The Percentage of Words Known in a Text and Reading Comprehension

Norbert Schmitt, Xiangying Jiang, William P Grabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

127 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study focused on the relationship between percentage of vocabulary known in a text and level of comprehension of the same text. Earlier studies have estimated the percentage of vocabulary necessary for second language learners to understand written texts as being between 95% (Laufer, 1989) and 98% (Hu & Nation, 2000). In this study, 661 participants from 8 countries completed a vocabulary measure based on words drawn from 2 texts, read the texts, and then completed a reading comprehension test for each text. The results revealed a relatively linear relationship between the percentage of vocabulary known and the degree of reading comprehension. There was no indication of a vocabulary "threshold," where comprehension increased dramatically at a particular percentage of vocabulary knowledge. Results suggest that the 98% estimate is a more reasonable coverage target for readers of academic texts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-43
Number of pages18
JournalModern Language Journal
Volume95
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2011

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comprehension
vocabulary
Reading Comprehension
Text Comprehension
indication
coverage
Vocabulary
language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics

Cite this

The Percentage of Words Known in a Text and Reading Comprehension. / Schmitt, Norbert; Jiang, Xiangying; Grabe, William P.

In: Modern Language Journal, Vol. 95, No. 1, 03.2011, p. 26-43.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Schmitt, Norbert ; Jiang, Xiangying ; Grabe, William P. / The Percentage of Words Known in a Text and Reading Comprehension. In: Modern Language Journal. 2011 ; Vol. 95, No. 1. pp. 26-43.
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