Vocabulary knowledge can be defined as knowledge of word meanings. However, because this knowledge can be variable, we need to distinguish between vocabulary breadth and vocabulary depth. Both vocabulary breadth and vocabulary depth are important for reading success, in different but overlapping ways.
Vocabulary depth refers to the quality of the entry recorded against a particular word in a person’s mental dictionary (or lexicon). Words which are more deeply known will have richer entries and more connections to other words in the mental lexicon (e.g., to synonyms, antonyms or words that occur in similar contexts). They will be words a person can actively use.
Vocabulary depth contributes to reading comprehension. Words are stored in an interconnected network in our minds. This means that when we recognise a word (e.g., ‘fox’), we activate both knowledge about that individual word and knowledge of related words, concepts, facts and memories that we have connected to that word (e.g., ‘hunt’, ‘wild’, ‘red’, ‘sly as a fox’). It is this rich, interconnected knowledge base (or our vocabulary depth) that drives good reading comprehension.
Want to drop us a line? You can get in touch by filling out the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!