Lexis - English Language

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Semantics refers to the method that deals with meaning and how that is generated within the texts

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The vocabulary system of a language. In Lexis there is

  • Nouns = Names of objects, feelings, attitudes, people or places
  • Verbs = shows actions, events or states of being, feeling or thinking
  • Adjectives = Adds detail to nouns
  • Adverbs = Adds detail to verbs or other adverbs
  • Determiners = Positioned in front of nouns to add detail to clarify
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Three word classes

  • Conjunction - links words, phrases and clauses together
  • Preposition - shows relation in terms of time or place (in/at etc)
  • Pronoun - replaces nouns and are names of stuff

Types of pronoun: 

  • Personal - I, you, she, they
  • Possessive - My, his, our, their
  • Reflexive - myself, himself, themselves
  • Demonstrative - this, these, that, those
  • Relative - who, whom, which
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Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns change their form, depending on their number and their function within a sentence as subject, object or posessive.

A subject pronoun = pronoun that occurs as the actor in verbal process

Object pronoun = a pronoun that usually appears as being affected by a verb process

Posessive pronoun - a pronoun that demonstrates ownership

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Proper noun = Refers to names of people or places

Abstract noun = refers to states, feelings and concepts that have no physical existence

Concrete = refers to objects that have a physical existence (countable - Table, non countable - furniture).

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Verbs are used to describe processes.

  • Material verb = describes actions or events (eg, push)
  • Relational verb = Describe states of being or are used to identify (eg, become)
  • Mental verb = Describe perception, thought or speech (eg, think/love)
  • Dynamic verb processes = processes where there is a change over time (eg, remove)
  • Stative verb processes = processes where the situation remains constant (eg, hold)
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An adjective adds further description to, or modify, a noun. An adjective typically occurs before the noun it modifies, as in 'the small town' or modifies a noun following a verb, such as 'to be' 'the town appears small.'

Adjectives can be graded in order to show comparison

  • Base: Small
  • Comparative: Smaller
  • Superlative: Smallest

Some adjectives use 'more' and 'most' for their comparative and superlative forms.

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Adverbs fufil a variety of roles with a number of functions. Such as those that add info about or modify verb processes: 'I ran quickly'

Those that modifiy verb processes 'I ran very quickly'

Those that modify whole sentences 'interestingly, the town is small.'

Adverbs also form comparative and superlative forms through the addition of 'more' or 'most'

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Lexical Cohesion

Lexical choices often help create cohesion within a text. These cohesion techniques are:

  • Lexical connectors
  • Referencing
  • Substitution
  • Ellipsis
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Lexical Connectors

Words or phrases that provide cohesion within the body of a text

  • Addition - and, also, too, furthermore
  • Consequence - so, therefore, thus
  • Comparative - Similarly, likewise, as well, also, but
  • Temporal - later, soon, next, now
  • Enumeration - firstly, then, finally
  • Summative - in conclusion, on the whole
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Cohesion is also provided through the use of referencing. 

  • Anaphoric referencing = a type of cohesion where a pronoun/ noun refers back to an already stated lexical item

Eg - 'The prime minister lived his last day, and at 3pm he went home.'

The pronoun 'he' refers back to 'the prime minister' an already mentioned lexical item

  • Cataphoric referencing = a type of cohesion were referencing is made forwards, to an as yet, undisclosed lexical item

Eg - 'I believe him. Tony would never lie.'

The pronoun 'him' anticipates the proper noun 'Tony'

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Substitution - involves replacing one set of lexical items for another, for example, to avoid repetition.

Eg - 'my mobile phone is out of date, i'm getting a newer model.'

'Newer model' is used to avoid awkward 'mobile phone' repetition.

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Ellipsis involves ommiting sets of elements. 

Instead of replying to 'where did you go on holiday last year?' it is easier to say 'Portugal' instead of 'I went to Portugal.'

The latter would appear uneconomical and clumsy.

Certain text types feature Lexical Cohesion more or less - spoken discourse, eg, tends to be rich in Elliptical structures, mostly due to economical value in terms of word expenditure.

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Lexical Connotation

Some linguists distinguish between the strict semantic meaning of a word and the associatative meanings that it may conjure up in a given context.

This is the distinction between denotation and connotation

Denotation - a strict 'dictionary' meaning of a lexical item

Connotation - an assocaited, symbolic meaning relying on culturally shared conventions

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Lexical Fields

Lexical items that are similar in a range of meaning and properties. Same with Semantics.

Often, cohesive patterns are formed by clusters of words.

Lexical items that share certain semantic value are said to be from a defined semantic or lexical field.

These are cohesive deveices where the addition of unexpected or inappropriate members make texts feel 'uncomfortable.'

Lexical fields have prototypical members, and inclusion is generally controlled by cultural convention. Ie, the word 'tram' would be popular if you lived near a tram stop, yet may not be as popular in the lexical field in a context where long journeys are often made.

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Semantic Relationships


Synonyms are lexical items that have generally equivalent meanings. For example, 'cry' 'weep' 'howl.'// 'Man', 'Bloke' 'dude.' //'Lavatory' 'toilet' 'bog'

There are, however, differences within synonymous groups of words that mean we can never really say that two lexical items have exactly the same meaning. One may be much stronger than another (eg, 'howl' is than 'cry')

The differences in the second group is one of formaility, dialect and sociolect. The third group also relies on difference in fomaility 'Lavatory' seems more formal than 'bog.'

Words and phrases that are more acceptable substitutes for potentially distasteful language are 'euphemisms.' The harsher alternatives are said to be 'dysphemisms.'

Used words are dependant on intended impact and context.

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Antonyms are words with opposite meanings. Types of antonym:

  • Complementary - truly opposite antonyms (alive/dead)
  • Gradable - antonyms that aren't exact opposites but can be considered in terms of degree of quality (narrow/wide)

The difference between the two is one of absoluteness. For example, a human can only be alive or dead, not somewhere in between the two. Yet, something may not be considered wide, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is narrow. 

Gradable antonymy is subject to an individual's perception and value systems

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A hierarchical structure exists between lexical items, known as hyponymy.

Moving down the chain leads to a more specific lexical item.

The subordinate: the 'lower' word in the hyponymic chain, a more specific word (Eg, arab)

The Superordiate: the 'higher' word in the chain, a more general lexical item (Eg, horse)

Linguists have found we tend to use one level of hyponmy than others. This is where the lexical item is sufficeientley detailed to be understood as a distinctive or specific category and therefore generally used.

This is like 'I'm taking the dog for a walk' as oppose to 'I'm taking the labrador for a walk'(too specific) or 'I'm taking the mammal for a walk' (too general)

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Figurative Language

Everyday language is rich in figurative expression, often using metaphor to express something in a creative way. Often, metaphors are expressed using the verb 'to be' as in 'he is a tiger on the football field.'

Everyday language is also rich in conceptual metaphors that allow us to express abstract entities in physical terms, eg, 'Competition is war' where the attributes of war (seeing other as an opponent, attacking defending) help to structure our concept of the more abstract term of compeition. 

This is a commonplace in sport reports

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