We often discuss how many "exposures" we need to learn a word (and depending on your style and definitions, it could be 8 to 12 or even 50+). My impression is that we typically envisage an "exposure" as an instance of encountering a word through reading and listening (i.e., input), perhaps via Anki, and not by saying or writing the word (i.e., output).

I'm wondering if there is a linguistics term along the lines of "exposure" but for output rather than input, i.e., meaning something like an instance of outputting a word through speaking or writing (or even signing, for sign languages).

Question: What is the output-equivalent of the term "exposure"?

  • 3
    production? Though both exposure and production are usually used in broader sense than just a single word.
    – Roger V.
    Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 9:11
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    We don't say output/input a word in the language learning field. You write or say a word. Natural languages are spoken or written.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 18:33
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    @RogerVadim Yes that is the answer. Research papers use terms like "xyz expoures, L2-exposure, etc." and similarly, "xyz productions, production of blahblahblah sound, production of L2, etc." You should make that an Answer.
    – Brandin
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 7:57
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    @Lambie What about 'comprehensible input'? Or is Stephen Krashen the only one using that term. It's true that the terms input and output do not specify whether it's listening to something (in the input case) or reading (in the input case) or writing something (in the output case) or speaking (in the output case). So, yes, that's a caveat of using those terms because they may lack clarity where it's needed.
    – Brandin
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 8:02
  • @Brandin I assume the meaning here to be: After hearing or reading a term, some number of times, you then know it, actively or passively. When I know a word, I can say it and know what it means or I can read it and know what it means. Again, when I then use it, I am not outputting it and when I learn it, I am not inputting it. The insistence on this term input/output does not collocate with human natural language acquisition. Yes, exposure to a word, but NOT input. :)
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


You can learn new words by hearing them or reading them.
Learning new words involves several steps. Learning the word could be considered the final step. It means you know the word and can now use it.

Some people will learn a word the first time they see it or hear it.

Others take more time to internalize a word. There is no rule here.

When I read or hear a new word, I tend to repeat the word out loud.

Exposure is not some linguistic term for hearing/reading a new word. Of course, we might say that some people are exposed to new words but don't bother to learn their meanings or how to say them.

That said, a word can have three basic "destinies":

But let's just say words, plural.

  • You can forget them. That does happen.
  • You remember them and the meaning but don't use them. That is called having a passive vocabulary.
  • You remember them and use them: That is called having an active vocabulary.

Many people will, over the course of some number of years or their lifetime, encounter new words, look them up and never use them again. They become part of their passive vocabulary.

I think the idea you seem to be reaching for is:

  • Learning a word or new words [end process]
  • Being able to use those words either in writing or speaking.

Production of words is not a language learning term.

In language learning, one sees terms like increasing one's vocabulary, or enriching one's vocabulary. And the topic is usually called: vocabulary acquisition.

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