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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 16th, 2010, 07:49 am
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Default The adjective to modify "vocabulary"

Hello. I'm new here.
I would like to know the proper adjectives to modify the noun "vocabulary".

(Wanting to mean "small" )
I have poor vocabulary in English.
I have poor English vocabulary.
My English vocabulary is poor.
My English vocabulary is short.
My English vocabulary is small.

(Wanting to express "big")
I have a lot of vocabulary in English.
I have much English vocabulary.
I have advanced English vocabulary.

Which is correct and which is not correct?
How do you say, meaning "small" and "big"?
////////

And one more thing;
"Vocabulary" is a countable noun, so I had better use it as "vocabularies" ?
I somehow feel "vocabulary" is not a countable noun in this context.

Thank you.
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Unread Nov 16th, 2010, 08:50 am
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Default Re: The adjective to modify "vocabulary"

Hi Sue,

Negative:
- My English vocabulary is small.
- My English vocabulary is poor.
- My English vocabulary is limited.

Positive:
- My English vocabulary is excellent.
- My English vocabulary is large.
- My English vocabulary is rich.
- My English vocabulary is good.
- My English vocabulary is great.
- My English vocabulary is impeccable.

Are these all fine?
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Nov 16th, 2010, 08:57 am
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Default Re: The adjective to modify "vocabulary"

vocabulary can be countable or uncountable:

1. With the meaning "some words" it's uncountable and singular : Today we're going to learn some vocabulary.
2. With the meaning "a person's total knowledge of the lexis of a language it's countable and singular : She's grammatically inaccurate but she has a good vocabulary.
3. It's countable and plural when used as a synonym for dictionaries, and especially in technical contexts such as computer programming.

You sometimes used it with meaning 1 and sometimes with meaning 2, so the grammar changes. For example :

She only has a small vocabulary / She doesn't have a very large vocabulary (= meaning 1, countable)
or
She knows a lot of vocabulary / She doesn't know much vocabulary ( = meaning 2 - uncountable)

You could also say :

Her vocabulary is poor/not very good /limited/adequate /good /excellent.

She has a basic level of vocabulary
Her vocabulary is at advanced level


She has/doesn't have) a wide (range of) vocabulary.
She has a restricted /limited range of vocabulary.
She lacks vocabulary.


However, it's difficult to give clear rules here about when you can use which adjective. It depends on things like :
- Are you using meaning 1 or 2?
- Is the sentence affirmative or negative?
- Is an adverb (quite, very etc) used to modify the adjective?
- Are you also using an expression like "range of" or "level of" ?

It's a complex area. if you use one of the expressions I've given above, exactly as I've included them, it will be OK. However, if you change the sentence from affirmative to negative, omit the adverb etc, it may no longer sound right.

One way to check is to type the phrase you want to use into Google and see if it comes up frequently. Use inverted commas to search for the complete phrase - eg "I have a large vocabulary" or "my vocabulary is limited"
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Unread Nov 16th, 2010, 04:12 pm
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Default Re: The adjective to modify "vocabulary"

Thank you very much, susan53, for your detailed explanation and the information about Google. It became clearer now.

I just searched;
"English vocabulary is XX"
XX.........numbers hit
limited....26700
poor........2490
small.........256
lacking......239
short..........49

good......1870
rich....... .416
excellent..254
large........211
great.......171
adequate.....2

According to your advice, I wrote example sentences.

I've learned three languages; Japanese, English and German in my life. So I have three vocabularies. My Japanese vocabulary is, I would like to believe, adequate, because it is my native tongue. My English vocabulary is limited but I can communicate to some extent for international communication by using English. Whereas, my German vocabulary is so limited that I can only speak some greeting expressions.

Is my understanding about the usage of plural of "vocabulary" correct in this context?

Thank you.
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Unread Nov 17th, 2010, 03:00 am
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Default Re: The adjective to modify "vocabulary"

Interesting research!

No - you can't say I have three vocabularies. Remeber what I said - the plural is only used as (and rarely) a synonym for dictionaries or in technical terminology like computer programming. (Meaning 3 above). You'd have to say : I have three languages.

However your use of vocabulary in the other sentences is fine.
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Unread Nov 17th, 2010, 04:09 am
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Default Re: The adjective to modify "vocabulary"

Hi Sue,

Quote:
Quote susan53 View Post
However your use of vocabulary in the other sentences is fine.
Is my use of the term fine too?
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Unread Nov 17th, 2010, 05:09 am
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Default Re: The adjective to modify "vocabulary"

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Quote susan53 View Post
No - you can't say I have three vocabularies. Remember what I said - the plural is only used as (and rarely) a synonym for dictionaries or in technical terminology like computer programming. (Meaning 3 above). You'd have to say : I have three languages.
Thank you, I got it. (Maybe, this time. )


In brief, I don't have to use the plural of that word in my daily life myself, because I'm not a computer programmer or a dictionary-editor.

I only have the opportunity to read/hear the plural when I read/hear something related to dictionaries/computer programming.

I tried to make such an unlikely-in-my-daily-life context;
C3PO (of STAR WARS) is a human-shaped translation-droid, which can speak thousands of languages fluently. Its program has been installed thousands of vocabularies throughout the galaxy.

I hope my understanding is corrected toward the right track this time.
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Unread Nov 17th, 2010, 12:41 pm
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Default Re: The adjective to modify "vocabulary"

Quote:
Quote Oden View Post
Hi Sue,
Is my use of the term fine too?
No. Fine is only used in affirmative sentences, for example :

How are you?
I'm fine.
But not : *I'm not fine / *Are you fine? (The asterisk means it's not correct.)

So, a conversation might go :

Is that OK?
Yes, that's fine
or
No, it's not OK

with OK being used instead of fine in interrogative/negative contexts.

So your use of fine was wrong because you used it in an interrogative.

This is what is called colligation - the tendency for a word to occur, or be restricted to, specific grammatical contexts. It happens quite a lot and is one of the things that makes language learning soooo difficult.
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Unread Nov 17th, 2010, 12:55 pm
Sue
 
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Default Re: The adjective to modify "vocabulary"

Quote:
Quote Supperman View Post
I tried to make such an unlikely-in-my-daily-life context;
C3PO (of STAR WARS) is a human-shaped translation-droid, which can speak thousands of languages fluently. Its program has been installed thousands of vocabularies throughout the galaxy.

I hope my understanding is corrected toward the right track this time.
I still don't like it, because you are talking about real languages rather than computer languages. As I said "vocabularies" in a technical context doesn't mean "lists of words" but lists of commands. So for example, some items from html vocabulary are <br>, <i> and <center> - not words necessarily but code. Have a look here for more examples.

So again, in this context I'd use languages.
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Unread Nov 17th, 2010, 05:57 pm
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Default Re: The adjective to modify "vocabulary"

Quote:
Quote susan53 View Post
I still don't like it, because you are talking about real languages rather than computer languages. As I said "vocabularies" in a technical context doesn't mean "lists of words" but lists of commands. So for example, some items from html vocabulary are <br>, <i> and <center> - not words necessarily but code. Have a look here for more examples.

So again, in this context I'd use languages.
Thank you, for your patience.
Probably I finally got it.
It seems that I will never encounter "vocabularies" in my life.
I am a complete stranger about machine languages.

Thank you very much, susan53.
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