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The Oxford 3000

The Oxford English Dictionary contains 171,476 words in current use.

So we can see that it is almost impossible to give a definitive answer as to how many words there are in English, but how many of them do we actually use?

Research in Applied Linguistics can help course book writers refine their understanding about language and how it works. Studies have shown that the average English native speaker knows about 20,000 words with university-educated people knowing around 40,000 words. When actually speaking and with everyday writing (emails, letters, notes etc.) this goes down to about 5,000 very common words that are used repeatedly.

The Oxford English Dictionary contains 171,476 words in current use, whereas a vocabulary of just 3000 words provides coverage for around 95% of common texts (Hu and Nation, 2000) for a learner to get by in English.

This animation gives an introduction to corpora, in particular the Oxford 3000. The concept of corpus is explained in more detail in week 5.

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Introduction to Applied Linguistics and TESOL

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