A vocabulary is a list of words.
The number of words in a language is more than that. A dictionary is a list of words, and explains the meanings of the words. One dictionary may have a list of 500,000 (half a million) words. Another dictionary may have some other words that the other dictionary does not have. When you add all the words in those dictionaries, there are about 750,000 words in English. There may be more words than that.
If there are 750,000 words, how can we talk with only 3000 words? Because, we do not need all the words. You can say most things with 3000 words.
The vocabulary of a language is always changing. New words are made or words change their meaning. Words about computers, like "download" are new to the English language. The new word "bling" came from hip hop. Words like "cool" have developed new meanings.
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References[change | change source]
- Nation, Paul, and Robert Waring. 1997. Vocabulary size, text coverage and word lists. Vocabulary: Description, acquisition and pedagogy, 6-19. 
- Goulden R; Nation P. & Read J. 1990. How large can a receptive vocabulary be? Applied Linguistics 11: 341-363.
- Crystal, David 1995. The Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language. Cambridge University Press, p119, p423.
- Adolphs and Schmitt 2003. Lexical coverage of spoken discourse.
- Zipf G.K. 1949. Human behavior and the principle of least effort. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley.
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