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Chapter 2. Words and word classes. What’s in this chapter?. Please look at the list of topics on page 12. How many topics are in this chapter? Well, really just 2….the introduction introduces the 2 and then they are covered in detail. 1. Lexical word classes 2. Function word classes

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chapter 2

Chapter 2

Words and word classes

what s in this chapter
What’s in this chapter?
  • Please look at the list of topics on page 12. How many topics are in this chapter?
  • Well, really just 2….the introduction introduces the 2 and then they are covered in detail.
    • 1. Lexical word classes
    • 2. Function word classes
  • Now, flip through the chapter to see the headings and to get a sense of how much space & time & information is associated with each of the major chunks.
section reviews
Section Reviews
  • Notice that reviews are given at the end of each chapter chunk.
    • Page 20
    • Page 25-26
    • Page 36
  • I like to read those before reading the sections…to get a feel for what’s in the sections.
  • They pack a lot into the introduction.
  • Here are the most important things to understand right now before reading the rest of the chapter:
    • Morpheme and morphology
    • Syntax
    • Clause vs. Sentence
morphemes morphology
Morphemes & Morphology
  • Morpheme is the technical name for the bits and pieces that make up words.
    • Stems
    • Prefixes
    • Suffixes
    • Not individual sounds or letters but the small meaningful pieces that are combined to make words
  • Morphology is the study of morphemes.
  • Syntax is the technical name for studying how words are combined into larger units.
    • Phrases
    • Clauses
    • Sentences
  • Semantics is the study of meaning.
  • Grammar is usually organized into morphology, syntax, and semantics.
the layers of language
The layers of language
  • Look at the chart on page 13. They want us to understand that language can be studied in terms of various inter-related levels.
  • The top: discourse. Whole pieces of communication…a conversation, an email, a novel…..
  • At the bottom: sounds and spelling.
  • In the middle:
    • Clauses
    • Phrases
    • Words
    • Morphemes
what you really need to understand about words right now
What you really need to understand about words right now
  • It’s easier to give an example of what we mean when we talk about words, than to give an abstract definition.
  • Words are often in related groups of words. These groups are called “lexemes”: write, wrote, written, writing, writer, writers
  • Type and token: It’s a shame that these two words sound so much alike…that makes it difficult for some of us to remember which means what! But it’s worth learning because they give teachers important information.
    • A sample of a language (written or spoken) is made up of words. Some of the words are repeated; some are used just 1 time. We can count the words in a text in 2 different ways.
      • The number of types: only the single words without counting the repetitions. A text will generally have many fewer types than tokens.
      • The number of tokens: all of the words including the repetitions…counting the individual running words

Type-Token Ratio

This measurement is a useful way to analyze the way that vocabulary is used in a reading passage. If a passage has 100 running words and only 20 different words (words like the are repeated many times), then the type/token ratio is 20/100 = .2 x 100 = 20. If a passage has 100 running words and 50 different words (more different words than the first passage), the type-token ratio is 50/100 = . 5 x 100 = 50.

The bigger the type-token ratio the more different words in a passage….and the more challenging the passage for a reader.

In academic writing, history textbooks have higher type-token ratios than accounting textbooks; accounting re-cycles vocabulary; history keeps using new words for new events and people.

What? Could you say that again in English?

Sure. Or I can try.

Vocabulary in a passage can be measured by dividing the number of different words by the total number of words. If a reading has 423 total words and those include 233 different words (with some words repeated 2 or more times), the type-token ratio is 233/423 x 100 = 55. If the same book has another reading with 423 words and 200 different words, the type-token ratio is 47. Which passage will be easier to read? Hey! The one with more repetition (and the lower t-t ratio). This ratio is also sometimes called “lexical density”….how dense with words is a passage? How many different words will the reader have to know to understand a passage? The more repetition, the easier the reading.

major word families
Major word families
  • Ok. What are they? Try to say them before you click. The major families of words covered in this chapter are…
    • 1. Lexical Words
    • 2. Function Words
    • 3. Inserts
  • Ok. What does that mean?
lexical verb
Lexical verb?
  • On the bottom of page 15, they use the term lexical verb. What’s that?
  • They want to make a couple of distinctions that we can see in these 2 examples:
    • 1. I speak English.
    • 2. He will learn Arabic.
  • speak vs. will
    • Speak is the word with core meaning while will is the auxiliary verb that adds meaning to the core. We need to have a way to talk about the difference between speak and will. So, speak is a lexical verb and will is a function word and an verb auxiliary.
  • To speak & to learn vs. speak & will learn: Unfortunately, English grammar is stuck with the term verb….which has 2 meanings. It can refer to the lexical verb and its family of related words (spoke, spoken, speaking, speakers). It can also refer to the use of the word in a sentence. So, generally, linguists talk about
    • Verb: for the lexical word
    • Verb phrase: for the use in a sentence
open class closed class
Open class? Closed class?
  • Words come and go in all languages.
  • Words like nouns and verbs are huge categories that change constantly. These categories that change easily are class “open classes.”
  • Words like prepositions and auxiliary words are smaller in number and they tend to stay around a long time….although changes can occur over very long periods of time. These are called “closed classes.”
function words
Function words
  • Sometimes called “grammatical words.”
  • They tie things together.
  • They include
    • Prepositions
    • Coordinators: and, or but, nor
    • Auxiliary verbs
    • Pronouns
  • Those of you studying conversation need to pay special attention to this category…one that is seldom considered in ESL/EFL/ESOL materials or curricula.
  • Inserts….those words and sounds that we add to our speech for various conversational purposes
    • Uhhhhh.
    • Ummmmm
    • Well….
    • You know….
word formation
Word formation
  • You need to be able to use these 3 terms:
    • Inflection: inflect, inflected
    • Derivation: derived, derive
    • Compounding: compound, compounds, compounded
  • The terms and the concepts they represent are important…they are ways of talking about the 2 major words that words are formed in English.
inflection vs derivation

Suffixes added to a word to add grammatical information

Verb Tense

Noun plural

Adjective & adverb comparative & superlative


Prefixes and suffixes added to the word stem

Changes of meaning to make new words:



Changes in word class

Happy => happiness

Inflection vs. Derivation
compounding grammatical tests
Compounding & Grammatical Tests
  • Compounds are words formed by combining 2 words into a new unit.
  • They do something that we need to notice on page 18 when they talk about how to tell if a set of words is a compound or not. They say: “How are we to know whether two words are genuinely a compound and not simply a sequence of two words? Three tests help to show this:”
    • Then, they give 3 possible situations and relationships between 2 words. If a set of words involves all three of these, the combination is a compound.
    • This is what is called a “grammatical test.” The linguist uses a series of possibilities to “test” a word or phrase or clause or sentence to evaluate the grammar.
    • We’ll notice other grammatical tests as we go through the semester.
lexical function words inserts in context
Lexical & Function Words & Inserts in Context
  • Section 2.2.6 is valuable for two reasons:
  • Reason #1: The examples to show lexical and function words in context.
  • Reason #2: The discourse information on the bottom of page 19. Look at that really closely! Answer these questions:
    • 1. Which sample has more lexical words? Why?
    • 2. Which sample has more inserts? Why?
    • 3. How do conversation, news, academic writing, and fiction compare in the use of lexical words?
    • 4. Why does any of that matter to us as language teachers?!
survey of lexical words
Survey of lexical words
  • Focus on the examples.
  • Don’t bog down on the explanations.
  • Just be aware as you read that they are going to talk about the big lexical classes: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs
  • Just be aware that they give information on morphology, syntax, meaning for each of those big classes.
  • Read through, but don’t bog down. If you find anything that really puzzles or frustrates you, get in touch with let and let’s talk about it.
figure 2 1
Figure 2.1
  • Why are there more adverbs in conversation and fiction than in news and academic writing?

“Adverbs…are linked to verbs. They typically

Describe circumstances relating to actions, processes,

and states that are denoted by verbs. So conversation

and fiction writing, which have the highest density of

Verbs, also have the highest density of adverbs.” p. 23

function words20
Function words

Read all of the examples to give an idea of the kinds

Of words they include in these categories.

Email me if you get confused or puzzled by their explanations.

  • Notice that they expand the list here to be more complete than in their first definition.
  • Function words =
    • Determiners (a, an, the, each, this, that, etc.)
    • Pronouns
    • Auxiliary verbs (modals, be, have)
    • Prepositions
    • Adverbial particles
    • Coordinators
    • Subordinators
    • Numerals
    • And other special little groups
      • Wh-words
      • Existential there
      • Not
      • Infinitive marker I
2 kinds of auxiliary verbs
2 kinds of auxiliary verbs
  • Primary
    • Be: in progressive & passive verb phrases
      • I am teaching grammar.
      • Grammar is studied around the world.
    • Have: in perfect verb phrases
      • I have studied grammar for many years.
    • Do: in questions and negatives in simple present tense and simple past tense
      • Do you love grammar?
      • She doesn’t seem to love grammar as much as I do.
  • Modal
more in my lecture
More in my lecture…
  • In the lecture, I have more information about
    • Collocations and lexical bundles
    • Figures 2.2 and 2.3
  • Remember, I look forward to having questions from you about the grammar!