the
VP, are grouped into the following classes:
_ lexical verbs: wait, come, rain, bring, etc.
_ primary verbs: be, am, is, are, was, were, been, have, has, had, do, does, did, etc.
_ modal auxiliaries: shall, should, will, would, can, could, may, might, must, ought to
_ semi-modals: need, dare, used to (modals in certain uses)
be able to, be about to, be apt to, be bound to, be due to, be going to, be liable.
to, be likely to, be certain to, be sure to, be to, be unlikely to, be supposed to
have to, have got to.
had better, would rather, would sooner.
Unlike most of the other parts of speech, verbs change their form. Sometimes endings are
added (learn - learned) and sometimes the word itself becomes different (teach-taught). The
different forms of verbs show different meanings related to such things as tense (past,
present, future), person (first person, second person, third person), number (singular, plural)
and voice (active, passive). Verbs are also often accompanied by verb-like words called
modals (may, could, should, etc.) and auxiliaries(do, have, will, etc.) to give them different
Adjectives and adverbs
Adjectives and adverbs are very common in all registers, but less than nouns and verbs.
Adjectives and verbs differ in their frequencies across registers. Biber & et al. (2002) stated
that, adjectives commonly modify nouns, so they add to the informational density of
registers. In contrast, adverbs often occur as clause elements (adverbial), they occur together
with lexical verbs adding information to the short clauses of conversation”(p.182)
According to ( McCarthy,2002), a good dictionary will tell readers some or all of the following
Regional alternatives may be given.
Perhaps more than one correct spelling exists.
This may involve phonetic symbols.
A definition, or a picture, or a diagram, regional differences in
meaning may also be given.
The word face has several different sense, 1) the eyes, mouth, nose,
etc. 2) one’s expression ( a sad face).
Is the word noun? Can it also be a verb?
and word class
Which prepositions follow it?
What words normally combine with this word.
Is the word formal or informal? It is old-fashioned, poetic, academic?
Does the words have a positive or negative association?
Is it a synonym or antonym of another word?
Good learner’s dictionaries give example sentences or phrases.
Biber, D. & et al. (2002). Longman student grammar of spoken and written English.
Diamond, L. & Gutlohn, L. (2012). Teaching vocabulary. December 29, 2012.reterived from
Dowing, A. & Philip, L. (2006). English grammar : a university course. London: Rutledge.
Google. (2012). Vocabulary Word Usage & Development. December 29,2012.
Retrieved from http://www.vocabulary.co.il/vocabulary-words-html/.
Harmer , J.(1998). How to teach English .England: Pearson.
Hedge, T. (2000). Teaching and learning in the language classroom. New York: Oxford.
McCarthy, M. & O’Dell, F. (2001). English vocabulary in use: upper-intermediate. (2nd ed.).
UK: Cambridge University Press.
McCarthy, M. & O’Dell, F. (2002). English vocabulary in use: advanced. UK: Cambridge
Nation, I. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. UK: Cambridge University
O’Grady, W. et al. (1997). Contemporary linguistics. UK: Longman.
Thornbury, S . (2005). How to teach vocabulary. England: Pearson.
Yule, G. (2006). The study of language. (3rd ed.). UK: Cambridge University Press.
Student’s name: Atheer Lateef Khammoo
Student’s number: 20124137