I've encountered following phrase:
a vocabulary of between 10,000 and 15,000 words
Is this phrase correct? Can
of be followed by
between in this case?
Yes, it is grammatical but a little informal. 'of between' looks unnatural because of the two adjacent prepositions. A more formal way of saying it would be:
a vocabulary ranging between 10,000 and 15,000
The informality of the original 'a vocabulary of between...' comes from treating the prepositional phrase 'between X and Y' as an object, as a range. How big is the vocabulary? Somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000. It is a vocabulary of that range, or
a vocabulary (of (between 10,000 and 15,000))
There are other instance of adjacent prepositions at the beginning of a prepositional phrase, but they seem to be of a different sort than this 'range' example. There's 'out of' and 'in to' and one could think of 'into' and 'upon' as the same sort. These examples seem to have evolved from reduplication for emphasis.
The phenomenon of a 'phrasal verb' followed by a prepositional phrase is also quite different. "She dashed off to her room.", where the 'off' 'dashed off' is part of the verb.
Perhaps the person asking the original question wonders whether "a vocabulary between 10,000 and 15,000 words" (omitting "of") is sufficient--or indeed preferable to "a vocabulary of between 10,000 and 15,000 words." I frequently see sentences that omit "of" in similar circumstances--for example, "Stores sell them at prices up to $1000," instead of "Stores sell them at prices of up to $1000."
If that's the issue, I would say that including "of" is better than omitting it, on the theory that making an implied preposition explicit is better than requiring readers to infer it.
"... vocabulary of between ..." has 3,850 hits on Google Books. So, we can say that the phrase is correct.
Furthermore, analogous 'structures' (of followed by between) have many hits on Google Books:
"... time of between ..."; 55,700 hits (These periodicities ranged between .022 and .10 Hz, which corresponds to a cycle time of between 45 and 10 seconds), Time and human cognition: a life-span perspective;
"... length of between ..."; 63,200 hits (...having an average length of between 70 and 135 mm.), Industrial Applications of Natural Fibres: Structure, Properties ...;
"... area of between ..."; 75,700 hits (... said spring metal wires having a silhouette area of between about 17% a '. about 75% of the area of said assembly, the em, ty space between the coated wires occupying from about 2% to about 75 % of the area of the assembly), Official gazette of the United States Patent Office: Patents: Volume 927;
"... volume of between ..."; 33,000 hits (Depending upon the manufacturer, the engine had a swept volume of between 2.9 and 3 .5 litres ...), The encyclopedia of weapons of World War II.
The following references are referred to your specific case (vocabulary of between):
Grammar and writing - Page 10, Rebecca Stott, Peter Chapman [→]
"... speakers and writers we have already acquired the following: • a vocabulary of between 40000 and 50000 words and an ability to understand about half as many again • at least a thousand aspects of grammatical construction, ..."
The Royal Society of Medicine encyclopedia of children's health - Page 203, Robert Youngson, Royal Society of Medicine (Great Britain) [→]
"The average toddler of 18 months has a vocabulary of between 20 and 50 words, depending ..."
English Language and Literary Criticism - Page 117, A.s. Kharbe [→]
"A Pidgin is characterized by a small vocabulary of between a few hundred and a thousand ..."
I don't see a problem. It conveys a coherent idea.
Suppose the writer said, "He has a vocabularly of 10,000 words." That would certainly be a perfectly valid sentence. So the writer wants to indicate a range. He writes, "... a vocabularly of between 10,000 and 15,000 words".
I don't think there's any rule that you can't have two prepositions in a row. (Or if there is, it should be ignored.) How about, "The plane fell FROM ABOVE the clouds"? Where did it fall from? It fell from a place above the clouds.
"I ran TO NEAR exhaustion." I didn't run to exhaustion, but to a state near it.