Examples of Lexicon

How large is your lexicon?

"The lexicon," said Leonard Bloomfield, "is really an appendix of the grammar, a list of basic irregularities" (Language, 1933). (H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

A lexicon is the collection of words—or the internalized dictionary—that every speaker of a language has. It is also called lexis. Lexicon may also refer to a stock of terms used in a particular profession, subject or style. The word itself is the Anglicized version of the Greek word "lexis" (which means "word" in Greek). It basically means "dictionary." Lexicology describes the study of lexis and lexicon.

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • The lexicon of soccer (called "football" outside of the United States) includes terms such as linesman, friendly match, yellow card, penalty shootout, pitch, result, and draw.
  • The lexicon of a stock trader includes terms such as delayed quotes, futures contract, limit order, margin account, short selling, stop order, trend line and watch list.

Words by the Numbers

  • "[T]here are currently about 600,000 words in the English language, with educated adults using about 2,000 words in daily conversation. For the 500 most-frequently used words, there are some 14,000 dictionary meanings." (Wallace V. Schmidt, et al., "Communicating Globally." Sage, 2007) 
  • "The English lexicon grew by 70 percent from 1950 to 2000, with roughly 8,500 new words entering the language each year. Dictionaries don't reflect a lot of those words." (Marc Parry, "Scholars Elicit a 'Cultural Genome' From 5.2 Million Google-Digitized Books." "The Chronicle of Higher Education." December 16, 2010)

Myths of Word Learning

  • "If you attend a class on language acquisition, or read any good introductory chapter on the subject, you are likely to learn the following facts about word learning. Children's first words are odd; they have funny meanings that violate certain semantic principles that hold for adult language and are learned in a slow and haphazard way. Then, at about 16 months, or after learning about fifty words, there is a sudden acceleration in the rate of word learning—a word spurt or vocabulary explosion. From this point on, children learn words at the rate of five, ten, or even fifteen new words a day. I will suggest here that none of these claims are true. They are myths of word learning. There is no reason to believe that children's first words are learned and understood in an immature fashion—and there is considerable evidence to the contrary. There is no such thing as word spurt, and two-year-olds are not learning anywhere near five words per day." (Paul Bloom, "Myths of Word Learning." "Weaving a Lexicon," ed. by D. Geoffrey Hall and Sandra R. Waxman. MIT Press, 2004)

Language Acquisition: Grammar and Lexicon

  • "In a review of findings from language development, language breakdown and real-time processing, we conclude that the case for a modular distinction between grammar and the lexicon has been overstated, and that the evidence to date is compatible with a unified lexicalist account. Studies of normal children show that the emergence of grammar is highly dependent upon vocabulary size, a finding confirmed and extended in atypical populations. Studies of language breakdown in older children and adults provide no evidence for a modular dissociation between grammar and the lexicon; some structures are especially vulnerable to brain damage (e.g., function words, non-canonical word orders), but this vulnerability is also observed in neurologically intact individuals under perceptual degradation or cognitive overload. Finally, online studies provide evidence for early and intricate interactions between lexical and grammatical information in normal adults." (Elizabeth Bates and Judith C. Goodman, "On the Inseparability of Grammar and the Lexicon: Evidence from Acquisition, Aphasia and Real-time Processing." "Language and Cognitive Processes." "The Chronicles of Higher Education." December 1997)
  • "Acquisition of the lexicon and acquisition of the grammar are ... parts of a single underlying process." (Jesse Snedeker and Lila R. Gleitman, "Why It Is Hard to Label Our Concepts." Weaving a Lexicon, ed. by D. Geoffrey Hall and Sandra R. Waxman. MIT Press, 2004)
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Nordquist, Richard. "Examples of Lexicon." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-a-lexicon-1691231. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Examples of Lexicon. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-lexicon-1691231 Nordquist, Richard. "Examples of Lexicon." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-lexicon-1691231 (accessed June 8, 2023).