Brian Knight


A Brief Overview
One of the first things we learn in either our L1 or an L2 are words - the lexis of a language.
Our personal association for the words we store in our minds depends on our experience, culture and the surrounding environment among a host of other features.
This is also true for the concepts behind the words, especially the influence of our cultural upbringing and heritage. Just think of a few words like:
corn soup

In other words, there is clearly a psychological dimension to lexis and its corresponding lexical networks.
Linguists trying to find the associations of words from a linguistic point of view have found lexical systems inherent in language, not in an individual's psychology. TEFL has adopted these linguistically-based systems in order to make the teaching and learning of lexis more systematic.
However, there is a growing feeling that we should allow vocabulary to grow at the behest of the learners, not that of the teachers.
In other words we should put an emphasis on the psychological dimension of the individual and exploit it in our approaches.

An exercise on the lexis of lexis.
Match each term (numbered) in the left hand column to its definition (lettered) in the right hand column.
Think about that psychological dimension while you are doing this.

1. collocation a. same spelling, different pronunciation (read / read (past))
2. synonym b. word that is opposite in meaning
3. antonym c. classifying head word, e.g. animal: dog, cat
4. homonym d. technical or specialised words used by groups of people
5. polysemy
e. systematic means of examining sense relations, e.g. boy: human - male - child; girl: human - female - child
6. homophone f. bungalow, anorak
7. homograph g. process by which an item may be used in different parts of speech, yet does not change its form
8. superordinate h. words that go together (by accident, strong tea)grammatical collocations (infinitives)
9. hyponym i. e.g. cup and saucer, salt and pepper
10. connotation j. classifying examples of superordinates
11. componential analysis k. mixing words, e.g. ginormous brunch, smog
12. complementaries (binary antonyms) l. spelt differently but sounds the same
13. slang m. word spelt and pronounced like another word, but with a different meaning (left)
14. jargon n. affixation, compounding
15. coinage o. inventing a new word, e.g. internet
16. borrowing p. abbreviations, e.g. bus, fridge
17. conversion / zero affixation q. similar meanings (not always interchangeable)
18. blending r. associations, e.g. spinster: old
19. clipping s. informal words or phrases commonly used in speech
20. derivation t. one word but related in some way to others (head: person, pin, organisation)

Now, check your answers here.

Presentation Techniques for New Vocabulary
Look at the following list of presentation techniques.
Which words would you teach with each technique?
Give an example for each.

Context and Guess
Guided Discovery
Silent Way
Lexical Sets
Example Sentences

Do you use any other ways of presenting new vocabulary?

How can we ensure that students retain, both short and long term, the vocabulary we have presented?
Consider the following and discuss:

The role of testing
Helping students organise their notes
Planning cyclical work based on vocabulary content
Retention load and overload

Grouping Vocabulary
Look at the following groups of words and briefly explain the relationship within each group.

a) vessel - ship - boat - freighter - liner - yacht - dinghy

b) walk - stagger - stride - hobble - stroll - march - hike

c) sleep - kip - slumber - nap - shuteye

d) hopeful - hopeless / drunk - sober / agree - disagree - agreeable - disagreeable / lock - unlock

e) signal - track - train - station - platform - locomotive - passenger

Consider how you would take account of such relationships in vocabulary work with a class at any level.