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How many words do we know? Practical estimates of vocabulary size dependent on word definition, the degree of language input and the participant's age

Marc Brysbaert (UGent) , Michaël Stevens (UGent) , Pawel Mandera (UGent) and Emmanuel Keuleers (UGent)
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Abstract
Based on an analysis of the literature and a large scale crowdsourcing experiment, we estimate that an average 20-year-old native speaker of American English knows 42,000 lemmas and 4,200 non-transparent multiword expressions, derived from 11,100 word families. The numbers range from 27,000 lemmas for the lowest 5% to 52,000 for the highest 5%. Between the ages of 20 and 60, the average person learns 6,000 extra lemmas or about one new lemma every 2 days. The knowledge of the words can be as shallow as knowing that the word exists. In addition, people learn tens of thousands of inflected forms and proper nouns (names), which account for the substantially high numbers of words known mentioned in other publications.
Keywords
FREQUENCY, KNOWLEDGE, ENGLISH, word knowledge, vocabulary size, reading

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
Brysbaert, Marc et al. “How Many Words Do We Know? Practical Estimates of Vocabulary Size Dependent on Word Definition, the Degree of Language Input and the Participant’s Age.” FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY 7 (2016): n. pag. Print.
APA
Brysbaert, M., Stevens, M., Mandera, P., & Keuleers, E. (2016). How many words do we know? Practical estimates of vocabulary size dependent on word definition, the degree of language input and the participant’s age. FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY, 7.
Chicago author-date
Brysbaert, Marc, Michaël Stevens, Pawel Mandera, and Emmanuel Keuleers. 2016. “How Many Words Do We Know? Practical Estimates of Vocabulary Size Dependent on Word Definition, the Degree of Language Input and the Participant’s Age.” Frontiers in Psychology 7.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Brysbaert, Marc, Michaël Stevens, Pawel Mandera, and Emmanuel Keuleers. 2016. “How Many Words Do We Know? Practical Estimates of Vocabulary Size Dependent on Word Definition, the Degree of Language Input and the Participant’s Age.” Frontiers in Psychology 7.
Vancouver
1.
Brysbaert M, Stevens M, Mandera P, Keuleers E. How many words do we know? Practical estimates of vocabulary size dependent on word definition, the degree of language input and the participant’s age. FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY. 2016;7.
IEEE
[1]
M. Brysbaert, M. Stevens, P. Mandera, and E. Keuleers, “How many words do we know? Practical estimates of vocabulary size dependent on word definition, the degree of language input and the participant’s age,” FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY, vol. 7, 2016.
@article{8502468,
  abstract     = {Based on an analysis of the literature and a large scale crowdsourcing experiment, we estimate that an average 20-year-old native speaker of American English knows 42,000 lemmas and 4,200 non-transparent multiword expressions, derived from 11,100 word families. The numbers range from 27,000 lemmas for the lowest 5% to 52,000 for the highest 5%. Between the ages of 20 and 60, the average person learns 6,000 extra lemmas or about one new lemma every 2 days. The knowledge of the words can be as shallow as knowing that the word exists. In addition, people learn tens of thousands of inflected forms and proper nouns (names), which account for the substantially high numbers of words known mentioned in other publications.},
  articleno    = {1116},
  author       = {Brysbaert, Marc and Stevens, Michaël and Mandera, Pawel and Keuleers, Emmanuel},
  issn         = {1664-1078},
  journal      = {FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY},
  keywords     = {FREQUENCY,KNOWLEDGE,ENGLISH,word knowledge,vocabulary size,reading},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {How many words do we know? Practical estimates of vocabulary size dependent on word definition, the degree of language input and the participant's age},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01116},
  volume       = {7},
  year         = {2016},
}

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