The Lexical Methodology And Collocations

Collocations are words which if blended together, sound right to native English audio speakers. Eg: Fast food. Any other combo may sound incorrect and unnatural. Eg: "quick food". "Collocations aren't words which we 'put alongside one another'. They co-occur in a natural way. Collocation is how words co-occur in natural text in statistically significant ways. " (Lewis, Instructing Collocation 2000:132).

For Thornbury, collocation is a "continuum that goes from compound words (second-hand), through lexical chunks (bits and pieces), including idioms (out of nowhere) and phrasal verbs (do up), to collocations of pretty much fixedness (set a new world record)" (Thornbury S. 2002, How exactly to instruct vocabulary, Longman).

Collocations have different advantages: Weak and Strong collocations. Weak collocations entail words which can co-occur with many other words. E. g: Red shirt. They can apply the color red to numerous other words eg: red car, red door. Strong collocations have words which almost never occur separately including the collocation: "spick and span" and "rancid butter". There are also Unique collocations e. g, shrug shoulders. They are unique because the verb (shrug) is not used in combination with every other noun.

Medium-strength collocations: Keep a conversation, a minor operation. Hill argued that medium-strength collocations are most significant for the ESL class room. (Lewis, M. , 2000: 63)

Thornbury widens this is of collocation, expressing that collocation is "not a frozen romantic relationship" and two collocates may even be separated from one another, eg: "lay down off": The company is laying more employees off. Lewis and other writers divide collocations into two types: grammatical collocation and lexical collocation. (Lewis2000)

Grammatical Collocation: Eg: step into

In the example above, a verb collocates with a preposition. Therefore grammatical collocations are lexical words such as an adjective, verb or noun (in our case "step"), which are coupled with a grammatical phrase (preposition "into").

Lexical Collocation: Eg: black coffee

Lexical collocations are items where two lexical words regularly and normally occur along. Bahns (ELTJ 47/1 1993) stated that although some lexical collocations are quite direct and clear in their meaning, others aren't. Inside our example, black coffee clearly indicates that there surely is no milk in the caffeine but Bahns expresses that collocations that are not direct eg: "lay off" will be the ones which cause the most problems to non-native speaker systems since their so this means are covered.

The need for collocations in L2 learning:

Many concur that collocations are important in words learning. Wayne Carl (1998) explained that using collocations appropriately "contributes greatly to one's idiomaticity and nativelikeness. " 6 Lewis stated that "fluency is based on the acquisition of a large store of predetermined or semi-fixed prefabricated items. " 7 Sonaiya (1988) went even further, stating that "lexical mistakes are more serious because effective communication is determined by the decision of words. " 8

Collocations, are located in most of what we say, hear, read or write. Many of these preset expressions are stored and memorised; prepared to be utilized when needed. If you want to retrieve these ready-to-use phrases, lexical items must be aqcuired first by being exposed to, reading and reading them for several times. Theoretically, good quality source might lead to good quality retrieval. This in exchange will help learners to be more fluent because they can recognise multi-word systems rather than expression by expression.

A lexical item, which is "almost everything that functions as an individual meaning unit, irrespective of its different derived varieties, or of the amount of words that make it", has an important role in learning a words. (Thornbury, An A-Z of ELT (Oxford: Macmillan, 2006), pg120).

The need for collocations in L2 learning was a concept that the Lexical Way had proposed.

The Lexical Approach and collocations:

The lexical approach encourages learners to recognize and learn collocations as lexical items rather than specific words. For example: "catch a cold", is seen as a single unit of so this means (or multi-word device) and not as three specific words with three specific meanings. Matching to Schmidt (CUP, 2000), having words in lexical phrases somewhat than individually, displays the way the brain stores and chunks terminology to make it simpler to process.

The lexical methodology influenced just how we perceive lexis, the way we educate it and how we encourage learners to learn it. Vocabulary choice in terms, is not haphazard but predictable. Lewis provides an example of "drinking", sharing with us that the loudspeaker might use the verb "have". The listener can predict several words which collocate with it: tea, coffee, orange drink etc. But on the other side, the listener will not forecast words like shampoo. 9

One of the beliefs behind the Lexical Approach is that terms is not made up of only traditional vocabulary and grammar but prefabricated multi-word chunks. Quite simply, language includes grammaticalized lexis and not lexicalized grammar. Rather than using a syllabus which is merely grammar based mostly, the lexical methodology emphasises that lexis should be at the centre of language learning.

The lexical procedure posits an essential part of acquiring terms is to grasp and produce lexical chunks. These chunks help learners to make habits of language traditionally regarded as sentence structure (Lewis, The Lexical Strategy 1993, p. 95).


6Wayne, Carl. (1998). Errors in language learning and use. London: Longman.

7 Lewis, M. (1997). Putting into action the lexical procedure. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

8 Sonaiya, C. (1988). The lexicon in second language acquisition: A lexical method of error research. PhD Thesis. Cornell School.

9, 10 Lewis, Michael, Coaching Collocation (Hove: Vocabulary Teaching Magazines, 2000) pg5

Different types of Collocation:

Taken from Howert (1996), Carter(1987) and Mc. Carthy & O'Dell(2005), here are types of collocations

Free Combination

The verbs can collocate numerous words to create different meanings.

Example: "make"

I will make it clear right from the start. . . (make something clear)

I can make him happy (make happy)

In this circumstance, they may contain modal verbs such as make, do, have, get, take + any kind of word.

Restricted Combination

These collocations are usually nouns, adjectives or verbs which go to as well as particular words. Using other words with them make sure they are sound incorrect to the native speaker.

(i) Adjective + noun: E. g: "Her condition was a major problem. "

(ii) Adverb + verb: E. g: "He cheekily replied: "I don't care!"

(iii) Verb + noun: E. g: "We've made a decision to move house. "

(iv) Noun + verb: E. g: "The brakes screeched as he attempted to stop the automobile. "

(v) Noun + noun: Usually these collocations have the routine "a. . . . of. . . " E. g: She was keeping a #basket of eggs.

Delexicalised Verbs:

Every language has basic verbs which are frequently used. The English language is not any exception and we can find various regular verbs (Svartvik and Ekedahl 1995) (The Verb in Modern day English: Theory and Description, CUP 1995)







E. g
It is interesting to note that these high occurrence verbs in the examples tend to be used as Delexicalised Verbs. These delexicalised verbs have so this means when coupled with other words. In other words de-lexicalised verbs have little meaning by itself but if joined as well as other words, they can generate a wider variety of new meanings

do your best

make room

have lunch

take a shower

go for a walk

get dressed

Delexicalised verbs 'make' & 'do'

What is interesting about these two verbs is the fact that, Mc. Carthy & O'Dell (2005:6) identify these two verbs as 'day-to-day verbs' and devote a whole web page on make and do. This obviously demonstrates they are very high regularity verbs in British - plus they probably cause a lot of misunderstandings to learners as well! In their book's index, both verbs have significantly more than 60 different collocates each. The verbs 'make' and 'do' in simple fact - like many high regularity verbs, gets into into numerous collocations and idioms.

Language Chunking:

"Make your foundation!" is a chunking of two words: Verb+Noun (Make + bed). This delexicalised verb is a dialect chunk which really is a pre-fabricated terminology item in a formulaic way, which is then stored as a single lexical device (and not two individual items). By storing as a single lexical unit, it is believed to quicken the mental handling of the loudspeaker when speaking, reading so when acquiring language. The reason why it quickens this mental processing when producing words is because rather than needing to connect individual term units together one by one (do and bed), the loudspeaker can retrieve the chunk needed at one go and reduce mental control time.

Language chunking therefore is believed to help vocabulary fluency by incorporating other chunks to produce longer ready-to-use phrases. I have a tendency to trust this core opinion of the Lexical Approach because when I give a term to learners such as: "Make a set of things. . . " or "Remember to research your options. . . " learners seem to be to get and use these given 'ready-to-use' phrases correctly to produce their own sentences and meanings. Once learners understand this is behind the word, they store it in their mental lexicon. If used regularly, there's a high possibility it will help fluencycy and reduce mental processing time when speaking.

Problems learners have with delexicalised verbs:

Although they come by natural means to native speakers, collocations developed with delexicalised verbs can be somewhat tricky. Some of the main problems that low level learners experience are the following: (go to 11. Coll pg4) (12. Coll pg4)

They haven't been exposed to or made aware of collocations in their learning activities.

Learners often have issues with these verbs because they look for a general so this means.

They often struggle to find the appropriate collocation, often translating possible equivalents from their own words. E. g: make a photo.

Learners find it difficult to memorize collocations because they are arbitrary.

Teachers are partially to blame because as Carter and McCarthy point out, "vocabulary research has been neglected by linguists, applied linguists and dialect educators'(1988: 1). Therefore professors need to present collocations such as delexicalised verbs to learners to help them are more and more familiar with the different uses of "make" and "do" for example.

In reality, McCarthy explains to us that 'in vocabulary coaching there's a high importance of collocation' (1990:12). The way collocation teaching is neglected in ESL classroom and the inadequate input of the target language may be considered a reason learners lack a knowledge of collocation. One reason teachers do not give such importance to collocation is because they feel safer when they instruct sentence structure because they feel they know the rules and can clarify them. Collocations are "arbitrary" which leads us to the second problem

Collocations are arbitrary and are chose by convention rather than rules. Many learners have been subjected to learning dialects in a systematic way i. e there is an explanation, guidelines and reasoning behind each grammar point eg: the first conditional: [ if + present simple], [will + infinitive]. Because they are being used to learning languages in a grammatical way, learners find it hard to agree to that some words collocate while some do not and that there is no reason for this apart from it is what native sound system say.

Many learners ask me "Why can't I say "make an image" instead of "have a image"? I used to feel alternatively unprofessional having to say "because that is the way it is". Now I say: "because 'take' should go together with 'a photography' - 'make' does not". This is the way words is obviously and natively spoken as I have already commented in section A.

In truth, McCarthy said that "understanding of collocational appropriacy is part of indigenous speaker's competence". (McCarthy, M. 1990Vocabulary. Oxford: Oxford University or college Press. 1990:13). Therefore, being conscious of collocations and taking them as a windows to by natural means of speaking the vocabulary is vital in learning a terminology. One has to declare that some are not so easy to learn. Actually, Benson (1985) plainly mentioned that "collocations are arbitrary and non-predictable", so much so that even native sound system sometimes have to double check before deciding if the word collocates with a specific term or not.

When learners are met with collocations like "to make a mistake", learners resort to translation from L1 to understand why we use 'make' and not 'do' as with many other languages. However this contributes to misuse of the collocation or creation of expression combinations that happen to be non-existant in British. Eg: My Italian learners sometimes say "do a mistake" because in their terms they have only one verb, "fare", which resembles "make" or "do". Actually translated, "fare una torta" is "execute a wedding cake" from Italian to English.

Lexical verbs such as "make" or "do" require memorising entire lists of words that can collocate with them. I sympathise with learners, who've to face many complicated and difficult lexicalised verbs, that have meaning differences in various contexts. Furthermore, combos of delexicalised words are less likely to explain obviously what they mean in translation and so will be more error-prone in learner terms (Lewis 1993, Nesselhauf 2005).

When my learners inform me: "you can't really learn many of these phrases by center!", I have to admit that I am aware them. Collocation literature like McCarthy & O'Dell's 'English Collocations In Use' (CUP:2005), present the delexicalised verbs "make" and "do" in a manner that makes a learner feel that he/she must learn the phrases by heart. A similiar example of such a list is one below

To make an apology

To do your homework

To make a cake

To do the dishes

To make breakfast

To do the laundry

To make your bed

To do your best

To make a list

To do your nails and hair

To make a mistake

To do the ironing, cleansing, cooking, etc.

To make plans

To execute a job

Learners need ways to keep in mind the meanings of the lexicalised verbs as the ones above. It really is difficult enough striving to think of grammar needed, word syntax, vocabulary and so on when trying to create a phrase in L2 learning, aside from trying to remember and most importantly retrieve the right collocation needed.

Problems learners have with delexicalised verbs:

Making learners alert to delexicalised verbs:

By supporting learners to notice collocation, they can acquire vocabulary building skills eg: capability to list and categorize lexis. It also encourages them to be autonomous learners. One way of assisting learners develop the habit of paying attention to chunks, rather than simply individual words, when reading is by helping them make prepared guesses about what word goes with "do" or "make".

Inside Out Elementary (Macmillan:16) reveals " per day in the life of" a guy and a female. Having guessed who does what, learners read the text to check if indeed they guessed correctly. The written text includes a lot of collocations with "make" or "do". Learners then are asked to create common expressions with "make" or "do" from the text

The most research the beds

The shopping dinner

The cleaning up the most noise

Learners have a speaking practice with "make" or "do" by stating would you or makes what in the house, using the same prompts given in the above mentioned exercise. Eg: "My mom will the shopping and we make our mattresses. . . " etc

Trying to make sense of "make" and "do":

Although it isn't easy to learn collocations of "make" and "do", McCarthy & O'Dell in "English Collocations in Use" (CUP2005: 18) present us with some of the most typical phrases with these two delexicalised verbs. Actually they call them "Everyday verbs". It offers a set of collocations of "make" and "do" and a good example on the side. Eg



Make an excuse

I'm too tired to go out tonight. Let's make a justification and stay home!

Do your hair

I'm not ready! I haven't done my head of hair yet!

To practice them, I would slice out the collocations and good examples into separate whitening strips. In pairs, learners would then have to try to put the example and collocation together, by aiming to make sense of which. After they have been corrected in school, I would provide them with a questionnaire from "Collocations used" (pg19). Having been subjected to the collocations needed in the last activity, they have to fill in the question with either "do" or "make", answer it and then go round and have the questions with their classmates.

Trying to find the right collocation to use:

To help learners practice and be a bit well informed in their use of collocations, I like to use a task which Lewis proposed in "Teaching Collocation" (Hove:112). Essentially learners have to put in the absent verb in the collocations. This can help them to minimize their errors as our Italians made: "I really do a mistake".

. . . . . . . . . . . a blunder 2. . . . . . . . your homework

a statement your hair

an observation what you have to do

Alternatively, I could supply the activity some context by giving learners the experience found on site 100 in "Language to go" Intermediate. Here learners have to complete the written text using "make" or "do". This will help them to see how the collocation is used in a context.

Helping them to remember the collocations:

To recall what they've learned, learners need keep in mind what they've learnt. Thornbury 3 claims that "learning is keeping in mind", which clearly shows how important memory space is learning a dialect. The same theory applies to collocations.

One way of supporting learners to remember the collocations is by revising them as much as possible. one particular activity that I like to use to recycle collocations which were met in school is 'Run n Get'. I separate learners into groups and I read aloud the finish of the collocation eg: an apology. I jot down Do and Make on the board. Learners have to run to the plank to circle which one they think goes with the finishing of my collocation. Whoever gets most tips wins.


Personally, I feel that the lexical way has educated me a lot about vocabulary. Instead of finding vocabulary as singular items, I could now help my learners with vocabulary by using chunks. In this case, collocations - that happen to be in themselves chunks, are essential in words learning. By frequently exposing, raising -awareness and helping them to memorize collocations, I feel that we am appreciating more the value of lexis in terms learning.

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