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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
but it is a different lexeme in each case. memory stick. DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1 .g. and watered are grammatically distinct forms of the same lexeme (i. the word way is one of the most frequent words in English and is commonly found in these patterns: way + of + -ing. Root words are single. adjectives. and other fixed phrases (such as ‘Let’s face it’). and handsome’). For example. regardless of their different derived forms (or the number of words that make them up). verbs. for example: The way we were. wastepaper bin). talk). Lexis can be defined as the vocabulary of a language as opposed to its grammar. the word water has a similar meaning when it is used as a noun and when it is used as a verb.g. Compound words can be nouns. For example. for example: all the way home. tri-nomials (such as ‘tall. 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. Multiword units include idioms (such as ‘to pass the buck’). and over-ambitious. Compound words are words that consist of more than one root word but have a single concept or identity (e. as opposed to linguistic theory. dark.g. the + way + noun + verb. waters. A syllabus based on these high frequency words is arguably more useful than a list of grammatical structures. 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. Multiword units (or lexical phrases) are recurring fixed forms that consist of more than one word. bi-nomials (such as ‘to and fro’). downsize. Forms such as water. free morphemes that cannot be further subdivided (e. or prepositions. the + way + adverbial. because it is based on actual usage. they are inflections). affixes) (e.e.2 collocations. As a rule of thumb. adverbs. talking). For example. for example: There’s no way of knowing. dictionary entries are usually organised into lexemes as opposed to individual words.e. and differ in meaning from the individual components. Words are the most familiar type of lexical item and can be defined as free-standing items of language that have meaning. watering. A derived word is a root word that has bound morphemes attached at the beginning and/or end (i. 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.
tongue. but not a costly pen. and orange are all part of the lexical set of fruit. of meat. tongue. and reverse. so that a learner might say ‘Bring me the tip’ as opposed to ‘Bring me the bill. banana. and eye are all parts of the face. jobs.g. For example lounge. However. there are very few words that are truly synonymous: They may not collocate with the same words – for example.3 Idioms are expressions which function as a single unit and whose meaning cannot be worked out from its constituent parts. the words drive. and education. Lexical Set – A lexical set is a set of words that all share a meaning relationship. car. For example. are all examples of lexical fields. etc. sports. Lexical Field – A lexical field is a particular category of words. Meronyms are different from hyponyms in that cheek. e. home.’ Hyponyms – Are words which belong to the same lexical category. For example. and sitting room. pear. cheek. They may be different parts of speech. all belong to the lexical set ‘car’. However. which are then further subdivided into lexical sets. and bus (which are all cohyponyms). cereal. eyebrow. For example. For example. these close associations can at times result in ‘errors of interference’. etc.) with the superordinate food. a costly building pen. drive – verb. because they relate to a particular topic or situation. such that X is a type of Y. hand-brake. windscreen. sports. plane. kiwi. Fruit itself can be a hyponym (e. She washed her hands of the matter. apple.) based on the principle that it is both easier to teach and to learn words that are closely associated. For example. Meronyms – Words that have a relation in semantic meaning based on a whole-part relationship. Synonyms are words that have a similar or same meaning. For example.g. are not types of face. Most vocabulary teaching is organized around lexical sets (such as furniture. living room. transport is the superordinate of train. fish. but parts of it. Superordinate – A word which is more generic than a given word or words. steering wheel. steering wheel – noun. DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1 . etc. chin.
and dry/sweet. light/heavy.e.4 They may not have exactly the same meaning/connotations. They may be a different style e. English is particularly rich in homonyms. Antonym – A word that has the opposite meaning to a given word. light/dark or dry/wet. 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 .g. too. there is something related about the different uses). formal/informal. a baseball bat. but have different meanings. such as hot and cold. Many words may have more than one antonym e. The polysemous nature of many words in English complicates the task of learning vocabulary. a small piece of wood. such as buy and sell. and two).g. Ungradable such as alive and dead (since something cannot be rather alive or very dead). literal. modern. since something can be rather hot. the relationship of oppositeness (or antonymy) can be further divided into: Gradable such as hot and cold. Converse whereby the antonyms are in a reciprocal relationship. or alive and dead. They may be related to a particular form of English e. Polysemy – Polysemy occurs when one word has more than one related meaning. Homographs can be defined as words that are written the same way but pronounced differently (such as a long and windy road vs. or a small electronic component (all referring to a small piece of some solid material) are also polysemes. and to bat your eyelashes. a vampire bat. However. They may have different syntactic behaviour (known as colligation). Alive and Dead are nongradable opposites known as complementaries (other examples are male and female. whereas Homophones are words that are written differently but pronounced the same way (such as to. and ‘foot’ at the bottom of the leg (i. For example ‘foot’ at the bottom of a mountain. or lend and borrow. archaic. a dark and windy night). Homonym – Homonyms are words that are written and pronounced the same way. and married and single).g. or very cold. Lift/Elevator. For example. or a chip meaning a piece of deepfried potato.
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. to cut a long story short Formulaic language can be fixed or semi-fixed.g.g. and also sounds more native speaker-like. Formulaic Language can be defined as sequences of two or more words that operate as a single unit. For example. or lexical collocations as when two content words regularly co-occur (such as a narrow escape.g. but not clenched eyes. Phrasal Verbs – a combination of a verb and one or more particles (either an adverb.g. The relation between the words may be grammatical collocations (Colligation) as when certain verbs collocate with particular prepositions (e. and is usually only used for highly restricted technical terms. deeply offend Adverb + adjective e. log on. account for) or when a verb (commonly do.g. For example – look up (adverb) (a word in a dictionary). or a preposition. Collocations – Collocations are words that frequently occur together. look up to (someone). well established Lexis 1 DELTA Module 1 . get up. or both). Phrasal verbs can be separable or inseparable.g. death threat Verb + adverb e. An advantage of having formulaic language is that it saves planning and can aid fluency.g. Collocations can be: Adjective + noun e.g. work hard Adverb + verb e. seriously affect. part and parcel. make ends meet Discourse markers – e. depend on. For example Apartheid. tight security Noun + noun e. stale bread. pressure group. or clenched teeth. a clenched fist. densely populated. take. highly successful. by the way. Formulaic language can be categorized as: Collocations – e. Phrasal verbs are difficult for many learners as they are not always idiomatic. lucky charm). brush up Idioms – e.g. look after (preposition) (the children).5 Monosemous word – A word that has only one meaning. or make) collocates with a particular noun (such as do homework. rich and famous Phrasal verbs – e.g. take advantage). live dangerously.
but are inflections (Inflections all belong to the same word class). careless. or have. and carefree. such as we ‘went the incorrect way‘ (instead of wrong way). as in care and carer being nouns. Synonyms. For example. For example care. Drawing attention to Cognates in the leaner’s L1 can be a useful way of increasing vocabulary with little effort. or spick and span. 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. because the words are derived from a source that was once common to both. please’. Using texts to highlight particular collocations and teaching words with their most common collocations are two ways of approaching the problem. Word Family – Word Families are groups of words (derivatives) that share the same common root. and these have acquired the status of fixed expressions in formulaic language. careful etc. or embarazado and embarrassed. Some weak collocations should be taught and highlighted. For example.6 Collocation may be more or less ‘strong’. and Collocations change between languages and it is not always possible to translate one homonym to another language. and cared. uncaring. Careless. Metaphors. ‘spring to mind’ and ‘foot the bill’ are strong collocations. cognates can also cause difficulty for the learners because of false cognates/friends. Homonyms. since each only collocates with a few other words. are all derivatives of care in that they are formed through the process of affixation. for example ‘same again. Schwimmen in German and Swim in English are cognates. However. or ‘Merry Christmas’. are not derivatives of care. Polysemy. By contrast. grammatical forms of care such as cares. while careless and careful are adjectives. especially those with do. carer. Cognates – Cognates are words which have the same (or very similar) forms/meanings in two languages. but have different affixes. such as dire straits. take. Learners often lack intuitions as to which words go with which. For example. careful. light can be ‘luz’ or ‘ligado’ in Spanish. The new words can belong to different word classes. make. and this can account for many errors. Fixed expression – Fixed Expressions are chunks of language whose constituent parts never change. DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1 . The strongest collocations are those where both of the elements never (or very rarely) occur without the other. However. caring. but a ‘nice car’ is a weak collocation since both nice and car collocate with many words.
DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1 . hers. whose.g. the) demonstratives (this. and conjunctions (the closed classes – since they are fairly fixed). your. few. any.000 words to achieve independent user status. For example: articles (a. etc. often conjunctions – and. and function to limit the meaning of the noun in some way.determiners (what. 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. someone. ‘both of’. Word Class – A group of words that from a grammatical point of view behave in the same way. much food vs. For example. ‘a few of’. no. adverbs.7 mothercare and caretaker. etc) The choice of determiner depends on whether the noun that follows is countable or uncountable e. it is more accurate to say that they need 3. his. ‘lots of’. etc. these) possessives (my. well. which. at determiners – some. prepositions. many people. determiners. that.) numerals (both cardinal and ordinal) wh. on. because Determiners are words that come before a noun. an. Quantifiers are words or phrases which specify quantity or amount and can proceed nouns (as determiners) or stand on their own (as pronouns). ‘most of’. are not part of the same word family as they incorporate words from other roots. nouns verbs adjectives pronouns – we. under. one.000 word families. so. etc. such as nouns. verbs. who prepositions – like. adjectives (the open classes – since new words are being added nearly on a daily basis) and pronouns.) quantifiers (some. this adverbs – slowly. those.
clauses and sentences. phrases. flying and flight are formed from the verb to fly. For example. and many are very versatile in this respect – well for example can be a noun. Nominalisation is often more common in written and formal English. etc.g. The number of conjunctions in a text can be used to measure the text’s complexity. eventually. in summary. as a result. Quantifiers form an important part of the noun phrase. for example by reducing the force of an adjective. Conjunctions can be Coordinating which join together two clauses of equal ranks (e. DELTA Module 1 Lexis 1 . Hedging is the opposite of intensifying. For example. and hard and fast are adverbs even though they don’t have the –ly suffix. Linkers (also called conjuncts) join what has already been said with what follows. rather.e. moreover. I found it a bit/rather dull.) Appositive (that is to say. for example. ‘The film was rather/quite/very/absolutely boring’. For example. an adjective. a verb. therefore.) Linkers are one of the ways that cohesion is achieved in texts. looks like an adverb.g. and verbs by heightening or lowering their intensity. Also worth noting that the form of a word is not always a reliable guide to its word class. Intensifiers are words such as very. but is an adjective. Intensifiers are particularly common in spoken language. Lonely. adverbs. and brightness and length are formed from the adjectives bright and long. etc. There are many different types of linkers: Additive (and. Conjunctions are words which join together words. singular or plural). but. etc. and absolutely that modify adjectives.) Contrastive (but. Important to note that some words can belong to more than one word class. as. etc. etc.8 The choice of quantifier is often determined by whether the noun that follows in uncountable or countable (and if so. instead. etc. because). Nominalisation – The process by which nouns are formed from other word classes (parts of speech). what’s more.) Temporal (then. and. on the other hand. usually verbs and adjectives. and an adverb. meanwhile. i.. Hedging is a way of making opinions less assertive. if.) Summative (all in all.) Resultative (so. next. so) or Subordinating which join together a subordinate clause and a main clause (e. when.