Vocabulary is one of the key predictors of academic success and vocabulary deficits can limit a child’s educational development. The ‘word gap’ has been a pervasive issue in vocabulary research since the nineties and remains an issue today. However, our understanding of these issues is limited by a lack of normative figures for vocabulary growth and development for children.
This research seeks to answer the following principal questions:
- How much vocabulary and which vocabulary is learned each year from three years’ old up to the age of eleven?
- Is there evidence from OUP’s Learner Corpus, which contains data over 20 years, that vocabulary knowledge is diminishing?
- How is the lexical acquisition observed in this project best explained through theories and models of lexical acquisition in young learners?
The vocabulary sizes of children in a school in Wales will be measured using a vocabulary size test that should be sensitive enough to measure the variation in scores which underlies variation in educational performance, and also identify lexical items that distinguish high performing learners from low performing learners.
The second stage of this research project will be to use the Oxford University Press corpus of child English to evaluate whether lexical knowledge has diminished over the last 20 years. Changes in lexical sophistication will be examined and if the number and range of words used by children is diminishing over time then this will support the hypothesis that overall vocabulary knowledge is also diminishing.
The experiments carried out in this research will shed more light upon the state of the vocabularies of young children.