Lexical_Syllabus by ashrafp


									                                           Pan Hong, Wei Na, Zhao Lijie & Zheng Yan
                                           ELT Materials Evaluation and Development
                                                           Professor Cheng Xiaotang

                        Analysis of Lexical Syllabus

1. Theoretical assumptions
   English is a language to which word meaning and word order are central.
Learning English means a focus on words, providing learners the raw materials to
make more powerful generalizations. The syllabus teaching and learning materials are
tasks and texts which are selected according to the words’ frequency, to be specific,
the commonest meanings and patterns of words in English and graded according to
the simplicity and complexity of tasks and texts. These syllabuses offer learners a
corpus in order to make valid and relevant generalizations about the language.

2. Main Components (Including selecting and grading criteria)
A. Criteria for the selection of lexical items
    A top-ranking list of word forms exist in the corpus based on the frequency of
occurrences. The lexical items in the Lexical Syllabus are selected according to the
lexical frequency. The most frequent English words and word collocations are
introduced into all purposes program for teaching English for general purposes. The
needs of a specific group of learners can be satisfied by specially established corpora.
    The lexical items in the Lexical Syllabus are selected also according to the lexical
teachability. For instance, Level 1 of the Collins COBUILD English Course was
going to provide the English learners with exposure to language which would

illustrate the meanings and patterns of 700 of the most frequent words of English, to
highlight all of those words and to treat selected items in detail. But before the
teaching materials were put into practice, pilot test were carried out, 50 words which
are difficult to manage in the classroom were moved to the teaching materials of
Level 2.
    The lexical items selected in the Lexical Syllabus are from authentic text, which
are produced by language users in the course of their everyday lives for some
communicative purpose external to language teaching. Almost all the written texts
were authentic in this way.
    Spontaneity is another factor when lexical items are selected. For example, the
spontaneously produced texts were unscripted and unrehearsed. They were produced
not in the course of everyday life but at the researchers’ request and in artificial
circumstances. Most of the spoken texts fell into this category.
Defining power
    Defining power means the power of words with which other words can be
explained and defined. In the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, all
definitions are written using 2000 words defining vocabulary, so that anyone who
knows the meaning of those 2000 words will be able to understand all the definitions
in the dictionary, which means that the 2000 words are the most basic words. Lexical
Syllabuses employ the most important and the most basic words in English (Willis,
1990), which implies that the lexical items in the Lexical Syllabuses have big defining
    Words with high availability are always to be thought of first and most easily
when a particular topic is talked about (Richards at al, 2000). Task-based
methodology is the main teaching method and the texts used are authentic in Lexical
Syllabus, so the related topics in the classroom are always relevant to people’s daily
life, which results in that the lexical items are highly available.
    Coverage is the degree to which words and structures can be used to replace other
words and structures, which is a principle employed to help select language items for
language teaching, since items with a high degree of coverage are likely to be most
useful to language learners. When lexical items are selected in the Lexical Syllabus,
one principle is to teach general learners the most useful words which are used
frequently in daily life, so coverage is a key factor.
    Similarity will never be ignored for the selection of lexical items in the Lexical
Syllabus, especially when learners are in consideration. When a group of learners
from France studying linguistics need to know the English words which are similar to
French words, similarity will play an important role in the process of selecting lexical
items from corpus.
B. Central patterns of usage
    The syllabus is generally based on the central patterns of usage, the everyday core
of the language. Computer-held banks of text, such as the Birmingham Collection of
English Text, can provide evidence of typical language use. The lexical syllabus
highlights the common uses of the common words. The words in a language either
have various lexical meanings, or are confined to syntactic functions in the sentence.
Usages are discoursal or pragmatic. For example, the exceedingly frequent word to
has a discourse function which is valuable to a user. In the sentence ‘To be fair, Jack
divided the sweets evenly.’ it occurs at the beginning of a sentence, and indicates that
the comment it introduces is an evaluation of the main part of the utterance. In such
familiar phrases as ‘to cut a short story short’ and ‘to be honest’, the subject is the
person speaking or writing.

C. Typical word combinations
    Words combine or collocate with each other in certain characteristic ways. With
the benefit of a corpus of real text, we can be clearer about what the preferences are,
and be more systematic in presenting them to the learners of English. The collocations
are often lexical collocations. Common grammatical words have collocational
patterns. Of collocates frequently, in its left-hand context, with sort, kind and part.
Some combinations have grammatical restrictions and the words are found in a
particular syntactic pattern, such as ‘accede to X’s demands’, where a different pattern,
such as ‘X’s demands were not acceded to’ is unlikely to occur. The essential patterns
of distribution and combination in modern English will be included in the lexical
syllabus. Fixed expressions of idiomaticity have not appeared in traditional language
courses, and it is by no means clear where they should be put in the syllabus.

3. Merits
    A lexical syllabus highlights the common uses of the common words, which will
be very rewarding in practice if learners master them. It concentrates on making full
use of the words that the learners have already had, at any particular stage. It indicates
that there is far more general utility in the recombination of known elements than in
the addition of less easily usable items. The above features provide learners with a
very effective way of learning how to transmit meaning and express them by utilizing
the limited but very useful words in their daily life.
    One of the advantages of a lexical syllabus is that it only offers to the learner
things worth learning. Variations are introduced when they are necessary, which break
away from the conventional presentations of language structure. Instead of building
up word forms, the learner will be gradually sensing the variety. Sensitivity to the
word meaning and form will be greater. If only learners memorize the recommended
words and collocations, they can construct, elaborate and negotiate messages.
    A lexical syllabus is not confined to the exploitation of common words. Devices,
signals, and strategies in discourse, both spoken and written, are prominent among the
language to which learners are exposed. The emphasis changes from constructing
messages to delivering them, which could help the learners to explore the word usages
to maximum effect and communicative purposes.
   All of the teaching materials are selected from authentic language use. For the
lexis, the most commonly used words and collocations are selected from the famous
corpus, which ensures learners’ use of the language in daily life. For the reading
materials, authentic documents for communication purposes are selected. For
listening materials, natural utterances in communication are recorded. The authentic
materials can arouse learners’ interests in learning and using the language, and also
provide natural input of the language within relatively natural language surroundings.
Flexibility in implementation
    The lexical syllabus is an independent syllabus. It is unrelated by any principles
to any methodology, which ensures that lexical syllabus could adopt any other
teaching practice. Certain methodological options can readily adapt to it. The learning
process would be improved by the introduction of a grammatical approach, which
does not interfere with a lexical syllabus. With a task-based approach, learners are
exposed to carefully selected natural language and use language to achieve certain
communicative goals. Words are chosen based on some topics in daily life, which
allows learners to create situations and context for language learning. The lexical
syllabus offers an efficient and coherent learning opportunity through real language.
Learner-based exploration
    Though the lexical syllabus does not foster massive vocabulary acquisition in the
initial stages, but it encourages learners to make full and extended use of the words
they already have. In lexical syllabus, teachers’ role is guide, while learners’ an
explorer. Relying on learners’ own competence and sensitivity towards either their
own language or target language, learners will be motivated to discover the features of
the target language and also willing to use the target language.

4. Drawbacks:
1) Despite of the lexis proposed by the lexical syllabus, most published courses, are
    inconsistent with regard to how lexis is presented. The use of the inflected forms
    of the base-forms of words in word lists, to some extent, does not correspond to
    natural language use (Carter & McCarthy, 1988).
2) The basic principles for word selection are frequency and centrality of patterns of
    usage, along with observations of the typical combinations that words form. The
    problem lies in when you want to teach these words, what are the criteria for
    accepting or rejecting them?
3) Frequency is a useful factor to be taken into consideration, but language teaching
    is not that simple which could be carried out with only the 200 or so most
    common words. As we all know, most of the common words are function words.
    Words dealing with everyday domestic reality should be added, and also the
    words for classroom procedures, and so on. The most useful 20 or 30 words
    should be added to the teaching situation besides the most frequently used.
4) In lexical syllabus, grammar seems to be dealt with intuitively or decided by the
    words used. When it comes to the instruction from the teachers, aspects
    concerned with grammar are not an easy question.
5) If learners need thousands if discrete lexical items, each of which needs to be
    taught, it is impossible that every item needs to be formally taught in language
    classroom. The majority of language acquired by the learner must come from
    sources other than formal teaching (Lewis, M, 2002).

Carter, R. & McCarthy, M., 1988. Vocabulary and Language Teaching. London:
Lewis, M., 2002. Implications of A Lexical View of Language in Willis, J. & Willis, D.
   (eds.) Challenge and Change in Language Teaching. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign
   Language Education Press.
Richards, at al, 2000. Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied
   Linguistics. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.
Willis, D., 1990. The Lexical Syllabus. London: Collins Cobuild.


To top