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3 Definition of Vocabulary
One of the general components, which have to be mastered well by the
students in learning English, is vocabulary. If the student lack of vocabulary, they
will have difficulties in using English to know what is vocabulary the writer
would like to present several definition suggested by linguist, Hornby (1986:
1462) said that vocabulary is:
(1) Total number of words, which (with rules for combine them) make up the
(2) (Range of) words known to or used by a person in trade, profession, etc.
Webster (1966: 2560) states definition of vocabulary is a sum or stock of
words employed by a language, group, individually or in work, in relation to a
From the definition above, the writer may conclude that vocabulary is a
list of words that have meanings that are used to communicate between one
person to another.
Finocchiaro explains that students’ vocabulary can be divided into two kinds, they
are “active and passive vocabulary” (1974: 73).
Active vocabulary consists of words which students understand, can pronounce
correctly and use constructively in speaking and writing. While passive
vocabulary consists of words those students recognize and understand when they
occur in a context and they never use them in communication. They understand
them when they hear or read them, but they don’t use them in speaking or writing.

According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, a

noun “vocabulary” has two definitions:
- all the words known and used by a particular person
- all the words which exist in a particular language or subject
We divide the knowledge of vocabulary known by a particular
person into two groups:
• receptive / passive vocabulary – it is defined as the set of all words
that are understood at reading or listening but not used in the
spoken or written expressions
• productive / active vocabulary – it is the set of all words that are
not only understood, but also used meaningfully when
creating new sentences
(Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

2. The Definition of Vocabulary

Vocabulary is the total number of words in a language (Hornby, 1995; 1331).

Vocabulary is an important part to mastery English well. According to Pigeat’s
theory, a child at the age of 7 – 10 years is always interesting in recognizing and
knowing new words, he stands to repeat new words repeatedly so that he will
memorize them.

There are essential steps of learning vocabulary (Brown, 1995; 373) which has
recited by Cameron:

• Having source for encountering new words.

• Getting a clear image for the form of new words.

• Learning the meaning of new words

• Making a strong memory connection between the form and the meaning of the

• Using the words.

In teaching to children, teacher has to use performance to teach vocabulary to them,

because the children in literacy level are Performance, it means children learn
language with accompanying action / scaffolding. In this level, teacher can use
media, according to Nation (1990) in recited by Cameron is listed basic technique
of explaining the meaning of new words.

By demonstration picture:

o Using an object

o Using a cut-out picture

o Using gesture

o Performance action

o Photographs

o Drawing and or diagram on the board

o Picture from books, TV, Video or Computer

By verbal explanation:

o Analytical definition

o Putting in a context

o Translating

3. The important of vocabulary

A good mastery of vocabulary helps the learners to express their ideas precisely. By
having many stocks of word learners will be able to comprehend the reading
materials catch other talking, give response, speak fluently and write some kind of
topics. On the contrary, if the learners do not recognize the meaning of the words
use by those who address them, the will be unable to participate in conversation,
unable to express some ideas, or unable to ask for information.

Considering the important of vocabulary role in learning foreign language. The

mastery of this element should be ensured and develop. Otherwise, the vocabulary
mastery of the children will be limited and consequence of it is that they will find
difficulties in learning the skills of the language. Therefore, schools have a task to
teach vocabulary to their students as suggested by John Carol as showed by
Margaretha MC Keown (1987; 01)

Although a considerable amount of vocabulary, learning is associated with primary

language learning in early years. The acquisition of most the vocabulary
characteristic of an educated adult occur during the years of schooling, and infects
one of the primary task of the school as far as language learning in concerned, as to
teach vocabulary.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
2.1. An Overview of Vocabulary
2.1.1. Definition
Up till now, there has not been only one but a wide variety of definitions
of vocabulary. In order to find the best and most easy-to- understand
definition is such an unfeasible task. Each linguist or scholar, in his
specialized field, with his own set of criteria has found out for his own a way
to define vocabulary. However, in the most popular way, Cambridge
Advanced Learner's Dictionary Online has applied a meaning for vocabulary
as “all the words which exist in a particular language or subject.”

This definition covers vocabulary’s meaning on the whole.

Nevertheless, it does not show vocabulary in a deep understanding.
More precisely, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1995)
presents six meanings of the word “Vocabulary” as follow:
1.All the words that someone knows, learns or uses.
2.The words that are typically used when talking about a particular
3.All the words in a particular language.
4.The word failure/ compromises, etc. is not in somebody’s vocabulary
used to say that someone never thinks of accepting failures, etc
5.A list of words with explanations of their meaning in a book for
learning foreign languages.
6.A list of the codes or terms used in a computer system.

As far as we are concerned, the definition of vocabulary should be the

one that comprises all features of meaning 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and our target of
learning would be to create vocabulary knowledge (meaning 1 and 2).

A clear explanation of vocabulary is cited as follows:

Vocabulary can be defined, roughly, as the words we teach in the foreign

language. However, a new item of vocabulary may be more than a single
word: for example, post office and mother-in law, which are made up of two
or three words but express a single idea. There are also multi-word idioms
such as call it a day, where the meaning of the phrase cannot be deduced
from an analysis of the component words. A useful convention is to cover all
such cases by talking ‘items’ rather than ‘words”

(Ur, 1996, p. 60).

In this sense, the definition by Ur (1996) is favorably satisfying. It also

suggests that vocabulary is bigger than just the meaning of words. It covers a
huge aspect of language and is the medium to express ideas.

2.1.2. Importance of vocabulary and vocabulary learning in

EFL context

In the context of learning English as a Foreign Language, the vital role of

vocabulary is inevitable. This has been claimed by many linguists and
experts in the field. Wilkins (cited in Thornbury, 2002) clearly stated that


“without grammar, very little can be conveyed; without vocabulary, nothing

can be conveyed” (page 13). Coincidentally, Dellar. H and Hocking. D,In no
va ti ons in the same summary from Thornbury (p.13) indicated that progress
made from learning grammar most of the time would be much less than that
from learning vocabulary. To be short and concise, when comparing the
importance of grammar and vocabulary, both mentioned statement above
show that most of learner’s improvement was created when learner
himself/herself learned more words and expressions. It was also emphasized
when it came to communicate that “you can say very little with grammar,
but you can say almost anything with words” (Thornbury, p.13).

In Teaching Practice (Gower, 2005) and co-writers came straight to point

that “vocabulary is important to students – it is more important than
grammar for communication purposes, particularly in the early stages when
students are motivated to learn the basic words they need to get by in the
language” (p.142). This reflects the truth that even when students have
already “done” all the rules in grammar, the lexical system is still “open” for
them to gain more vocabulary. Furthermore, this conclusion deducted the
communicative purpose in learning vocabulary as an ultimate goal for
learning a new language – learning vocabulary is better for communicating
than grammar.

This does not necessarily means lowering the importance of learning

grammar. This merely shows that learning vocabulary play an equally vital
role as grammar, which was once considered to be a superior field in
learning a new language ( Meara, 1980)

The importance or the emphasis on learning vocabulary is furthered

stressed on several course books such as: Cutting Edge Intermediate or

New Headway English Course. On the back of each course book, readers
can be briefly provided with information about focused points of the book,
which includes:

“Strong emphasis on vocabulary, with a particular focus on high

frequency, useful words and phrases.” (Cutting Edge Intermediate).
“Well-defined vocabulary syllabus plus dictionary training
pronunciation practice, including the use of phonetics.” (New Headway
English Course).

It is true that students must learn grammar which can be considered as a

fixed “systematic rule” (Thornbury, 2002). In most language course, the
requirement of learning grammar and vocabulary is often made into
syllabuses, which helps learners get various approaches to the language. As
what Thornbury stated in How to teach vocabulary, grammar is a collection
of rules while vocabulary is a collection of items and “one rule can generate
a great many sentences”, which to some extents implicates that “vocabulary
learning never stops, even long after grammar system is firmly in place, new
words are being coined daily and old words is assuming new meanings” or
in other words, the grammar learning could be mastered at some level
whereas mastering learning vocabulary seems to take more time than that.

The importance of learning vocabulary is also mentioned in many other

researches. Gu in his research paper on Vocabulary learning in a Second
language claimed that vocabulary acquisition is an essential achievement
that one needs to fulfill his/her study in second language (Gu, 2003). He

also emphasized the need for motivation students can get to self – studying
them in this extensive learning requirement. Self – strategies are needed,
thus, they are motivated by how teachers can produce a motivating lessons
to raise students’ interest.

2.1.3. How vocabulary is learned

It is necessary to mention that before knowing techniques in teaching

vocabulary to young learners, there is a thrust for teachers to get the basic
understanding of how vocabulary is learned. Therefore, in the context of this
study, the process of learning or acquiring lexical items would be referred to.

First and foremost, it should be noted that how vocabulary is learned

does not merely refer to knowing a word or a phrase but it also requires the
acquisition of that knowledge. Globally agreed, in terms of goal, learners
need a receptive vocabulary of around 3000 high-frequency words (or words
families) in order to achieve independent user status (An A-Z of ELT,
Thornbury, p.240). It should be notified that “learning any particular words
as being a cumulative process where knowledge is built up over a series of
varied meetings with the word.” (Nation: p.6)

Different aspects of word knowledge are by far summarized by

Cameron (2001: 77) in the table below.
Type of knowledge
What is involved
Receptive knowledge:
To understand it when
it is spoken/written
To recall it when needed