Russian Language Journal


vocabulary, reading, comprehension, Russia, knowledge


Traditionally, the link between vocabulary mastery and reading comprehension has been examined through the prism of lexical thresholds and vocabulary coverage (Milton 2009). Lexical thresholds represent the most frequent words in a language (i.e., lemmas, or dictionary forms of a word) and usually come in increments of 1,000. In relation to the Russian National Corpus, knowledge of the 1,000 most frequent lemmas allows for comprehension of 60% of a text’s vocabulary, 2,000 lemmas – 69%, and 10,000 – 85% (Lyashevskaya and Sharoff 2009, v). These figures support an earlier estimation by Brown (1996, 2), who claimed (without elaborating on what grounds) that a passive knowledge of the 8,000–10,000 most frequent lexemes allows for “reasonable confidence” in reading Russian for general purposes.