A vocabulary is a list of words.
The number of words in a language is more than that. A dictionary is a book with a list of words and that explains how to use 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 750,000 words. There may be more words than that.
If there are 750,0000 words, how can we talk with only 3000 words? Because, we do not need all the words. You only need 3000 words to say what you need to say. The most used words are short words. That is true in all languages. The 50 most common words in English have less than seven letters. Half of the words have less than four letters.
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. "Vocabulary size, text coverage and word lists." Vocabulary: Description, acquisition and pedagogy (1997): 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. http://applij.oxfordjournals.org/content/24/4/425.full.pdf+html
- Zipf G.K. 1949. Human behavior and the principle of least effort. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley.
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