Passive vocabulary size and speed of meaning recognition: Are they related?

Batia Laufer, Paul Nation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the relationship between fluency and vocabulary size, and also between fluency and word frequency level. Fluency was operationalised as the time learners need to recognize meanings of words sampled from different frequency levels. It was measured by a computerised vocabulary recognition speed test (VORST). The test was given to 488 native and non-native speakers who were divided by vocabulary size into four groups. The four groups were compared on speed of response to the 3000 level and University Word List (UWL) words. Speed was also correlated with vocabulary size. Additionally, response times to different frequency levels were compared for each subject. Results suggest that speed of retrieval is moderately related to vocabulary size and word frequency. Non-native speakers’ increase in speed lags behind increase in vocabulary size. Non-native speakers also respond more slowly to less frequent words. Responses of native speakers, on the other hand, are more homogeneous across subjects and across vocabulary frequencies. Speed of retrieval cannot be fully predicted from vocabulary knowledge and therefore speed tests should supplement tests of vocabulary size and depth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-28
Number of pages22
JournalEUROSLA Yearbook
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


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