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Lexis in the Syllabus:

Lexis in the Syllabus

Table of Content:

Table of Content Lexic Lexical Approach Syllabus Syllabus versus Language Learning Word-Based Syllabus Suggestions

Lexic in school:

Lexic in school The term vocabulary is used to describe the words and phrases students are supposed to learn. Students mainly learn from vocabulary lists that include single words as well as multiword units called lexeme, lexical items or lexical units (Schmitt 2000, 2).


Words… Words are grouped into function words and content words. Function words, as e.g. articles, prepositions, etc. have little if any meaning and could be called grammatical as they generate linguistic form. Content words, which are nouns, (full) verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, appear in different forms. A word changes with the addition of affixes to the stem, base or root. If the change has a grammatical function it is an inflection and if it changes the word class it is a derivate. Derivates and inflections of a stem build a word family. While the inflections are easily assigned to the appropriate word family this is not always the case for derivates. Derivates need to have similar meanings to belong to a word family so that there may be some space for interpretation. example society, social, socialism A lemma is the collection of a word stem with all its inflections.


Words… the mental lexicon not only files words or lexical units but also chunks of language mirroring lexical sequences that are relatively fixed forms with some variation in the use of actual words. Following this idea the grouping of vocabulary may have to be broader. Lexical units consist of more than one word to create meaning. There are different ways to group lexical units. They have been divided into phrasal words, compound nouns and idioms. Nattinger divides four categories to describe multi-word units/lexical phrases into polywords, institutionalized expressions, phrasal constraints, and sentence builder. Polywords into qualifier (e.g. for the most part), fluency devices (e.g. at any rate, so to speak) and disagreement marker (e.g. hold your horses). However recent findings of corpus linguistic show that multi-word items are rather rare 

Knowledge of Words:

Knowledge of Words The knowledge of a lexical item comprises several levels. The general distinction between active and passive knowledge refers to the reception and use of vocabulary. But passive knowledge is also considered an active mental process. Nation 1990/Dale 1965distinguish four stages which are Knowing, Using, Meaning, Organization and Word form If one wants to count how many words students learn one distinguishes tokens and types. Tokens are the same words including lemma, inflection plus base, whereas types include all forms of a word. The type – token ratio helps to measure language learning development. (Read)

Lexical Approach:

Lexical Approach Inadequacy of the grammar/vocabulary dichotomy Attitude to the treatment of text: Suspicious of decontextualised language, importance of co-text, preferring extended text/discourse Proposes a range of awareness-raising activities directing student ‘ s attention to the chunks a text is composed of Text as interesting content AND resource to extract lexical items for study, expansion, and recording in appropriate formats Not preoccupation with grammar or vocabulary BUT with different kinds of lexical items

Syllabus Inclusion, exclusion and sequencing :

Syllabus Inclusion, exclusion and sequencing Syllabus defined here as „content of a teaching programme “ Inclusion of only maximally useful items Low level courses: large vocab, even if they are initially unable to grammaticalise it Pragmatically useful lexical items (institutionalised utterances) Balance between low frequency with considerable meaning and high frequency items with little meaning Exclusion Not identified, not valued, not prioritised Depends on underlying approach

Syllabus vs language learning:

Syllabus vs language learning „There is a fundamental conflict between the teacher ‘ s desire to give clearly focused and effective lessons, and the non-linear nature of language learning. “ p.49

Problems with the Word-Based Syllabus - using high frequncy word lists- :

Problems with the Word-Based Syllabus - using high frequncy word lists- High frequency words are mainly delexicalised words. Its mastery is more difficult than higher meaning words. (with, to, have – accident, slump, soot) Infrequent meaning of highly frequent words preferred to highly frequent meaning of less frequent words. The rarer meanings of high frequence words are of relatively low utility and may be confusing. Multi-work lexical items are under-valued and under-exploited

Lexical Approach and Syllabus suggestions:

Lexical Approach and Syllabus suggestions Not a lexical syllabus Explicit recognition and parallel pedagogical treatment of word pattens for (relatively) delexical words collocational power for (relatively) semantically powerful words Longer multi-word items (esp. Institutionalised sentences) Learning of high-meaning content nouns, adjectives and verbs Because of higher communicative power Higher learnability because words tend to have a less complex profile; L1 = L2 comparison more likely to be accurate

Suggestions 1- 5:

Suggestions 1- 5 Certain words deverve lexical rather than grammatical treatment: de-lexicalised verbs (have, get, put, take, make, do); function words (of, with, for, by); modal auxiliaries including would Increased attention to the base form of lexical verbs large repertoire of verbs in their base form ; increased attention to the highly frequent present simple De-contextualised teaching of semantically dense items No over-elaboration of contextualisation, signification of high-content words Collocations Introduction of verbs and adjectives WITH the nouns; Acknowlegement of literal and metaphorical meaning Institutional utterances More than one example sentence (communicative power and resource for gradual persception of pattern )

Suggestions 6-10:

Suggestions 6-10 Sentence heads Frequent and probable patterns (Could you… rather than Could she…) Supra-sentential linking text and discourse rather than sentence based (joint production instead of ‚I agree ‘ ) Synonyms within the existential paradigm (supra-sential linking) ‚Synopsising ‘ words Reporting an event instead of single sentences in indirect speech Metaphorical patterning Part of everyday language Usage patterned, often generalisable

Educational Syllabus :

Educational Syllabus language teaching as part of wider educational concerns aiming at an increase in curiosity, wonder and awe, confidence and self-worth the ability to concentrate, appreciate, argue a case, tolerate, take reponsibility, co-operate of the development of intellectual skills: identifying problems, collecting information, classifying, ranking, evaluation, estimating, taking decisions, communication results PPP in conflict with this educational framework TBL and OHE (observe, hypothesise, experiment) in sympathy


Bibliography Lewis Michael (2001) Lexis in the Syllabus in: Hall, R. David, Hewings Ann (2001) Innovation in English Language Teaching, 46 – 54 Nation, P. (2001) Learning Vocabulary in another Language. Schmitt, Norbert (2000) Vocabulary in Language Teaching