ERIC Number: ED354489
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1993-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
The Vocabulary Conundrum. Technical Report No. 570.
Anderson, Richard C.; Nagy, William E.
Research often underestimates the vocabulary resources of the English language and, hence, the size of students' vocabularies and the rate of their vocabulary growth, by failing to take into account words that are not thought of as "general vocabulary," but that are essential to comprehension. These words include proper names, words with multiple meanings, idioms, and compounds and derivatives whose meanings are not fully predictable from the meanings of their parts. Research on vocabulary growth suggests that the average student learns from 2000 to 3000 words per year, and that many students learn at twice that rate. Although the likelihood of learning any particular word from context is relatively low, a moderate level of daily reading can lead to gains of several thousand words per year, a rate of learning beyond the reach of any vocabulary-building approach that attempts to cover words one at a time. A fundamental weakness of conventional approaches to vocabulary building is that they simply cannot cover a sufficient volume of words without exceeding reasonable limits on time. A second weakness lies in the limitations of definitions. Although definitions play an important role in most vocabulary instruction, educators tend to underestimate: (1) the difference between knowing a definition and knowing a word; (2) the shortcomings of many of the definitions found in glossaries and school dictionaries; and (3) the difficulty that students have interpreting definitions. Vocabulary instruction that promotes word consciousness, a sense of curiosity about word meanings, appreciation of nuances of meaning, independence in word analysis, and wide, regular reading appears to be superior to conventional instruction. (Author/RS)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Center for the Study of Reading, Urbana, IL.