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Lexis 1
Lexicographical research began in the 1980s and marked a turning point in the communicative syllabus design and in language teaching. It led many to rethink the nature of language and the role of vocabulary. Some of the first lexically-driven coursebooks were developed in the late 1980s and the units were built around topics and language areas that systematically encouraged the learning of lexis. Previously language had mainly been perceived as ‘words’ but work in computational linguistics and corpus analysis led to considerable interest in chunks of language. The Lexical Approach differs from Chomsky’s Rule Governed Process as the lexical approach sees language use as consisting of a process of retrieval of larger phrasal units from memory. The Lexical Approach is an approach to language teaching that has chosen vocabulary (i.e. lexis) as the main focus for syllabus design and classroom teaching, and was developed by Michael Lewis in the 1980s. This contrasts with traditional approaches which tend to focus on grammar. The lexical approach emerged out of developments in corpus linguistics, especially research into collocation and word frequency. Corpus research has shown that a great deal of language use is highly predictable, and that the choice of words that go with a given word is often tightly constrained, not just by grammar, but by habits of association. An implication of corpus-based research is that grammar and lexis should pay more attention to conventionalized lexicogrammatical units i.e. semi-fixed units comprised of words and grammar structures, since these contribute extensively to native speaker fluency. A Corpus can be defined as a collection of texts (either spoken or written) which can be analysed for linguistic features. A Concordance refers to a list of all of the ways a word is used in a particular text or set of texts and are useful to study word frequencies, grammar, and discourse. Priming refers to the process by which, through repeated encounters a word gathers particular associations. Words can be primed to occur with other words (as in collocations), with particular meanings (called semantic associations), or with particular grammatical expressions (sometimes called colligation). Michael Lewis proposed that ‘language consists of grammaticialized lexis, not lexicalised grammar’. This means that instead of just slotting words into previously learned grammatical structures, we draw on a huge bank of memorized words, phrases and
DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1

free morphemes that cannot be further subdivided (e. and over-ambitious. wastepaper bin). A lexeme can be defined as the underlying form of a word that can only belong to one word class and are lexical items that function as a single meaning unit.  the + way + noun + verb. adjectives. adverbs.g. affixes) (e. talking).g. Traditionally lexis was viewed as consisting mainly of single word items with possibly a few ‘expressions’ or multiword items such as idioms and phrasal verbs. for example: The way we were. verbs. dark. Words are the most familiar type of lexical item and can be defined as free-standing items of language that have meaning. or prepositions. A derived word is a root word that has bound morphemes attached at the beginning and/or end (i. Root words are single.  the + way + adverbial. waters. for example: all the way home. A syllabus based on these high frequency words is arguably more useful than a list of grammatical structures. because it is based on actual usage. the word way is one of the most frequent words in English and is commonly found in these patterns:  way + of + -ing.e. and other fixed phrases (such as ‘Let’s face it’). bi-nomials (such as ‘to and fro’). Compound words are words that consist of more than one root word but have a single concept or identity (e.2 collocations. watering. but it is a different lexeme in each case. tri-nomials (such as ‘tall. and differ in meaning from the individual components.g.e. talk). for example: There’s no way of knowing. Multiword units include idioms (such as ‘to pass the buck’). A multiword unit may look like a clause with a verb and an object but the meaning cannot be worked out by cutting it up and the form is fossilised to varying degrees. DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1 . memory stick. Compound words can be nouns. and handsome’). As a rule of thumb. downsize. For example. the word water has a similar meaning when it is used as a noun and when it is used as a verb. they are inflections). and watered are grammatically distinct forms of the same lexeme (i. Forms such as water. regardless of their different derived forms (or the number of words that make them up). For example. dictionary entries are usually organised into lexemes as opposed to individual words. Multiword units (or lexical phrases) are recurring fixed forms that consist of more than one word. For example. as opposed to linguistic theory. Lexis can be defined as the vocabulary of a language as opposed to its grammar.

and education. Meronyms are different from hyponyms in that cheek. and bus (which are all cohyponyms). of meat. and eye are all parts of the face. drive – verb. However. but parts of it. transport is the superordinate of train. the words drive. fish. so that a learner might say ‘Bring me the tip’ as opposed to ‘Bring me the bill.’ Hyponyms – Are words which belong to the same lexical category. etc.3 Idioms are expressions which function as a single unit and whose meaning cannot be worked out from its constituent parts. there are very few words that are truly synonymous:  They may not collocate with the same words – for example. However. banana. tongue. because they relate to a particular topic or situation. For example. steering wheel. Lexical Field – A lexical field is a particular category of words. living room. which are then further subdivided into lexical sets. and sitting room. etc.g. For example lounge. cereal. car. a costly building pen. Fruit itself can be a hyponym (e. Meronyms – Words that have a relation in semantic meaning based on a whole-part relationship. and orange are all part of the lexical set of fruit. all belong to the lexical set ‘car’. are not types of face. For example. kiwi. home. She washed her hands of the matter. etc. are all examples of lexical fields. e. these close associations can at times result in ‘errors of interference’. plane. For example. but not a costly pen. and reverse. DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1 . steering wheel – noun. eyebrow. Lexical Set – A lexical set is a set of words that all share a meaning relationship. Most vocabulary teaching is organized around lexical sets (such as furniture. jobs. For example. cheek.) based on the principle that it is both easier to teach and to learn words that are closely associated. Superordinate – A word which is more generic than a given word or words. sports. Synonyms are words that have a similar or same meaning. windscreen. apple. sports. chin. For example. tongue.) with the superordinate food. They may be different parts of speech. hand-brake.g. For example. pear. such that X is a type of Y.

and also the ‘knowledge’ of a word – how many meanings do you have to know before you can say that you ‘know’ a word? DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1 . since something can be rather hot. For example ‘foot’ at the bottom of a mountain. a baseball bat. and dry/sweet. literal. and to bat your eyelashes. Homographs can be defined as words that are written the same way but pronounced differently (such as a long and windy road vs. and ‘foot’ at the bottom of the leg (i. The polysemous nature of many words in English complicates the task of learning vocabulary. However. a small piece of wood. or lend and borrow. a dark and windy night). formal/informal. and two). too. a vampire bat. and married and single). such as buy and sell. English is particularly rich in homonyms. or a chip meaning a piece of deepfried potato. They may be a different style e. but have different meanings. For example.  Ungradable such as alive and dead (since something cannot be rather alive or very dead). They may have different syntactic behaviour (known as colligation). light/heavy. Antonym – A word that has the opposite meaning to a given word. or a small electronic component (all referring to a small piece of some solid material) are also polysemes. modern.g. or alive and dead. or very cold. Alive and Dead are nongradable opposites known as complementaries (other examples are male and female. Polysemy – Polysemy occurs when one word has more than one related meaning. Homonym – Homonyms are words that are written and pronounced the same way. archaic. the relationship of oppositeness (or antonymy) can be further divided into:  Gradable such as hot and cold. light/dark or dry/wet. such as hot and cold.g.4     They may not have exactly the same meaning/connotations. there is something related about the different uses). Lift/Elevator. Many words may have more than one antonym e. They may be related to a particular form of English e. whereas Homophones are words that are written differently but pronounced the same way (such as to.  Converse whereby the antonyms are in a reciprocal relationship.g.e.

lucky charm). Phrasal verbs are difficult for many learners as they are not always idiomatic. This means that they are not generated word by word but are stored in the memory and are retrieved as if they were one-word vocabulary items.g. Collocations – Collocations are words that frequently occur together. For example – look up (adverb) (a word in a dictionary). and is usually only used for highly restricted technical terms. a clenched fist. take. well established Lexis 1 DELTA Module 1 . look up to (someone). seriously affect. brush up Idioms – e. take advantage). to cut a long story short Formulaic language can be fixed or semi-fixed.g. but not clenched eyes. For example Apartheid. or both). For example. Formulaic Language can be defined as sequences of two or more words that operate as a single unit. Phrasal verbs can be separable or inseparable. look after (preposition) (the children). stale bread. live dangerously. get up.g. or lexical collocations as when two content words regularly co-occur (such as a narrow escape.g. or make) collocates with a particular noun (such as do homework. log on.g. by the way. rich and famous Phrasal verbs – e. densely populated. Collocations can be:      Adjective + noun e. or a preposition. make ends meet Discourse markers – e.g. pressure group. deeply offend Adverb + adjective e. highly successful.g. An advantage of having formulaic language is that it saves planning and can aid fluency. Phrasal Verbs – a combination of a verb and one or more particles (either an adverb.g. death threat Verb + adverb e. or clenched teeth. part and parcel. Formulaic language can be categorized as:     Collocations – e. depend on. tight security Noun + noun e.5 Monosemous word – A word that has only one meaning.g. The relation between the words may be grammatical collocations (Colligation) as when certain verbs collocate with particular prepositions (e. work hard Adverb + verb e. and also sounds more native speaker-like.g. account for) or when a verb (commonly do.

or ‘Merry Christmas’. are not derivatives of care. Synonyms.6 Collocation may be more or less ‘strong’. light can be ‘luz’ or ‘ligado’ in Spanish. please’. while careless and careful are adjectives. careful. cognates can also cause difficulty for the learners because of false cognates/friends. For example care. For example. False friend/false cognate – False Friends are words that look the same in different languages but have a different meaning such as the Spanish constipado and constipated. By contrast. Drawing attention to Cognates in the leaner’s L1 can be a useful way of increasing vocabulary with little effort. Using texts to highlight particular collocations and teaching words with their most common collocations are two ways of approaching the problem. and carefree. or embarazado and embarrassed. Polysemy. Metaphors. for example ‘same again. Schwimmen in German and Swim in English are cognates. make. such as we ‘went the incorrect way‘ (instead of wrong way). because the words are derived from a source that was once common to both. The new words can belong to different word classes. as in care and carer being nouns. careful etc. For example. and cared. For example. but are inflections (Inflections all belong to the same word class). ‘spring to mind’ and ‘foot the bill’ are strong collocations. such as dire straits. However. Careless. especially those with do. since each only collocates with a few other words. DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1 . grammatical forms of care such as cares. are all derivatives of care in that they are formed through the process of affixation. careless. and this can account for many errors. Cognates – Cognates are words which have the same (or very similar) forms/meanings in two languages. Fixed expression – Fixed Expressions are chunks of language whose constituent parts never change. but have different affixes. carer. Some weak collocations should be taught and highlighted. and Collocations change between languages and it is not always possible to translate one homonym to another language. and these have acquired the status of fixed expressions in formulaic language. caring. take. or spick and span. but a ‘nice car’ is a weak collocation since both nice and car collocate with many words. Learners often lack intuitions as to which words go with which. Word Family – Word Families are groups of words (derivatives) that share the same common root. Homonyms. However. or have. The strongest collocations are those where both of the elements never (or very rarely) occur without the other. uncaring.

adjectives (the open classes – since new words are being added nearly on a daily basis) and pronouns. such as nouns.000 word families. the) demonstratives (this. that. many people. ‘lots of’. etc) The choice of determiner depends on whether the noun that follows is countable or uncountable e. which. those. under. on. an. hers. etc.7 mothercare and caretaker. determiners. well. so. For example:       articles (a. it is more accurate to say that they need 3. ‘a few of’. one. DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1 . For example.g. The concept of a word family is useful for compiling vocabulary lists and in estimating the vocabulary needs of a learner – rather that saying that a learner needs 3. etc. who prepositions – like.000 words to achieve independent user status. because Determiners are words that come before a noun. his. few. much food vs. ‘both of’. ‘most of’. this adverbs – slowly.) numerals (both cardinal and ordinal) wh. and function to limit the meaning of the noun in some way. any.) quantifiers (some. prepositions. adverbs. Word Class – A group of words that from a grammatical point of view behave in the same way. are not part of the same word family as they incorporate words from other roots. someone. etc. Quantifiers are words or phrases which specify quantity or amount and can proceed nouns (as determiners) or stand on their own (as pronouns). these) possessives (my.         nouns verbs adjectives pronouns – we. at determiners – some. no.determiners (what. and conjunctions (the closed classes – since they are fairly fixed). often conjunctions – and. your. verbs. whose.

Also worth noting that the form of a word is not always a reliable guide to its word class. instead. Hedging is a way of making opinions less assertive. when. clauses and sentences. For example. Hedging is the opposite of intensifying. Intensifiers are words such as very. and brightness and length are formed from the adjectives bright and long. in summary. and verbs by heightening or lowering their intensity. adverbs. moreover. and many are very versatile in this respect – well for example can be a noun. etc. etc. and an adverb. For example. and absolutely that modify adjectives. Conjunctions can be Coordinating which join together two clauses of equal ranks (e. flying and flight are formed from the verb to fly. Important to note that some words can belong to more than one word class. but is an adjective. Intensifiers are particularly common in spoken language. on the other hand.g. Nominalisation – The process by which nouns are formed from other word classes (parts of speech). as. etc. singular or plural). for example. Nominalisation is often more common in written and formal English. therefore.g. a verb. what’s more. There are many different types of linkers:       Additive (and. Conjunctions are words which join together words. Linkers (also called conjuncts) join what has already been said with what follows.) Linkers are one of the ways that cohesion is achieved in texts.e. if.) Resultative (so. The number of conjunctions in a text can be used to measure the text’s complexity. phrases. so) or Subordinating which join together a subordinate clause and a main clause (e. for example by reducing the force of an adjective. DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1 . etc.8 The choice of quantifier is often determined by whether the noun that follows in uncountable or countable (and if so. next. as a result.) Temporal (then. I found it a bit/rather dull.) Contrastive (but. eventually. etc. rather. because). ‘The film was rather/quite/very/absolutely boring’. an adjective. meanwhile. For example. usually verbs and adjectives. i. Lonely.. and hard and fast are adverbs even though they don’t have the –ly suffix. looks like an adverb. etc.) Appositive (that is to say. Quantifiers form an important part of the noun phrase.) Summative (all in all. but. and.