Research emphasises that vocabulary development is essential for the successful acquisition of a language (e.g. Biemiller, 2003; Alexiou et al, 2019). The volume of words learners are familiar with is thought to be a key influence on how well the lexicon functions in all linguistic domains (Webb & Nation, 2017). It is argued, too, that a speaker’s L1 vocabulary may influence success in educational attainment as in the learning of an L2. This paper examines the L1 and L2 vocabulary knowledge of learners in Greek primary schools. The subjects were 411 Greek primary school students, ranging from the first to the sixth grade of primary school. Their vocabulary was assessed using two vocabulary measuring tools: Meara & Milton’s X-Lex (2003) and Alexiou’s Pic-lex (2019) for receptive vocabulary knowledge. Results suggest Greek L1 learners grow a lexicon of a size and at a rate consistent with learners of L1 English and Arabic. There is surprisingly little variation between learners of the same age. These learners grow English L2 vocabulary at an impressively fast rate and, by international comparisons, achieve high levels of communicability by the end of primary education. Again, there is surprisingly little variation. Comparing, L1 and L2 knowledge and progress, it is not clear that L1 vocabulary knowledge can or does influence the learning of the L2.
Keywords: vocabulary, L2 vocabulary, receptive, assessment, young learners, word-gap