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Related to Passive vocabulary: Active vocabulary
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



all the words (the lexicon) of a language, including neologisms, dialect and slang words, and terminology. A vocabulary’s scope and composition depend on the nature and level of the speaker’s economic, social, and cultural life. A vocabulary is an organized system in which words are united or contrasted through various relationships of content, as exemplified by synonyms, homonyms, antonyms, and semantic fields.

Words in frequent and wide use constitute the active vocabulary, and specialized or rarely used words (archaisms, neologisms, and terminology) constitute the passive vocabulary. The boundaries between the active and passive vocabulary are not fixed, and over a language’s course of development words shift from one group to the other. Examples are Russian proshenie (“petition”), prisluga (“maidservant”), guverner (“tutor”), and gorodovoi (“policeman”), which have passed from the active to the passive vocabulary.

Certain words are actively used by all speakers of a language over a lengthy period of history, for example, names of parts of the body or natural phenomena, terms related to kinship, and words designating basic activities, traits, and qualities. Such words are termed the basic vocabulary and are subject to the fewest changes. Frequency dictionaries indicate the relationship between the active and passive vocabulary at a given stage of development, generally within the limits of certain styles, genres, or types of speech.

As society develops, vocabularies continually expand owing to the formation of words through derivation and the assimilation of borrowings. During various epochs words from Scandinavian, Finnish, Turkic, Church Slavonic, Greek, and later from Latin and the Romance and Germanic languages entered the Russian vocabulary, whose base consists of Common Slavic and native Russian words. The vocabulary of German has absorbed words from Latin, French, Italian, English, and several other languages. These layers of borrowed words within a language’s vocabulary reflect the cultural and historical ties between peoples and constitute a proof—sometimes the only proof—of contacts among ancient peoples. Vocabularies are recorded, although not completely, in dictionaries.


Ozhegov, S. I. “K voprosu ob izmeneniiakh slovarnogo sostava russkogo iazyka v sovetskuiu epokhu.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1953, no. 2.
Borovoi, L. Ia. Put’slova, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1963.
Iakubovich, T. D. Novyeslova. Moscow-Leningrad, 1966.
Ufimtseva, A. A. Slovo v leksiko-semanticheskoi sisteme iazyka. Moscow, 1968.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In her article 'The Development of Passive and Active Vocabulary in a Second Language: Same or Different?' she not only measured passive vocabulary size but also the size of active vocabulary.
Meara (1990) cited in Nation (2001:25) prefers to refer to these two concepts as passive and active vocabulary and as "being the result of different types of associations between words." Following this view, active vocabulary may be activated by other words as it has many different connections with other words while passive vocabulary can only be activated by external stimuli, namely by hearing or seeing their forms.
Lately LFP has been used widely among researchers for different purposes: for evaluation of the vocabulary presented in language classrooms (Meara, Lightbown, & Halter, 1997) or textbooks (Milton & Hales, 1997), for analysis of writing development (Lenko-Szymanska 2002; Muncie, 2002), as a predictor of academic and pedagogic performance of TESL trainees (Morris & Cobb, 2004), to study the relationship between active and passive vocabulary knowledge (Laufer, 1998) or to assess lexical richness of spoken productions (Ovtcharov, Cobb, & Halter, 2006).

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