Chunking

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So, what is so important about moving from vocabulary to adverbials phrases, complements and objects such as “on the way”, “one night”, “from outer space”, or even “a monster from outer space”? Here lie examples of chunking of words and the Lexical Approach. The principles of the Lexical Approach have been around since Michael Lewis published ‘The Lexical Approach’ in 1993.

The principles of the Lexical Approach have [been around] since Michael Lewis published ‘The Lexical Approach’ [20 years ago]. [It seems, however, that] many teachers and researchers do not [have a clear idea of] what the Lexical Approach actually [looks like] [in practice].

All the parts in brackets are fixed or set phrases. Different commentators use different and overlapping terms – ‘prefabricated phrases’, ‘lexical phrases’, ‘formulaic language’, ‘frozen and semi-frozen phrases’, are just some of these terms. We use just two: ‘lexical chunks’ and ‘collocations’.

‘Lexical chunk’ is an umbrella term which includes all the other terms. We define a lexical chunk as any pair or group of words which are commonly found together, or in close proximity.

‘Collocation’ is also included in the term ‘lexical chunk’, but we refer to it separately from time to time, so we define it as a pair of lexical content words commonly found together. Following this definition, ‘basic’ + ‘principles’ is a collocation, but ‘look’ + ‘at’ is not because it combines a lexical content word and a grammar function word. Identifying chunks and collocations is often a question of intuition.

Here are some examples.

Lexical Chunks (that are not collocations) 

by the way
up to nowupside

upside down

If I were you

a long way off

out of my mind

Lexical Chunks (that are collocations) 
totally convinced
strong accent

terrible accident

sense of humour

sounds exciting

brings good luck

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