Vocabulary and Types of Vocabulary

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Introduction to Vocabulary

Vocabulary forms an integral part of the process of reading and readers’ comprehension. It refers to the words needed for communicating effectively. It implies receptive vocabulary and expressive vocabulary. Receptive vocabulary refers to the words that we hear and read while expressive vocabulary implies the words that we speak and write. It is rightly said that without vocabulary, it is not possible to convey anything. A broader idea of vocabulary is discussed below.

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Vocabulary Definition

Vocabulary definition is “the group and collection of words that are known and used by a particular person”. It can also be defined as “a list or collection of words or phrases that are normally alphabetically arranged and defined or explained”.

Vocabulary is also commonly called wordstock, lexis, and lexicon.

Importance of Vocabulary

Vocabulary is an essential part of anyone’s life and the following points describe the importance of vocabulary.

  1. Vocabulary is critical for communication and expression

  2. Vocabulary forms the basis of reading comprehension

  3. Linguistic vocabulary and thinking vocabulary work parallel

  4. Vocabulary also forms a basis for judgment many times

  5. For conveying anything, vocabulary is important

What is vocabulary in English

The answer 'what is vocabulary in English?' is all the words that form a language to be understood by a specific person or maybe a group of people. Vocabulary in English can be categorized into two types, namely, active and passive vocabulary. The words that we use and understand in day to day language is termed as active vocabulary while the ones which we know but use rarely are said to be passive vocabulary.

Three Tiers of vocabulary

Vocabulary is described with the following three tiers:

1. Basic Vocabulary

The basic words form the first tier of vocabulary. These words normally have a single meaning and do not require instruction. Early reading words, sight words, adjectives, verbs, nouns, etc are portrayed at this tier. 8000 word family in English comprises in this tier

2. High-frequency Vocabulary

Also called multiple meaning vocabulary tier, this tier comprises words used in a variety of domains, adult communication, literature, etc. It influences reading and speaking. 7000 world families comprise this tier. The characteristics for tier two words are as follows:

  • It has multiple meanings

  • Vital for reading comprehension

  • Typical mature language

  • Descriptive vocabulary

  • Diverse environment use these words

  • Used for direct instruction

3. Low-frequency Vocabulary

The words that are used only when specifically required or in a particular domain like weather, technology, geographical region, occupation, hobbies, school, etc. comprise this tier. The four lakh words about vocabulary in English comprise in this tier.

Types of Vocabulary

The types of vocabulary can be categorized based on spoken and written vocabulary. Children start vocabulary-building through listening and speaking even before writing and reading. Every type of vocabulary has a different aim and purpose. However, the development of one type of vocabulary facilitates another.

The types of vocabulary are discussed below briefly.

1. Listening Vocabulary

Listening vocabulary comprises words that we understand through hearing. A fetus may start recognizing some words when in the womb. Learning new words is a continuous process, and by the time you reach adulthood, almost fifty thousand words are understood and recognized by you. Deaf people can be exposed to visual listening vocabulary for learning.

2. Speaking Vocabulary

Speaking vocabulary consists of words that we actually speak. It has a horizon of around 5000 to 10000 words. These are used for giving instructions and conversations. The number of words in this category are comparatively lesser than the listening vocabulary.

3. Reading Vocabulary

The major ingredient of vocabulary building is reading. Reading grows and develops your vocabulary. The words we get to learn while reading a text are termed as reading vocabulary. It may happen that we understand words through reading vocabulary even if we don’t use it in speaking vocabulary.

4. Writing Vocabulary

Words we recoup while expressing ourselves through writing are termed as writing vocabulary. Writing vocabulary is normally influenced by the words we are able to spell. We find it easy to express verbally, through facial expression, or intonation, but writing vocabulary depends upon our expertise in vocabulary.

5. Final Vocabulary

Richard Rorty discovered this term ‘Final Vocabulary’. It is a collection, set, or group of words that every person applies for justifying their actions, beliefs, and lives. Final vocabulary comprises words a person avails to praise, contempt, express the deep feelings, hopes, doubts, etc.


People struggle with vocabulary due to lack of instruction, learning strategies, poor memory skills, or learning disabilities. Response to Intervention program (Rtl) assists in vocabulary-building.

Learning and exploring new words and then applying them in different contexts improves your communication skills. Always keep learning antonyms, synonyms, connotations, idioms, phrases, and keep reading various books to develop your vocabulary.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. State the techniques to build New Vocabulary.

Answer: The techniques to build new vocabulary are listed below.

  • Memorize new words and learn their antonyms, synonyms, connotations, etc.

  • The keyword method assists in creating mnemonic devices, word associations.

  • Make a list of new words.

  • Read various types of books as much as possible.

  • Refer to the Dictionary to learn new words.

  • Look for context clues or hints in test-taking and conversations.

  • Install language mobile applications on your smartphones. 

  • Master the new words through the flashcard method that has word and definition included in it.

  • Take vocabulary quizzes, often.

  • Try speaking the language you want to learn frequently and regularly.

  • Write a notebook of words and keep revising it.

  • Read blogs in the language that you want to build your vocabulary in.

  • Remain observant of your surroundings.

2. What is Focal Vocabulary?

Answer: A focal vocabulary is a group of words, distinctions, and terms that are used for a specific group having a particular focus on activity or experience. It is a collection of names of ideas, events, things, perceptions, definitions, and classifications of a particular word. It consists of terms or words that are connected to vital concepts in a particular culture.

3. State the common framework of Vocabulary Knowledge.

Answer: The common framework of vocabulary knowledge is given below.

  • Orthography – written words

  • Phonology – spoken words

  • Reference – meanings

  • Semantics – references and concepts

  • Register – appropriate use

  • Collocation – lexical neighbours

  • Word association

  • Syntax – the function of grammar

  • Morphology – parts of the word