Grammar

Difference Between Lexicon and Vocabulary

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Main Difference

The main difference between Lexicon and Vocabulary is that Lexicon is the linguistic information about a specific word, whereas Vocabulary is an individual’s knowledge about words.

Lexicon vs. Vocabulary

Lexicon is the linguistic information about a specific word, whereas Vocabulary is an individual’s knowledge about words. Lexicon is a broader term as it refers to all the knowledge about a word; on the other hand, vocabulary is a limited-term as it refers to a person’s knowledge about some words. Lexicon is more accurate as compared to vocabulary.

Lexicon covers all the possible meanings of a word, whereas vocabulary is limited, a person knows two to three meanings of a word. Lexicon covers not only meanings but also usage of words in different contexts; on the flip side, vocabulary is only knowledge about the meanings of words. Lexicon can be a book containing information about words; conversely, vocabulary is a list of words and their meanings that a person has.

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Lexicon often describes the meaning of word relevant to its linguistic context; opposingly, vocabulary merely describes the meaning of a word. Lexicon refers to a large collection of words; on the other hand, vocabulary refers to a group of words that are commonly used by a person. Lexicon also covers the words of ancient that are not in usage; conversely, vocabulary refers to words that are in usage presently.

Lexicon symbolizes the linguistic meanings of a word as well as vocabulary; on the other hand, vocabulary symbolizes the word bank of meanings of an individual. Lexicon is a less popular term as compared to vocabulary. Lexicon can be documented or in mind, but the vocabulary is not in a documented or written form.

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Comparison Chart

LexiconVocabulary
A lexicon is defined as linguistic information about a word.Vocabulary is a person’s knowledge regarding a list of words that he uses actively.
Scope
Broader termLimited-term
Accuracy
More accurateLess accurate
Coverage
It covers the meanings of words and their usage.Meanings of words only.
Book Form
PresentAbsent
Linguistic Context
Describes meaning in the linguistic contextDoes not describe meaning in the particular linguistic context
Reference
Refers to a collection of wordsRefers to a list of words
Ancient Words
It contains the knowledge of ancient words.It contains knowledge words in use presently.
Symbolization
Symbolizes vocabulary and linguistic meaningsSymbolizes word bank of the meaning of an individual
Documentation
Present in documented formNot present in documented form
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What is Lexicon?

A lexicon is a piece of linguistic information about a word. It is mostly in documented or written form. Thesaurus, dictionaries, and other books all are categorized as a lexicon. Lexicon is also called word stock or word book. It covers all the possible meanings of a word along with their usage in particular linguistic contexts. Lexicon is a broader term and refers to word book as well as vocabulary.

Lexicon covers both the word stock i.e., possible synonyms and grammatical rules that a word follows. It includes all the free and bound morphemes, simple and compound words as well as idiomatic expressions. Lexicon covers its meaning, usage, and grammatical category. Lexicons cover the morphological and phonological expressions of a word. The morphological expression means its grammatical form, and phonological expression means its sound.

New words keep in adding the lexicon by a process called lexicalization. Neologism is the word that refers to new words added in the lexicon. The process of the addition of new words is quite interesting. Sometimes a word is borrowed from some other language. That word is used by writers to refer to some expression, and if it gains acceptance in a speech community, it becomes part of the lexicon.

Mostly lexicons are arranged in alphabetical order with various meanings and synonyms of a word being given in a book. Sentences are also given as an example to show the usage of a word in a particular linguistic context. There is always a relationship between word and meaning; it is called philosophy.

What is Vocabulary?

Vocabulary is a person’s knowledge regarding a list of words that he uses actively. Vocabulary is a limited-term as it covers only the meanings of words that are under the knowledge of an individual. It develops with time as an individual’s learning increases. Vocabulary is an essential tool for communication as a man is a social animal.

The concept and meaning of every word differ from person to person. There is a specific list of words that a person uses constantly. The intensity and the intended meaning differs with everyone. Vocabulary is a more popular word used to refer to meanings of words and their usage. But vocabulary only covers two to three meanings of words in common. Also, it does not tell about their usage in linguistic concepts.

Vocabulary is of two suites active and passive. Active vocabulary consists of those words which are in the knowledge of the speaker, and he uses them efficiently in his speech. Passive vocabulary comprises of those words which a person has heard but is inapt to make out their meanings. Sometimes he understands them but does not use them.

The process of vocabulary building starts at infancy. A child learns vocabulary by hearing and learns facial expressions. Then as he grows up, he starts to produce different voices, then he starts uttering a few words, and finally, he starts making sentences. When he starts learning, he knows a new word every day, and this is how vocabulary increases.

Key Differences

  1. Lexicon is the linguistic information about a specific word, whereas Vocabulary is an individual’s knowledge about words.
  2. Lexicon is a broader term as it refers to all the knowledge about a word; on the other hand, vocabulary is a limited-term as it refers to a person’s knowledge about some words.
  3. Lexicon is more accurate as compared to vocabulary.
  4. Lexicon covers all the possible meanings of a word, whereas vocabulary is limited, a person knows two to three meanings of a word.
  5. Lexicon covers not only meanings but also usage of words in different contexts; on the flip side, vocabulary is only knowledge about the meanings of words.
  6. Lexicon can be a book containing information about words; conversely, vocabulary is a list of words and their meanings that a person has.
  7. Lexicon often describes the meaning of word relevant to its linguistic context; opposingly, vocabulary merely describes the meaning of a word.
  8. Lexicon refers to a large collection of words; on the other hand, vocabulary refers to a group of words that are commonly used by a person.
  9. Lexicon also covers the words of ancient that are not in usage; conversely, vocabulary refers to words that are in usage presently.
  10. Lexicon symbolizes the linguistic meanings of a word as well as vocabulary; on the other hand, vocabulary symbolizes the word bank of meanings of an individual.
  11. Lexicon can be documented or in mind, but the vocabulary is not in a documented or written form.

Conclusion

So, a lexicon is a broader term and covers all the possible meanings of a word, whereas vocabulary is a limited-term that refers to a list of words known by a person.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

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