Topic 11 – Lexical and semantic fields in English. Lexicon need for socialization, information and expression of attitudes. Typology linked to teaching and learning vocabulary in the foreign language classroom activities.

Topic 11 – Lexical and semantic fields in English. Lexicon need for socialization, information and expression of attitudes. Typology linked to teaching and learning vocabulary in the foreign language classroom activities.


In order to speak a language efficiently we must master its grammar and its rules of use. Linguistics is the science which deals with the study of the language and it can be divided into 5 main levels described above.

1) Phonetics, Phonology This is the level of sounds. One must distinguish here between the set of possible human sounds, which constitutes the area of phonetics proper, and the set of system sounds used in a given human language, which constitutes the area of phonology.

2) Morphology This is the level of words and endings, it refers to the analysis of minimal forms in language which are, however, themselves comprised of sounds and which are used to construct words which have either a grammatical or a lexical function. within the same level we must take into account Lexicology. Lexicology is concerned with the study of the lexicon from a formal point of view and is thus closely linked to (derivational) morphology.

3) Syntax This is the level of sentences. It is concerned with the meanings of words in combination with each other to form phrases or sentences.

Language typology attempts to classify languages according to high-order principles of morphology and syntax and to make sets of generalisations across different languages irrespective of their genetic affiliations, i.e. of what language family they belong to.

4) Semantics This is the area of meaning.

5) Pragmatics The concern here is with the use of language in specific situations. The meaning of sentences need not be the same in an abstract form and in practical use. In the latter case one speaks of utterance meaning. The area of pragmatics relies strongly for its analyses on the notion of speech act which is concerned with the actual performance of language. This involves the notion of proposition – roughly the content of a sentence – and the intent and effect of an utterance.

This topic is related to the second level of linguistics which analyze the word structure and types of words ,and the fourth level, the semantic, which focus its attention on meanings. Furthermore, the pragmatic use of language will be analyzed in detail in terms of lexicom needed to fulfill main language functions. It would be divided in four different parts. The first sections will be devoted to the study of vocabulary, how it can be organized and basic morphological concepts. The second part will describe the lexicon necessary to socialize and the third will define main techniques and activities to teach vocabulary to young learners. Last but not least a conclusion regarding educational implications and a bibliography for further references will be included.


1.1 LEXICAL FIELDS: Words that shares lexemes ( root morphemes). run, runner,running. The bulk of the new words created in a language is produced by means of word formation processes:

1.1.1 Affixation:

Prefixation: It consists in putting a prefix in front of the base, sometimes with, but more usually without a change of word-class: e.g. ‘pre-determine.

Suffixation It consists in putting a suffix after the base, sometimes without, but more usually with a change of word-class; e.g.: homeless. This is why the classification of suffixes will be grammatical instead of lexical (the have a small semantic role).

1.1.2 Compounding:

It consists in adding one base to another, such that usually the one placed in front in some sense subcategorises the one that follows (hyponym): blackbird, armchair, bottle-feed. They function grammatically and semantically as a single word. In English, compounds are usually formed by two words and they are equally open.

1.2. SEMANTIC FIELDS: Words related by Hyponymy. Semantic fields relates to a domain. Months ( January, February..etc).

1.3 PARTS OF SPEECH: Or types of word.

The classification below, or slight expansions of it, is still followed in most dictionaries:

Noun (names): a word or lexical item denoting any abstract (abstract noun: e.g. home) or concrete entity (concrete noun: e.g. house); a person (police officer, Michael), place (coastline, London), thing (necktie, television), idea (happiness), or quality (bravery).

Pronoun (replace or again placed): a substitute for a noun or noun phrase (them, he).

Adjective (describes, limits): a modifier of a noun or pronoun (big, brave). Adjectives make the meaning of another word (noun) more precise.

Verb (states action or being): a word denoting an action (walk), occurrence (happen), or state of being (be). Without a verb a group of words cannot be a clause or sentence.

Adverb (describes, limits): a modifier of an adjective, verb, or another adverb (very, quite). Adverbs make language more precise.

Preposition (relates): a word that relates words to each other in a phrase or sentence and aids in syntactic context (in, of). Prepositions show the relationship between a noun or a pronoun with another word in the sentence.

Conjunction (connects): a syntactic connector; links words, phrases, or clauses (and, but). Conjunctions connect words or group of words.

Interjection (expresses feelings and emotions): an emotional greeting or exclamation (Huzzah, Alas). Interjections express strong feelings and emotions.

Article (describes, limits): a grammatical marker of definiteness (the) or indefiniteness (a, an). The article is not always listed among the parts of speech. It is considered by some grammarians to be a type of adjective[13] or sometimes the term ‘determiner‘ (a broader class) is used.


1.4.1 PARADIGMATIC RELATIONSHIP: Saussurean’ concepts:

Words are linguistic signs: They are linguistic in the sense that they are members of a system called langue. A system is a structure in which all elements are defined in opposition to other elements. According to Saussure they are signs in that they constitute an arbitrary relationship between:

1. signifiant: the sound image

2. signifié : the thing signified, or concept’.

The relationship between them both forms a linguistic sign: the basic unit of communication. “langue” is a system of signs.

Hyponymy: Hyponymy is the relation between two words when the sense of one o them includes the sense of the other. The upper term is the superordinate term and the lower term is the hyponym. animals ( cat, dog, etc)

Synonymy: Synonymy is used to mean sameness of meaning. In fact we can define synonymy in terms of symmetric hyponymy.

Antonymy: Antonymy means oppositeness of meaning.

Homonymy: Homonymy occurs when we have the same word form and different meanings, different lexemes. For some authors, they have to be of the same word class as well:Bank: shore, Barclays

Polysemy: Polysemy occurs when we have 1 lexeme having several, usually metaphorical related meanings: mouth: organ of body; entrance in a cave.

Cognates or False friends: ‘False friends’ are elements in the lexicon of a language that bear great resemblance with the lexeme of another language, but with a variation of meaning. It happens in all levels of the communicative competence, but especially in vo



The purpose of language is to communicate, whether with others by talking and writing or with ourselves by thinking. In verbal communication, six main categories within the functions of language can be distinguished and were established by Austen in his theory “ Speech Acts”, but overall, the main function of language is socializing, which will be analyzed in detail afterwards.

Here is Searle’s classification for types of illocutions:

A. Assertive: an illocutionary act that represents a state of affairs. E.g. stating, claiming, hypothesizing, describing, telling, insisting, suggesting, asserting, or swearing that something is the case.

B. Directive: an illocutionary act for getting the addressee to do something. E.g. ordering, commanding, daring, defying, challenging.

C. Commissive: an illocutionary act for getting the speaker (i.e. the one performing the speech act) to do something. E.g. promising, threatening, intending, vowing to do or to refrain from doing something.

D. Expressive: an illocutionary act that expresses the mental state of the speaker about an event presumed to be true.. E.g. congratulating, thanking, deploring, condoling, welcoming, apologizing.

E. Declarative: an illocutionary act that brings into existence the state of affairs to which it refers. E.g. blessing, firing, baptizing, bidding, passing sentence, excommunicating.

Having analysed main function of language and speech act we should review main vocabulary used to socialize. Our aim as English teachers is to provide our students with enough vocabulary and structures to develop social relations.

Main vocabulary and functions:


a. To greet people: Hello, Good morning. Nice to see you…

b. When meeting people: How are you? I’m fine, thanks. What about you?

c. Introducing and being introduced: My name is… Have you met…?

d. When leaving: Good bye. See you later. Good night.

● APOLOGISING: I’m sorry about …gerund.

● CONGRATULATION: Congratulations. I’m glad! That’s wonderful

Affirmative sentences are used to give information and questions to ask for information.
Personal identification:
-Name: What’s your name? I’m…
-Address and telephone number: Where do you live?
-Date and place of birth, age and nationality: Where was he born? Where are you from?
-Jobs, family, character, physical appearance: What does he do? How many brothers have you got? What’s he like? What does she look like?


a. Feelings:
-Pleasure: What fun! I love watching…
-Displeasure: I hate homework. I don’t like washing up.
-Satisfaction: I’m so pleased you have come.
-Disappointment: What a pity! You’ve missed the party.
-Preference: I prefer skating to skiing.
-Gratitude: Thanks!

b. Wishes:
-Want, desire: I would like to have long hair.
-Polite request: Would you mind picking up my suitcases?
-Offering to help: Shall I help you downstairs?
-Request for oneself: May I borrow your classnotes?
-Making requests: May I have a glass of water?

c. Intentions:
-Explaining intentions: I’m going to work hard this term.
-Persuading: Oh, come Tom! You will enjoy the party a lot.
-Making plans: Let us meet at 6’30 in the post office.
-Promises: I will be there.
-Asking about intention: What are you going to do?

A very important group of communicative functions is the one which serve to express intellectual attitudes that are developed by means of a huge and complex series of specific structures and lexicon.
Ÿ Expressing agreement and disagreement: I agree with you. I don’t think so.
Ÿ Inquiring about agreement and disagreement: Do you think so?
Ÿ Denying something: No, I never go there.
Ÿ Accepting or denying an offer or invitation: Thank you. All right.
Ÿ Offering to do something: Can I help you?


Nowadays the most accepted instructional framework is…. CLT…

One of the beauties of the English language is the diversity of the vocabulary available to it’s use. Furthermore, a good vocabulary range helps to develop reading comprehension and listening comprehension and enable our students in their productions in the English language.

As teachers we should try to follow different tips in order to teach vocabulary, such as:

Make it interesting and keep it relevant – we need to choose motivating activities to practice most common lexicon need to perform.

Teach words in context – I never have students write definitions of words, I much prefer that they use the words in a sentence they made on their own. They are more likely to remember the word, better at using and it’s a great chance to sneak in extra writing practice. We must encourage them to use a portfolio and learn vocabulary organized by lexical or semantic fields in order to help their morphological awareness.


There are different activities we can use in order to teach vocabulary

Sparkle – An old game but a good one. Have all members of the class stand up, choose a spelling word and have each student say one letter to spell out the word. After the last letter has been said the word ‘Sparkle’ is called out and the next student in line is out of the game! For example: Word = Cat, Student 1 – ‘C’, Student 2 – ‘A’, Student 3 ‘T’, Student 4 – ‘ Sparkle’, Student 5 is out!

Spelling Bulls-eye – Particularly good fun with an energetic class! Split you class into 2 teams. Students go head to head to spell target words, the winner uses a soft ball (or scrunched up paper) to aim at a bulls-eye (circular target) and score points for their team. Pick your teams carefully so students are paired against those of similar ability.

Spelling Battleships – Loosely based on the traditional board game, words take the place of the ships. Assign students into pairs. Each student has two copies of a battleships grid (10 x 10 square, labeled A-J across and 1-10 down). They put each of their words into the grid without their partner seeing. Then you play like regular battleships. Guess a square (e.g. B7) and the partner calls out ‘hit’ (and tells you the letter) or ‘miss’). Students can try to guess the place of words if they feel confident, but it costs them 1 turn. It helps them to become familiar with the words and recognize patterns.

Teaching Meaning

Word Ladder – Write the target words on large cards (laminate if you intended to use them again) and place them on the floor in a line to make the ladder. Split your students into 2 teams who line up at opposing ends of the ‘ladder’. 1 student from each team start (at the same time) before they can go forward one step on the ladder they must tell you the meaning of the word, or use it in a sentence. If they get it right the step forward. The both keep going until they meet it the middle. Then it’s rock, scissor, paper (or some variation of) to decide who can stay on the ladder. The winner continues, the loser has to go to the back of their team’s line, and a new team member starts from the beginning of the ladder. First team to the end of the ladder claims a point. (Warning: This game can get very, very excitable)

Guess the Word – Place students back to back on chairs. Give each one a list of words, student A gives a definition or sentence but does not say the target word. Student B has to guess what the word is. Once they get it right, Student B makes a new sentence with a different word.

Vocabulary Puzzle – Download a printable puzzle template. Take a marker and write the definition or a sentence across the whole puzzle. Then cut it up. Repeat for as many words as you want. Mix the pieces up. Students have to reassemble the puzzle and then match it to the correct vocabulary word. This is a great hands-on activity for students who finish their classwork quickly.


Morphological awareness is an important skill that influences and supports reading and
spelling. Teachers can draw their children’s attention to morphemes during everyday activities and conversations. Educators should integrate morphological awareness activities as part of a multi-linguistic structured literacy approach to teaching students reading and spelling. As students become more morphologically aware, they will be able to apply this awareness to their reading and spelling of more complex, multimorphemic words, leading to better comprehension of what they read and more breadth in the language they use in their writing.


1. Lyons, J. (1968) Introduction to General Linguistics. Cambridge: C.U.P.

2. Lyons, J. (1977) Semantics (2 vols.). Cambridge: C.U.P.

3. Quirk, R. et al. (1985) A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. N.Y.: Longman.

4. Palmer, F.R. Semantics C.U.P.Cambridge 1990

5. Gramley, s Pätzold K. A survey of Modern English Routiledge London-Newyork, 1992.