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Lexis and lexical chunks

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Linguamor
Decaglot
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United States
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 Message 1 of 7
14 October 2007 at 3:00pm | IP Logged 
"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 'collocations'.

      '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.

Here are some examples.

      Lexical Chunks (that are not collocations)

    by the way
    up to now
    upside down
    If I were you
    a long way off
    out of my mind

    Lexical Chunks (that are collocations)

      totally convinced
      strong accent
      terrible accident
      sense of humour
      sounds exciting
      brings good luck


Principle 1- Grammaticalised lexis
In recent years it has been recognised both that native speakers have a vast stock of these lexical chunks and that these lexical chunks are vital for fluent production. Fluency does not depend so much on having a set of generative grammar rules and a separate stock of words - the 'slot and filler' or open choice principle - as on having rapid access to a stock of chunks:

      "It is our ability to use lexical phrases that helps us to speak with fluency. This prefabricated speech has both the advantages of more efficient retrieval and of permitting speakers (and learners) to direct their attention to the larger structure of the discourse, rather than keeping it narrowly focused on individual words as they are produced" (Nattinger and DeCarrico 1992).

The basic principle of the lexical approach, then, 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.

Let's look at an example of lexical chunks or prefabricated speech in action:

      Chris: Carlos tells me Naomi fancies him.
      Ivor:: It's just a figment of his imagination.

According to the theory we have just outlined, it is not the case that Ivor has accessed 'figment' and 'imagination' from his vocabulary store and then accessed the structure: it+to be+ adverb + article + noun + of + possessive adjective + noun from the grammar store. It is more likely that Ivor has accessed the whole chunk in one go. We have, in Peters' words, in addition to vocabulary and grammar stores, a 'phrasebook with grammatical notes'. Probably, the chunk is stored something like this:

It is/was + (just/only) + a figment of + possessive + imagination

Accessing, in effect, 8 words in one go allows me to speak fluently and to focus on other aspects of the discourse - more comments about Carlos, for example. We can make 2 more points about this example:

    * A number of friends and colleagues were asked to give an example of the word 'figment'. They all gave an example which corresponds to our chunk above. When asked to define the word 'figment', hardly anyone could do this accurately. This is an example of how native speakers routinely use chunks without analysing the constituent parts.

    * There is nothing intrinsically negative in the dictionary definition of the word 'figment', yet it is always, in my experience, used dismissively or derisively. This is an example of how we store information about a word which goes beyond its simple meaning."

www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/methodology/lexical_approac h1.shtml

Edited by Linguamor on 14 October 2007 at 3:15pm

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Antelope
Groupie
United Kingdom
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Studies: Italian, Spanish, Greek

 
 Message 2 of 7
02 August 2009 at 9:37pm | IP Logged 
I know this is an old old thread, but thanks!!

This makes sense and I applied this to an unknown Assimil lesson; it really worked quite well.

Thank you Linguamor and please come back.
2 persons have voted this message useful



TheBiscuit
Tetraglot
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Mexico
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 Message 4 of 7
03 August 2009 at 4:10pm | IP Logged 
I find myself using this method more and more, especially with German. It really helps with the cases especially.

Applying this in the classroom is often a painful process though, and a lot of coursebooks are going this way. The problem is that the lexical approach is largely misunderstood by coursebook writers who see it more as a way of concentrating on vocabulary and having the grammar play an incidental role in some little box on the page.

Students see a lot of vocabulary but not being aware of the chunking process, are unable to use or retain it. They'll see something like, 'in the evening' and work out that it means, 'en la noche'. However, the next time they use it they are more likely to go back to translating it word for word and say, 'in the night'.
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The Blaz
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Canada
theblazblog.blogspotRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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 Message 5 of 7
28 February 2010 at 6:19am | IP Logged 
This is really stimulating. It rings true for me right now as I have been noticing the many very common connector words and little phrases which don't have single or exact translations in English and so I always pause at them when I'm reading them, and often still don't know the meaning - nor have I ever used them, even if they roll off a native tongue with no thought at all.


Does anyone have advice on sources that list lexical chunks (my current preference is French) and ideas for how to best learn and start using them?
1 person has voted this message useful



datsunking1
Diglot
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 Message 6 of 7
28 February 2010 at 9:46pm | IP Logged 
The Blaz wrote:
This is really stimulating. It rings true for me right now as I have been noticing the many very common connector words and little phrases which don't have single or exact translations in English and so I always pause at them when I'm reading them, and often still don't know the meaning - nor have I ever used them, even if they roll off a native tongue with no thought at all.


Does anyone have advice on sources that list lexical chunks (my current preference is French) and ideas for how to best learn and start using them?


I second this. I'm at the same stage as you! We need input!! :D
1 person has voted this message useful



Splog
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Czech Republic
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 Message 7 of 7
28 February 2010 at 10:16pm | IP Logged 
The Blaz wrote:

Does anyone have advice on sources that list lexical chunks (my current preference is French) and ideas for how to best learn and start using them?


One you might enjoy is Speaking Better French

I found it to be very good for this kind of thing, although it is quite thin to be honest (around 150 pages) and its use depends on how advanced you are.


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