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Lexical Approach


Identifying chunks and collocations is often a question of intuition, unless you ... Lexical Approach:Principle 2 - Collocation in action ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Lexical Approach

Lexical Approach
  • Carlos Islam, The University of MaineIvor
    Timmis, Leeds Metropolitan University

The theory of language
  • Task 1Look at this version of the introduction.
    What do the parts printed in bold in square
    brackets have in common?
  • The principles of the Lexical Approach have been
    around since Michael Lewis published 'The
    Lexical Approach' 10 years ago. It seems,
    however, that many teachers and researchers do
    not have a clear idea of what the Lexical
    Approach actually looks like in practice.

  • All the parts in brackets are fixed or set
    phrases. Different commentators use different and
    overlapping terms - 'prefabricated phrases',
    'lexical phrases', 'formulaic language', 'frozen
    and semi-frozen phrases', are just some of these
    terms. We use just two 'lexical chunks' and

'Lexical chunk'
  • 'Lexical chunk' is an umbrella term which
    includes all the other terms. We define a lexical
    chunk as any pair or group of words which is
    commonly found together, or in close proximity.

  • 'Collocation' is also included in the term
    'lexical chunk', but we refer to it separately
    from time to time, so we define it as a pair of
    lexical content words commonly found together.
    Following this definition, 'basic' 'principles'
    is a collocation, but 'look' 'at' is not
    because it combines a lexical content word and a
    grammar function word. Identifying chunks and
    collocations is often a question of intuition,
    unless you have access to a corpus.

Lexical Chunks (that are not collocations)
  • by the way up to now upside downIf I were you
    a long way off out of my mind

Lexical Chunks (that are collocations)
  • totally convincedstrong accent terrible
    accidentsense of humoursounds exciting brings
    good luck

A theory of learning
  • According to Lewis (1997, 2000) native speakers
    carry a pool of hundreds of thousands, and
    possibly millions, of lexical chunks in their
    heads ready to draw upon in order to produce
    fluent, accurate and meaningful language.
  • How then are the learners going to learn the
    lexical items they need?

  • One of the criticisms levelled at the Lexical
    Approach is its lack of a detailed learning
    theory. It is worth noting, however, that Lewis
    (1993) argues the Lexical Approach is not a break
    with the Communicative Approach, but a
    development of it.

According to Lewis
  • Language is not learnt by learning individual
    sounds and structures and then combining them,
    but by an increasing ability to break down wholes
    into parts.
  • Grammar is acquired by a process of observation,
    hypothesis and experiment.
  • We can use whole phrases without understanding
    their constituent parts.
  • Acquisition is accelerated by contact with a
    sympathetic interlocutor with a higher level of
    competence in the target language.

Schmitt (2000)
  • Schmitt 'the mind stores and processes these
    lexical chunks as individual wholes.' The mind
    is able to store large amounts of information in
    long term memory but its short term capacity is
    much more limited, when producing language in
    speech for example, so it is much more efficient
    for the brain to recall a chunk of language as if
    it were one piece of information. 'Figment of his
    imagination' is, therefore, recalled as one piece
    of information rather than four separate words.

Lexical approach Principle 1- Grammaticalised
  • The basic principle of the lexical approach is
    "Language is grammaticalised lexis, not
    lexicalised grammar"(Lewis 1993). In other words,
    lexis is central in creating meaning, grammar
    plays a subservient managerial role. If you
    accept this principle then the logical
    implication is that we should spend more time
    helping learners develop their stock of phrases,
    and less time on grammatical structures.

  • Chris Carlos tells me Naomi fancies him.Ivor
    It's just a figment of his imagination.
  • Has Ivor accessed 'figment' and
    'imagination' from his vocabulary store and then
    accessed the structure itto be adverb
    article noun of possessive adjective noun
    from the grammar store?
  • Or is it more likely that Ivor has accessed
    the whole chunk in one go?

Lexical ApproachPrinciple 2 - Collocation in
  • In an application form a candidate referred to a
    'large theme' in his thesis. This sounded ugly,
    but there is nothing intrinsically ugly about
    either word, it's just a strange combination to a
    native-speaker ear. In the Lexical Approach,
    sensitising students to acceptable collocations
    is very important, so you might find this kind of
  • Underline the word which does not collocate with
  • main theme / large theme / important theme /
    central theme / major theme

Task 2
  • Complete the following sentences with as many
    different words as you can.
  • (a) The Lexical Approach has had a strong.on
  • (b) Carlos and Ivor ..me to try out the
    Lexical Approach.
  • A second important aspect of the Lexical Approach
    is that lexis and grammar are closely related. If
    you look at the examples above, you will see in
    (a) that 3 semantically related words - impact,
    influence, effect - behave the same way
    grammatically have a/an impact/influence/effect
    on something. In (b) verbs connected with
    initiating action - encourage, persuade, urge,
    advise etc all follow the pattern verb object
    infinitive. This kind of 'pattern grammar' is
    considered to be important in the Lexical

Lecical Approach Principle 3 - Noticing
  • Sometimes the noticing is guided by the teacher
    i.e. the teacher directs the students' attention
    to lexical features thought to be useful
  • sometimes the noticing is 'self-directed', i.e.
    the students themselves select features they
    think will be useful for them.
  • Sometimes the noticing is explicit, e.g. when
    items in a text are highlighted
  • sometimes it is implicit e.g. when the teacher
    reformulates a student's text ( how
    reconstruction and reformulation can enhance
    noticing and practical suggestions for

Lexical Approach Principle 4 - Language
  • Learning materials and teachers can best help
    learners achieve noticing of lexical chunks by
    combining a Language Awareness approach to
    learning with a Lexical Approach to describing

Tomlinson (2003) sums up the principles,
objectives and procedures of a language awareness
approach as
  • 'Paying deliberate attention to features of
    language in use can help learners to notice the
    gap between their own performance in the target
    language and the performance of proficient users
    of the language.
  • Noticing can give salience to a feature, so that
    it becomes more noticeable in future input, so
    contributing to the learner's psychological
    readiness to acquire that feature.

( continues)
  • The main objective is to help learners to notice
    for themselves how language is typically used so
    that they will note the gaps and 'achieve
    learning readiness' as well as independence from
    the teacher and teaching materials.
  • The first procedures are usually experiential
    rather than analytical and aim to involve the
    learners in affective interaction with a
    potentially engaging text. That is, learners
    read a text, and respond with their own views and
    opinions before studying the language in the text
    or answering comprehension type questions.
  • Learners are later encouraged to focus on a
    particular feature of the text, identify
    instances of the feature, make discoveries and
    articulate generalizations about its use.'

Research project at The University of Maine
  • groups of students were exposed to materials
    based on the principles and procedures Tomlinson
    outlines. The noticing activities asked students
    to identify, analyse and make generalisations
    about lexical chunks and collocations.
  • The students involved in the research were
    surveyed after using these materials and asked
    how useful and enjoyable they found the

  • All but one of the students said the materials
    were very useful and all the students reported
    the class was either very useful or useful.
  • All the students said the materials would help
    them learn independently.
  • Over half the students thought the materials were
    useful for learning vocabulary.
  • All the students said they enjoyed the stories.
  • The teachers said that the readings were 'great',
    the students understood and could appreciate the
    materials relevance for developing reading as
    well a productive skills.
  • One teacher said he was not sure if making the
    distinction between different types of lexical
    chunks was necessary.
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