Prof Marc Brysbaert, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Gent (Belgium), has won the NVP popularization award 2014 in the category “MULTIMEDIA” for his groundbreaking research “Het taalonderzoek” (http://www.npowetenschap.nl/programmas/grootnationaalonderzoek/onderzoeken/het-taal-onderzoek.html)

About his research:

We started our vocabulary research from the observation that some words rarely encountered in books and television programs, are generally known. This goes against the tenet that word frequency is the best variable to predict word knowledge and speed of processing. Apparently, some words are acquired very rapidly (probably after a single encounter) or can be processed on the basis of prior knowledge (e.g., in the case of low frequency derived words). To find out how well words are known, we set up a short vocabulary test that was fun to do. As it was important to have many responses from a wide audience, we were happy to collaborate with the media (television, radio, newspapers). In the end, more than 2% of the Dutch speaking population (i.e., more than 440,000 persons) took part in the test so far. Preliminary analyses indicate that the percentage of people of who know a word (a variable we call word prevalence) explains as much variability in word processing times as word frequency and, in addition, is largely complementary to word frequency. This will seriously enhance our understanding of word learning and word processing. At the same time, the outcome of our research is also a nice historical document of Dutch word knowledge at the beginning of the 21st century. The data are freely available on the web, but are now also available as a book (http://www.academiapress.be/woordenkennis-van-nederlanders-en-vlamingen-anno-2013.html), for those who love to leaf through pages.