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The Lexical SyIlabus

A new approach to language teaching

Dave Willis
COLLINS E.L.T London and Glasgow

Contents
Introduction iii Chapter 1 From methodological options to syllabus design l Chapter 2 Words and structures 15 Chapter 3 The lexical research and the COBUILD project 27 Chapter 4 Syllabus content 39 Chapter 5 Communicative methodology and syllabus specification 57 Chapter 6 Syllabus organisation 74 Chapter 7 Word, structure, function and discourse 91 Chapter 8 A brief review 124 Bibliography 133 Index 134 Collins ELT 8 Grafton Street LONDON W1X 3LA COBUILD is a trademark of William Collins sons & co Ltd First published 1990 10987654321
All rights reserved. No part of this book may he reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission in writing of the Publisher. (NOTE: The University of Birmingham has obtained permission from the publishers to make this book, now out of print, available to its students, on the University website. The copyright of the publishers should be respected in the usual way.)

Introduction
There is general agreement nowadays that we learn a language best by using it to do things, to achieve outcomes. Communicative activities involving games playing and problem solving have become a more and more important part of the language teacher's stock in trade over the last fifteen years or so. Some writers (see, for example, Maley and Duff, 1978) display great ingenuity in devising such activities and there is a wealth of supplementary material which exploits these activities. Yet in spite of this virtually all coursebooks rely on a linguistic syllabus which 'presents' the learner with a series of linguistic items. It seems that communication is good fun and well worthwhile for a bit of variety, but that the serious business of language learning needs to have a firm grammatical basis resting on the assumption that the grammar of the language can be broken down into a series of patterns and reconstructed in a way accessible to the learner. Even coursebooks based on a notional-functional syllabus specification, which take units of meaning as syllabus items, still rest on a methodology which 'presents' learners with a series of patterns. The notionalfunctional syllabus is communicative in that it tried to specify the syllabus in terms of meaning, in terms of what was to be communicated. But the methodology which realises the notional-functional syllabus is little different from the methodology which realises the structural syllabus which it seeks to replace. Both depend on a three part cycle of presentation, practice and production. My dissatisfaction with this methodology has a theoretical basis but it is strongly reinforced by experience in the classroom. The theoretical base draws on the work of people like Prabhu (1987) and Rutherford (1987) both of whom point to the glaring inadequacy of pedagogical grammars. They argue that we cannot begin to offer anything like an adequate description of the language on which to base a pedagogical grammar. Given this, our only recourse is to depend on the innate ability of learners to recreate for themselves the grammar on the basis of the language to which they are exposed. The conclusion is similar to that drawn by interlanguage theorists like Corder (1967) and Selinker (1972) and classroom resear~hers like Ellis (1984). Teachers and researchers have been aware for many years that 'input' does not equal 'intake', that what teachers claim to be teaching bears only a tenuous relationship to what learners are actually learning. But in spite of this, coursebook writers continue to act on the assumption that language can be broken down into a series of patterns which can then be presented to learners and assimilated by them in a predictable sequence. It does not seem to worry people a great deal that this assumption flies in the face of our experience as teachers. My experience in the classroom, like that of all teachers I suppose, has seen both failures and successes. On the one hand I found that students often failed to learn what I thought I was teaching them. On the other hand most of them showed an ability to transcend the limited language which I had so carefully presented to them. It was clear to me that my efforts to present the grammar of the language met with very limited success, yet in spite of this mv students' English was improving. It is encouraging to know that so much learning is taking place in the classroom. It is sobering to realise just how little control the

iv The Lexical Syllabus

teacher has over what is being learned. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is that students learn a great deal directly from exposure to language through reading and listening, without the need for the teacher to impose a description on what is learnt. One of the most plaintive cries in any staffroom goes along the lines of "I've taught them that so many times, and they still get it wrong." There is overwhelming evidence from my experience as a teacher that teachers have little control over what is actually learnt and reproduced in spontaneous language use. How many times, for example, do we teach the distinction between the present simple and the present continuous before students begin consistently to get it 'right'? It usually takes them a long, long time. Could this be because it is not the controlled presentation which does the trick but rather constant exposure over a period of time? Could it be that students learn in the controlled environment of the language classroom not because language is presented to them, but because they are constantly exposed to language? And if this is the case should we not be looking to methodologies which maximise meaningful exposure to and use of language? Taking meaningful exposure as a starting point it is possible to develop an approach to language teaching which takes advantage of the learner's natural tendency to make sense of language and to learn for himself. In order to take full advantage of this approach, however, two other things must be done. First a methodology must be defined which encourages the learner's ability to learn. Teachers need to encourage learners to look critically at language and to recognise the need to develop and refine their language code in order to achieve their communicative aims. Secondly we need to look carefully at the kind of language to which learners are exposed. Random exposure is of little value. Exposure must be organised. What should be aimed at, is exposure that is organised in three ways. First the language that learners are expected to understand and produce should be graded in some way so that learners do not face such difficulties and complexities at an early stage that they become demotivated. Secondly the language they are to be exposed to should be carefully selected so that they are given not random exposure, but exposure to the commonest patterns and meanings in the language - the patterns and meanings they are most likely to meet when they begin to use language outside the classroom. Thirdly there should be some way of itemising the language syllabus so that it should be possible not simply to expose students to language, but also to highlight important features of their language experience, and to point to what language we might reasonably expect them to have learned from their experience. The first of these problems is relatively easy to surmount. It is not too difficult to design tasks which involve a meaningful use of language but which can still be handled by learners who have relatively little control of the language - the kind of learner who is often referred to, somewhat unfortunately in my opinion,as a remedial or false beginner. Tasks which have a clear outcome and involve the exchange of highly specific information can be made accessible to false beginners. As I have said, such tasks have been used as supplementary material for many years. The second and third factors were, until recently, more problematic. When

Introduction v

my wife Jane and myself were asked by Collins ELT in 1983 to begin to research and write a series of coursebooks, the Collins COBUlLD English Course, we began to ask ourselves a number of related questions. How could we identify the commonest patterns and meanings in English and how could we highlight these for students? Obviously many of them are covered in most elementary courses. The verb be and its forms and most of its uses would obviously come high on any list as would prepositions of place. But other equally common forms such as the passive voice and modal verbs are traditionally left until much later. Also, we discovered as we became more involved in the research that a number of important words and patterns are often omitted altogether. Words like problem, solution, idea, argument and thing are commonly used with a noun clause introduced by that to structure discourse. It is difficult to get very far in speech or writing without them. And what about items which seemed to take up far too much time in elementary courses, items like the present continuous used to talk about what is happening here and now? Apart from a traditional belief that certain patterns are 'difficult', there seems to be little objective reasoning behind the selection and ordering of items. We were soon to find evidence that a syllabus based on these established values was likely to be highly uneconomical. But how could we go beyond the traditional approach to itemising and organising a syllabus? Given the range of language experience which is bound to come from exposure to a series of tasks which are graded for difficulty but not otherwise linguistically graded, how would one choose which elements of language to highlight? How would one decide which items to specify as part of an efficient learning programme? Perhaps the most convincing attempt in the field so far was the Council of Europe Threshold and Waystage Syllabus. But this was ultimately a very subjective piece of work. It took as its basis the intuitions of scholars and teachers. It did not rest on an analysis of actual language use. In the mid-1980s a number of things began to come together. After years of teaching English as a foreign language, a period of work as a teacher and teacher trainer in the second language environment of Singapore had forced me to look more closely at methodological issues, particularly the relationship between accuracy and fluency (Willis and Willis 1987). This helped to formalise a communicative approach to ELT and to identify some of its important components. The writing of the Collins COBUILD English Course provided us with the opportunity to put these methodological insights to work. The coursebooks were to be a part of the COBUILD research project in lexical development, a major computing and publishing venture involving cooperation between Collins and the English Language Research Department at Birmingham University. The first part of this project had involved the assembly on computer and subsequent analysis of a 7.3 million word corpus (later extended to over 20 million words) of spoken and written English. It was proposed by John Sinclair, Professor of Modern English Language at Birmingham and Editor-in-chief of the COBUILD project, that this computational analysis should provide the basis for a new coursebook syllabus, a lexical syllabus. Sinclair advanced a number of arguments in favour of the lexical syllabus, but the underlying argument was to do with utility and with the power of the most frequent words of English.

vi The Lexical Syllabus

The 700 most frequent words of English account for around 70% of all English text. That is to say around 70% of the English we speak and hear, read and write is made up of the 700 commonest words in the language. The most frequent 1,500 words account for around 76% of text and the most frequent 2,500 for 80%. Given this, we decided that word frequency would determine the contents of our course. Level I would aim to cover the most frequent 700 words together with their common patterns and uses. Level 2 would recycle these words and go on to cover the next 800 to bring us up to the 1,500 level, and Level 3 would recycle those 1,500 and add a further 1,000. We would of course inevitably cover many other words in the texts to which students were exposed, but we would highlight first the most frequent 700, then 1,500 and finally 2,500 words in the language. In one way this took us back to the pioneering work in the analysis of lexis of scholars like West and Thorndike in the 30s and 40s. But the computer would be able to afford a much more thorough and efficient analysis than had been possible in those days. The database assembled at Birmingham would provide us with detailed information about the commonest words and patterns in English and the meanings and use of those words and patterns. At first we had doubts about the practicality of the lexical syllabus. But the more we worked with the information supplied by the COBUILD research team the more we became convinced that the syllabus which emerged was highly practical, entirely realistic and vastly more efficient than anything we had worked with before. I have already pointed to words like problem, solution and idea which are omitted from most language courses, even though they play a vital function in structuring the way we speak and write. A particularly striking example is the word way, the third commonest noun in English after time and people. The word way in its commonest meaning has a complex grammar. It is associated with patterns like: . . . different ways of cooking fish. A pushchair is a handy way to take a young child shopping. What emerges very strongly once one looks at natural language, is the way the commonest words in the language occur with the commonest patterns. In this case the word way occurs with of and the ring form of the verb and also with the to infinitive. It is also extremely common with a defining relative clause: I don't like the way he talks. The lexical syllabus does not identify simply the commonest words of the language. Inevitably it focuses on the commonest patterns too. Most important of all it focuses on these patterns in their most natural environment. Because of this, the lexical syllabus not only subsumes a structural syllabus, it also indicates how the 'structures' which make up that syllabus should be exemplified. It does this by emphasising the importance of natural language. As we began work on the course design, therefore, a number of basic principles were agreed:
- The methodology employed would be based entirely on activities involving real

Introduction vii language use. - Learners would be exposed almost entirely to authentic native speaker language. They would not be taught through the medium of'TEFLese'- a language designed to illustrate the workings of a simplified grammatical system and bearing a beguiling but ultimately quite false similarity to real English. - Spoken material recorded specially for use in the course would not be scripted and rehearsed. It would be spontaneous speech and would therefore contain many linguistic features normally idealised out of language teaching material. - We would not 'present' learners with language but would encourage them to analyse for themselves the language to which they were exposed and thus to learn from their own experience of language. We would not say to learners 'I, the teacher, will exemplify for you the important features of English, and you, the learner, will thereby build up a description of the language in the way that I have determined'. We would say instead 'You, the learner, already have valuable experience of the language. We will help you to examine that experience and learn from it'.

In effect what we planned to do was create a learners' corpus and encourage learners to examine that corpus and generalise from it. I have already referred to the COBUILD corpus of 20 million words. By studying this corpus in great detail, lexicographers were able to make valid and useful generalisations about the meanings and uses of the words in the language. For Level 1 of our course we intended to create a corpus which would contextualise the 700 most frequent words of English and their meanings and uses. We would then highlight those words with their meanings and uses to provide learners with valuable exposure and experience. We would then devise exercises to encourage learners to analyse that experience of language and to learn from it. Levels 2 and 3 would go on to do the same at the 1,500 and 2,500 word frequency levels. We set about designing tasks for use in the classroom. Some of these were based on written and some on spoken texts. All of the spoken tasks designed to be performed by learners were carried out by native speakers and recorded. This gave us a bank of texts, both spoken and written which we could use to provide learners with balanced exposure to the language. The balance was determined by the original COBUILD research. We identified from that research the important features of language we wished to illustrate and then constructed our corpus by selecting texts which would indeed illustrate those features of language. This was a long and time-consuming process. All the texts we used had to be closely analysed and many of them were rejected on the grounds that they did not afford us economical coverage. What we finished with was a small corpus of language which presented the learner with a microcosm of the 20 million COBUILD corpus. In becoming familiar with this corpus, the learner would become familiar with the language as a whole since the corpus contained all the important features of the words which make up 80% of language use. The lexical syllabus, therefore, affords the learner a coherent learning opportunity. It does not dictate what will be learned and in what order. It offers the learner experience of a tiny but balanced corpus of natural language from which it is possible to make generalisations about the language as a whole. It then provides the learner with the stimulus to examine that mini-corpus in order to make those productive generalisations.

viii The Lexical Syllabus

The process of syllabus design involves itemising language to identify what is to be learned. Communicative methodology involves exposure to natural language use to enable learners to apply their innate faculties to recreate language systems. There is an obvious contradiction between the two. An approach which itemises language seems to imply that items can be learned discretely, and that the language can be built up from an accretion of these items. Communicative methodology is holistic in that it relies on the ability of learners to abstract from the language to which they are exposed, in order to recreate a picture of the target language. The lexical syllabus attempts to reconcile these contradictions. It does itemise language. It itemises language minutely, resting on a large body of reseach into natural language. On the basis of this research it makes realistic and economical statements about what is to be learned. But the methodology associated with the lexical syllabus does not depend on itemisation. It allows learners to experience language items in natural contexts and to learn from their experience. It relies crucially on the concept of the learners' corpus. It is the concept of the learners' corpus which reconciles the contradiction between syllabus specification and methodology. Once we had come to this realisation the concept of the learners' corpus was simple. The processes by which we came to this concept, and the procedures which realised it are far from simple. It is those processes and procedures which are described in this book.

The Lexical Syllabus; Dave Willis Originally published by Collins ELT, 1990

Bibliography
Bongers, H. 1947. The History and Principles of Vocabulary Control, Wocopi: Woerden. Brumfit, C. J. 1984. Communicative Methodology in Language Teaching, CUP. Caroll, J. B., P. Davies, and B. Richman 1971. The American Heritage Word Frequency Book, New York, American Heritage Pub. Co. Corder, S. P. 1967. The Significance of Learners Errors, IRAL. Corder, S. P. 1978. Language Learner Language, in Richards, J. C. (ed.). Ellis, R. 1984. Classroom and Second Language Development, OUP. Halliday, M. A. K. 1976. Learning How to Mean, Edward Arnold. Halliday, M. A. K. 1976. The English Verbal Group in System and Function in Language, (ed.) Gunther Kress OUP. Halliday, M. A. K. 1978. Language as Social Semiotic, Edward Arnold. Hanks, P. 1987. Definitions and Explanations, in Looking Up, Collins. Hoey, M. 1983. On the Surface of Discourse, George Allen and Unwin. Krashen, S. D. 1981. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning, Oxford, Pergamon Press. Krashen, S. D. 1982. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition, Oxford, Pergamon Press. Krashen, S. D. and T. D. Terrel 1983. The Natural Approach, Oxford, Pergamon Press. Lewis, M. 1989. Unpublished paper delivered at IATEFL Conference, Warwick. Littlewood 1981. Communicative Language Teaching, CUP. Long, M. H. 1982. Does Second Language Instruction Make a Difference? Paper delivered at TESOL Convention, Honolulu. Maley, A. and A. Duff 1978. Drama Techniques in Language Learning, CUP. McTear, M. F. 1975. Structure and Categories of Foreign Language Teaching Sequences, Unpublished mimeo, University of Essex. Nation, I. S. P. 1983. Teaching and Learning Vocabulary, Victoria University of Wellington English Language Institute. Prabhu, N. S. 1987. Second Language Pedagogy, OUP. Quirk, R. et al, 1972. A Grammar of Contemporary English, Longman. Renouf, A. 1987. Corpus Development. Looking Up, Collins. Rutherford, W. E. 1987. Second Language Grammar: Learning and Teaching, Longman. Selinker, L. 1972. Interlanguage, IRAL. Sinclair, J. M. 1987 (ed.). Looking Up, Collins. Sinclair, J. M. 1988. Foreword to The Collins COBUILD English Course, Collins. Sinclair, J. M. and R. M. Coulthard 1975. Towards an Analysis of Discourse, OUP. Tickoo, M. L. 1988. Michael West in India: a Centenary Salute, in ELTJ vol 42 no. 4. West, M. 1953. A General Service List of English Words, Longman, Green and Company. Widdowson, H. G. 1978. Teaching Language as Communication, OUP. Widdowson, H. G. 1979. Explorations in Applied Linguistics, OUP. Wilkins, D. A. 1976. Notional Syllabuses, OUP. Willis, J. R. 1981. Spoken Discourse in the ELT Classroom, Birmingham University, unpublished M.A. thesis. Willis, J. D. 1983. The Implications of Discourse Analysis for the Teaching of Oral Communication, Birmingham University, unpublished Ph.D. thesis. Winter, E. O. 1977. A clause relational approach to English texts; a study of some predictive lexical items in written discourse, in Instructional Science, vol 6 no. 1.

The Lexical Syllabus; Dave Willis


Originally published by Collins ELT, 1990

CHAPTER 1: From methodological options to syllabus design


Syllabus and methodology It is tempting to see syllabus design and methodology as discrete options. The syllabus specifies what is to be learned and the methodology tells us how it is to be learned. It seems that there need be no conflict between the two. We can specify a syllabus in whatever way seems sensible, and can then use whatever methodology we want in order to transmit our syllabus content. Unfortunately, in recent years there has been conflict between syllabus and methodology. The failure to recognise this conflict has on occasions led to a good deal of confusion. There is general agreement nowadays that people learn a language best by actually using the language to achieve real meanings and achieve real outcomes. This belief has brought into the classroom a wide range of activities designed to promote language use - role play, games playing and problem solving activities for example. These activities are contrasted with activities which involve manipulating language in ways which do not involve any exchange of meaning. Listening and repeating, transformation exercises and controlled pattern practice are activities which involve the production of language but not the use of language. This emphasis on language use has obliged us to look carefully at the content of language courses in terms of topics and activities. The best way to ensure that learners really use language is to put them in a situation which makes them want to use language. We must catch their interest in some way, or present them with a challenge they feel motivated to meet. They will then be predisposed to use language in order to communicate their interest or to meet the challenge of a game or problem. There are, then, at least two kinds of language production as part of the learning process in the classroom. At times people produce language in order to communicate. At other times they produce language simply in order to practise correct forms, or to demonstrate that they can produce a correct form. This may seem to be a straightforward distinction, but at times it can cause confusion in the classroom. Here is an example from some actual classroom data (J R Willis 1981). The teacher has worked very hard to set up a situation in which students are to practise a number of verbs followed by the gerund form -ing. She tells one student:
Antonio, ask Socoop if he likes being a father.

Antonio says:
Socoop, do you like being a father?

2 The Lexical Syllabus

Socoop replies:
Yes, I erm . . . I am father of four children.

By standards operating outside the classroom this is a perfectly reasonable reply. It is also, as it happens, an acceptable sentence of English. The teacher, however, is not satisfied with this reply. She says:
Yes, all right, listen to the question though.

Socoop listens to the question and then tries a series of replies without real success until the teacher resolves the issue by answering for him:
Yes, I do. I like being a father.

The learners do not challenge the truth of the teacher's utterance, even though the teacher is a woman, because they know it is not a real statement intended to communicate something about the teacher's attitude to parenthood. It is simply the teacher correcting Socoop and giving him a model of the target pattern. Socoop's mistake, of course, was to behave as if the question he was asked was a real question, and as if he really was expected to explain to the class his feelings about fatherhood. McTear (1975) gives a similar example:
Teacher: Where are you from? Students: We're from Venezuela . . . Teacher: No. Say the sentence: Where are you from? Students: Where are you from?

Here again the students imagine that the teacher is asking a real question whereas in fact the teacher is simply giving them a model to follow. The literature on classroom research is full of misunderstandings of this sort, where an utterance is taken as having some communicative value, when in fact it is simply intended as a sample of language for the learners to copy or manipulate in some way, usually by repeating word for word or by producing another sentence incorporating a similar pattern. Unfortunately, it is not only learners who are sometimes confused about the nature and purpose of language produced in the classroom. Most teachers nowadays would claim that their approach to teaching rests, as I have already said, on the belief that we best learn a language by using that language rather than simply by producing samples of it for the teacher's inspection and correction. Broadly speaking such an approach is referred to as communicative, since it is based on the use of language to communicate. Even if a language programme is based on a grammatical syllabus, it may be described as communicative on the grounds that it rests on a communicative methodology. But what if there is, as I have claimed, a conflict between syllabus and methodology? I believe that such a conflict is revealed in attempts to harness a communicative methodology to a grammatical or structural syllabus. The syllabus aims are expressed as a series of language patterns with their associated meanings. The aim of each unit is that by the end the learner should have mastered the prescribed pattern or patterns. One methodology which might realise such a

From Methodology to Syllabus 3

syllabus is based on a three stage cycle involving presentation, practice and production. The aim of this methodological cycle is to lead students towards control of a particular pattern in English which is based on the structure of the clause or the sentence. The pattern is intended either as an illustration of some aspect of English grammar, or as the realisation of some communicative function. At the presentation stage the teacher contextualises and models a target form - a clause or sentence pattern - and students are required to produce that form under close teacher control. Care is taken to see that learners understand the pattern they are about to practise. Once the meaning is clear, the cycle moves on to the practice stage. There is a range of techniques which might be used at this stage. Students may be required to reply to a question taking care to use a sentence of the appropriate form; or they may be asked to respond to some other stimulus whereby they transform or expand a given utterance into one with the appropriate form. The presentation stage of the lesson is at first very tightly under the teacher's control. A very common way of accomplishing this stage is for the teacher to ask a series of questions which the students answer using the target pattern. If, for example, the target is the present continuous used with future reference, as in:
A: What are you doing tomorrow? B: Well, in the morning I'm playing tennis.

the teacher may ask a series of questions like:


What are you doing after tennis? What are you doing in the afternoon?

and so on. The content of the students' answers may be controlled, for example by the use of a series of flashcards:
Teacher: What are you doing tomorrow? (Shows picture of people playing tennis.) Learner: I'm playing tennis. Teacher: Good. And what are you doing at the weekend. (Shows picture of a cinema queue.) Learner: I'm going to the cinema.

Gradually the control of content is relinquished as the lesson moves into the practice stage. Learners may, for example, be expected to give true answers to the teacher's questions. But the teacher still hovers in the background to ensure that the language produced is relevant to the aim of the lesson - the accurate production of the target form. The purpose of the activity is not simply to give learners the chance to talk about what they are planning to do at some time in the future. It is, quite specifically, to give them opportunities to use the present continuous tense. In the presentation and practice stages, then, the focus of attention is very much on the form of the language which is to be produced. It might be argued that there is a focus on meaning too. But meaning implies choice, and the purpose of presentation and practice is to restrict choice. In the lesson above, the

The Lexical Syllabus

'right' answer to:


What are you doing tomorrow?

is not:
I don't know. I might play tennis.

or:
I'll probably play tennis if the weather's okay.

or: I'm going to play tennis. The 'right' answer is:


I'm playing tennis.

This is because the focus of the activity is not really on the content of the language, the meanings that are being exchanged. The real focus is on the form of the utterances used to realise those meanings. Presumably, then, it is at the production stage that learners are involved in real language use. The first two stages have an enabling role. They provide students with the language they will need in the production stage. But what is it that is to be produced? If, as the label implies, the purpose of this stage is to produce the target form, then what we have is yet another form-focused activity. The intention may be that the production of the target form is subordinate to some other activity, a role play or problem solving exercise for example. But if learners are predisposed to produce specific forms of the language, then it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the activity is one which focuses on form and on formal accuracy. During the presentation and practice stages, learners have been encouraged to give the 'correct' response to the question - correct in that it incorporates the form under study. In the same way during the production stage learners will be strongly predisposed to produce the target form. In the example I have given they will be predisposed to make statements about the future not by using the modal will or might or by using going to, but by using the present continuous, irrespective of the meaning they wish to convey. In other words learners will have a mental set such that form takes priority over meaning. When it comes to talking about the future in a classroom context, the focus of the production stage is very much on form. Sometimes this predisposition on the part of the learners is reinforced by the teacher and the materials used. Learners may be encouraged to 'try to use phrases like these'. They will then only be regarded as having performed successfully if they do indeed produce the forms which have just been presented and practised and if they fail initially to do this the teacher will intervene to ensure conformity. Socoop made the mistake of assuming that he was being asked a real question, and he had to be corrected by the teacher. In the same way a learner who fails to produce the present continuous after the kind of presentation and practice stages we have described may be 'corrected' by the teacher. It is easy to drift into a situation in which the main purpose of the pro-

From Methodology to Syllabus 5

duction stage is not to exchange meanings but to produce the target form. In spite of this, there is sometimes a claim that this kind of methodology is in some way communicative. Littlewood (1981) outlines a sequence based very much on presentation, practice and production in which he subsumes presentation and practice under 'pre-communicative activities', leading up to 'communicative activities' corresponding to the production stage:
Through pre-communicative activities, the teacher isolates specific elements of knowledge or skill which compose communicative ability, and provides the learners with opportunities to practise them separately . . . In communicative activities, the learner has to activate and integrate his pre-communicative knowledge and skills, in order to use them for the communication of meanings. He is now engaged in practising the total skill of communication. (Littlewood 1981)

Littlewood suggests that the normal sequencing will be for teachers to provide input in the form of a form-focused pre-communicative activity, and to follow this with a communicative activity 'during which the learners can use the new language they have acquired and the teacher can monitor their progress'. But if the purpose of the so-called communicative activities is for students to demonstrate control of the newly introduced language forms, how does the teacher 'monitor their progress'? Presumably by listening to see if they do indeed incorporate the target form, and additionally to see if they produce it accurately. It is difficult to see how such activities can be regarded as truly communicative if the learners' main object is not to achieve some outcome through the use of language, but to demonstrate to the teacher their control of a target form. True communication involves the achievement of some outcome through the use of language, and demands that the language used should be determined by the attempt to achieve that outcome. In the kind of communication described by Littlewood, the so-called communicative activity is simply an opportunity to use a particular form and the language used is conditioned by this. There is, therefore, a tension, perhaps a basic contradiction, between a grammatical or structural syllabus and a communicative methodology. A grammatical syllabus demands a methodology which focuses on the correct production of target forms. It is form-focused. A communicative methodology, if it involves real communication, demands that learners use whatever language best achieves the desired outcome of the communicative activity. There is no real sense in which the presentation and practice stages described above can be called communicative, because they restrict the freedom to use whatever forms best realise communicative intent. Learners are not able to choose whatever forms best realise the meanings they want to realise, but rather have to use the forms that have been identified and prescribed for them by their teacher. At the production stage teacher and learner have two options. The purpose of the stage may be for learners to produce the target form. If this is the case then communication has been subordinated to the primary goal, which is to rehearse the use of a particular form. The other option is for them to see this last stage as free. Learners use whatever language they want in order to achieve the desired communicative outcome or intention. But if they do this we can

6 The Lexical Syllabus

hardly speak of a 'production' stage, because we can no longer say what it is that is to be produced and we can no longer point to a link between the activity and the syllabus. Sometimes a claim to a 'communicative' approach rests on syllabus specification rather than methodology. Many language teaching programmes take a notional-functional or 'communicative' syllabus as their starting point. Such a syllabus, like the Council of Europe Threshold Syllabus, is seen as communicative because it consists of an inventory of units of communication rather than an inventory of sentence patterns. It has units entitled 'Making Requests' and 'Cause and Effect', so it is concerned with what is to be communicated rather than with how it is to be communicated. In this case one would expect to match the syllabus statement with a communicative methodology. But the communicative syllabus based on specified notions and functions does not really consist of such communicative units. Those units are the abstract categories on which the syllabus is based, but these categories are realised by a set of sentence patterns. The real syllabus is an inventory of such patterns. Thus the unit on requests may cover the models would and could in patterns like:
Could you open the window please.

The methodology which is usually associated with such a syllabus is a presentation methodology of the kind I have described above. It depends on learners producing the target pattern rather than encoding requests in whatever way seems to be most appropriate. It is not 'communicative' because it does not involve learning through use. It seems, therefore, that syllabus and methodology are not discrete options. If we choose a syllabus which specifies an inventory of language forms, it is difficult to see how we can achieve this syllabus by means of a communicative methodology. And if we want to use a communicative methodology in which learners use language freely, it is difficult to see how we can then specify what language forms will be covered by this methodology. One response to this conflict is to adopt an eclectic approach. For example the syllabus may be defined linguistically as an inventory of language structures, and realised through a presentation and practice methodology. This methodology may then be supplemented by giving learners ample opportunity to use language freely to enable them to consolidate and extend what they have been taught. This is what underlies Brumfit's (1984) recommendation that a language learning programme should offer a balance of activities, some of which focus on accuracy and some on fluency. There is a focus on accuracy when learners are concerned with the form of the language they produce, and on fluency when they are concerned with exchanging meanings and achieving outcomes. One could achieve this double focus by operating with a structural syllabus realised through a presentation and practice methodology, and by having in parallel a series of activities which encourage learners to use language. This would not be a production stage but a discrete series of activities, so that learners did not feel constrained to 'produce' any particular form, but simply to communicate as best they could with whatever language they could command.

From Methodology to Syllabus 7

However, an eclectic approach of this kind skirts around the problem of reconciling a syllabus specified in linguistic terms with a methodology based on language use. There is no serious attempt to ensure that there is a real relationship between the language syllabus, realised by controlled activities, and the communicative activities. Presumably one would hope that there would be a good chance that in the communicative activities learners would use at least some of the language that had been presented and practised, even if one did not judge success simply in terms of what language was produced and how accurately. But this does not provide more than a tenuous link between syllabus and fluency activities. I have argued up to now that there are potential conflicts between the way we specify a syllabus and the way we realise that syllabus. I have argued that there is a basic dichotomy in the language classroom between activities which focus on form and activities which focus on outcome and the exchange of meanings. I have suggested that we need to be clear about the relationship between syllabus specification and methodology. I have also suggested that the choices involved are concerned crucially with the ,way language is used in classrooms - whether the focus is primarily on language form or on language as a means of communication. Grammar in the classroom Rutherford (1987) is highly critical of the view of language enshrined in a presentqtion methodology. He argues that this approach to language learning regards the process as one of 'accumulated entities'. According to this view learners gradually amass a sequence of parts. At intervals their proficiency in the language is measured by determining what parts and how many parts they have accumulated. Rutherford argues that most commercially produced foreign language textbooks reflect this view, an indication that it is a view widely held in the language teaching profession. The associated methodology is based on:
. . . the discovery of a target language whose structure has been analysed into its putative constituent parts, the separate parts thus serving as units of pedagogical content, focus, practice and eventual mastery. (Rutherford 1987)

The danger with an approach of this kind is that it trivialises grammar, and trivialises language description in general. It does give recipes for the construction of some clauses and sentences, and for the production of samples of language. But the grammar of a language is not a set of clauses and sentences. It is the systematic relationship between meaning and form which underlies the production of grammatical clauses and sentences. It is useful to acquire samples of language only in so far as those samples lead us towards insights into the underlying system. Language behaviour is highly systematic. We produce language in accordance with a complex system of rules. Most people, even though they are successful language users, are quite unable to give anything but the most rudimentary statements about how that system works. They can make statements about whether or not something 'sounds all right', but find it very difficult to

8 The Lexical Syllabus

explain these decisions. Most native speakers would have no doubts that the sentences:
John is being silly.

and:
John is being careful.

are grammatically acceptable. Equally most native speakers would have doubts about the sentences:
John is being tall.

and:
John is being handsome.

Silly and careful belong to a class of adjectives often referred to as dynamic. They are used to describe someone's behaviour rather than their inherent attributes. Dynamic adjectives, such as awkward, mischievous, kind and cruel, are regularly used with the present continuous, whereas other adjectives which are stative are not. This is a rule which all native speakers operate but very few would be able to explain. There is a difference then, between a user's grammar and a grammatical description. A user's grammar is an internalised system, the operational system underlying our language behaviour. We normally operate the system unconsciously and are quite unable to explain it. A grammatical description is an attempt to characterise that behaviour, and to identify the categories and concepts on which it rests (categories like adjective, dynamic and stative). Prabhu (1987) argues, like Rutherford, that most approaches to language teaching are based on 'internalisation of the grammatical system through planned progression, pre-selection and form-focused activity'. In other words there is a description of the language which is communicated to the learners bit by bit by revealing to them samples of the language in a predetermined order. Prabhu claims that such an approach is based on a number of quite false assumptions. The most basic of these assumptions is that we have a description of grammar which is adequate to this task. The user's grammar is and always will be, more complex than any descriptive grammar. Indeed attempts to describe the grammar simply showed: . . . that the internal grammatical system operated subconsciously by fluent speak
ers was vastly more complex than was reflected by or could be incorporated into any grammatical syllabus- so complex and inaccessible to consciousness in fact, that no grammar yet constructed by linguists was able to account for it fully.

However much we may wish to, we simply cannot give the learner a description of the language which works. It must follow that if our pedagogic description of the language is inadequate, then in order to learn the language the learner must operate learning strategies which do not depend on a grammatical description of the language. There must be important and subtle insights into the structure of language which learners are able to make quite unaided. A look at most coursebooks will confirm that the number of patterns actually brought directly to the attention of learners does not go very far towards a com-

From Methodology to Syllabus 9

prehensive grammar of English. Fortunately learners are able to transcend or, perhaps more accurately, to by-pass the grammar that is presented to them and to go beyond it. They begin, for example, to use the present perfect tense with reference to future time in sentences like:
Please let me know as soon as you havefixed your travel plans. I'll come round later if I've finished what I have to do.

even though this particular use is hardly ever presented in coursebooks. They learn, as we shall see later, that the word any and its compounds are used in affirmative sentences like:
Anything you can do I can do better. Come round any time.

even though they may have been taught quite explicitly that any is used only in negative and interrogative sentences. We should ask very seriously how it is that learners are able to go beyond what they are taught in this way. An obvious possibility is that they learn a good deal for themselves from the language that they read and hear. They do not need to be taught, because they have an innate ability to generalise from the language they read and hear in order to build up and refine a workable grammatical system. It is also difficult to see how the learner can move from an inventory of discrete patterns towards important generalisations about the grammar of the language. We have already pointed out that there is much more to language than a series of structures which can be presented to a learner. We can present, for example, the pattern which is commonly, though misleadingly, called the first conditional:
If it rains we will get wet.

This pattern is regarded as difficult, and therefore worth presenting to students, because the use of the present simple tense with reference to future time causes particular problems. But this is a feature of the so-called present tense, not simply of the first conditional. The present tense is commonly used with future reference in temporal clauses:
It'll be quite late when we arrive.

and after verbs like hope:


I hope somebody is there to meet you when you arrive.

The same use is common in other subordinate clauses:


There will be a prize for the one who finishes first.

The present tense is an option when the future is already fixed or arranged. I recently had a conversation trying to arrange a meeting involving a number of people. One of the participants turned down a proposed date saying:
I'm sorry, I'm in Bhutan.

This was obviously not a reference to present time since we were in a British university at the time. It was a reference to future time and was acknowledged

10 The Lexical Syllabus

by another participant:
Oh, yes. When do you go?

Drilling or repeating the first conditional pattern may show a learner that this is an acceptable pattern of English, and the pattern may eventually be incorporated in the learner's language. But it tells the learner nothing of great value about the grammar of the present tense. Indeed, by implying that there is something unusual about this use of the tense and that this unusual feature is associated with the conditional, it is actually getting in the way of learners developing a more complete description of the present tense and realising that 'the present simple tense is neither present nor simple' (Lewis 1989). There is also an assumption on the part of those who present language to the learner that the learner is actually in a position to receive what is presented, that we can specify what will be learned and in what order. This again flies in the face of our experience as teachers. We know very well that it will be a long long time before learners distinguish consistently between, for example, the present perfect and past simple forms of the verb. We may 'present' some version of this distinction but it will not immediately become part of the learner's language behaviour. A learner may ignore the distinction altogether or may operate it only in a few instances. It will be a long time before the learner has any control of this part of the verb system of English. We cannot realistically hope to present the learner with usable information in this way. All we can realistically do is attempt to make the learner aware that these concepts and these distinctions are a part of the grammar of English. Whether and at what point the learner will be able to act on that information is beyond our control. If we are to help learners to acquire the grammar of the language in the sense of an operating system, we must begin by acknowledging that we can only do this indirectly. We may be able to offer useful hints, but we cannot begin to offer a full description of the language. We may be able to devise activities which will help learners internalise the grammar of the language for themselves, but we cannot present them with usable chunks of language. A methodology should take account of the fact that any pedagogic grammar will be inadequate, that what is presented will not necessarily be received and, most important of all, that the crucial participant in the attempt to internalise a grammar is not the teacher or the materials but the learner. Use and usage Even if we were able to teach the grammatical system effectively, there is no guarantee that this would be translated into an ability to use the target language. Widdowson (1978) argues that a methodology which focuses simply on language form is deficient in that it is concerned simply with enabling students to produce correct sentences. He feels that the ability to use language involves more than just the ability to produce grammatical sentences.
Someone knowing a language knows more than how to understand, speak, read and write sentences. He also knows how sentences are used to communicative effect. (Widdowson 1978)

From Methodology to Syllabus 11

At first sight this may seem to be a highly artificial distinction. How can someone know how to 'understand, speak, read and write sentences' without being able to use these sentences to communicative effect? It seems to me that there are two ways in which this can happen. The first is probably familiar to very many of us who have learned a foreign language. We can work out the meaning of a spoken sentence and perhaps reply to that sentence, but only if we are given time to process the language involved. Given time we can do a lot with the language, but under the kind of time pressure which usually accompanies language use we just cannot get things together. There is a sense in which we know the language in that we know what the forms mean and we know what forms we want to produce. But there is another sense in which we do not know the language. We cannot get things together with sufficient speed and confidence to use the language when we are required to do so. We have a knowledge of the forms, but we do not have the kind of fluent control demanded in real communication. There is a second sense in which we may be said to 'know' the language and at the same time not to know it. We can produce and understand acceptable sentences in the target language, but we are not sure in what circumstances these sentences would be appropriate as tokens of communication, and we are not sure how we would deploy them in communicative discourse. This is what Widdowson has in mind. Take, for example, an English speaker who has a good knowledge of French grammar and lexis and who then tries to put this knowledge to use in writing a business letter in French. The letter would be unlikely to create a favourable impression in a French reader. The conventions of letter writing in French are quite different from those in English, and if the words and phrases are translated directly into English they sound elaborate and ornate to an English ear. Similarly, the direct equivalent of an English letter might sound abrupt and dismissive to a French speaker. We all have to learn the conventions of certain types of communication in our own language, even though we have a sophisticated knowledge of the grammar and lexis. We have to do the same in a foreign language. We must also learn how to deploy sentences in discourse. There is a phrase in English which seems to have become very common in recent years. The phrase is 'Having said that...', and it is used to introduce some modification or something which partly contradicts what has just been said. There is nothing in the meaning of the phrase 'Having said that. ..' which can be gleaned from its Iexis and grammar to give us any indication of its use. We have to know what value it has in discourse, how it is used to structure what follows. Widdowson develops a distinction between language as a lexico-grammatical system, which he refers to as language usage, and language as used for communication, which he refers to as language use. One of his conclusions is that we need to take much more account in our teaching strategies of language use. But the problem here is that we know very little about language use. We do not, he argues, have any adequate description of language use. We do not know enough about the conventions of communication and about the way phrases, clauses and sentences come to have a value quite separate from that of their component parts.

12 The Lexical Syllabus It must be stressed that the study of language in use is still in its early stages: we know very little at present about such matters as the way discourse develops and the way different rhetorical activities are to be characterised. There is no source of reference for the teaching of use as there is for the teaching of usage. In these circumstances it is prudent not to be too positive in one's recommendation. (Widdowson 1978)

This is true in the sense that we do not have an accepted model for the analysis and description of discourse or for the classification and characterisation of rhetorical activities. But we can still look at language in use and encourage learners to make generalisations about it. One thing, however, is sure. If we are to study language in use, then what we must study is language in use. This is a tautology, but it is one which is often brushed aside:
. . . there has been for many years in English teaching a loss of respect for the natural patterns of a language. Because of the difficulty of analysing language that occurs in everyday contexts, teachers have got in the way of accepting all sorts of invented or adapted texts. These are grimly defended by some, but there is no virtue in them; they were only made up because it was not practicable to harness real language. (Sinclair 1988)

Approaches which focus primarily on the form of a simplified and idealised 'language' are indeed unlikely to take us anywhere near the study of language in use. If we are to study language in use then we must study real language designed to serve some communicative purpose, rather than language simply designed to illustrate aspects of usage. But a methodology based on presentation and practice is not equipped to handle problems of use. As we have seen, the language involved is not being used. Socoop's teacher, for example, when she says:
Yes, I do. I like being a father.

is not seen as expressing how she feels about fatherhood. Presentation and practice are concerned purely and simply with usage. The production stage following presentation and practice is also concerned primarily with usage. When learners produce the present continuous with future reference, their decision to use this form is not based on criteria of use. They do not choose this form because it is the form which best expresses the meaning they want to express. They produce the form to demonstrate their familiarity with the aspect of usage which is the focus of that particular lesson. Once learning targets have been specified in terms of form learners are predisposed to usage rather than use. Use and usage in the classroom context To a large extent the presentation methodology I have described above has replaced the old grammar-translation approach. Grammar-translation was characterised by a good deal of explanatory talk in the learner's first language,

From Methodology to Syllabus 13

with relatively little production of the target language on the part of either teacher or learners. One of the features of presentation, practice and production is that there is a great deal of the target language produced in the classroom, and perhaps this is the reason for its relative success. If you observe very carefully a lesson based on presentation, or, even better, if you look at transcripts of such lessons, you will probably notice two rather surprising things. You will probably see that there is a lot of language produced in addition to the language that presents and practises the target form. One reason is that teachers use a lot of language to organise the lesson. They are constantly giving instructions and explanations to give structure to the lesson and make sure that learners know what is expected of them. Another reason is that a language lesson is a social event. There is more to it than simply learning a language. Teachers and learners greet each other, tell stories, make jokes, get to know one another and do all the other things that contribute to an easy social atmosphere. Another thing you will notice about the language in a classroom, particularly in an elementary classroom, is that teachers produce a lot of language which is beyond the level the learners are supposed to have reached. They do not, indeed they cannot, restrict themselves to the very limited language which has already been presented. A teacher might well begin a lesson, even at the elementary stage, by saying:
Okay, Unit 6. Could you turn to Unit 6? Right, Andreas, what about the first picture? What's in the first picture?

This would be quite unremarkable teacher behaviour even if learners have not yet 'done' the modal could or the phrase 'What about . . . ?' By the same token, learners manage to get across meanings which are beyond their target language resources. In the lesson featuring Socoop (see page 1) one of Socoop's classmates wanted to make the point that women often do jobs which are traditionally regarded as a man's prerogative:
Victoria: (A woman) . . . He works, he . . . she works . . . Teacher: Yes. Victoria: in sever(?) for her husband. Teacher: Mm? Victoria: He works teacher or, er engineering or many jobs, er, the sever in a man. Teacher: The same. Victoria: The same Teacher: As a man. (J R Willis 1981 )

One of the important things about the way a presentation methodology is realised by a sensitive teacher is that it is language rich. Learners are involved in a lot of language use. But, paradoxically, this is not a deliberate part of the methodology. It is very much a by-product of the methodology. But it would help to explain how learners learn a lot of language which has not been presented to them. It would also help to explain how in some cases, as in the case of any cited above (page 9), they may learn something very different from what has been presented to them.

14 The Lexical Syllabus

It is also important to remember that presentation and practice are only part of what happens in a language teaching programme. The eclectic approach referred to earlier (page 6) brings into the classroom activities involving listening and reading skills which give much more, and much more varied, exposure to language than does a well organised and controlled presentation-based lesson. It is also the case that such activities are much less likely to have an overt language focus in the sense of being targeted at a particular language form. In recent years such lessons have often been referred to as 'skills-based' lessons. Perhaps this is an acknowledgement of the fact that language use is a skill rather than a body of knowledge, and that the best way of acquiring a skill is by practising that skill. This is, in fact, another way of asserting the basic principle behind communicative methodology, that the best way to learn a language is by using it to communicate. It is certainly true that language use in its various manifestations involves the application of skills. But those skills operate on language. If, for example, learners are being encouraged to predict the development of a text, they can, in the final event, do this only on the basis of their knowledge and experience of what words and phrases in texts are predictive and how they are predictive. To take an example quoted earlier, when they hear a speaker produce the phrase 'Having said that . . . ', they are alerted to the fact that what follows is likely to introduce some contradiction or modification of what has been established so far. It is likely, therefore, that the effectiveness of a skills-based approach to learning would be considerably enhanced if we could identify the linguistic knowledge on which particular skills operate. This takes us back to the need for a linguistic syllabus, and back to the contradiction that a linguistic syllabus is likely to lead to a focus on form rather than use, whereas the strength of skills-based activities is that they are based firmly in use. I am arguing that the presentation of language forms does not provide sufficient input for learning a language. The grammatical system is much more complicated than we can possibly reflect in a methodology which claims to rely on the presentation of a very limited set of discrete patterns. In spite of this, a presentation methodology seems to work tolerably well. I am suggesting that this is partly because it is language rich. In spite of the fact that the methodology is based on presentation of samples of usage, the methodology succeeds because it provides a context in which there is a great deal of language use. This brings us back to the uneasy relationship between syllabus specification and methodology. The syllabus specification must, directly or indirectly, consist of an inventory of language forms. I have suggested, however, that a successful methodology must rest on language use. The problem for a materials writer is to produce a specification of those language items which a learner is likely to need and then to match this with a methodology which involves a predominance of language use. We must look for a methodology which aims quite deliberately at language use rather than a methodology which offers language use as a by-product. We should try to devise a methodology which is based on using language in the classroom to exchange meanings and which also offers a focus on language form, rather than a methodology which focuses on language form and which only incidentally focuses on use.

The Lexical Syllabus; Dave Willis


Originally published by Collins ELT, 1990

15

CHAPTER 2: Words and structures


The Collins COBUILD English Course In 1983 my wife, Jane, and myself were commissioned by Collins to write a new English course to be called the Collins COBUILD English Course. Once a design had been agreed we were to have overall responsibility for writing the course, but we were not to be entirely free agents in drawing up the syllabus which would form the basis of the course. A decision had already been taken that the syllabus would be lexically based. Instead of specifying an inventory of grammatical structures or a set of functions, each stage of the course would be built round a lexical syllabus. This would specify words, their meanings, and the common phrases in which they were used. Initially, the notion of a lexical syllabus gave us two grounds for concern. We both had firm ideas on the kind of methodology we would like to incorporate in an EFL course. It would be a task-based methodology firmly based in language use. We were, however, for the reasons outlined in Chapter 1, far from sure that our ideas on methodology would be compatible with a linguistically specified syllabus. Secondly we had at that stage no real idea what a lexical syllabus would look like. We were familiar with the idea of a syllabus built round grammatical patterns and notions, and we were equally familiar with the idea of a functionally based syllabus. We could not understand at first how a list of words with their meanings and common phrases would be significantly different. It was only when we began to look at the grammar of English very much from a lexical viewpoint that we began to see real possibilities. We felt that a lexical approach might answer at least some of the doubts we had so far entertained about structure-based pedagogical grammars, and about the syllabus as an inventory of structures. Priority and difficulty Very often one of the striking features of ELT materials is the lack of balance in the treatment of grammar. I have already suggested that the number of patterns presented in most coursebooks gives a very restricted picture of the grammar of English. Most courses spend a great deal of time on the verb phrase and on a limited set of clause and sentence structures. Relatively little time is spent on some areas of English which formal grammars find extremely difficult to handle, such as transitivity and the structure of the noun phrase. If we are to judge priorities by the amount of time afforded different features of English, then tense, aspect and voice are seen by most coursebook writers as being of overwhelming importance. In addition to this, a number of sentence patterns feature heavily and take up a good deal of the learner's time. Among these are the three conditionals. Another item which takes up a lot of time is

16 The Lexical Syllabus

reported speech, particularly tense in reported speech. The consensus seems to be that these items are of central importance, and that they cause learners particular difficulties, and therefore justify the expenditure of a good deal of time in the classroom and a good deal of space in coursebooks. There are further indications that the passive voice, the conditionals and reported speech are seen as difficult. They all tend to come relative! late in the teaching sequence. They are not usually 'presented' until well into an intermediate course. But why should these patterns be regarded as difficult? The passive The uses of the past participle are illustrated in these five examples:
1 I would be interested to hear an account of your experience. 2 Thank you very much for your detailed letter. 3 I think they must have got mixed up. 4 A van equipped with a loudspeaker . . . toured the reservoir. 5 He was rescued by one of his companions.

Four of the patterns in which it occurs are closely paralleled by patterns with adjectives:
6 I would be happy to hear an account of your experience. 7 Thank you very much for your newsy letter. 8 He must have got very angry. 9 One man, happy with the results of his efforts, was able to take home a large sum of money.

Sentences 1 and 6 are examples of an adjective as complement after the verb be. Sentences 2 and 7 show an adjective qualifying a noun. Sentences 3 and 8 have an adjective after get. Several other verbs like look, grow and become display this same pattern. Sentences 4 and 9 show an adjective followed by a prepositional phrase. There seems, therefore, to be a good case for treating the past participle as an adjective. If we do this, it need no longer be seen as presenting any special difficulty. Some teachers, however, may baulk at regarding 5 as an adjective. In 1 the past participle interested is descriptive and tells us how the recipient of the letter felt. In 5, however, rescued tells us what happened to someone. Semantically the past participle interested is stative and the past participle rescued in 5 is dynamic. This is certainly true. There is a large class of past participles which are stative in meaning- delighted, tired, worried, broken etc. - and which are therefore better regarded as adjectives. But the distinction is not as clear cut as that. In a sentence like:
10 The windows were broken.

the past participle broken could be regarded as stative:


1 l The house was a mess. The paintwork was peeling and the windows were broken.

or dynamic:
12 The windows were broken by the force of the explosion.

Words and Structures 17

Similarly frightened:
13 He was frightened of snakes.

.: is descriptive or stative. But:


14 He was frightened by a snake.

is dynamic. But it is not only past participles that can be either stative or dynamic, with some having the potential to be either. As we have already seen, the same is true of adjectives:
Stative and dynamic adjectives differ in a number of ways. For example, a stative adjective such as tall cannot be used with the progressive aspect or with the imperative: *He's being tall, *Be tall. On the other hand we can use careful as a dynamic adjective: He's being careful, Be careful. (Quirk et al. 1972)

A Grammar of Contemporary English goes on to list well over fifty adjectives some of them such as kind and nice extremely common - which can be used dynamically. It seems, therefore~that the only real distinguishing feature of the passive is the use of by with a noun phrase to mark an agent. Rather than pick out the passive for special treatment, an economical teaching strategy will allow the past participle to be treated adjectivally. One of the consequences of this is that the collocation of be with -ed forms is noted but not given undue prominence: 5 + -ed / -en
Your father's called John? and your mother's called Pat? (19) It was built in 1890. (55) It was built for William Randolph Hearst. (55) This street is called Montague Street Precinct. (67) . . .teenage girls who are interested in fashion. . . (95) Are you tired? Wally is awakened by the phone ringing. (91) . . .so that I can make sure that you are properly looked after. (193) Listen for the words that are stressed. (103)

Once this is put together with:


by (111) 1 who / what did it Wally is awakened by the phone ringing. (91 ) Handicrafts made by people in the Third World. (104) Is that a magazine published by Macmillan? (146)

the learner has all that is needed to produce the passive. But the greatest prob

18 Thc Lexical Syllabus

lem with the passive is not form but use. Again, the teaching strategy proposed here seems more likely to be effective than a transformational approach which relates the passive closely to the active. If the participle is treated adjectivally it will quite naturally be used when the focus of attention is on the subject of the passive verb. The difficulty is not with the sentence structure. This is no different from sentence structure with adjectives. The difficulty lies in understanding that the past participle is passive in meaning. The second conditional The COBUILD main corpus which was analysed to produce the Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary contains just under 15,000 occurrences of the word would. It is the forty-fourth most frequent word in the COBUILD corpus, more frequent than will, for example, which has 8,800 occurrences. In around half of its 15,000 occurrences would is described as 'used to talk of events which are of a hypothetical nature at the time of being mentioned, either because they are in the future or because they depend on other events which may or may not occur'. Examples include:
The people of South Vietnam would receive their conquerors with relief / I think The Tempest would make a wonderful film / I suspect that the West Germans would still be a little bit cautious.

In these examples a condition has been established earlier in the text, or is implied in the word would. This use accounts for around 7,500 of the occurrences in the COBUILD corpus. A sub-category of this, accounting for a further 1,200 occurrences, is would used in explicitly conditional sentences:
It would surprise me very much if sterling strengthened. / If he wasn't such a reactionary I'd feel sorry for him.

In fact although many ELT grammars and coursebooks talk about the three conditionals:
1 If it rains we'll get wet. 2 If it rained we would get wet. 3 If it had rained we would have got wet.

everyone is well aware that there are actually a very large number of possible conditional patterns:
4 You can always explore the neighbourhood if you have half an hour to spare. 5. Even if I had the time I feel too tired. 6 If it got out it might kill someone. 7 If it's all right by you we could start now.

Why then does ELT practice isolate three patterns for special treatment? All of the models, not only will and would, are common in conditional sentences. Most of these models are taught lexically. Students learn that might and could, for example, are used for possibility. It is not thought necessary to teach a fourth and fifth conditional like 6 and 7 above. Provided learners know what if means and they know what might and could mean, it is assumed that they are capable of creating for themselves sentences like 6 and 7. In exactly the same

Words and Structures 19

way, if would is taught lexically with its main meaning of hypothesis, learners will be well able to generate for themselves sentences like 2. The strategy of highlighting word meanings is a much more productive one than the strategy of teaching structural patterns. If the second conditional is taught as a means of introducing learners to the most important meaning of would this seems to me to be an economical teaching strategy. Learners may then be led to the generalisation that would also occurs in all kinds of environments without if. But this is not what generally happens. The second conditional is taught as though it had some life of its own, as if there was something unique about this combination of the past tense and the modal would. But both these elements carry the meaning of hypothesis quite independently of the second conditional. In fact would in conditionals is no more difficult than might or could in conditionals. It is simply more common. This again stems from its meaning, since conditional sentences are very much concerned with hypotheses. The Collins COBUILD English Course (CCEC) Level 2 includes a section entitled 'Your favourite cheap meal'. This Language Study exercise simply draws learners' attention to the use of the past tense and of would to express a hypothesis. It also makes the point that would is preferred to will for an unreal hypothesis. Knowing the second conditional is not a matter of being able to recite a particular pattern of words: it is a matter of knowing the meaning of would and the meaning of this use of the past simple tense. 89 Your favourite cheap meal
a Jenny asked the others whae they would cook for eheir favourite cheap meai for four people. David chose baked poraroes with a fiiiing of cheese and Jenny said she would do scrambled eggs on oast. Danny said he wouidn t cook any~hing himself. He would go out for some pie and mashed potatoes. Jenny then asked them how much i'wouid cost to cook these things at home and how much it would cost if they went out to a cafe or restaurant. 89a Make notes about how much each mezi would cost. Compare your notes with a friend.

90 Language study
Would a Look at the verbs in colour. What tense are they in? Do they refer to past time?
JV: Are we ready? Yes. Erm now what would each of you cook if someone dropped in unexpectedly and stayed for a meal in the evening? JV: What would you cook David? DF: Whatever vegetables happened to be there. JV: Supposing they arrived after the restaurants had shut. JV: But er and if youd made it at home. . .

Why are they in the past tense? b Look at these sentences. What does would mean? Why is it would not will? We asked Jenny Bridget David and Danny what they would cook for an unexpected guest.
JV: What would you do Danny? DL: Would I have to cook them something. because I d prefer to take them ouUor a meal. JV It says here What would each ot you cook? . DL: Emm... JV: So. to summarise. Bndget would cook sausage and beans Danny would cook an omelette David would cook something exotic that he'd rustled up trom bits in the fridge and I would cook a cheese flan.

Tell the class.

89b b Listen and see if you were right. c What would members of your group cook and how much would their mesis cost?

Tell the class. Whose dish would be the best value for money? Take a vote.

20 The Lexical Syllabus

Reported statements It is a fact of the English language that the tense we select is liable to change if we take a different standpoint in time. If George says'l'm tired' end I report this as 'George said he was tired' I can choose the past tense because George's being tired occurred in the past, rather than because the verb said is past tense. Even if George is still tired, I may nevertheless choose to say 'George said he was tired.' But if George is still tired and I want to make this clear I can choose to report what he said by saying 'George said he's tired' or even 'George says he's tired.' So the choice between past and present does not simply indicate when something happened. It may also indicate whether or not I think the happening is still relevant. The fact that we sometimes have a choice between past and present tenses is not simply a feature of reported speech. I might talk about something which happened in the past by saying 'We stayed in the Grand Hotel. It was an awful place.' If the hotel still exists and is still awful I can nevertheless choose to use the past tense if I do not think my statement has any relevance to the present. On the other hand I can choose to give my assessment some present relevance by selecting the present tense: 'We stayed in the Grand Hotel. It's an awful place. You certainly shouldn't stay there.' While preparing the CCEC materials we asked someone to rewrite a story as a radio script. The story included this passage:
'What part of London are you headed for?' I asked him. 'I'm going right through London and out the other side,' he said. 'I'm going to Epsom, for the races. It's Derby Day today.' 'So it is,' l said. 'I wish I were going with you. I love betting on horses.' 'I never bet on horses,' he said. 'I don't even watch them run. That's a stupid silly business.' 'Then why do you go?' I asked. He didn't seem to like that question. His little ratty face went absolutely blank and he sat there staring straight ahead at the road saying nothing. 'I expect you help to work the betting machines or something like that,' I said. 'That's even sillier,' he answered . . . (Roald Dahl, The Hitch-hiker)

This summary was produced:


The other day I picked up a hitch-hiker who was heading for London and then going on to Epsom for the Derby. I got very curious about him because it transpired that although he was going to the Derby he didn't like horses or racing, he didn't bet on races and he didn't seem to have any kind of job at the race track.

The interesting thing about this is that although the second version reports what was said there are no verbs of saying. There is no past tense verb like said to trigger a tense change. The report is in the past tense because the reported events happened in the past. There is nothing difficult about tense in reported speech in English. The logic it follows is the same as for the rest of the language. In spite of this, many coursebooks insist on regarding reported statement as a structure of some kind which has a system of rules to itself. Instead of looking for broad generalisations about the language, there is an attempt to cordon off sections and treat

Words and Structures 21

them as if they were in some way unique. Reported speech, particularly the use of tense, is treated in this way and is seen as creating great difficulties for learners, even at quite an advanced level. One practice book for the Cambridge First Certificate, for example, solemnly lists the 'rules' for reported speech. It explains that changes have to be made to certain items with the result that this becomes the .. . or that, today becomes that day and I becomes he or she. To complicate the issue further, it is explained that if the reporting verb is in the past tense then all the senses 'go one step backwards in time'. These backwards steps are then listed. Present simple becomes past simple, present perfect and past simple become past perfect and so on. This is all totally unnecessary. These differences in person and in phrases of time and place occur because we are taking a different standpoint from the original writer or speaker. It would be stupid to refer to something as happening today if I am well aware that it happened several days ago. Similarly it would be silly if someone asked me the question:
Do you think I'll be late?

to reply by saying:
Yes I probably will.

We are constantly changing reference to person, time and place to accommodate the standpoint of a different speaker at a different time. This is a feature of language as a whole, not simply a feature of reported speech. It is a confusing and uneconomical teaching strategy to single out reported statements and treat them as if they were unique in some way. In fact it is difficult to sustain the argument that reported statement is a useful grammatical category at all. An analysis of noun clauses introduced by that in the texts for CCEC Level 3 produced examples like these:
1 Cecil Sharp felt that the old songs of England might disappear for ever. 2 If it's a job interview try to show that you're interested in the job. 3 The government brought in a rule that children under thirteen werentt allowed to work. 4 The unsuccessful artist decided that his prayer had been answered. 5 The monkey said that there was no such thing as food, only fruit. 6 A long time ago there was this theory that women always passed first time.

Altogether in the texts which make up CCEC Level 3 there were 212 occurrences of that used to introduce a noun clause. Of these 212 occurrences:
87 are introduced by verbs of thinking: think, feel, assume, decide, realise, understand, conclude, believe, know, wish, recall, remember. 40 by verbs of saying: say, tell, demand, report, explain, suggest, point out, assure, argue. 38 by nouns: rule, fact, idea, theory, problem, situation, thing, information, implication, promise, belief, impression, assurance, grounds, speculation, claim, announcement, signs, concern, conclusion, feeling, case, background.

22 The Lexical Syllabus 13 by adjectives: glad, clear, sure, likely, incredulous, satisfied, convinced. 34 by miscellaneous other words: show, see, it, except, mean, imply, turn out, hear, notice, pretend, reveal.

This tells us a number of things. First of all, comparatively few of the 212 occurrences could accurately be described as reported speech. Reported thought is much more common than reported speech. But reported thought does not figure in pedagogic grammars with anything like the same inevitability as does reported speech. Secondly, a large number of the occurrences, such as 2, 3 and 6 above, could not be described as reports at all. Thirdly, noun clauses are by no means always dependent on a verb. What, then, does the learner need to know about noun clauses of this kind? As I have pointed out, many pedagogic grammars imply that the difficulty lies particularly with tense, and with the changes in time and place reference. But I have argued that there is nothing unique about tense or about time and place in these noun clauses. I would suggest that, as with the passive the most important thing about noun clauses is not how they are formed but how they are used. They are used, for example, in the way I have used them earlier in this paragraph with words like argue and suggest to help develop an argument. They are used with nouns like thing, problem, situation and theory to help define and develop ideas. In particular they have an important function in identifying and highlighting a notion that is going to be developed in the text:
thing . . . problem . . . situation theory . . . difficulty . . .

The

is(that)

Once we begin to look at the uses of noun clauses, we begin to look at the words with which they are associated, and to ask how those words function in text. In asking what it is that the learner needs to know, and what it is that should be highlighted, we acknowledge the importance of the noun clause, but we also come back to the importance of the word as a unit of syllabus design. English as a lexical language I have suggested that three of the items traditionally regarded as difficult for the learner are not in fact difficult in the way they are generally believed to be. They are generally regarded as being difficult structures. I have argued in effect that the passive and the conditionals do not need to be presented as 'structures', since they can readily be created by learners for themselves, provided they have an understanding of word meaning. This does not mean that they will necessarily be easily acquired by learners. Even a rule as straightforward as the subject-verb concord in 'he rues' is not easily acquired. It is a long time before it becomes a consistent part of the learner's production. We do not know why this should be. Perhaps because it is heavily redundant. We can never be sure when, or even whether, input will become part of the learners behaviour.

Words and Structures 23

Indeed the very concept of input is a misleading one. Input implies intake, and there can never be any guarantee that learners will take in the language that they hear. A structurally based approach which is linked to input will be more diffuse than a lexically based approach in two ways. In the first place it does not offer such powerful generalisations. Once the learners are aware of the potential of the past tense and would to encode hypothesis, they are in principle capable of producing:
I think the Tempest would make a wonderful film.

and:
I wish I lived in a caravan.

They are also in a much better position to make sense of further input. They will be more likely to identify the general hypothetical use of the past tense and would if they are able to abstract them from the second conditional pattern. Similarly, once they identify the past participle as adjectival, a range of uses is open to them. It may be some time before they take advantage of this, but they are more likely to do this if this is the starting point than if the passive is treated transformationally, or in some other way~vhich associates it very closely with verb forms. In the second place, the fact that a lexical description depends on a more powerful generalisation means that the learner will have more evidence on which to base useful generalisations about the language. I have shown, for example, that would expressing hypothesis is much more common than the second conditional. The learner will therefore have many more opportunities to reinforce the meaning of would than the structure of the second conditional. A similar lesson can be drawn from our look at the noun clauses which realise, among other things, reported statements. Noun clauses of this kind are ubiquitous. There are three examples in the paragraph above, none of them strictly speaking a reported statement. This noun clause, therefore, is likely to be a much more useful concept than reported statement. It is not linguistically complex, since it follows the general rules governing English tense and adverbials of time and place. Once learners become aware of this, they can begin to work on the variety of uses of such clauses, and in particular the words that introduce them. A focus on words, therefore, as well as providing the raw material to make more powerful generalisations, seems to offer learners the potential to create structures for themselves. Word forms are also easily recognisable and easily retrievable. This is not always the case with structures. Learners can find words for themselves and begin to make useful generalisations about them. As we shall see later, it is possible to build on this accessibility to devise exercises which encourage learners to speculate usefully about the meanings and functions of words - a process which leads to greater awareness of language use. If we are to adopt a strategy which aims at awareness raising, therefore, there are good arguments for highlighting meaning; and if we are to do this, the most effective unit is likely to be the word rather than the structure.

24 The Lexical Syllabus

This may or may not be the case with other languages, but it certainly seems to be the case with English. It is perhaps particularly unfortunate that English has for so long been described in terms of a Latinate grammar derived from a highly inflected language, when English itself is quite different, a minimally inflected language. Obviously I would not claim that there is nothing more to English than word meaning, but it does seem that word meaning and word order are central to English in a way that may not hold true for other languages. Difficulty in EFL - a re-assessment Some of the grammatical systems of the language seem to operate a logic to which it is very difficult for the learner to gain access. Perfective and progressive aspect in English are notoriously difficult. A lot of time in elementary and intermediate courses is spent contrasting the present and past simple, and the present and past continuous tenses, and equally on contrasting the present perfect and the past simple. Another notorious area of difficulty in English is the system of determiners, particularly the definite and indefinite article. This again is an area which receives a good deal of attention in most courses. But the vexing thing about grammatical systems like these is that they are conspicuously resistant to teaching. However hard teacher and learners may try, some language systems take a long, long time to learn. A number of theories have been put forward to account for this. It may be that there is a fixed order of acquisition which is broadly speaking common to all learners. There is some, though not conclusive, evidence for this view. Prabhu (1987) argues that any relationship between the grammatical systems as we describe them and grammatical systems as they are subconsciously conceptualised by the learner (between descriptive and operational systems) is purely accidental. If this is so, it is meaningless to look to our description of grammatical systems for an index of the learner's progress. Interlanguage theorists like Selinker and Corder describe language learning as a process of continually forming, testing and revising hypotheses about the grammar of the language. If they are right, then learners will need a lot of evidence in the form of exposure to the language before they are able reach stable conclusions about the grammar. Whatever the reasons for these difficulties, they are certainly an observable and sometimes worrying fact of life in the EFL classroom. It is simply a fact of life that some systems are not immediately accessible to teaching. They take time, often a long time, to assimilate. Indeed perhaps the only real answer to the question 'What systems of English are difficult to learn?' would be 'Those systems that take a long time to learn.' This is not objective or demonstrable in any straightforward way. I have already given subject-verb concord as an example of something which is easy to understand but very difficult to assimilate. It may be that teaching helps learning. It may well be the case that some teaching procedures hinder progress in the development of some grammatical systems. What is sure is that learners need time to assimilate language. Strategies that aim to help assimilation by awareness raising are more tolerant of the learner's position and more likely to be successful than strategies which aim to

Words and Structures 25

incorporate the target language into the learner's repertoire more or less immediately. It can be argued that the attempt to reduce language to presentable patterns actually adds to the difficulties faced by the learner, and compounds this by confusing the learner as to the true nature of language. Language patterns are often presented to learners contrastively so that they are required to distinguish between, say, the present perfect and past simple tenses. Many coursebooks tell us, for example, that the present perfect is used for events which happened in the recent past, particularly if the effects of the action can still be seen or felt. Very often pictures are used to illustrate sentences like:
I've broken my arm.

But in spite of appearances, the 'recent past' has nothing to do with how much time has elapsed since something happened. There is nothing ungrammatical about:
1 I broke my arm this morning. or about: 2 I'm afraid I've broken my arm. I broke it last week.

Similarly if the present perfect is used because the effects of what happened can still be seen or felt, how could we account for:
3 A: I've broken my arm. B: Oh dear. How did you break it?

as opposed to:
4 A: I've broken my arm. B: ?Oh dear. How have you broken it?

We may make useful generalisations about the present perfect and the past simple, and we may be able to point to a few cases in which the contrast is absolute. We may advise learners, for example, that the past simple rather than the present perfect is used when the time at which an event took place is made explicit:
5. I broke my arm yesterday.

as opposed to:
6. *I've broken my arm yesterday.

But this still leaves problems with the choice between:


7 Have you been to church this week?

and:
8 Did you go to church this week?

This leads us to two important points. The first is that it is meaning that determines what is and is not acceptable in terms of sentence structure. The sentence:

26 The Lexical Syllabus 6 *I've broken my arm yesterday.

is unacceptable not because there is some abstract rule which tells us that we cannot have the present perfect tense together with a past time adverbial, but because there is a contradiction between the meaning of the present perfect tense and the meaning of yesterday. By selecting the present perfect tense the speaker is asserting the present relevance of his utterance. By adding yesterday he is denying this present relevance. Learners make mistakes of this kind not because they have not grasped the rule, but because they do not understand the meaning and use of the present perfect tense. If the teaching strategy we adopt illuminates that meaning, it may be a useful strategy. If it simply asserts the incompatibility between the tense and the adverbial, it is unlikely to be successful. The second point elaborates Widdowson's distinction between usage and use. The essence of language use is choice. Restrictive rules such as the one stating that the past simple is preferred to the present perfect when the time of an event is made explicit, tell us something about when not to use the present perfect tense. They may help us to avoid some instances of faulty usage. But they do not tell us when or why the present perfect is to be preferred to the past simple. They do not give us insights into use. They do not afford us criteria to choose between formulations such as 7 and 8 above. Again this points to the need for exposure. Learners need experience of the present perfect in use if they are to grasp its meaning. Only when they have this will they be able not only to avoid the contradiction inherent in:
6 *I have broken my arm yesterday.

but also to select the present perfect tense when it is appropriate to the meaning they wish to convey. This is also an argument in favour of the use of authentic text in language learning rather than text specially written to illustrate some aspect of language. Such specially written text is usually constructed to focus on contrived contexts in which there is a clear cut distinction between the present perfect and the past simple. Learners are asked to engage in such exchanges as:
A: Have you read War and Peace'? B: Yes I have. I read it last year.

The only reason for selecting one tense or the other is that that is what they have been told to select. The exchange is meaningful in that it consists of three acceptable sentences of English for which we can readily imagine a meaningful context. But the selection of one tense as opposed to the other is not meaningful. It is a teacher-led contrivance. The system which is presented to learners involves conformity to superficial rules, often of a restrictive kind, under careful teacher control. If learners are to create appropriate meanings, they need to become aware of the choices realised in genuine language use.

The Lexical Syllabus; Dave Willis


Originally published by Collins ELT, 1990

27

CHAPTER 3: The lexical research and the COBUILD project


The corpus I have suggested that the word may be a better unit of syllabus design than the structure. This is partly because word is very often prior to structure in that it is word meaning which determines which structures are grammatical and which are not. A description of language which takes the word as its starting point offers more powerful generalisations and is more accessible to learners than a structural description. A lexical description of language, therefore, should offer a powerful basis for syllabus specification. I would like now to look at the research programme which went into the production of the Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary. This programme was to produce a new lexical description of language which would eventually provide us with the basis for a new approach to syllabus design. The basic aim of the COBUILD project was to develop:
. . a new, thorough-going description of the English language, and one which was not based on the introspection of its authors, but which recorded their observations of linguistic behaviour as revealed in naturally occurring text. (Renouf 1987)

The first stage in the project was to gather together a corpus of language on j computer ready for analysis. Since a corpus represents a sample of the language under study it is obviously important to obtain as representative a sample as possible.
Our aim was to identify those aspects of the English language which were relevant to the needs of the international user. We therefore defined these for ourselves as follows: - written and spoken modes - broadly general rather than technical language - current usage, from 1960, and preferably very recent - naturally occurring text, not drama - prose, including fiction and excluding poetry - adult language, 16 years or over - standard English, no regional dialects - predominantly British English, with some American and other varieties. (Renouf 1987)

Renouf goes on to explain how texts were selected to give the right coverage and gives a broad description of the corpus. A complete list of texts can be found in the corpus acknowledgements in the Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary. The next important feature of the corpus is simply its size. Obviously, the larger the corpus the more likely it is to be representative of the language as a

28 The Lexical Syllabus

whole, or of that part of the language researchers are aiming to describe. This need for size has to be balanced against the aims of the study and also against rapidly diminishing returns to scale beyond a certain point. By mid-1983 a Main Corpus of 7.3 million words had been built up by the COBUILD team, and this was large enough for a study of the commonly occurring words of English. The most frequent 700 words of English all occur at least 650 times in the Main Corpus. All of the 2,500 most frequent words of English, which were eventually to form the basis of the lexical syllabus for the Collins COBUILD English Course, occurred at least 120 times in the corpus. For the study of less frequent words, those occurring less than fifty times in the Main Corpus, a Reserve Corpus of a further 13 million words was added by the end of 1985. In producing the dictionary this Reserve Corpus played a vital role as about ninety per cent of the word forms in the Main Corpus occurred with a frequency of 50 or less. The first stage in processing the corpus was to run a computer programme to produce concordances for each of the words under study. Let us look at the word way. This comes after time and people as the third most common noun in English, with around 7,000 occurrences in the Main Corpus. Here is a sample from the concordances:
fluctuated. It is not, I su ing on; fewer still had premises in any way suitable; some turned out to be sch assertively un-urban that we affected a way of dressing quite unsuited to Unive attention if he became too excitable, a way whose success was, I think, due to hanged, and a manned craft was the best way of preserving flexibility. Photogra ed to the idea very gradually. The best way to do this. I decided, was to intro burn and the island beaches. I went by way of my family home in the south of S ts, but not in the seemingly calculated way that is born of deprivation. The spa le lifeless, and I began in a desultory way to review in my mind various animal the bath; it had become an established way of quieting him when he was obstrep nd the retaliatory strategy had to give way to the flexible response, with its o be thrown. Such pebbles that came his way seem mainly to have been on the que h strip of garden from the road. On his way home, but never on his way out, Mij road. On his way home, but never on his way out, Mij would tug me in the direct ed in his small body. He would work his way under them and execute a series of converse with them.<p 124> It was his way for the most part to wander in thos uch panic that he could hardly make his way home, tottering on us feet; and ear that he could not even turn to make his way back, and with a fifty-foot sheer d bearings if he were trying to make his way homeward through ii. I put a light upstart. But I soon found an infallible way to distract his attention if he bec e Fleet as and when it had to fight its way against Soviet sea and air oppositi e chick while he went on in a leisurely way with its underwater exploration. It d on the rocks wets of Canna, by a long way the nearest to me of their colonies ozen occasions, and most of them a long way off. No doubt they have often been e had to be. Camusfearna is a very long way from a vet.; the nearest, in fact, No strange sea monster has ever come my way since I have been here, though in t was as it had been before. I was on my way back to the scullery when I stopped I had the impression that he was in no way taxing his powers, and could greatl ess. Once Morag asked me, in an offhand way behind which I sensed a tentative p nd chittered at it in a pettish sort of way, and then, convinced of its now per en the water is low, one may pick ones way precariously along the rock at the of mackerel fishers; there was only one way of extraction, and a very painful o the copious use of telegrams. The only way in which a telegram can be delivere did he cower and tug his lead the other way; a memory, perhaps, of his native m life to which he was accustomed. On our way back to the aircraft an Egyptian of xpression. Otters usually get their own way in the end; they are not dogs, and ritation. In turn each of us in our own way depended, as gods do, upon his wors een fortunate to turn the tap the right way; on subsequent occasions he would a viated to Calum the Road( in the same way I have known else- where a John the at secretive expression that is in some way akin to a young girls face during the near skyline, and they were in some way important to me, as were the big fo all over and I was beaten I had in some way come to terms with the Highlandso uss, round a cygnet that seemed in some way to be captive at the margin of the hese subjective images one were in some way cheating the objective fact. It is, in Seal Morning, if one may put it that way, and found them delicious. So the f and begin, very slowly, to squirm their way upwards, forming a vertical, closeamusfearna, where they would pick their way delicately along the top of the cro to the rituals of children who on their way to and from school must place their

The Lexical Research and the COBUILD Project 29


ughs among the horizontal ledges, the way is ? asya few inches of horizont mad with joy like a puppy and lead the way down the path to Camusfeama as if I wise Mijbil might at once have gone the way of Chabala and for the same reason. larly beds, between the sheets, all the way from the pillows to the bed-foot. Wire cutters and work the hook all the way back again. It is not always macker Hundred yards up thre burns course, the way is blocked by the tall cataract, ei Slosh of water over her gunwale all the way. If I shipped oars to bale I made s Tugged purposefully at the lead all the way up the astonished platform to the s Il I saw what an otter could do in this way. This aspect of an otters behaviou oe, travelling in a leisurely, timeless way between the scattered reed-built vi xcreta in an anecdotal or informa-tive way, or because he did not recognise in about otters, it takes place the wrong way round, so to speak. When one plays in Seal morning, if one may put it that way, and found them delicious. So the f nd chittered at it in a pettish sort of way, and then, convinced of its own per xcreta in an anecdotal or informative way or because he did not recognise in slosh of water over her gunwale all the way. If I shipped oars to bale I made s il I saw what an otter could do in this way. This aspect of an otters behaviou did he cower and tug his lead the other way; a memory, perhaps, of his native m een fortunate to t8urn the tap the right way; on subsequent occasions he would a viated to Calum the Road( in the same way I have known else-where a John the e fleet as and when it had to right its way against Soviet sea and oppositi at secretive expression that is in some way akin to young girls face during that he could not even turn to make his way back, and with a fifty-foot sheer d wire cutters and work the hook all the way back again. It is not always macker was as it had been before. I was on my way back to the scullery when I stopped life to which he was accustomed. On our way back to the aircraft an Egyptian of ess. Once Morag asked me, in an offhand way behind which I sensed a tentative p oe, travelling in a leisurely, timeless way between the scattered reed-built vi hese subjective images one were in some way cheating the objective fact. It is, all over and I was beaten I had in some way come to terms with the Highlandso amusfearna, where they would pick their way delicately along the top of the cro ritation. In turn each of us in our own way depended, as gods do, upon his wors mad with joy like a puppy and lead the way down the path to Camusfeama as if I converse with them. <p 124>It was his way for the most part to wander in thos e had to be. Camusfearma is a very long way from a vet; the nearest, in fact, larly beds, between the sheets, all the way from the pillows to the bed-foot. uch panic tat he could hardly make his way home, tottering on us feet; and ear h strip of garden from the road. On his way home, but never on his way out. Mij bearings as if he were trying to make hisway homeward through it. I put a light the near skyline, and they were- in some way important to me , as were the big fo xpression. Otters usually get their own way in the end; they are not dogs, and the copious use of telegrams. The only way in which a telegram can be delive ughs among the hori-zontal ledges, the way is e? asya few inches of horizont wise Mijbil might at once have gone the way of Chabala and for the same reason. assertively unurban that we affected a way of dressing quite unsuited to Unive of mackerel fishers, there was only one way of extraction, and a very painful o 0ozen occasions, and most of them a long way off. No doubt they have often been burn and the island beaches. I went by way of my family home in the south of S hanged, and a manned craft was the best way of preserving flexibility. Photogra the bath; it had become an established way of quieting him was when he was obstrep en the water is low, one may pick ones way precariously along the rock at the about otters, it takes place the wrong way round, so to speak. When one plays o be thrown. Such pebbles that came his way seem mainly to have been on the que No strange sea monster has ever come my way since I have been here, though in t unctuated. It is not, I suppose, in any way strange that the average Lon-doner Ing on; fewer still had premises in any way suitable; some turned out to be sch I had the impression that he was in no way taxing his powers, and could greatl Ts, but not in the seemingly calculated way that is born ofdeprivation. The spa D on the rocks west of Canna, by a long way the nearest to me if their colonies To the rituals of children who on their way to and from school must place their uss, round a cygnet that seemed in some way to be captive at the margin of the upstart. But I soon found an infallible way to distract his attention if he bec ed to the idea very gradually. The best way to do this, I decided, was to into le lifeless, and I began in a desultory way to review in my mind various animal nd the retaliatory strategy had to give way to the flexible response, with its tugged purposefully at the lead all the way upwards, forming a vertical, closeattention I fit became too excitable, a way whose success was, I think, due to chick while he went on in a leisurely way with his underwater exploration. It

Lexicographers worked methodically with these concordances to compile entries on computer input slips. These slips were specially designed both to

30 The Lexical Syllabus

prompt the researcher and to hold information in a form suitable for computer input to the dictionary database. The outcome of this process, then, was a database which recorded all the relevant information about way to be incorporated in the final dictionary entry. From concordances to database and dictionary entry The database for way lists the main semantic fields covered by the word. It runs to over 40 typewritten pages, but can be summarised as follows:
1 method, means: behaviour 2 manner, style, 3 what happens, what is the case 4 degree, extent, respect 5 location, movement, direction, space 6 distance, extent 7 time 8 miscellaneous It's a useful way of raising revenue. The cheapest way is to hire a van. Play soccer Jack Charlton's way. He smiles in a superior way. That's the way it goes. We were so pleased with the way things were going. She's very kind and sweet in lots of ways. In no way am I a politically effective person. A man asked me the way to St Paul's. Get out of the way.

I flew the rest of the way to Danang It was downhill all the way after that. National revolt was still a long way off. You're way below the standard required. (= a considerable distance) The AEU, in a classic balls-up, voted both ways. (= one of a number of choices)

In addition to these semantic areas, a number of discourse uses are listed, such as:
by the way By the way, that visit of Muller's is strictly secret. (used to add something to what you are saying) by way of Well, that's really by way of introduction. (used to explain the function of something you are about to say, for example whether it is intended as an introduction an example, an apology etc.)

The computer input slips used to build up the description of each of these uses of way, drew attention to a number of relevant features associated with each example. An expanded entry for:
The cheapest way is to hire a van.

for example, would read:


way 1.01 DEF (definition): Used to refer to something that must be done, or a series of things that must be done in order to achieve something. [Used to answer the question 'how?' Also closely connected to the prep 'by'.]

The Lexical Research and the COBUILD Project 31

FLD (field): method; procedures. EX (example): The cheapest way is to hire a van. GL (gloss): i.e. of moving house. SYN (syntax): N + INF-TO PRAG (pragmatics): anaphoric.

This description relates the use of way to a particular meaning, gives us a syntactic environment showing that this use of way is associated with the infinitive with to, and adds the comment that this particular use is anaphoric - that the example refers back to 'ways of moving house'. If we look at the syntactic environments associated with this use of way, (meaning means or method) we find:
N + INF-TO as in the example given, N + PREP/OF + -ING as in: The different ways of cooking fish. N + WHICH:XP as in: They kill animals in a way which would disturb the ordinary town boy. PREP/IN + DET/THIS + N as in: In this way the energy in the pile is controlled.

If we look at the pragmatics of this meaning of way we find that it is used anaphorically as in the example given above; cataphorically as in:
You can qualify for a pension in two ways.

for instructions, as in:


Do it this way.

In this way we begin to build up a picture of the word way - not only of its meaning, but also of the syntactic patterns with which it is associated and its use in discourse. Also annotated in the database are common phrases with way which are found so frequently that they function almost like lexical items in their own right:
By the way this visit of Muller's is strictly secret. . . . by way of introduction. Little in the way of strategic thinking was needed. He's not on board. No two ways about it. In a way these officers were prisoners themselves;

Eventually all these insights are incorporated in a dictionary entry. The entry for an important word like way in the Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary runs to two full pages and, if we include fixed phrases, runs to 36 categories, some of them subdivided. Typical sections from the entry are:

32 The Lexical Syllabus


way /wel/, ways 1 If you refer to a way of doing something or a way to do if you are referring to how you do it, for example the series of things that you do in order to achieve it, or the course of action that you take. EG ..different ways of cooking fish... A pushchair is a handy way to take a young child shopping You can qualify lor a pension in two ways ways in which the present service could be improved In what way can I help you?.. She had decided on this course as the only way out of a hopeless situation. N COUNT, OR N COUNT + toINF/A = means, method 25 You say by the way 25.1 when you add something to what you are saying, especially a question or piece of information that you have just thought of. By the way this visit of Muller's is strictly secretMy father's dead by the way. 25.2 to indicate that a comment or remark is not directly relevant to the main topic of the discussion. E.G That point is quite by the way 26 by way of. 26.1 You use by way of when you are F~EP explaining the purpose of something that you have said or are about to say, for example whether it is intended as an introduction, example, apology, etc. E.G. I'm going to sketch in a bit of the background by way of introduction. 26.2 If you go somewhere by way of a particular place, you go through that place on your journey. EG I came by way of Madrid and AthensWe drove back to Central Park West, by way of Briceland. PHR: USED AS ADV SEN = incidentally PHR: USED AS AN A = incidental PREP

PREP = via

From data sheet to language course The information in the database was edited down, then, to provide a dictionary entry of the kind exemplified above. It was also edited down to produce a 'data sheet', one of 700 which provided the raw material for the lexical syllabus on which CCEC Level 1 was to be based, and which would be recycled through Levels 2 and 3:
Entry for the word form 'WAY' Total no. of occs. in corpus: 6,791 Category 1: REFERS TO THE MANNER OF A PERSON'S BEHAVIOUR OR ACTION, ESPECIALLY A CERTAIN ATTITUDE, STYLE OR FEELING THAT SOMEONE HAS. [Approx 44% occs.] (Subtechnical noun -C). we take a look at the way IN WHICH computers are revolutionizing our/the disrespectful way IN WHICH these flighty females carry out their / studies of the way IN WHICH today's continents fit together / in much the same way THAT we dispose of Kleenex or beer cans / people related to each other in a way THAT I had never seen before / Vorster said in his heavy way: "Now are there any questions about the bill?" / the Spanish chroniclers did it their OWN way / about to change in a radical way / bird must have flown in a direct and purposeful way / it'll be convenient because of the way we're going to work at this / we behave all in exactly the SAME way / we're not going to deal with it in the ordinary way / thinking of abstractions in quite a different way from the way we think of them / highly contemptuous of the American way OF LIFE / those defects being her virtues, her faith, her way OF LIFE / life isn't the way it ought to be / that's the way I feel about it anyway / I am old fashioned in this way l Category 1.l: THE MEANS OR METHOD BY WHICH SOMETHINGIS DONE, OR HOW IT OCCURS. [approx 10% occs.] (Sub-technical noun -C). the most effective way OF countering the Soviet air threat / there's one other way OF getting hydro-electric power in areas / this process was a round about way OF achieving something that could have been done / an artificial way OF making the child learn by doing / we have no way OF knowing whether the kinds of men represented / family duties and responsibilities were a way IN WHICH sharing was institutionalized/l believe this is the only way THAT an ordinary person can inspire others/he had wished that there had been some way he could exchange words with this man / Category 2: USED WITH REFERENCE TO DIRECTION, EXTENT, DISTANCE AND TRAVEL GENERALLY; ALSO REFERS TO A ROAD, PATH, ROUTE OR JOURNEY SOMEWHERE. [Approx 26% occs.] (Noun)

33 I drove the wrong way ROUND a roundabout/British gilr secretaries who work their way ROUND the States/it's got pretty embroidery all the way ROUND the bottom/they walked down the stairs and on the way OUT I heard him say his first words / having addressed the troop ship on the way OUT to South Africa / it does not matter WHICH way the vectors go / what sort of ship it is and WHICH way the thing is going / more of transit flying, and of fighting their way THROUGH defences / hold a tray aloft as he weaves his way THROUGH the crowd in his new role of barman / and then barge your way THROUGH and shout at the back of the queue / quite a LONG way past them was the greenhouse with the vine / it certainly was a LONG way FROM Cape Town / she keeps gaining on me all the way DOWN the long hill to the bottom of the lane / after giving him minute directions of the way. They could see the whole ridge of Wirral Hill / he led the way over the rocks / a time when we got lost - right out Dennington way. But we found our path eventually / with no fear this time of losing the way/ended up as far out of their way as Pleiku, fifty miles to the south / Phrases and misc: I IN/OUT OF THE WAY (5 occs. in sample): he had kept out of DeMille's way / we constantly get in the way of and interfere with / ii BY THE WAY (4 occs. in sample): By the way, Castle, you might get me the name of his dentist / By the way, do you keep cats here? / Notes: i WAY is a sub-technical word with all the expected features e.g. its dummy role in some of the examples in Category 1. e.g. bird must have flown in a direct and purposeful way / ii It was too difficult to sub-divide Category 1 further in the time available, although there seems to be some basis for doing that. iii WAYS: this word functions as the plural of WAY, and generally follows the same usage except that almost all instances of use fall into Category 1 and Category 1.1 e.g. some babies become so set in their ways during this period/this will add another to the many ways in which the rich can buy youth / I examine various ways in which the ills of this society can be tackled / the old ways are the best ways / iv WAYS is also characterised by the frequency of occurrence for particular left hand collocates. The most common of these are MANY, OTHER, SEPARATE, SOME and other expressions of quantity. e.g. we improved the paper in a number of OTHER ways / there are MANY such ways in which we~ehave as if we were two people / in MANY ways it was a bad bargain / we look at various ways in which over the years Britain has / China is in MANY ways a developing country too / Further information on right-hand collocates. WAY WAYS OF 637 occs. 209 occs. TO 637 59 IN 272 80 THAT 255 24 AND 188 57 THE 180 44 I 175 17 OUT 125 THEY 120 HE 111 AS 108 IT 107 13 THROUGH 96

34 The Lexical Syllabus

Each of the two main categories of meaning for the word way is the focus of an exercise in CCEC Level 1:

78

Ways of saying numbers

22 0 1989 3.14 748 22756

78a a How do you say telephone numbers in your language? b Look at the numbers on the right. What are they? What about 1989 for example? Could it be a telephone number, or a date, or car V number? How would you say it if it was a date? One thousand nine hundred and eighty-nine? . . . One nine eight nine. . .? Discuss with your partner how you could say the numbers. How many different ways can you find and what do they each mean ? Tell the class 78c c Bridget and David talked about the same numbers. Did they think of the same things as you? Write down the things David and Bridget thought of.

10.12 021 337 0452

In addition to the uses of way in the rubric for this activity:


Ways of saying numbers.

and:
How many different ways can you find

a recording of native speakers doing the task contrasts the American way of saying dates with the British way. Inevitably the word way will feature a good deal in the exchanges in the classroom between teacher and learners, and among learners.
How many ways did you think of? Yes that's another way. We got three ways. etc.

This use is highlighted again in a summary of the useful words and phrases from this unit, Unit 6:

The Lexical Research and the COBUILD Project 35

a) way
There are different ways of writing 'colour'- the American way (color) or the English way (colour). How many ways are there of saying this number? Practice these ways of agreeing and disagreeing. I like the way he sings. Do it this way. Look.

Unit 9 takes as its theme finding the way: 122 Landmarks


When people ask us the way and we give them directions we usually use landmarks. We say things like this. It's just past the hospital. It's opposite St Joseph's school. It's near the Post Of fice. It's behind the supermarket. Look at these landmarks. Do you know what they are?

Here again it is likely that in addition to the forms occurring in the coursebook and its accompanying recordings, the word way will feature in classroom discussion. Two other examples which occur later in Level 1 are picked up in a review section:
I may be able to stop off on my way to the USA. He went all the way back.

These are sentences which have been contextualised earlier in Level 1 and are later highlighted. Unit 7 looks in detail at the uses of the word to and category 7 draws attention to the pattern: N + INF- TO
101 Grammar words
to Do you have the same word for all these uses of to in your language? 1 where I've come to Liverpool to stay with my parents. 2 who (with give, offer, present etc.) I gave it to David. 3 listen or speak to someone/something Listen to Bridget Talk to your partner about . . . 4 purpose . I went to see my sister. I've come to Liverpool to stay with my parents. 5 after ask, want, plan etc. We asked people to write about . It's for people who want to take better photographs. 6 after it (see it 2, section 8 8 ) It was nice to see you When is it possible to phone your partner? 7 after place, way, thing etc. What's the best way to travel? London is a good place to live. 8 from _ to_ It was reduced from 2s to 5. Our lesson lasts from_ to _ 9 used to, have (got) to, going to We've got to get seven differences. David used to share a flat. I had to come downstairs as the phone was ringing. Which categories do these sentences belong to? a We only have to do seven. b Say these words to your partner. c Work m groups to do these puzzles. d A man dressed as Napoleon went to see a psychiatrist. e We'regoing to seea film after class f The cheapest thing to do is take a bus. g Bridget works from Monday to Friday. h I'd like to come back here. i The psychiatrist asked her to sit down. j Read these phrases to your partner. k It's difficult to see the tree. I He wants to go to Britain to learn more English. Compare the examples in each category with examples in the Grammar Book.

36 The Lexical Syllabus

This use is given again in a grammar reference section at the back of the Level 1 coursebook. Level 2 reviews the uses of way which are highlighted in Level 1 and goes on to show the pattern: N + PREP/OF + -ING in Unit 6 which is entitled What's the best way of travelling to Paris? A Wordpower exercise in the same unit offers another summary of the meanings of way: 74 Wordpower
way Look up way in the Lexicon. Which meanings does way have in these examples? a) This word can be used in many different ways b) I like the way he sings that son. Its really good c) d) e) After the class, or on the way home The cheapest way would be to go by bus. Er, sorry, is that in the way? f) g) h) i) Its interesting the way computers have changed our lives. I can remember thinking that way about teachers. The American way of life is very different. I can go back the way I came.

(NB the above exercise was accompanied by cartoon pictures to illustrate some of the examples.) Way is also one of the words selected for inclusion in a lexicon at the back of the Level 2 coursebook: way 6
1 Way refers to the manner In which a person or thing behaves or acts, or the certain style someone or something has, or feeling or attitude of a person. EG Just look at the way he eats! It's
horrible!

2 Way refers to the means or method by which something is done, or how it happens. EG The best way of getting to Paris is by train and boat. (64) 3 Used with reference to a direction, distance, route, road, path or journey somewhere. EG Which way do I go?' 'Turn right at the shops, and go all the way down that road.'

By the time learners reach Level 3 they have had ample opportunity to become familiar with the main meanings and patterns associated with the word way. In Level 3 the word occurs 87 times. There is also a grammar section in

The Lexical Research and the COBUILD Project 37

Level 3 which reviews the pattern: N + PREP/OF + -ING 144 Grammar Of + ing Some words are very commonly followed by of + ing. Look at these examples and make a Iist of words followed by of:
1 Another way of doing it is to work abroad. (140) : 2 I think it's more a question of specializing in the country in which you work. (140 3 Their first memory of singing together was during their days as Boy Scouts. ( 13 ) 4 His prayer had been answered and he gave up the idea of committing suicide. (36) 5 I always had this fear of falling downstairs. (34) : 6 This would have the twofold effect of getting the job done cheaply and making it safe for the local : people to cross the river. (97) 7 He took every opportunity of visiting the zoo. (91) : 8 So the thought of competing with a three year old is quite difficult. (106) 9 . . . how to reduce the risk of falling a victim to violent crime. (l50) 10 The POW Group also accuse the government of refusing to provide water as a deliberate policy. (163) 11 It would have to keep right on going if he was to have any chance of winning it now. (229) : 12 And then he hits on this crazy plan of jumping overboard... (243)

This is another way of talking about ideas and actions. You could rewrite sentence 4 like this: . . . he gave up the idea that he would commit suicide.

Can you rewrite sentence 5 in the same way? : Sentence 1 can be rewritten like this:
Another way to do it is to work abroad.

What about sentences 7 and 12?

38 The Lexical Syllabus

The importance of way As the third most frequent noun in English, the word way is important in its own right. It is unlikely that a learner will get very far without the need to express the kind of meaning normally encoded in English as:
The best way to . . . is to . . . by _ing... One way of _ing . . . is to . . . by _ing...

and so on. And these phrases provide a very typical environment for the phrases 'of -ing . . . ', 'by _ing . . . ', and of the use of the infinitive with to followed by part of the verb be as in:
The idea is to score as many points as you can. One possibility would be to start from the beginning again.

The commonest patterns in English occur again and again with the commonest words in English. If we are to provide learners with language experience which offers exposure to the most useful patterns of the language, we might well begin by researching the most useful words in the language.

The Lexical Syllabus; Dave Willis


Originally published by Collins ELT, 1990

39

Chapter 4: Syllabus Content


Too much to learn The most difficult thing about learning a language is that there is simply so much to learn. An educated speaker of English is likely to have a vocabulary of some 50,000 words. Not only that, but a native speakers act on a great deal of information about every one of these words. We have already looked at the word way. What about another common word thing? Obviously we know what this word means. We know, too, how it behaves grammatically. It has a plural form, things. More than that, we know that thing has a complex grammar. It is commonly found in sentences like:
1 The most difficult thing about learning a language is that there is simply so much to learn. 2 The best thing is probably to read as much as we possibly can in the target language.

We probably carry in our minds chunks of language incorporating the word thing in these grammatical frames:
The (adjective) thing is that The (adjective) thing is to Its one thing to X, and quite another to Y.

We also carry around chunks with thing like one thing after another and the shape of things to come. We know that the word thing can be used in ways which carry attitudinal overtones.
3 How do you drive this thing?

Does not mean the same thing as:


4 How do you drive this vehicle?

The first of these signals quite clearly that there is something about the vehicle which I find annoying. Similarly the sentence:
5 So thats George. Ive heard about him.

is not an accurate paraphrase of


6 So thats George. Ive heard things about him

To a native speaker, the second of these implies that what I know about George is not to his credit. We also know that the word thing can be used in fixed phrases in specific contexts:
7 Eating with your fingers is not quite the done thing.

The important thing here is that thing cannot be replaced by another word or phrase, even one which seems to make perfectly good sense as: 8 *Eating with your fingers is not quite the done way.

40 The Lexical Syllabus

l Similarly, the phrase 'All things being equal' comes to the tongue much more readily than 'All opportunities being equal'. So there are a lot of things to know about thing. This brief summary represents just a few of them. All of this must be involved in learning the language. Collocational patterns in language Hanks (1987) elaborates the point that knowledge of a language includes a vast amount of collocational knowledge - a knowledge of which words combine with which other words or categories of word: The words of English simply do not, typically, combine and recombine freely and randomly. Not only can typical grammatical structures and form classes be observed, but also typical collocates. The distinction between the possible and the typical is of the greatest importance. It is possible given a reasonably lively imagination, to use a particular word in any number of different ways. But when we ask how the word is typically used, rather than how it might possibly be used, we can generally discover a relatively small number of distinct patterns. (Hanks 1987) In this way Hanks argues for the notion of 'selection preference' underlying our language behaviour. He exemplifies this by looking at the words wide and broad, suggesting that it is unhelpful to look for a subtle semantic distinction between the two. The important thing to say about BROAD is that it means wide and it co-occurs with words of a certain type. (Hanks 1987) Part of the native speaker's language knowledge is an awareness of these probable co-occurrences - the knowledge, for example, that broad is used not only with physical entities such as roads and rivers, but also with more abstract notions:
This takeover bid has broader implications.

and also in very specific cases:


Broad hints were aired that the newspaper should be closed down. She spoke in a broad Wiltshire accent.

in which wide is not an acceptable substitute. This is not because broad is preferred to wide with an abstract noun.
The library had a wide variety of books. ?The library had a broad variety of books.

It is simply because some nouns collocate with wide and some with broad - that is, some have a selection preference for wide and some for broad. Collocations of this kind are features of naturalness in language, and in looking at syllabus content we need to take deliberate account of such features. Unfortunately in doing so we run very seriously into the problem of proliferation: the fact that language knowledge is so vast and detailed. One way of limiting this proliferation is by taking note of Hanks' distinction between the typical and the possible. We should take care that the language to which the

Syllabus Content 41

learner is exposed is typical of the language as a whole. This can only be done by research. We need to look seriously at the language and make principled decisions about what patterns and uses are to be regarded as typical and to be highlighted for the learner. The uses of common words like thing and way are so frequent that the learner is unlikely to get very far without the need to encode these meanings. Unfortunately there are no rules by which learners can create or retrieve these forms for themselves. It is important, therefore, that they are included in the language to which learners are exposed and that their attention is drawn to them. Of course, this wealth of knowledge which is part of 'knowing a language' is largely unconscious. It is revealed in use, and although it is called up very readily in response to some need to communicate, it is only with great difficulty that we can summon up such knowledge by an effort of will. Ask someone who is linguistically unsophisticated what they know about the word point, for example, and then look the word up in a good dictionary. The Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary devotes almost two whole pages to the word point. It identifies 30 categories of meaning for the headword point together with such fixed phrases as 'I take your point', 'beside the point', 'the finer points' and 'in point of fact'. It then goes on to treat derived forms like pointer, pointed and pointless together with phrases like point out, point up, point of view and point of reference. All of this is information that the competent user of the language acts on on appropriate occasions, but it is unlikely that even the most sophisticated native speaker would be able to recall more than a fraction of it at will. Indeed even sophisticated language users like lexicographers have to undertake a long and complicated research programme to make explicit what all of us already know about point - in the sense that all the meanings and phrases are likely to be instantly understood by an adult native speaker and most of them will be readily produced. It is not an easy task to make comprehensive explicit statements about all the other words we use so easily and automatically. But the appropriate forms are readily called to mind when there is an occasion for use. It is the occasion for use that activates our language knowledge. Structural syllabuses and synthetic approaches Language learners face three tasks. They must acquire an enormous body of knowledge, they must store it in such a way that they can act on it automatically, and they must use the language with which they are familiar as a basis for exploring the further possibilities which exist in the language. In order to help learners achieve this, the syllabus designer must first specify syllabus content as economically as possible. Almost any language course specifies what the designers believe that learners at a certain stage of language development need to learn and know, even though they cannot guarantee when and if learners will acquire what is presented to them. Good coursebooks which have been carefully worked out provide an inventory of words, patterns and meanings that learners are to acquire as a result of their course. Normally this is a list of words,

42 The Lexical Syllabus

structures and language functions in both their written and spoken form with both orthography and phonology as part of the learning task. But the major problem is in deciding what items to include. This is particularly important in designing material for beginners or near beginners. Language teaching in its broadest sense - syllabus specification, syllabus design, methodology, classroom interaction - always involves choices between control and exposure, form and outcome, fluency and accuracy. Wilkins (1976), reviewing the work of the Council of Europe on Notional Syllabuses, highlights a choice between what he calls synthetic and analytic-approaches to language teaching. A synthetic teaching strategy:
is one in which the different parts of the language are taught separately and step by step so that acquisition is a process of gradual accumulation of the parts until the whole structure of the language has been built up. (Wilkins 1976)

This strategy breaks language down into small units and arranges these in a particular order.
The learner's task is to re-synthesise the language that has been broken down into a large number of pieces with the aim of making his learning easier. It is only in the final stages of language learning that the global language is re-established in all its diversity. (ibid.)

Wilkins quotes Corder (1973) who suggests that such approaches, which specify the syllabus in terms of language patterns, have 'low surrender value'. This is a term taken from the world of insurance. A life insurance policy which has low surrender value is one which you must pay into for a very long time before it acquires a reasonable value. If you cash it in early, either by choice or by necessity, you do not get much of a return on the money you have invested Corder argued that grammatically based language courses have the same problem. If you give up such a course after say one hundred hours, you will have learned very little that is likely to be of real use to you. Your grammar will be very limited and may be missing major categories like the passive, and many of the models. If you have been well taught you may have good control over the limited grammar you have learned, but it will almost certainly be very limited and, as we have already seen, there is no guarantee that this control will be reflected in your use of the language. A second problem with synthetic approaches is that they assume grammatical items can be ordered in a way which is logical, not only from the course writer's point of view, but also from the learner's. It may well be that there are criteria for ordering which are reasonable in the course writer's terms, but that is not the same as saying that the ordering is logical. It will depend very much on what model of grammar the course writer is working from. But even writers working from the same model may quite reasonably reach different conclusions about ordering. What about ways of referring to the future, for example? Should going to come before or after the present continuous as future? What about the modal will? Different course writers and teachers make different decisions on this, and there is no objective way of saying that one way is right and another wrong. There is therefore no compelling logic to the ordering of items in a syllabus.

Syllabus Content 43

Of course learners must and will make generalisations about the target system. But in the absence of any overriding logic, how can they make generalisations about a whole system on the basis of evidence from an artificially constrained system which is built up piece by piece? If we can point to no logic in the ordering of the syllabus, then we must either deny the learners' capacity to generate from the language they have been exposed to or we must agree with Prabhu (1987) that it is 'unlikely that any planned progression in a grammatical syllabus could accurately reflect or regulate the development of the internal system being aimed at'. Another problem with synthetic approaches is that syllabus specification and ordering place far too much emphasis on production of language and relatively little on comprehension. In an extreme form this means that the only language to which learners will be exposed is language they themselves will be expected to produce. There will be a successive series of models of the language as more and more parts are added, until finally learners are able to make generalisations from what Wilkins calls 'the global language'. Yet another problem with synthetic approaches comes, paradoxically, from the fact that they are so well established. It is not surprising that one manifestation of a particular approach draws heavily on others. This means that the virtues of such approaches are solidly reinforced. Imaginative exercises designed for one coursebook are developed and improved by others. As an approach becomes established, teacher training begins to work on and develop methodological procedures for teaching particular items. A metalanguage is developed which enables practitioners to exchange and develop ideas. In this way an established approach becomes even more strongly established. Unfortunately, this strength can also be a source of weakness. As manifestations of an approach draw on one another without questioning basic assumptions, so the weaknesses of one manifestation reappear in another, until they become an essential part of the approach, no longer subject to questioning. Almost all synthetic approaches to ELT seem to cover with some thoroughness those grammatical systems which are relatively closed. On the other hand, more open-ended and therefore more problematic systems are largely ignored. Clause structure and the verb group figure massively, but apart from the relative clause comparatively little account is taken of, for example, the way in which the complex noun phrase is built up. Sentences like:
Detectives hunting for the man believed to be responsible for the disappearance of sixteen year old schoolgirl Angela James have been forced to abandon their search.

simply do not feature in most pedagogic grammars, even though research suggests that roughly one noun phrase in eight has this kind of multiple modification. A proportion of one in eight certainly justifies thorough pedagogic treatment. Other complex phrases such as the adverbial:
On my way home from a recent holiday in France, I stayed overnight in a small hotel just south of Calais.

tend to be similarly ignored.

44 The Lexical Syllabus

Part of this weakness is the almost universal tendency to borrow systems and categories from other courses, irrespective of whether these systems and categories have any pedagogic usefulness, whether they are likely to cause serious learning difficulties, and in some cases irrespective of whether they have any grammatical validity. I have shown that some items such as the passive and the second conditional have been elevated to an undeserved level of importance, and that artificial and uneconomical categories such as reported speech have been created in the name of pedagogy. It is a strange teaching strategy indeed which allocates a large proportion of time to relatively straightforward grammatical systems and very little time to the most problematic systems. It is stranger still if, in the interests of grading, we deny learners exposure to the language which might enable them to draw conclusions for themselves about such problematic systems. Analytic strategies and syllabus content Wilkins contrasts synthetic approaches to language teaching with what he calls 'analytic strategies'. These analytic strategies form the basis of the methodology which realises the notional-functional syllabus. This methodology does not present carefully selected samples of language in an attempt to build up a gradual picture of the grammar of the language. Instead, it identifies phrases which have high utility and presents these as whole phrases. Analytic strategies, then, do not control the language presented to the learner by means of careful grading:
Components of the language are not seen as building blocks which have to be progressively accumulated. Much greater variety of linguistic structure is permitted from the start and the learner's task is to approximate his own linguistic behaviour more and more closely to the global language. Significant linguistic forms can be isolated from the structurally heterogeneous context in which they occur, so that learning can be focused on important aspects of the language structure. It is this process which is referred to as analytic. (Wilkins 1976)

Wilkins and his Council of Europe colleagues recommended that instead of looking at words, patterns and meanings we should begin by identifying meanings. In answer to the question 'What forms of the language does the learner need to be familiar with?' they no longer started by attempting to identify basic patterns of English. Instead they interposed a second rather different question 'What does the learner need to mean in English?' The idea was that we should first identify the basic meanings or 'notions' which learners would need to realise. We should also identify what it was that learners wanted to do with the language, what 'functions' they would need to carry out. Having established this inventory of notions and functions we could then ask the question 'How are these meanings realised in English?' The outcome of this would be not a structural, but a notional syllabus.
In drawing up a Notional Syllabus instead of asking how speakers of the language express themselves or when and where they use the language we ask what it is they communicate through the language. We are then able to organise language teach-

Syllabus Content 45

ing in terms of the content rather than the form of the language . . . A general language course will concern itself with those concepts and functions that are likely to be of the widest value. (Wilkins 1976)

In theory this would be a highly efficient way of designing a syllabus and of ensuring that learners acquired the language that would be of most need to them. It would avoid the charge of low surrender value. A great many applied linguists and course designers worked hard to produce complex inventories of semantico-grammatical notions, spatio-temporal notions, socio-cultural notions and so on and so on. This was certainly a useful exercise. It brought home very starkly the fact that learning a language means learning to encode meanings and to do things with the language rather than simply learning to produce the forms of the language. The Council of Europe Threshold and Waystage syllabuses, which are based to a large extent on a specification of notions and functions have informed syllabus design ever since. But in the final event, the problem of specifying notions and functions created as many problems as it solved. We simply had no way of specifying with any objectivity the semantic content of a syllabus, let alone of going on to specify how that content might best be realised. But the pipe dream of the notional syllabus stayed with us. If only we could specify the basic meanings of English, the meanings which even the most elementary users of the language would need to encode, how efficient it would be. But Wilkins himself acknowledged the enormous complexity of this task:
I do not wish to suggest that it is in principle impossible to plan the conceptual content of language syllabuses in this way. However, it does seem to me clear that it would in practice prove to be an extremely complex task; the more so if we are simultaneously trying to introduce language functions which have been contextualised by suitable notions. (Wilkins 1976)

The arguments were compelling and convincing. The achievement, however, was as good as impossible. It also transpired that exemplars of the notional-functional syllabus when it is used to teach English for general purposes are subject to one of the criticisms laid against synthetic approaches. They are concerned with specifying and ordering what it is that the learner will be expected to produce, rather than with helping the learner to build up a picture of the language. Wilkins himself is well aware of the problems of going beyond this producer-based specification:
If, however, we focus first on the receiver and then on the process of interaction we shall see that our model implies more radical changes in the teaching of languages than would be necessary simply to 'semanticise' existing forms of exercise or drill. The needs of the receiver will lead us to consideration of the place of authentic language materials. (Wilkins, 1976)

This echoes to some extent the distinction we have been making, following Widdowson, between use and usage. Artificially restricting the language to which learners are exposed in the interests of simplified production distorts the language in specific ways, and it is unlikely that when learners finally come face to face with the language in use they will meet the same distortions. By attempting to make things simple for the learner as producer, we are making things

46 The Lexical Syllabus

difficult for the learner as receiver, unless of course we are to accept low surrender value and postpone contact with language use for a considerable time. But how could we possibly predict the needs of the receiver? How can we select, out of the vast range of linguistic knowledge, those items which are likely to benefit the learner as receiver in communicative situations over which there are no controls? And even if we could, how could we make this language accessible to the learner? It is one thing to prescribe artificially the language the learner will be exposed to and exemplify this simplified language. It is quite another thing to accept that learners are likely to be exposed to a bewildering range of language, and to enable them to draw useful conclusions and generalisations from exposure to authentic language materials. Specifying the lexical syllabus As so often happens, however, the solutions to the enormously complex problem of syllabus specification proved to be disarmingly simple. The commonest and most important, most basic meanings in English are those meanings expressed by the most frequent words in English. If we could identify the commonest words in English and identify their meanings, we would have the solution to the whole problem. This very simple, yet highly significant insight was put forward by John Sinclair, editor-in-chief of the COBUILD project. He proposed a return to the idea first suggested by people like H E Palmer and Michael West in the 1930s and 1950s - of a syllabus based not on structures or on notions, but on words. This proposal is based on the observation that a relatively small number of English words accounts for a very high proportion of English text. Nation (1983) reports that Bongers (1947) produced a list of 3,000, words which would, he claimed, account for 97% of all written English text. Caroll et al. (1971) estimate that 1,000 words account for 74% of all text; 2,000 for 81% and 3,000 for 85%. The figures based on a computer analysis of the COBUILD corpus are slightly different, but point to the same basic conclusions:
The most frequent 700 words of English constitute 70% of English text. The most frequent 1,500 words constitute 76% of text. The most frequent 2,s00 words constitute 80% of text.

This tells us two things. First, it shows the enormous power of the common words of English. It means that, even though we have a vocabulary of tens of thousands of words, on average seven out of every ten words we hear, read, speak or write come from the 700 most frequent words of English. In some texts, of course, the incidence is much lower. But in others it is very much higher. In a highly specialised text on nuclear physics, for example, there will be a high incidence of unusual words. But in many texts, even if they are highly specialised, the incidence of words outside the 2,500 frequency band is surprisingly low. For example, in this section 'Specifying the lexical syllabus', there are so far only 11 words not in the top 2,500: corpus, dictionary, disarmingly, incidence, insight, lexical, specification, specialised, specify, syllabus, vocabulary. Of these words, three (specify, specification, specialised) have the same base form

Syllabus Content 47

as words that are in the top 2,500, and would therefore be easily guessable. This leaves eight words, most of which are to do with the specialist nature of the topic concerned. As such, these are used repeatedly in the text, and so will be quickly assimilated by the specialist reader. In general, therefore, the lexis in these paragraphs will be quite accessible to a learner who has been systematically exposed to the commonest words in English, and who has an interest and grounding in the specialist subject. Secondly, the figures illustrate dramatically the importance of careful selection in identifying the lexical content of the syllabus. The 700 most frequent words cover 70% of text, but coverage begins to drop rapidly thereafter. The next 800 words cover a further 6% of text and the next 1,000 words cover 4%. The way in which utility begins to fall off at an accelerating rate shows the paramount importance of identifying the right words to give us the right sort of coverage. It is true that general frequency is not the sole criterion. As we move down the frequency band we need to take more and more account of the needs of specific learners. Particular vocations, cultures, and sections of society will have specific needs which are obscured in a general count. If we are talking about the 2,500 most frequent words in English, however, no learner is likely to get very far without needing to express and understand notions and functions carried by words at this level of frequency. As I have already pointed out, frequency counts are not new. Michael West's General Service List (1953) is still widely used by course writers today, not as a basis of a syllabus but as a check to see they have a reasonable coverage of the most frequent words of the language. Tickoo (1988) pays tribute to the pioneering work of West and adds:
Although 35 years old and in many ways outdated, GSL continues to serve ELT practitioners in their search for the commonest uses of many common words. It is only in the last few years that computer-based studies of word values, concordances, and collocations (Sinclair, 1985) have begun to offer deeper insights into the behaviour of ordinary words. (Tickoo 1988)

We have already seen some evidence of the power and rigour of such computer-based studies, and how they can offer a more detailed study of larger and larger samples of language. The speed at which large corpora can be handled means that a description of today's language can be not merely produced but regularly updated. The 700 most frequent words in current English were identified in the COBUILD study. With a few exceptions and additions (see page 77) these words make up the content of the remedial beginners course, the Collins COBUILD English Course, Level 1, as listed in the back of the Student's Book. From words to meanings This takes us as far as identifying the words, but we are looking for meanings. We began with the assertion that 'the commonest and most important, most basic meanings in English are those meanings expressed by the most frequent

48 The Lexical Syllabus

words in English'. The COBUILD project worked, as we have seen in Chapter 2, from a corpus to concordances, from concordances to a database and from a database to the final dictionary entries. These entries summarised an array of information from the database which included syntactic and pragmatic information as well semantic. Often the information on a given word derived from such a study is very much in line with the picture of that same word given in most EFL coursebooks. In the 7.3 million word Main Corpus the 22,000 occurrences of the word by, for example, reveal four major categories of meaning, leading to this picture of the word in the Collins COBUILD English Course, Level 1: by (111) 1 who / what did it Wally is awakened by the phone ringing. (91) Handicrafts made by people in the Third World. (104) Is that a magazine published by Macmillan? (146) 2 how You solve it by elimination. (158) English by Radio. (146) London is only 55 minutes away by train. (179) Find out by talking to people. 3 when Everyone helps to clear away after dinner. By then it's about7.15 or7.30p.m. (113) Even though the Forth River is only 66 miles long, by the time it reaches Edinburgh it is over 4 miles wide. (179) 4 where Behind the chair? Of the person sitting by the desk? (72) Just by the bus stop. (122) On the wall by the entrance was a notice. (173) The commonest of these meanings is the first, which accounts for just over 50% of occurrences of by. It occurs most commonly with a passive verb, but there are around 1,000 occurrences with a noun of some sort:
1 . . . an investment of 12 million pounds by Courtaulds . . . 2 . . . attacks on EEC ministers by a commission member . . .

Possibly underrated in many courses is the second use, particularly the pattern by + . . . ing. This accounts for almost 2,500 occurrences in the corpus with other expressions of manner making up a further 2,200 occurrences. The third use, on the other hand, may well receive more attention than it merits, although it is certainly important, with some 300 occurrences in the corpus. The fourth category is roughly twice as common as this, with around 600 occurrences. In spite of these weightings, however, the picture of by shown by the

Syllabus Content 49

COBUILD research accords pretty well with that traditionally given in EFL courses. It is not always the case, however, that the research bears out our intuitions so neatly. Some surprises As one looks more closely at the evidence, surprises begin to emerge. A common EFL view of the words some and any, which is enshrined in many pedagogic grammars, suggests that where some is used in affirmative sentences its counterpart any is used in negative and interrogative sentences. But look at the concordances for the word any taken from the texts which make up the first 13 units of Level 2 of CCEC. (see p.53) Look particularly to see how many of the occurrences are in negative sentences, how many in interrogative and how many in affirmative sentences. These concordances show a very different picture from that shown above, which is the picture presented to many language learners. Of the 38 concordance lines shown here, 23 are in affirmative sentences, 11 in negative and only 4 in interrogatives. At first sight one might think that the data is restricted and therefore the picture is a false one. But the description of any derived from the corpus shows this picture: (see p.53) Far from being an aberration, the use of any in an affirmative sentence is in fact much commoner than its use in interrogatives. In this particular instance the information given to learners by some coursebooks and grammars is simply wrong. Fortunately there were comparatively few findings which stood in outright contradiction to the traditional picture. There were, however, a large number of findings which suggest that the traditional picture is somewhat skewed. A study of the word would presents the picture: (see p.55) There are two things of particular interest to the EFL teacher here. First there is the frequency of Category 2: 'used to'- indicates past habits. At 21 % of 14,687 this represents some 3,100 occurrences. The conventional EFL wisdom is that this use of would is rather informal, even old-fashioned. The commonest way of expressing this notion is used to. A look at used to shows 1,100 occurrences with this meaning. In spite of the conventional wisdom would (or 'd, as in I'd) meaning 'used to' is almost three times as common as used to meaning 'used to'. This is not to say that we should teach would to the exclusion of used to. They are both common forms and should both feature in an intermediate course. Used to also has a less restricted use than would since it can be used with stative verbs such as know, understand, notice and believe- those not commonly found in the progressive tenses:
1 'I used to know,' Mary said. 2 I don't notice things as much as I used to.

whereas there are no occurrences of would with these verbs. But the fact remains that would with this meaning is extremely common and must be

50 The Lexical Syllabus

included. It is surprising how many teachers reject this recommendation, preferring to hold to their intuitions. A common reaction is to query the validity of the corpus. Is it predominantly made up of written texts? Is it out of date? But no amount of doubt and suspicion can gainsay figures as stark as these. It is not just that this use of would is more common than used to, it is three times as common. A syllabus which ignores this fact is deficient. It ignores the fact that outside the classroom setting the learner is at least three times as likely to come across the form would or 'd as the form used to. The second interesting thing about the word would has already been highlighted in our discussion of the second conditional in Chapter 2. That is the predominance of Category 1.1, the use of would 'to talk of events which are of a hypothetical nature':
3 I suspect the Germans would still be a little bit cautious. 4 I think The Tempest would make a wonderful film.

This makes up almost half of the 14,687 occurrences. As a sub-category of this we have would used in conditional sentences:
5 It would surprise me very much if sterling strengthened. 6 You would be surprised if I told you what my credit is.

As we have seen the usual strategy in EFL courses is to present would as a part of the second conditional. We have argued, however, that it would be more effectively taught lexically. Perhaps one of the most pervasive findings of the COBUILD study when used as the basis for a syllabus, however, is the recognition that we use language in a much more abstract way than most elementary courses would lead us to believe. We have already looked at the word thing and noted that it refers much more commonly to an abstract entity, such as a proposition or argument, than to a physical object. The same is true of many other words. The pronouns this and that behave in the same way:
7 Is that why you had a few days off? 8 Is that clear, Sergeant? 9 This is why I'm opposed to the plan. 10 The law says he can't be evicted. Is this right?

Similarly the word see is much more common with the meaning 'understand':
11 I see what you mean. 12 I don't really see how I can.

than with the meaning 'to perceive with the eyes':


13 I can hardly see without my glasses. 14 He looked up and saw Ellen staring at him.

Verbs of motion are used to describe progress through time and through discourse as well as through space:
15 We'll come back to that point shortly. 16 Most children stay at home until they reach school age. 17 We finally arrived at a situation where we were making a small profit.

Syllabus Content 51

All of this suggests that there may be a considerable gulf between the language used in elementary and intermediate courses and the language used in the world outside. The language of the classroom largely handles a world of concrete objects and observable events. The language needed outside the classroom is needed much more to create an abstract world of propositions, arguments, hypotheses and discourses. It may be that in learning our first language we move from concrete to abstract, but mature learners of a foreign language already have these abstract concepts as part of their knowledge of their first language. As mature language users they will want to understand and create similar concepts in the target language. We should provide them with experience of the kind of language they need in order to do this. A fresh look at the meanings of common words, therefore, brings to light a number of failings in the traditional EFL view of language. Occasionally it is simply mistaken, as when it asserts that any is rarely used in affirmative sentences. Sometimes it is wrongly weighted, as when it includes used to for past habit but ignores the much commoner would. Sometimes it is uneconomical, looking at specific uses of words rather than making broad generalisations about them. Thus it restricts would to the context of a conditional clause without recognising explicitly that the hypothetical meaning of would has a much wider currency than this. Finally I have suggested that unless we look with an open mind at the commonest uses of the common words of English and try to reproduce those uses in the classroom, then we are in danger of using language in the classroom in a very restricted way to create a material world of objects and events, ignoring the commonest and most typical uses of language which create a world of abstract ideas. There is certainly enough evidence in the research to show that the use of language in the classroom is far from typical of language use in the world outside. Patterns in language Clearly there are recurrent patterns in language. Some of these patterns are so common and so salient that we actually have names for them:
Noun phrase + am/are/is + . . . ing = the present continuous tense. Noun phrase + be + past participle (+ by + noun phrase) = the passive.

Course writers and teachers also identify more informally such patterns as the going to future', 'the second conditional' and 'reported statements'. These are certainly items which need to be covered in an English course up to the elementary level. The matter at issue is how they are best covered. There are, however, a number of important patterns which are in danger of being overlooked altogether unless once again we go back to the research and make sure that we have a reasonable coverage of the language. I showed in Chapter 3 that the word way occurs with a variety of patterns:
1 The most effective way of countering the Soviet air threat . . . 2 I believe this is the only way that an ordinary person can inspire others. 3 Life isnt the way it ought to be.

52 The Lexical Syllabus

I suggested at the beginning of this chapter that the same applies to the word thing. There is a large class of nouns like way, thing, idea, wish, notion, hope, intention, all of them very common, which pattern with of, that or to. It is worth emphasising that these words all play an important part in structuring discourse, and that they are not generally highlighted in intermediate coursebooks. If we look at language we will discover these patterns and recognise their importance. If we rely on intuition - even, or perhaps especially, intuition informed by years of ELT practice - we may overlook them. We shall also look later (Chapter 5) at the level of detail required if we are to offer learners reasonable exposure to the common patterns of the language. The CCEC elementary syllabus covers, with a few exceptions, the 700 most frequent words in English. For each of these words we worked with data sheets similar to those for way shown in Chapter 3, and those for would and any shown above detailing meanings and recurrent patterns. This elementary syllabus, therefore, consists of many hundreds of pages. If we are to attempt to list realistically the content of a syllabus it seems to me to be necessary to go into at least this level of detail. It is not enough to offer a list of structural frames without indicating which words are likely to fill them and also how the words which fill the frames are likely to behave. If one starts by listing words and their behaviour, one generates automatically the structural environments and the words which are likely to occur within them.

Syllabus Content 53 SAMPLE CONCORDANCES FOR THE WORD F0RM ANY


mmm no I " e never broken Certainly not me! I dont really get that allows me to cope with almost are the most paid. Do you think secretarys desk to see if there were But when it happened, I never had their and healthy. I didnt really have close friends or relatives ever won one of these passe, you can travel the attached form and take it to your Travelcard can be renewed at arent there? CF: Mm, Do you know the microwaves stop being produced. serviced regularly, and if you have happened to you: Can you think of TO YOU? 1.1 Have you ever done every done any of these things? Has you? condition of your policy. (a) Report made at the scene of the accident by machines and selling tickets to mugs. I decided not to question him What makes you think that Im is liars, he said. You can buy think of anything else? Is there M; Mm, red and yellow. JM: Mm, well, if you look at, um, say, amy, there right now. I dont want SB: Okay. You havent given me It one bit. Dont talk to im penalty goes with which offence. tyres down. I wouldnt have done nished with you. You wont be driving he said. You dont. And you aint. door closed and locked and secure out proper authority. If you are in Make certain you do not part with house Pay for. 8 Report to the Police Contact
At your local Police Station for

any any any any any any any any any any any any Any any any any any any any Any any any any any any any any any any Any any any Any any any any any
any

bones so farerjust some colds, orwell, I think Im circumstances, and to make friends of them are underpaid or overpaid: messages for him. There were none, reply at all. I had to just sit career ambitions. Erpartly because money either through betting or in a distance. You can go more or less of the places listed here. (For 16of these outlets. WHAT PLACES CAN I ? JM: Umthere is one where microwave for sale in the UK must problems contact us and well try to other ways of getting meals or of these things? Has any of these of these things ever happened to statement made at the scene of the one of the parties. (b) You will be fool could do that. more. I remembered how irritated I good at my job? I asked. Theres car you like and itll never do what otherBG: I cant. I cant think , any group of people together, like group of people together, like say nonsense, insisted the hijacker. idea of how long this is. You said more than necessary, you understand comments: SERGEANT BROWNS PARROT damage like smash the windscreen or car again, come to that, for several fool could tell that. He took from ladders. 4 Do ALWAYS lock your car, doubt, inform the Police. 7 make cash for goods delivered to your questionable telephone calls.
free Crime Prevention advice you think

Entry for the word form 'ANY' Total no. of occs. in corpus: 7,029 Category 1: IT DOESN'T MATTER WHICH, ALL AND EVERY (Adj / det., adverb, pronoun) [42% of sample occs.] Any child under two is given a bottle or a dummy / the young men went for any job they could rather than a farmjob / opposing all concessions of any KIND / Any lightweight objects such as newspapers/England has the longest Open tradition of any OF the English links / closing any OF them would be a major engineering feat / if any OF you wish to um transfer them to tapes / if any ONE was ill the whole street would know/we work more overtime than any OTHER country in Europe/library has never been more than half full at . . . at any TlME/he wouldn't offer the job to Hubert Humphrey or any OTHER tired politician / a churchyard was no more sacred than any OTHER yard / she couldn't bear the thought of any man touching her / man could not hope to land on any Galilean moon / Category 2: NONE AT ALL (WITH NEGATIVES) or SOME AS OPPOSED TO NONEI(IN QUESTIONS) (Adj/det.) [39% of sample occs.]

54 The Lexical Syllabus

I doN'T know any Russian / I caN'T even remember any English /There'd be a big to-do that couldN'T do anybody any GOOD/They had NOT dared to strike any MORE matches / we haveN'T any paper / in Hong Kong's slum there is NEVER any privacy / I doN'T think there was any rain all summer long / There was NEVER any TIME for . . . / In this job I didN'T have to do any writing / this state of affairs could NOT go on any LONGER/the Conservative Government's lack of any overall transport policy/to play as often as you can and to get rid of any inhibitions/'Did you, may I ask, get any results?'/ Have we any stain remover? / Phrases and misc: i ANY MORE e.g.: There wasn't much to do any more / I wasn't going to the house any more / ii AT ANY RATE e.g.: she was undeniably attractive, at any rate to judge from the newspaper photographs / iii IN ANY WAY e.g.: Was he linked in any way to men in other countries? / iv IN ANY CASE e.g.: it was NOT written for a specific woman and in any case a woman's circumstances constantly change / Notes: i In Category 1 most of the occs. are adj / det. Pronouns and adverbs are much less frequent, occurring in particular collocational patterns (see examples above). ii In Category 2 'any' occurs with negatives, and verbs or clauses with negative overtones e.g. Mr Habib's statement omitted any mention of the parties / it was very hard to find anyone with any previous experience /. iii Where 'any' occurs with an actual negative in a statement it seems to have the effect of strengthening the negation e.g.: 'A picnic wouldN'T be any fun,' Sarah said, 'without you.'/ iv Teaching wisdom has it that 'any' in questions implies that the expected answer will be 'no'. Without knowing the answers to the questions asked in the example above I can't shed any light on this. v 38% of sample occs. are preceded by not' or 'never'. vi Only 5% of sample occs. Are recognisable as questions. vii In 2% of sammple occs., ANY is followed by a comparative adj/adv., e.g.: /Right, is that any clearer now? /Why should you want to go any faster? /, where ANY means at all/ to some extent. Further information on right-hand collocates: OF 391 occs. OTHER 361 MORE 340 CASE 129 RATE 111 TIME 111 KIND 104 ONE 98 WAY 89

Syllabus Content 55

Entry for the word form 'WOULD' Total no. of occs. in corpus: 14,687 Category 1: USED TO TALK OF EVENTS WHICH ARE OF A HYPOTHETICAL NATURE AT THE TIME OF BEING MENTIONED, EITHER BECAUSE THEY ARE IN THE FUTURE OR BECAUSE THEY DEPEND ON OTHER EVENTS WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT OCCUR (Modal auxiliary) [48% of sample occs.] she just thought she would LIKE a little flat of her own / I suspect that the West Germans would still be a little cautious because of their . . . /This means, give or take a bit, that it would take a full century to produce a library of . . . / then the people of South Vietnam would receive their conquerors with relief / . . . direct massive action against the IRA because this would produce a polarisation / putting a private detective on your trail (which would probably cost more than you are fiddling) / I should have thought that YOU would prefer an agreed incomes policy to one that . . . /'Productivity' became the magic password that would open the doors to prosperity / Opening the beaches would NOT be a solution or a conclusion / the barmen were threatening to strike. This would NOT only have deprived Dublin of drink, but . . . / but to look at her YOU would NEVER have guessed it / I think The Tempest would MAKE a wonderful film and have my own ideas . . . / telling the children about Bombay and how they would live in a beautiful flat with a lift to go up / A handlebar moustache would HAVE completed the picture / simply it came to my wife and myself that it would BE nice to keep bees /'. . . trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday.' Would SHE make a deal like that? She wondered. / YOU would HAVE to be in at half past ten and YOU wouldn't be allowed any males in your room / Category 1.1: USED IN CONDITIONAL SENTENCES 18% of sample occs.] It would surprise me very much IF sterling strengthened / You would BE surprised IF I told you what my credit is / Would it feel wrong IF I didn't come? / Would sex crimes BE reduced IF children . . . / Would THE world BE a better place to live in IF the . . . / IF we were to let their emotions go they would run away with them / IF we were to put the idea to them all, it would require a plenary meeting/IF he wasn't such a reactionary, I'd feel sorry for him / IF I'd typhoid or cholera aboard I'd sail at once for . . . / IF there were a beast I'd HAVE seen it / IF we left it'd take about three or four weeks to settle down / IF you couldn't do that YOU wouldn't be able to do this next one / Category 2: 'USED TO'- INDICATES PAST HABITS [21% of sample occs.] The old man would walk down with me to check the camels of an evening/'You are quaint, Crab,' she would SAY / by car or forty miles on horseback to Hobeni. He would stay the weekend and go bushbuck hunting/'I do wish,' our mother would SAY, 'I do wish you'd listen to me.'/they would practise all day standing on their heads / often as many as three of them would play the same game together / the colonial servants' returning steamer would pass the outward bound troop ship . . .'/'Damn it, I'm exactly the same age as Hitler.' he would SAY / Category 3: USED AS THE PAST TENSE OF 'WILL' IN REPORTED SPEECH, THOUGHT, ETC. [6% of sample occs.]

56 The Lexical Syllabus

Thatcher rather ringingly SAID that all this would BE sorted out very quickly / that's what he SAID, he would eat at his hotel/he was going to perform a story that she SAID I would NEVER have heard of before / Ford SAID the company would NOT comment on the claim before the October meeting / But I think he secretly HOPED I would one day change my mind/Bar had promised them that he would send her home every summer/I thought I would wait until something went wrong with his machine / there was no hurry, he told himself. He would return here later / I TOLD him I'd BE right back / Lynn had TOLD Derek she wouldn't BE long / Category 4: USED TO MAKE REQUESTS, QUESTIONS, OFFERS, SUGGESTIONS, ETC. POLITE [2% of sample occs.] 'The devil take me if I can get my car to start. Would YOU be so good as to give me a push . . .'/Would YOU kindly send me your autograph?/Would YOU switch the light on, please? /Would YOU please remove your glasses? /'Would YOU LIKE some coffee?' 'No, thank you'/'Would YOU do me a favour?' 'Of course!'/'Would YOU LIKE me to sing you a song?' I asked / Would YOU LIKE to see the house. Rudolph? / Wouldn't YOU LIKE to come with me . . . / Would YOU LIKE to come and read Proust with me? /'Would YOU LIKE to go to Ernie's for dinnef? /'You'd better tell me all about it.' 'Would YOU mind very much if I did?'/'After what you've been through, Mr Gerran, I'd advise you to give it a miss'/ Phrases and misc: i WOULD YOU SAY (THAT) e.g.:/Would YOU say that this method can be used widely /

Notes: i The percentage counts given in the entry are based only on non-sentence-initial occs of WOULD. Examples are taken, however, from 'would', 'Would', and 'I'd'. ii There are two problems with the frequency figures given above. First, Category 1 is very large and may contain occs. which should have gone in 1.1. The IF may well have been in an earlier or later part of a line which was not shown. Some of the occs. also implied IF, but does that make them conditionals? iii Second, Category 4 accounts for only 2% of non-sentence initial occs. In sentence initial occs. it accounts for about 65%. iv Sentence initial occs. only account for about 3% of total occs. v WOULD is frequently preceded by a pronoun. vi In contracted form - I'd, It'd, wouldn't, etc. - there were a higher proportion of more obviously conditional sentences. vii WOULD can also be used instead of 'do' in some instances where it has the effect of making something sound more tentative or polite, or acts as an intensifier e.g.:/I wouldn't agree with you that it takes an . . ./How my English friends would rag me! / Further information on left-hand collocates: I 1,399 occs. IT 1,312 HE 1,032 SHE 562 Further information on right-hand collocates: BE 2,475 occs. HAVE 1,517 NO 556

The Lexical Syllabus; Dave Willis


Originally published by Collins ELT, 1990

57

CHAPTER 5: Communicative methodology and syllabus specification


Communicative methodology, a definition There is a good deal of confusion as to what is involved in a communicative approach to language teaching. I argued in Chapter 1 that part of this confusion stems from the fact that an approach involves both syllabus specification and methodology. Sometimes the term 'communicative' is used to describe an approach incorporating a notional-functional syllabus on th t. the grounds that such a syllabus is expressed not in terms of language items, but in terms of what is communicated through language. But the methodology which realises a notional-functional syllabus may be a presentation methodology which involves virtually nothing in the way of genuine communication in the classroom. Sometimes the term 'communicative' is taken as referring to the methodology involved in a particular approach. In terms of the distinction made earlier between a focus on form and a focus on meaning, activities which focus on meaning would be seen as communicative, because learners are expected to acquire language by using it to communicate with one another, not simply to display a knowledge of linguistic form. I would like to distinguish between three kinds of classroom activity (see J D Willis 1983). The first two, citation and simulation, focuson language form. The purpose of citation activities is to model target utterances for the learners This is usually achieved through the kind of presentation methodology described in Chapter 1. Teachers have a range of devices for this. The important thing, as we have seen, is that students are required to respond to a teacher elicitation with an utterance which is appropriate in form. So Socoop's perfectly acceptable sentence:
Yes, I am, er, father of four children.

was rejected by the teacher because it did not display the form the teacher wanted, a verb with a gerund as object. Any of the following would have been acceptable:
love like enjoy. hate can't stand

being a father

irrespective of whether it happened to be true or not. Nowadays teachers often go to great lengths to createtaste the impression that

58 The Lexical Syllabus

language is being used rather than simply manipulated. There is even talk of 'communicative drills'. But such a concept is contradictory, since the essence of communication is choice and a basic requirement of drilling is the restriction of choice. The advocates of 'communicative drills' argue that provided the learner is required to produce a true statement, then whatever they say is meaningful. They would argue, for example, that in the sequence quoted in Chapter 1, Socoop's utterance of the form:
I like being a father.

would be meaningful because it would be a true statement. In a narrow sense so it would. In the same way an example given in a dictionary definition is meaningful. It is a sentence of English for which we can conceive a meaningful context. When I read in the Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary:
I shouldn't write these down if I were you.

I do not take it that the lexicographer is advising me not to waste my time by copying down definitions. I know that the sentence is being used simply to illustrate the meaning of should. In the same way, were Socoop to say:
I like being a father.

he would be uttering a 'true' sentence. But he would not be using it to inform the teacher about his attitude to parenthood. He would be doing it to demonstrate his control of the target pattern. The intention behind his utterance would be to show control of language form, not to convey information. Some classroom activities have a more elaborate similarity with acts of communication. When, for example, students are asked to write an essay on 'The Happiest Day of My Life' most of them know very well that the purpose of this activity is not to inform, amuse or entertain the teacher. It is to display control over the forms of the language. Sophisticated students will aim quite specifically to avoid errors or to display particular language forms in the guise of informing the teacher what happened on a particularly happy day. I call activities of this kind simulation activities, because although there is an appearance of communication, the real purpose is to display control of language form. The same is true of role play activities in which the learner is expected to display forms of the language which have just been presented and practised. The role play is simply a device to enable the learner to display particular forms. Students adopt, for example, the roles of doctor and patient simply in order to show that they have 'learned' expressions like:
What's the problem?

and:
I've got a pain in my back.

Simulation activities, therefore, are constrained in the same way as citation activities. Learners know that they are expected not necessarily to tell the truth or play a convincing role, but to display control of language form. Classroom activities of the third type, which focus on outcome, are called replication activities because they replicate within the classroom aspects of

Communicative Methodology and Syllabus Specification 59

communication in the real world. There is a wealth of activities already accessible to teachers involving games, problem solving, information gathering and so on in which learners use language for real communication. In these activities they ask questions because they need to know the answers in order to solve a problem or win a game, not simply to show that they can produce question forms in English. The forms of the language they use are in no way predetermined. They can use whatever language they wish in order to achieve the desired outcome quickly and efficiently. I would define a communicative methodology as a methodology based on this kind of language use, in which learners are required to use language to achieve real outcomes. What we have done in CCEC is match a lexical syllabus with a communicative methodology of this kind. Language varieties in the classroom Ellis (1984) proposes what he calls a 'variable competence model' of second language acquisition. He points out that native speakers do not have just one single language system, but a number of overlapping language systems. This is a notion that all language users are familiar with. The style of writing I am using here, for example, would probably be inappropriate in an informal letter. The kind of spoken language I use in delivering a public lecture would be most inappropriate in style if I were to use it at the family breakfast table. We all move easily from one style to another depending on where we are, who we are talking to, what we are talking about and so on. To make this point, Ellis draws on the work of Labov (1972). Labov's work shows that there is a predictable relationship between the circumstances of communication and the variety of language produced. Where communication is personal and casual, users adopt a ivernacular' or natural variety. Where the circumstances of communication are more formal, users move towards a more prestigious variety. In the case of the New Yorkers whom Labov sfudied, the natural style showed a much higher incidence of /dis/ and /daet/, as opposed to the /bis/ and /daet/ of the more prestigious variety. By analysing the relative frequency of 'speech markers' like /dis/ and /daet/ as opposed to /dis/ and /daet/ Labov was able to show that his subjects operated a range of styles according to how much they were concerned with the form of their utterance. Applying this to language learning, Ellis goes on to argue that:
SLD (Second Language Development) is accounted for by demonstrating that structures which are initially stylistically restricted to formal contexts of use are gradually available for use in more informal contexts. (Ellis 1984)

In other words learners, like native speakers, have a number of different language systems. There are times when they are careful about how they express themselves and times when they are not so careful. This is a process that the teacher can usefully exploit in the classroom. Before looking at the pedagogical implications, however, there are three ways in which I would like to reformulate Ellis's position. First of all the learner's switch from one variety to another is developmental in a way that the native speaker's is not. New Yorkers vary their style according

60 The Lexical Syllabus

to social context. But all the styles they use have a real value. Unless they have some social motivation for doing so, they are not going to eliminate /dis/ and /daet/ from their repertoire. Learners, on the other hand, do want to eliminate features of their repertoire and replace them with a different variety. They know that their 'vernacular' style, an unstable interlanguage, has a limited value outside the classroom and they want (assuming of course that they are reasonably motivated) to transcend this style and replace it with another. Secondly, learners are operating within a restricted environment. The classroom does not immediately create the variety of social contexts to which the native speaker responds in the outside world. At an early stage the learners' first concern is with some kind of propositional/functional adequacy. Provided they can get the basic content of their message across they are not concerned with much beyond that - and even that limited objective may be achieved only with some effort. If learners have been set purely pragmatic goals there is no reason for them to go beyond that limited propositional/functional adequacy. Unfortunately, many teachers have a similarly restricted view of what is meant by communication. They cast doubt on the value of pair and group work in which learners communicate with one another unsupervised by the teacher on the grounds that 'My students can communicate all right, but they keep on making a lot of mistakes'. And unless teachers work to create an environment in which learners will be moved to look for more than propositional/functional adequacy, that is exactly what will happen. Unless teachers manipulate the social context within the classroom, there is no reason why learners should look to a prestige variety of the language - one which in their case is as far as possible formally accurate. Finally, we need to question the nature of the structures that are restricted and need to be made more widely available. Ellis's formulation may suggest that a 'structure' is a linguistic unit. It might be better conceived of as a mental construct relating to the way the learner's internalised grammar conceptualises the language, rather than as a form of words or even the kind of abstract patterning described in formal grammars. Certainly if we understand the word 'structure' to refer almost exclusively to clause or sentence structure in the way it seems to be understood by proponents of a presentation methodology, we shall have a very restricted view of the learning process. Considering the position of the learner in the classroom, let us say for the time being that all learners have a variety of English which they regard as adequate for certain restricted communicative purposes in the classroom. They also have knowledge about the forms of the language which they may be able to deploy to move towards a more universally acceptable variety. They also have the motivation to develop this restricted variety towards something which has a wider currency outside the classroom. Most important of all, they will be subject to the same kind of social pressures in using the target language as in using the native language. Given the right classroom environment they will attempt to refine the language which is immediately available to them. The teacher's task, then, is to create an environment in which the learners will respond to familiar social pressures and adjust their language accordingly. This can be done by manipulating the communicative context. When students are working in pairs or small groups to solve a problem or to exchange

Communicative Methodology and Syllabus Specification 61

information, they will tend to use what to them is a natural variety, the language that comes easily to them, in the way that /dis/ and /daet/ come easily to many New Yorkers. The circumstances of their communication are:
Private: Students are working in a small group, all the members of which are working as a unit towards the achievement of a common goal. Spontaneous: They are producing language in real time in response to their changing perceptions of the problem they are tackling and of the way a solution is best achieved. Exploratory: The responsibility for a successful outcome is shared. There is some tolerance of imprecision. Meanings can be overtly negotiated by continuous feedback. Useful meanings are built up by trial and error, by hint and counterhint.

If, on the other hand, a student is asked to stand up in front of the class as a whole and offer a considered report of the results of his or her group's deliberations, the circumstances of the communication are quite different. They are:
Public: The student is speaking to a wider group. This group does not have the solidarity of a common purpose. The setting is different. It is a classroom rather than a secluded corner of a classroom. This means that delivery must be more deliberate. Rehearsed: The student is offering a considered report. He or she is not producing language in real time but is delivering a performance which has been, at least to some extent, rehearsed. Final: It is no longer a question of a group of participants working together to reach a conclusion. What we have now is a monologue in which the speaker carries a disproportionate responsibility for the success or otherwise of the enterprise. He or she must be precise or explicit, since the circumstances do not allow for the same kind of negotiation of meaning as does the group situation.

One would predict, and this is borne out by informal observation, that in the first set of circumstances students produce the kind of language that comes naturally. In the second set of circumstances they aim at what they believe to be a prestige form of the target language. They want to speak well and clearly and above all accurately. A variable competence methodology One way of achieving this shift of communicative context is to set up a series of activities which vary the demands on the learner in a principled way. The components of such a methodology could be labelled Task, Planning and Report (Willis and Willis 1987). The Task phase consists of a task-based activity focusing on outcome - a replication activity. In an early unit in CCEC, for example, students are asked to interview one another and then to draw up a family tree for their partner on the basis of the information gleaned from the interview. The circumstances of the task are private, spontaneous, and exploratory. Students aim at task-orientated efficiency rather than formal accuracy. They are seeking to achieve propositional/functional adequacy. During this phase the teachers are asked to restrict themselves to functional correction. That is to say, they are to restrict their correction to the resolution of communicative problems - they are not to

62 The Lexical Syllabus

correct students simply for the sake of formal accuracy. In working on functional correction they are working with the students, helping them to achieve the outcome that the students themselves are working towards. In the Report phase of the cycle, students will report to the rest of the class the results of their work during the task phase. Here the circumstances of communication are public, rehearsed, and final. In these circumstances theform of the message assumes great importance. Students will move towards what they believe to be a prestige form of the target language that prescribes a high level of formal accuracy. The report phase is still an activity which focuses on outcome, provided of course that some outcome is built into the report. (In the example we have given, the results of a family tree exercise are incorporated by the class into a class survey.) But the activity also sets a premium on formal accuracy. It is, if you like, a fluency activity with a focus on accuracy. There are a number of ways that a teacher can make the circumstances of communication more 'formal', so as to move the learner towards a desire for accuracy. In general the written form of the language demands a higher level of accuracy than the spoken form. This is because it is more permanent and therefore more public, more open to inspection. The same effect can be achieved by making a recording of students' reports on audio or video cassette. Similarly if learners prepare notes on an OHP transparency and then come out to the front of the class to make a report, there is greater formality and greater pressure for acpuracy. It is important to identify techniques which work within a given teaching situation. If students are to do themselves justice in the report phase of the cycle, they are going to need help. That is the purpose of the Planning phase. As students work together to prepare their report, the teacher works with them, helping them to rephrase and polish until an acceptable version is realised. This involves correction based on formal accuracy. But this focus on formal accuracy is not dictated by the teacher's whim or by the nature of a citation activity. It is the product of the communicative circumstances which will pertain during the report phase. Once again the teacher is working with the students, helping them to realise a form of language which they themselves want to achieve. Of course most students will still make mistakes even in the most formal contexts. The important thing, however, is that they are trying to shape their vernacular style towards something more universally acceptable. Extending the methodology What we have established so far is a three stage methodology:
Task: In which learners carry out a replication activity. The focus is on the outcome of language use rather than the display of language form. Planning: In which learners prepare to present the findings of the previous phase to the class as a whole. At this stage the teacher helps with correction, rephrasing and so on. Report: In which learners present their findings. The focus is on outcome, on actually presenting their findings, but also on achieving the level of accuracy demanded by the circumstances of communication.

Communicative Methodology and Syllabus Specification 63

If learners are to gain experience of language in use it is not enough for them simply to work with tasks for themselves. Ideally they must also be given exposure to language relevant to the task they have performed or are about to perform, and in particular they must be given the opportunity to see how competent speakers and writers use the target language to achieve similar outcomes. Let us look at a task from CCEC Level 1:

78

Ways of saying numbers

22 0 1989 3.14 748 22756 10.12 021 337 0452

78a a How do you say telephone numbers in your language? b Look at the numbers on the right. What are they? What about 1989 for example? Could it be a telephone number, or a date, or car V number? How would you say it if it was a date? One thousand nine hundred and eighty-nine? . . . One nine eight nine. . .? Discuss with your partner how you could say the numbers. How many different ways can you find and what do they each mean ? Tell the class 78c c Bridget and David talked about the same numbers. Did they think of the same things as you? Write down the things David and Bridget thought of.

Before students do the task for themselves the teacher will probably introduce the task, focusing attention on the problem and on possible solutions. There will be a teacher-student exchange of this kind:
T: What about this one? (writes 3.14 on the board) S: Time is three fourteen. T: Good. If we were talking about the time we would say three fourteen . . . or? S: Fourteen past three. T: Yes fourteen minutes past three. What else could it be?

This preliminary stage provides learners with an introduction to the task they are about to do. It provides them with some ideas on how to approach the task. It also provides valuable exposure to language, in particular to the forms could

64 The Lexical Syllabus

and would and to the hypothetical or unreal' use of the past tense. But the important thing is the preparation for the task. Language input is inevitable, but it should be incidental. Further exposure is provided in the form of native speakers working towards a similar outcome. We recorded two native speakers doing the task. Here is an excerpt from the recording we made:
A: Er, ten twelve. That could be the time. You'd just say ten twelve. The date you'd say B: Mm Or twelve minutes past ten. A: . . . either the tenth of December or the twelfth of October . . . B: Mm . . . A: . . . depending on whether it was English or American. Erm . . . If this was a telephone number you'd say o two one three three seven o four five two, wouldn't you?

This recording provides us with a listening stage, which gives further exposure to the forms could and would, and to the hypothetical use of the past tense. In addition to this, the recording provides us with an opportunity to study language use. It provides us with a text for detailed study and analysis. An appropriate analysis task here would be:
Read through the transcript and find three occurrences of 'd. What does 'd mean? Why is the past tense used in the transcript? Are they talking about the past?

This analysis is clearly a language focused activity and one which focuses on accuracy and the relationship between form and meaning. In this case it highlights the way English handles the notions of hypothesis and possibility. We now have a six stage methodology:
Introduction: In which the teacher prepares the learners tor tne lasK mey a~ about to perform. Task - planning - report: The basic task-based cycle. Listening: In which learners listen to native speakers carrying out a parallel task. Analysis: In which learners look critically at aspects of the native speaker language use in the listening phase.

It is the task stage which is central to the methodology. It is by working at the task that students grapple with meaning and create a meaningful context for the language they have heard and are about to hear. In the task we have been looking at they consider possibilities:
That could be the time.

and set up hypotheses:


If this was a telephone number . . .

and talk about the consequences:


. . . you'd say o two one . . .

Of course many learners may not have the right English. They may say:
Maybe time. If is time is ten twelve.

Communicative Methodology and Syllabus Specification 65

This does not matter at first. The important thing is that they are looking for ways of expressing possibility and hypothesis. They are searching the English they have and making it do the work. This is a creative and useful process. One of the most valuable skills learners can acquire is that of making a little go a long way, of doing a lot with the limited language they have at their disposal. Often this involves them in extending their language in a way which is not strictly acceptable. They make mistakes. But if they make mistakes by manipulating language to achieve the meanings they want to achieve teachers should learn to recognise this as a sign of useful creativity and ingenuity. It may be that learners will pick up some of the language they want at the introduction stage. If not, they will have another opportunity at the planning stage when the teacher offers help and correction. There will be a further opportunity at the report stage, either because they hear their classmates use the appropriate forms or because the teacher follows up and reformulates using those forms. Next, during the listening stage, they will hear fluent speakers of English using the forms. Finally, the analysis stage will focus in detail on some target forms (in the example given above on 'd meaning would and on the hypothetical past tense). The most important thing is that by using their own language in the attempt to get these meanings across, the learners have created a precise context. They are already looking for the language to express these notions, they know that they need the language, and they are likely to accept it readily when it is offered. The paramount function of the task, then, is to provide a context and a need for target language forms. Working with written language The same methodology can be used for exposure to and analysis of the written language. (see p.66-67) In this sequence learners begin with an introduction in the form of a teacherled discussion about the kind of arrangements that need to be made in setting up an overseas tour. They go on from this to do a task in groups or pairs. Having done this, they are given time to prepare a report to the class of their findings. Finally there is an analysis exercise based on some authentic written correspondence which focuses on ways of referring to the future in English. Again we have focus shifting to and from outcome and form. The learner's corpus We now have a methodological cycle which gives plenty of opportunity for focus on language form within the context of a task-based methodology. But we still have no way of specifying syllabus content. The spoken and written texts, however, do provide us with raw material. They provide a corpus of language which learners will have processed for meaning and which therefore consists of, to adapt Krashen's terminology, not only comprehensible input but comprehended input. These texts therefore represent an important part of the learner's experience of English.

66 The Lexical Syllabus

133 The Yetties to South East Asia - April/May 1982 .


Quickly read the extracts from letters and interns correspondence and say which order they were written in. Which dates fit which extracts? 20 November 1981 16 December 1981 26 Feb '82 9 March '82 5 May '82 6 May '82 (NOTE: Pages 66 and 67 comprise extracts from the Cobuild English coursebook relating to this exercise, not reproduced here.. The material consists of facsimiles of six letters. or partially visible letters, including addresses, company logos etc, on the subject of a forthcoming tour of South East Asia by a pop group called The Yetties. There are also further exercises and a Language Study box containing common phrases used in letters.)

68 The Lexical Syllabus

In Chapter 3 we looked at the ways in which lexicographers move from a corpus of language to an analysis of that corpus, and therefore to generalisations about the language as a whole. We have suggested that as part of our methodology we should include an analysis component in which students look critically at samples of language to see what they can learn from it. l suggest that this process is analogous to that carried out by the lexicographer. I would argue that just as lexicographers and grammarians clarify and systematise their knowledge about the language by analysis of text, so learners can make use of similar techniques to formulate and test hypotheses about the way language items are used. In the examples of analysis activities given above, learners look at specific texts and discover from those texts some of the ways in which English encodes possibility and hypothesis, and some of the ways in which English refers to future time. We need not, however, confine analysis activities to a single text. Look, for example at these two exercises on the word by, the first taken from CCEC Level 1 and the second from Level 2: 111 Grammar words
by 1 who/what did it Do you think this would be said by a teacher? 2 how She begins by asking what time they start. I do my shopping by car. I come to work by bus. 3 when I've got to finish this by tomorrow. It opens at eight, so I'm there by eight. 4 where There's a phone box by the school. It's over there by the post office. Find examples for each category. a She starts by asking what time they begin work. b She usually gets back home by 9 a.m. c . . . handicrafts made by people in the Third World d Come and sit here by me. e Guess what your partner's number is by asking 'Is . it under 50. . .' f I think I left it by the telephone. g I have to finish this by tomorrow. Compare the examples in each category with the examples in the Grammar Book.

Communicative Methodology and Syllabus Specification 69

96 Preposition spot
by 1 showing who or what does something The microwaves are absorbed by the food. ( 91 ) B & B -in most cases it will be run by the owner. (39) 2 answering the question 'How?' Microwaves work by using a device called a magnetron... (91) They only deal with enquiries by letter. 3 answering the question 'When?' (Note: cartoon picture omitted) By the time we got downstairs they were already halfway down the street. (178) 4 meaning 'near' or 'next to' I would probably wait by the car. (150) Find two examples for category 1, three for category 2 and one example for categories 3 and 4. Write down the other four phrases with by. What do they mean? a I can get by in French . . . ( 12) b I'm fairly interested in sport, but by no means football. (20) c We went up by car. (29) d She answers the door, looking a bit angry, as it's one in the morning by then (78) e He sees this girl standing by the road side hitching. (78) f They produce heat by friction,(91) g Ensure your safety by getting microwave ovens serviced regularly. (91) h I was driving up to London by myself (97) I There'll be a left turn followed by an immediate nght. j I was approached by an American mother . . .(144) k 'By the way,' I said, 'why did you lie to him?' (161)

All of the examples in these exercises are taken from the learner corpus. They are all utterances taken from the course materials, which learners have processed or will process for meaning during the course of their study. We looked at similar examples in Chapter 3 to show how the uses of the word way were extended and recycled over three levels of CCEC. Just as the computer enables lexicographers to retrieve concordances from a large corpus of language under study, so the same computer techniques enable course writers to retrieve concordances for learners to study from the corpus of language contained in a language course. The effect of this procedure is to enable learners to examine their experience of English and to learn from it. In a presentation methodology, the teacher and course writer in effect say to the learner il am an experienced user of English and as such am able to present you with these acceptable samples of the language organised in such a way that from them you will be able to make useful generalisations for the future.' In enabling learners to examine their own experience of the language, teachers and course writers are saying 'You, the learner, have valuable experience of English. We will help you draw that experience together and see how it fits with a description of the way words are used and patterned to create meanings.' They no longer simply preser~t language to the learner for the purpose of illustrating language form. Instead they encourage learners to examine their own experience of the language and make generalisations from it. There is no way of knowing for sure what language items will be assimilated by the learner at a given stage of his or her language development. We are therefore obliged to recycle the typical patterns of the language so that learners will be exposed to them time and time again. At the same time we help learners develop a curiosity about language and an analytical capacity so that they will gain maximum benefit from exposure. Finally we recycle language items not only by offering them to learners in new contexts, but also by retrieving earlier

70 The Lexical Syllabus

occurrences so that we can exploit the learner's corpus, their experience of the the language in use. Syllabus specification Once we think in terms of the learner's corpus, we no longer need to illustrate the language for the learner piece by piece. We can begin by specifying what it is that learners need to know about the language. We then go on to assemble a corpus which incorporates these 'items'. If we are committed to a task-based methodology, we will begin with an inventory of tasks and will go on to collect a set of texts arising from these tasks. If we are committed to a lexical syllabus we analyse our texts taking lexis as a starting point and check to see that we have the coverage we want. As we shall see in the next chapter, ensuring that we have the right coverage is by no means a straightforward process. Once this is done, however, we know that we have a corpus with which the learner will become familiar, and frorh which we can retrieve all the language we want to cover. We can realistically specify 700 of the most frequent words together with their main meanings and patterns as syllabus content. This is because we now know that we have a corpus of language which includes these words, meanings and patterns. The learner will be exposed to a carefully constructed sample of the language which contains the most common important features of the language as a whole, and all of these features can be highlighted for the learner. The syllabus from which we as course designers for CCEC worked is hundreds of pages long. It consists of data sheets for around 700 words of the kind shown for way on page 32 and for any and would on pages 53 and 55. In the Collins COBUILD English Course the syllabus from which the teacher works is contained in the teaching materials and is specified in teachers' notes. Unit 3, for example, lists learning objectives under the headings of Crammar and Discourse, Tasks and Social Language:
OBJECTIVES Lexical objectives are in TB48 Grammar and discourse a The meaning and use of common prepositional phrases of place (34,39) b The use of the quantifiers both, all, some, neither, more (35,46 4Bc) c The use of one/ones as in the blue one (34.35,4&) d The tendency to run a check list of information received. marked by one, another, second, third etc (36,37) e The use of mine (36,38) f The use of so to mean the same as in such phrases as so is mine (33) g The description of people by the use of has/have got and with or by the verb be followed by an adjective or the -ing form of the verb. (38,39) h There is/are/was/were to express location or to identify number (35,42,44,45) i The structure of affirmative and interrogative sentences with there(45) j Stress (focusing on the important words) (41.47) k Contrastive stress (40) I Weak forms of of, the, there, is and are (35,45) m Ouestion words how, what, where, who, why. (48a) n Three English sounds: /k/ as in colour, /r/ as in grey./l/ as in yellow. Silent r as in are (40) o The use of okay, so, ah to mark an item in a list. (37) Tasks a Understanding descriptions of people and identifying them in terms of their clothes and surroundings (36, 38) b Asking and responding to questions to elicit specific information (38) c Checking on information received (36, 38) d Listing stems from memory and identifying them in terms of position (42) e Gtving precise reasons for a conclusion (46) f Explaining the process of logical deduction (46) Social language a Offering things to people (47) b Asking for and giving explanations about language (41 ) Remind students tro look out for the title in the Unit It comes in recording 36b

Communicative Methodology and Syllabus Specification 71

It also lists under Lexical Objectives over 80 words which are introduced in the unit, for example:
him 1 object pronoun The woman next to him. Do you know him? See also them, us, you. hold 1 holding his arm/hand lady 1 a very polite word for woman language 1 large 1 a large blue book left 1 on the left, to the left of light 1 Shall we have the lights on? Switch the lights off. Traffic lights Headlights 1.2 It'sgetting light/dark 2 Shall I light the gas? A lighted cigarette 3 not heavy. Her bag was very light 4 not dark She had light brown hair middle 1 in the middle (of) mine 1 Mine has got three people in it So has mine. neither 2 Neither of his daughters goes to school. next 3 indicating position next to him no 1 not any. no blue ones. no lights on. no children 3.2 used to refuse an offer. No thanks none 1 not one. None of the yellow shapes are squares. nothing 2 emphatic - in phrases like nothing else, nothing but . one 1.1 this one, the red one ones 1 the blue ones part 1 parts of the body pink 1 red 1

It further lists the items as they occur with each section. A task involving identifying differences, for example, covers this language: 38 Find the differences
Aims: I To describe and identify people using new language from this unit and any other English students know. 2 To listen for relevant information in a more extended stretch of conversation. Lexis: arms, carry, group, hat, holding, lady, mine, second, show. so, with. yours Understanding only: Don't show..., each, Get into pairs - , someone, so has mine, stand Revision: but, talk to

The syllabus is, then, enormously detailed. It needs to be so if we are to provide good coverage of 700 words and their meanings and patterns. We have, then, in Level 1 of CCEC a corpus of language which illustrates the meanings and uses of almost all of the 700 most frequent words in English. Learners are exposed to this corpus as language in use in that they listen to it or read it and understand and process the language. They are given the opportunity to focus on usage through a series of exercises, most of them involving language they have already processed for meaning. In terms of language production they are asked to encode meanings similar to those encoded by native speakers in using language to perform a series of tasks.

72 The Lexical Syllabus

The methodology which exploits this corpus now has six components:
Introduction: This gives students initial exposure to target forms within a communicative context. Task: This provides an opportunity to focus on and realise target meanings. Students may begin to approximate to the target language form or they may use quite different, even ungrammatical forms. Planning: The teacher helps students to move towards accurate production, often by modelling the target forms for them. Report: Students have another opportunity to use target forms. Again, however, there is a focus on fluency as well as accuracy. Listening/Reading: Students have a chance to hear or read the target forms used in a context which has become familiar to them through their own attempts to perform and report the task. (This stage may come immediately after Introduction, but normally comes just before Analysis.) Analysis: This is an awareness raising exercise which gives the learners a chance to formulate generalisations about the language they have heard.

Controlled practice Finally, what about controlled practice? Does it have a place? In order to answer this question we should first consider the aim of controlled practice activities. I think the first thing here is to dispel the notion that practice of this kind teaches grammar. It highlights acceptable patterns in English, but it does little more than that. You can repeat passive sentences as long as you like, and that may help you to see how they are formed. But it will not help you with the important and difficult thing about the passive which is not 'How is it formed?' but 'How is it used?' This question can only be answered by exposure and by analysis. The passive is learned by seeing and hearing passive forms in use, not once but many many times, by focusing attention on how they are used and by providing learners with opportunities to use the same forms for themselves. The same applies to any other pattern. The important and difficult things are to do with use rather than form. The role of pattern practice, then, should be to enhance the learner's familiarity and fluency with holophrastic units whose meaning and grammar have already been highlighted and exemplified in use. At first sight this takes us back to Wilkins' analytic strategy, by which the learners' attention was focused on functional realisations in the hope that these would become part of the learners' repertoire. CCEC focuses on the common patterns of English as identified by the COBUILD research in the hope that an analysis of these patterns will help learners benefit from exposure to the corpus of which they are a part. The difference is that instead of presenting items to the learner and drilling them in the hope that they become part of the learner's repertoire, we are identifying those items which are already part of the learner's corpus and building on the learner's familiarity to promote fluent production. We might therefore usefully drill such 'chunks' as: easiest the easiest best simplest way solution is to

Communicative Methodology and Syllabus Specification 73

But this will not be an attempt to teach grammar. It will be an attempt to consolidate such units so that they are easily retrievable. It is an attempt to consolidate the familiar rather than to present the unfamiliar. The rationale for this type of pattern practice rests first on the belief that learners do accumulate language form, often phrases. Secondly it rests on the belief that an important part of the native speaker's repertoire is in the form of prefabricated chunks of language which are retrieved and deployed in use. We are, of course, far from sure what these chunks are. What we are sure of, however, is that we are more likely to find them by looking empirically at the patterns which occur with great frequency in the speech and writing of native speakers than by starting from an abstract grammatical description. It certainly seems to be the case that learners (particularly in the early stages) want controlled practice, but I do not believe that it should be central to a methodology. First of all I suggest that this kind of practice should be little and often. A short sharp burst of practice can be a useful confidence builder, but if you spend too long at it students soon begin to parrot the repetition without thinking about what they are doing. This may be useful if the aim is to consolidate a holophrase. It does not, however, help to teach grammatical form. That can only be done by looking at language in use so that learners can become aware not only of the phrases but also of their meaning and use. Secondly I think this kind of practice should come when learners have some familiarity with the item to be drilled, and that it should come at the end of the methodological cycle, not at the beginning. The danger with focusing mechanically on form too early in the cycle is that students see what follows not as an opportunity to use language for communication, but rather as an opportunity to produce the prescribed form as often as possible. The focus on form gets in the way of fluency practice and all we have are a series of activities designed to elicit a particular language form. We should first create a context and demonstrate language in use. We do this during the Listening/reading, Planning and Analysis stages. Students may begin to approximate to the target during the Task and will certainly be aware of it during Planning. This awareness becomes explicit during the Analysis when it is set alongside similar occurrences from the learner's corpus. When students are aware of the form and have seen and heard how it is used, when they have a context and a meaning for the target form, that is the time to do a quick burst of controlled practice. Controlled practice should be the final stage which helps build confidence and reinforces familiarity with form.

74

The Lexical Syllabus; Dave Willis


Originally published by Collins ELT, 1990

CHAPTER 6: Syllabus organisation


Aims - coverage and authenticity/spontaneity Our aim in writing Level 1 of the Collins COBUILD English Course was to provide the learner with exposure to language which would illustrate the meanings and patterns of 700 of the most frequent words of English, to highlight all of those words and to treat selected items in detail. This would mean that a false beginner would, after around one hundred hours of study, have some familiarity with the words and patterns which make up around 70% of all English text. If we could achieve this coverage we would be offering the learner a corpus of tremendous utility. We accepted that we were unlikely to achieve such coverage completely. The target for Level 2 was to cover the next 850 words and for Level 3 the next 950, a total of 2,500 words after three books, accounting for around 80% of all text. We recognised that in order to achieve coverage of 700 words, and afterwards 850 and 950, we would have to include other words from outside this high frequency list. We set out, however, to achieve the best coverage we could with as little extraneous lexis as possible. Our task was made much more difficult, but also much more meaningful, by our decision to use as far as possible only authentic or spontaneously produced texts. By 'authentic' texts we meant those produced by language users in the course of their everyday lives for some communicative purpose external to language teaching, and not simply produced to illustrate some generalisation about the language. Almost all the written texts we used were authentic in this way. It was also decided that if we were obliged to make up single sentence examples to illustrate specific points about words, we should do so with reference to the data sheets drawn from the original COBUILD corpus, as far as possible reproducing data sheet examples with minimal alterations. By spontaneously produced texts we meant texts which were unscripted and unrehearsed, but which were produced not in the course of everyday life, but at our request and in artificial circumstances. Most of the spoken texts we used fell into this category. A large number of these were recorded by native speakers of English in a studio, carrying out tasks which would later be performed by learners in the classroom. These texts were not simplified in any way, since participants in the recording sessions were told that they were providing material for a research project rather than material for language teaching. The resulting texts have almost all the features of authentic spoken discourse. These include false starts, changes of subject, requests for clarification and so on. More significantly they demonstrate communication as a cooperative act in which participants work together to achieve an outcome. In Level 1 Unit 11, for example, learners are set this task:

Syllabus Organisation 75

158 Puzzle
a How good are you at logical thinking? Can you work out this puzzle? Peter, Mary and John all went away last weekend. One of them went to Birmingham one to Manchester, and one to London. One of them went to the theatre, one went to see a relative, and one went to buy a computer. Who did what? Here are two clues to help you. One of them went to London to visit her mother. John bought a computer but not in Manchester.

The following is part of the transcript of the native speaker recording:


BG: Right. So Mary went to London DF: So it's Mary and mother. John bought a computer but not at Manchester, therefore it must beBG: John must have gone to Birmingham. DF: Birmingham. Computer And, er, who's the other one? Peter. BG: Must have gone to Manchester.

This does not feature the neat turn-taking of scripted dialogues with each turn virtually complete in itself, replying predictably to or commenting explicitly on what has gone before. There are two participants but the text is very much a joint product, and if the text were not laid out neatly with each turn attributed to a particular participant it would be very difficult to separate out the contributions:
So its Mary and mother. John bought a computer but not in Manchester, therefore it must be John must have gone to Birmingham. Birmingham. Computer. And, er, who's the other one? Peter? . . . must have gone to Manchester.

It is indeed true that we have no precise description of language in use. But as I argued in Chapter 1, learners need to find out as much as possible about language in use, and this cannot be done unless they are exposed to language in use. The form of language we use is determined critically by the purpose for which it is used. It is essential therefore to provide learners with language which is genuinely informed with some communicative purpose. This is difficult, expensive and incredibly time consuming, which may explain why there is so little authentic/spontaneous language in coursebooks. If it can be done, however, it brings enormous benefits. It means the language that learners hear and read in the classroom is exactly the kind of language they will be exposed to outside. This brings great advantages not only of economy but also of motivation. The

76 The Lexical Syllabus

satisfaction learners gain from being able to process spontaneous native speaker speech at normal speed constantly enhances and reinforces motivation. Input - from topics to tasks and texts The process of writing the coursebooks was inevitably a complex one. The particular syllabus design procedures and the methodology which was to carry the syllabus had never before been incorporated in a published course. There were a number of different strands in the research, design, writing and piloting of the course. All of these processes impinged on one another and a hold-up or failure in one process had repercussions throughout. Things were not made simpler by the fact that the authors of the course were working in Singapore, while most of the research was being carried out in Britain, particularly at the University of Birmingham. What follows, therefore, is a streamlined report of the whole process. It omits false starts, unexpected failures, conference phone calls linking Singapore, Birmingham and London, problems with computers, the difficulties of storing diskettes in a tropical climate, and a host of minor problems which are a part of any major publishing venture. A good deal of research was undertaken before we began to assemble Level 1. We were provided with the raw material of the syllabus in the form of some 700 data sheets of the kind exemplified by would and any in Chapter 3. We wrote to a large number of ELT institutions in Britain and overseas in order to build up a list of topics which were felt to be of value and of interest to students. On the basis of this information and of our own experience as teachers, we then identified a series of topics to form the basis of the course and devised a number of tasks based on each of these topics. These tasks were then recorded in a studio using educated native speakers. The recordings were transcribed and concordanced to enable us to define the learner's corpus more easily. At the same time we set about identifying a bank of written text which could be made accessible to remedial beginner learners and which would integrate without too much difficulty with the topics we had identified. Meanwhile the COBUILD team in Birmingham was assembling the TEFL Side Corpus made up of over twenty of the most widely used ELT coursebooks worldwide:
In early 1984, as part of the preparation for the later Collins COBUILD Er~glish Course, the TEFL Corpus was analysed in detail in order to identify the linguistic structures and speech functions which were common to most of its books at the lower levels. This analysis could be said to mirror the 'received' or consensus syllabus for the teaching of English which operates currently . . . (Renouf 1987)

We believed that our lexical approach would provide adequate coverage of this consensus and also go well beyond it. We intended to use the TEFL Corpus to make sure that we did indeed have coverage of the consensus syllabus. Procedure Once our bank of texts was assembled, it was ordered according to our

Syllabus Organisation 77

intuitions about the difficulty of the texts and tasks. This intuitive ordering was then subject to a preliminary pilot, which was designed to test not only the accuracy of our predictions as to difficulty but also the validity of our task-based methodology. It was also intended to find out whether elementary students could indeed handle authentic written text and spontaneously produced spoken discourse. In general we were happy with the results of this pilot, even though, inevitably, some tasks and texts had to be abandoned and others had to be reordered. The remaining tasks and texts were ordered, and an outline of the coursebook was put together which included rubrics for the exercises, but not at this stage any language focused exercises. Checking the lexical coverage The texts and rubrics were then concordanced by computer and the concordances checked against the data sheets to see if we had adequate coverage of the main uses of the 700 target words. Basically the coverage was satisfactory. We had sufficient data to present a good picture of almost 650 of the target words. Some of the omissions were words which, though very frequent in themselves, tend to be restricted in range and to occur in contexts which would create considerable problems for false beginners. Among these were words like community, development, trade and energy. Some, like concerned, finally, involved, indeed and unless were felt to be of high utility and therefore to be serious omissions. In addition to these words we had also missed a few major meaning categories of some very common words. One of these casualties was would meaning used to. Nevertheless, since the coverage of frequent words and patterns was our overriding priority, it is not surprising that we achieved a very much more comprehensive coverage than is usually found in an elementary coursebook. We decided that it would be uneconomical to extend our corpus considerably in order to ensure coverage of the few significant omissions, but we did take careful note of the missing words and meaning categories to ensure that we included them in Level 2. To replace them in Level 1 we chose to highlight around fifty other words of particularly high frequency which happened to be well contextualised in our data. Among these were such words as telephone, visit, window and station. To these we added two more sets of words. First were those which were of high utility and occurrence in the classroom situation bearing in mind the methodology we had decided to adopt - words like teacher, student, group and share. Secondly there were words which did not qualify for inclusion on the grounds of frequency alone, but which completed important lexical sets. These included such items as days of the week, and a number of adjectives of colour and shape. Together with the 650 words already identified, these made up the target for Level 1. Inevitably a number of other words occurred in the texts, some of them, like cat, banana, psychiatrist and lining, of low frequency and utility. We had no intention of highlighting these. The fact that they occurred in the learner's corpus was a consequence of our decision to work only with authentic and spontaneously produced text. Similar procedures were applied to specify content for Levels 2 and 3. As

78 The Lexical Syllabus

with most language courses, the emphasis and therefore the proportion of text, began to move from spoken to written. In addition to other written texts, Levels 2 and 3 each included a complete short story by Roald Dahl and Level 3 also featured a good deal of newspaper text. When we came to profile the words in Levels 2 and 3, we took account of the fact that profiles become less complex as one moves down the frequency scale and we were thus able to work without data sheets. In profiling words for Level 2 we worked from database (see page 32) and dictionary entries, and for Level 3 we relied on the Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary itself. Of the 1,800 words additional to the 700 in Level 1 we managed to contextualise all but about 200. Texts and rubrics for Levels 2 and 3 were concordanced in the same way as for Level 1. Like most coursebooks, all three levels went through several rewrites as a result of readers' comments or piloting. The information and advice culled from these processes had to be incorporated, but here again we were presented with particular problems. We could not respond immediately to adverse comments on or reactions to a particular text or task. It sometimes happened that the text in question offered a particularly good context for important words or phrases. Since we were committed to the use of authentic/spontaneous text we could not simply write something else to give us the same cover. We were reluctant, therefore, to drop a useful text unless we could find and exploit a good context elsewhere in the materials or in our text bank. If we did drop the text we had then to identify the items we were losing and go back to the concordances of our material to find other places where these items were covered. A single decision of this kind had considerable repercussions. We did not doubt that our determination to keep the best possible coverage of our target words in the learner's corpus was justified, but sometimes we paid a high price for it. Adjusting the learner's corpus Statistically it was almost inevitable that with some words the picture which emerged from concordances of our texts differed in important ways from the picture derived from the 7.3 million word COBUILD corpus. The word like provides an example. The main COBUILD corpus has 11,600 occurrences of like. Of these about 60% mean 'resembling, similar or having the appearance of something else; in the same way as'. Typical occurrences are:
People with sensitive skins were beginning to look like lepers. The proprietor's word, like Hitler's, was absolute. The aim is to run them like nursery schools.

A sub-category of this meaning accounted for around 20% of the remaining uses:
SUCH AS; USED WHEN CITING EXAMPLES OF A PARTICULAR TYPE OR CLASS. She lived on lovely clean foods like milk, butter, eggs . . . A private gardener like myself would never get on in nursery work.

The remaining 20% were occurrences like: I dont like what you stand for. There's nothing I like better than talking to my colleagues.

Syllabus Organisation 79

and sentences with would like such as:


Would he like to inspect the hut now? That's what I'd like to know.

In our text data, however, the proportions were reversed in that the occurrences of like meaning be fond of and would like meaning went to heavily outnumbered the other categories. We made sure, however, that we drew attention to the first two categories no less than the third. In doing this it occurred to us that whereas many coursebooks have whole units dealing with 'likes and dislikes', relatively few of them highlight the more frequent meanings of like. In all cases like this we were careful to cover as far as possible all uses which were prominent in the COBUILD corpus, even if there were relatively few such occurrences in our own texts. Obviously we would have been happier with a neat match between our mini-corpus and the main corpus, but the amount of material which would need to have been processed in order to achieve this put it out of the question. Language focused work We felt reasonably confident that at each level, and certainly by the end of Level 3, we had provided learners with exposure to a highly representative sample of English. But we did not want to rely simply on exposure. We wanted to enable teachers to highlight the most important words and phrases as they occurred in the texts to which learners were exposed. For this reason we itemised learning aims, including lexical aims, for each section of each unit (see page 70), and summarised lexical aims for each unit (see page 71). Without guidance of this sort, learners have no way of knowing what is important and needs to be remembered. We were also well aware from our own previous teaching experience that teachers too need to be prompted if they are to recognise which items have high utility. In addition to this we wanted to provide specific language practice of different kinds. We wanted first to make sure that we covered all items in the consensus syllabus as identified by the TEFL Side Corpus, unless there was a clear reason to omit them. We did this largely through special grammar exercises. 200 Grammar words
so 1 marking a summary or a change of subject A: I wasnt in London last weekend. B: So you werent in London last weekend? BG: I havent really got anything else planned. DF: So what about the shopping? 2 expressing amount We were so tired that we went straight to bed. 3 meaning therefore He saw someone he thought he knew, so he called out and ran after her. 4 pointing back A: It s very easy. B: Do you really think so? 5 so that used to talk about result or purpose The British Council helps British participants by helping to pay their expenses so that they can attend the Seminar. 6 meaning also A: Ive got some money. B: So have I. There is one example below of each of these six meanings of so. Which is which? a DF: Will you be going to Nisa this weekend? BG: Yes. I think so. DF: So will I. So that's one possibility. b A : It depends if Ive got a car or not. B: Right, so you do your shopping by car. c Please let me know as soon as you have fixed your travel plans so that I can make sure you are properly looked after on arrival. d After so much hassle Im determined to stay at the top.

80 The Lexical Syllabus

The aim was to give a picture of the grammatical behaviour of the very commonest words of the language. These exercises drew almost entirely on material from the learner's corpus as described in Chapter 4, enabling the learners to draw on their own experience of the language. A reference section which brought together these grammatical generalisations and illustrated them with further examples was included at the back of the Student's Book Level 1 and Practice Book Level 3.
So (200) 1 marking a summary or a change of subject Okay. So we've got the camel in the sunset next. (171) So what do you do at quarter to eight? (143) Right. So Mary went to London. (158) 2 expressing amount There are always so many tourists. No wonder you look so tired. (142) 3 meaning therefore The suitcase looked exactly like mine, so I said Excuse me, sir.. . 4 pointing back JV: Wouldn't you think Cairo was 1500? DL: Yes, out of the ones given, I wouldve thought so. (90) 5 so that used to talk about result or purpose It had a thick lining, so that you could practically sleep out in it. (104) Let me know as soon as you have fixed your travel plans, so that I can make sure that you are properly looked after. (193) 6 meaning also JV: The woman next to him has orange trousers. DL: So has mine. (38) David lives in London and so does Bridget. __________________________________________________ Look at these examples. I'm tired. I've finished. I'll help. I like it. I liked it.

So am I/So is she. So have I/So has she. So will I/So will she. So do I/So does she. So did I/So did she.

Reply to these sentences in the same way. 1 I'm hungry. 2 1 enjoyed the film. 3 He always comes.

Syllabus Organisation 81

4 They're going home. 5 She's done it before. 6 He'll have to work harder. 7 She was so tired she went straight to sleep. ______________________________________________________

These exercises provided learners with valuable input. Even more important they encouraged learners to look at language critically to see what patterns words featured in, and to assign meanings to those patterns. The grammar was, therefore, organised almost entirely lexically in Level 1. This gave us some misgivings to begin with, but gradually we became convinced of the value of this approach. The value of organising things under words is that words are immediately recognisable. We felt that grammarians, coursebook writers and teachers had become used to working with abstract categories parts of speech; verb tenses; semantic labels such as 'conditional'; functional labels such as 'reported speech' end so on. When you have the language, you begin to search for categories to describe it. But learners do not 'have' the language. They are struggling to learn or acquire it. In doing so they are obliged to work from surface forms to perceive whatever recurrent patterns they can. In the case of an almost entirely non-inflected language like English, 'surface forms' means words. In fact we did include in our grammar morphemes such as -ing, markers of past tense and the past participle -ed and -en together with -s as a marker of the plural and third person singular, and -'s as an abbreviation for is and has and marking possession: 213 Grammar words
-ing 1 describing something There were two girls eating fish and chips. Write down one or two interesting things about each person. 2 after am, is, be etc. One girl was carrying a white bag. The S student will be asking you questions about things that you usually do during the day. 3 after see, look at, hear, listen to etc. Listen to them talking about when they go to bed. 4 before am, is etc. Dialling 999 is free. 5 after stop, start, remember, like etc. I remember going to London many years ago. She likes watching television. 6 after when, before, instead of etc. Remember that when dialling a number from within the same area, you do not need the prefix. Before attempting to break down the door, the man tried. . . Write down five of these things. something you like doing something you stopped doing a long time ago something you can see someone doing what you were doing at this time yesterday what you will be doing this time tomorrow something you remember doing as a child someone who is sitting at the front of the class What categories do these sentences belong to? a Put in the money before making your call. b Listen to David and Bridget discussing the same problem. c The conversation ceased and she heard gasping sounds. d Using a cardphone is not difficult. e You can telephone your family back home without using money. f The special cards are available from Post Offices and shops displaying the green 'Cardphone sign. g I really like running. Swimming is nice too. h You have quite a long working day, don't you ?

Once this groundwork was laid in Level 1, we allowed ourselves to reference grammar in other ways. In Level 2 we organised some grammatical entries under functional headings such as Cause and Effect:

82 The Lexical Syllabus

76 Grammar
Cause and result In the first examples, the part expressing cause is coloured. The other part expresses the result. 1 a sentence consequently He was very tired. Consequently he fell asleep. as a result Britain is quite a small country. As a result travel is quick and easy. thats whybut theyre ever so small. That's why rain is thin. . 2 a clause because I don't have a journey to work because I work at home. (80) and John is trying to get a new job, and is busy sending application forms all over the place. (2) as We chose to go by plane as it meant we had more time in Paris. so Theres no chance of a promotion there, so Im going to move on. (2) so . . . that I was so proud (that) I jumped up and down. since I suppose that would come out the same way since people seem to prefer cats and dogs to snakes and spiders .(25) 3 a phrase as a result of As a result of this postcard I think Becky will write back.(33) because of A: Why can't you starve in the desert? B: You can't starve in the desert because of the sand which is there. (Can you explain this joke?) as As a visitor you can take tax-free goods home. with Until, mad with energy and boredom, you escaped. (26) 4 words meaning cause or result : make His pointed ears made him look like a rat. result Shorter periods of use can result in fuel bill savings. (91) cause What was the cause of the accident? lead to A serious illness led to his losing his job . 5 no marker I don't want that one. It's too expensive. Until, mad with energy and boredom, you escaped. (26) Look at the sentences below. Say which part expresses. cause and which result. a We had never been to Northumberland before. That's why we wanted to go. (29) b We went by plane. As a result we had more time in Paris. c My favourite was always English because I liked writing stories (58) : d It's a very pleasant school, and I'd be sorry to leave it. (2) e . . . a woman . . . looking a bit angry as it's one in the morning by then. (78) f I can't see the TV with you standing in front of it! g He worked hard and did very well as a result. h Finally, tired out, they fell asleep.

But this language was still indexed lexically and therefore retrievable by the students using the word as a starting point. The approach in these grammar exercises, therefore, was to present learners with the raw material of language (almost always language which was already familiar), and to provide prompts of different kinds to encourage learners to analyse and categorise language forms. Other exercises were devised to highlight other features of language. Language Study exercises were used to lead in to detailed study of specific texts, particularly where the immediate context was an important aid in clarifying a point about language: 70 Language study
a Giving advice Read the transcripts for section 69 carefully. Pick out seven useful phrases you might use if you were starting to give advice to someone. e.g. Well, I actually did that last year. We . . .

Syllabus Organisation 83

We included Wordpower exercises which focused on important words and showed how the frequent words in the language often have a number of meanings. This again led learners to think analytically about words, and often made the point that abstract meanings are by far the most frequent: 195 Wordpower
thing 1 replacing another word or phrase She likes to eat sweet things. Think of three things the driver might ask the hitch-hiker next. (97) 2 referring to the situation in general or life in general Hi! How are things with you? Business is bad. Things dont look good. 3.1 introducing an idea that you want to develop But tell me just one more thing: what do I do with my husband and the three kids?(188) I think the first thing he might say is Do you know what seed you were doing?(136) 3.2 highlighting the importance or the important aspect of what you are saying The thing is, he has a skilled job. The silly thing is, the car was parked at the time. Look at these phrases using the word thing. Do they belong to category 1, 2 or 3? a) The news is bad today. Things are very worrying. b) We went out in a boat one day and saw seals and things.(29) c) Has any of these things ever happened to you?(103) d) The important thing is you must report the accident. e) Could you bring it first thing tomorrow? f) The awful thing is, I had totally forgotten her name. g) Im afraid Ive got no time. Things are very busy at present. (Note: cartoon illustrations omitted)

In Level 2 we introduced Phrase-building to highlight common language patterns. Again the phrases were associated with words rather than with abstract patterns: 196 Phrase-building
Here are some other words which are used in the same way as thing category 3 (see section 195). a Make up five sentences and try to remember them. b Now make up some similar sentences about things in your country.
fact The point trouble problem The question trouble problem living in London is more expensive. transports easy in Central London. its difficult to park your car. shopping is such fun, you spend too is much. you can find whatever you want. how to get home after 11o clock. is where to park. what to eat and where.

At Level 3 we incorporated exercises of a similar type and went on to develop exercises which would draw attention to the structure of such common text patterns as situation - problem solution evaluation:

84 The Lexical Syllabus

78 Looking at adverts
a Look carefully at these items from the New Horizons catalogue. Which things: are ideal for people who travel a lot? could be classified as containers? are made of the same material? would be the best gift for an absent-minded person? might be useful for a person who lives in or travels to a cold climate?

Note: in the original version this column contains five facsimile advertisements for: Leather Jackets Time folds flat The unbreakable flask Designer shirt wallet Keyminder

b Which adverts do these phrases come from?


The fold-away handle makes for easy pouring and storage wearing a jacket. a pushhutton light top quality hand-made this new version This is the one they use, warmth and comfort c Find the word but in the left-hand adverts. What does it signal ? Think of other words like but. 78d d Which of the adverts are Edmund and Elizabeth talking about here? What do they mean: There youve killed two birds with one stone?

79 Language study
SITUATIONPROBLEMSOLUTIONEVALUATION Notice the structure of these adverts. Read the notes in the table carefully, then suggest what words or phrases from the texts could go into the empty spaces. Then continue building up the table with notes from the other adverts. Situation General topic The problem is that The solution is to Evaluation Leather jackets popular and comfortable In winter, dont keep cold out (too thin) line jacket with sheepskin Warmth and comfort combined with style Men often carry a wallet when not wearing a jacket(too bulky for shirt pocket) Slim leather 4X 2,5, fits in shirt pocket Car keys

(people lose them)(difficult to use in dark) Bleeper device when you whistle light

All of the exercises reinforced the same methodological approach. They encouraged learners to look critically at the corpus, and to make generalisations about the language to which they had been exposed. We also encouraged learners to refer back to the language they had experienced earlier. All of the target words at each level were listed alphabetically in the coursebook with references to the sections in which they occurred. Levels 1 and 3 contained a grammar section referenced to items in the corpus. Levels 2 and 3 incorporated lexicon or dictionary entries to encourage the development of reference skills, with exercises to reinforce this. The aim throughout was to develop familiarity with a carefully selected and weighted corpus of language, and to enable learners to exploit that corpus to good effect. While the basic methodology was taskbased with a focus very much on outcome, the language associated with those

Syllabus Organisation 85

tasks was examined in great detail in the light of a precisely specified syllabus. The problem of ordering was solved partly by recycling. This recycling is naturally built into a corpus which relies on natural language. It was reinforced by the way we selected items from the corpus for illustration and analysis. Finally, learners were able to use indexes and reference sections to recycle for themselves. Grading and ordering It is clear, therefore, that our decision to adopt a task-based methodology and to restrict ourselves almost entirely to authentic/spontaneous text had implications for grading and ordering language material. We wanted first to build up a learner's corpus, and then gradually to increase the learner's familiarity with and conceptual understanding of significant parts of that corpus. In order to achieve this, we began by ordering not language items but tasks At first this was done intuitively by identifying those tasks which we thought would present relatively few problems for elementary learners, usually because the outcome was highly predictable. We then checked our intuitions during our own piloting, and then against feedback from other pilot runs. This led to some reordering, until we had a sequence of tasks which the learners could reasonably be expected to handle both receptively and productively. The very commonest forms of English occurred not only in the earliest tasks, but again and again right through the corpus. We were able, therefore, to draw attention to the present tense of the verb be and to common question forms in the very first unit:

8 Language study s, is, re, are Read these examples. They am all from Unit 1. Find all these words: s, is, re, are. 1 What does s mean? 2 When do we say is (or s) and when do we say are (or re)? Who's that? Do you know where they're from ? Tell him or her where you're from. This is -. She's from-. Where's David from? Who's Chris? What's his surname? Who are these people? What are their surnames?

86 The Lexical Syllabus

11 Language study Asking for addresses and phone numbers 11 First read the questions below and then listen. David, Bridget, Chris and Philip use eight of these questions. Which questions do they use? What's your phone number? Have you got a phone number? And your phone number? Have you got a phone? What's your number, then? Can you give me your address? Could you give me your address? Can I have your address? What's the postcode? Sorry, could you repeat that? Sorry, how do you spell that? Can you spell your name for me? Can you tell me how you spell your name?

We did not believe that in Unit 1 these would be learned in the sense that learners would be able to produce them with consistent accuracy. The first stage was simple awareness raising. We knew that these items would occur again and again until they were finally incorporated in the learner's repertoire. Unit 2 built on questions marked by intonation, and drew attention to inversion: 20 Language study
a have got Look at these examples from the recordings of Bridget and David. There are no full stops ( . ) or question marks ( ? ). 1 Which examples are questions? 2 What is the word ve? 3 Which words come before and after got? : DF: Have you got any brothers and sisters BG: Yes, I've got one sister called Rosemary DF: Okay BG: And have they got any children DF: Mhm. Two children, two girls BG: Yes BG: and you've got one sister called Felicity DF: Mhm BG: And they've got two daughters called . . . Emma : and...

Syllabus Organisation 87

DF: Sarah BG: Sarah DF: Mm 20 b Listen and repeat each phrase. Then practise saying some of these phrases with your partner. Listen for two stresses in each group of words. Have you got any brothers and sisters? I've got one sister called Rosemary. Two children. Two girls.

Question forms occurred again when the models and auxiliaries were treated: 132 Grammar words
do What is the difference between sets 1 and 2? Set 1 Ask your teacher if you don't understand. How do you know? It doesn't matter. What does Chris say? I didn't get up until 8.30, so l was late. Did Chris give good directions? Set 2 I usually do the cooking and cleaning in the morning. My husband does the gardening at weekends He did the meals when I was ill. What are you doing? All right. You do it first, then it's my turn. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------These examples are a mixture of sets 1 and 2. Sometimes both types appear in the same sentence. Which is which? a What does your brother do? b Did you do your homework? c No, I didn't, because I had a lot of other things to do. d Who's going to do the dishes? e Which bus? A 62 or 63 will do just as well. f Is this yours? No, it's nothing to do with me. g Have you done your homework? h It doesn't matter. Look at the Grammar Book. Which categories do the last eight examples go into?

88 The Lexical Syllabus

and again with wh- words. Finally, certain sections in the Grammar Book reference section summarised the use of questions: can, could (93,138)
1 ability/possibility What things could you describe as sort of reddish? (37) What other questions could I have asked? Can you explain the answers? (46) How much can you remember? (48) She ran awe' as fast as she could. (198) Ten twelve. That could be the time. (78) Oriental definitely. It could be Thailand. (171) _______________________________________________________________ What can you see? I couldn't hear what he was saying. _______________________________________________________________ Look at the picture on page 58. Make three sentences starting: I can see _______________________________________________________________ 1.1 could for suggestions You could look in the newspaper. _______________________________________________________________ 2 permission You can go out now, but come back in ten minutes. Could I do it tomorrow instead of today? 3 offer / request Can you give me your address? (11) Can you spell your name for me? (11) Can I speak to Dr Brown please? (89) Can I take a message? (89) Can you tell me the time, please? (94) Can you tell me how long it takes? Could you give me your phone number please? (11) Could you look after the children for me? (97)

There was, then, massive coverage of question forms. But generally they were treated from a lexical starting point. This not only gave the opportunity for recycling, but also highlighted holophrastic forms such as Can I . . . ?, Can you . . . ?, Could you . . . ?. The Grammar Book also gave learners an opportunity to retrieve items from their corpus and (as they were referenced to sections of the text) to go back and retrieve the original contexts in which they occurred. Some forms were more difficult to retrieve. The word by, for example, was not highlighted until Unit 8, because it was not until then that we had a context

Syllabus Organisation 89

for all of its common meanings: 111 Grammar words


by 1 who/what did it Do you think this would be said by a teacher? 2 how She begins by asking what time they start. I do my shopping by car. I come to work by bus. 3 when I've got to finish this by tomorrow. It opens at eight, so I'm there by eight. 4 where There's a phone box by the school. It's over there by the post office. ______________________________________________________________ Find examples for each category. a She starts by asking what time they begin work. b She usually gets back home by 9 a.m. c. . . handicrafts made by people in the Third World.: d Come and sit here by me. e Guess what your partner's number is by asking 'Is it under 50. . .' f I think I left it by the telephone. g I have to finish this by tomorrow. Compare the examples in each category with the examples in the Grammar Book.

This too was further exemplified in the Grammar Book:


by (111) 1 who / what did it Wally is awakened by the phone ringing. (91) Handicrafts made by people in the Third World. (104) Is that a magazine published by Macmillan? (146) 2 how You solve it by elimination. (158) English by Radio. (146) London is only 55 minutes away by train. (179) Find out by talking to people.

90 The Lexical Syllabus 3 when Everyone helps to clear away after dinner. By then it's about 7.15 or 7.30 p.m. (113) Even though the Forth River is only 66 miles long, by the time it reaches Edinburgh it is over 4 miles wide. (179) 4 where Behind the chair? Of the person sitting by the desk? (72) Just by the bus stop. (122) On the wall by the entrance was a notice. (173)

This strategy affords the teacher and the learner a great deal of flexibility. First Df all an item is not highlighted until they are able to refer to examples of use. Secondly, most of these items will occur again and again. If they continue to cause problems they can be located in text either by referring to the Grammar Book or by looking at an index which references some of the sections in which the items occur and further exposure or practice is given. Finally, the commonest items are summarised in the Review pages and in the Grammar Book. The Grammar Book entries can be used for intensive practice and pattern drills if the teacher or learners feel this to be necessary. The stage at which this might best be done can be determined by teacher and learner rather than imposed by the coursebook writer. What is offered is a learner's corpus together with the wherewithal to exploit that corpus to the maximum advantage. Problems of grading were obviously less acute in Levels 2 and 3. But here again the same strategy was employed. Learners were given the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the corpus in a principled way. To enable them to do this it was necessary to use the word as the reference point. The lexical basis on which the course was built became a valuable part of the methodology. At first this caused some concern. We were reluctant to lose well known and loved structural labels such as the passive, the second conditional and reported speech. As we worked with our lexically based grammar, however, we became mole and more convinced that this outcome, too, was more than justified.

The Lexical Syllabus; Dave Willis Originally published by Collins ELT, 1990

91

CHAPTER 7: Word, structure, function and discourse


The lexical syllabus - a resume The impetus for the lexical syllabus came from the research which lay behind the Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary. We believed that the patterns and meanings associated with the commonest words of English would afford a basis for syllabus specification which would provide learners with good coverage - and would provide that coverage economically. Once we moved towards the concept of the learner's corpus (our collection of texts and recordings), we saw the syllabus specification as helping us to describe that corpus and to identify items within the corpus which should be highlighted for the learner. The lexical syllabus would derive from research into a large corpus of natural language, and would use that research to highlight significant items within a smaller learner's corpus. We believed that this approach to syllabus specification and design would give us better coverage than the more traditional syllabus based on an inventory of grammatical patterns and/or functional realisations. We also believed that taking lexis as a starting point would give us new insights into the structure of the language and the way it might usefully be viewed by learners. It led us to reject some categories, such as reported speech and the three conditionals, which figure prominently in most pedagogic grammars. It also led us to focuis on some features of language, such as the complex noun phrase and items which structure discourse, more systematically and thoroughly than structurally or functionally based syllabuses. The fact that we were concerned with exploiting the learner's corpus enabled us to help the learner look at language in use, and at language within a clear context of meaning and intention. This freed us from the constraints which force most approaches to language teaching into a sentence level description of grammar. Finally, the lexical syllabus, by taking the word as its point of departure, would afford learners an easy way of referencing the language they had experienced. The word indexes and reference sections provided with each Level would enable learners to re-examine their language experience systematically when they wished to do so. This is not an easy thing to do if one is dependent on grammatical metalanguage. Learners are much more likely to recognise the need to check up on the use of who or which than to feel the need to check up on adjectival relative clauses, and who and which are much easier to index and to retrieve. As I outlined in Chapter 2, when we started writing CCEC we were critical of traditional approaches to syllabus design, and some of our criticisms sharpened as we developed the lexical syllabus. Most approaches to syllabus specification give an inordinate prominence to the verb phrase, and largely neglect the noun

92 The Lexical Syllabus

phrase for example. They set up categories like reported speech which are uneconomical and potentially confusing. In a few cases, such as some and any, they may perpetuate false beliefs and assumptions about the language. We wanted, however, to take full account of approaches which had served the teaching profession, and many would say had served it well, for many years. We were anxious to compare our findings and our coverage of language against a consensus derived from coursebooks which were widely used and presumably, therefore, accepted by teachers and students as providing a useful description of the language. We would then need to identify omissions and departures highlighted by the COBUILD research or by what we were prepared to defend as a more pedagogically satisfying description of the language. The consensus syllabus was provided by our analysis of the TEFL Side Corpus which provided an inventory of the linguistic structures and speech functions commonly covered at the elementary and intermediate levels. We were able to check the coverage offered in our lexical syllabus against this consensus syllabus and to look critically at ways in which we had departed from the consensus. This chapter goes on to describe how the lexical approach is different in its treatment of some grammatical features. The verb phrase - tense, aspect, mood and voice Most formal grammars describe the verb phrase in English under four headings:
Tense Present or past. Aspect Simple or progressive/continuous and/or perfective. Mood - as realised by the models can/could, may/might, must, will/would and (according to some descriptions) going to, have/had to, need to, ought to. Voice active or passive.

Strictly speaking there are only two tenses in English, present and past. Together with the other components these generate all the verb forms in English, from the simplest:
1 We test the machines every week.

to the most complex:


2 It will have been going to be being tested every day for a fortnight soon.

This last example, at first sight an almost impossible occurrence, is attested by Halliday (1976) as being recorded from conversation. Pedagogical grammars handle the verb phrase quite differently. The label tense in a pedagogic grammar normally covers the formal grammarian's tense and aspect together with the modal will. The tenses in a pedagogic grammar include: Present simple We test the machines regularly.

Present continuous We are testing the machine.

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 93

Future Future continuous Past Simple Past simple Past continuous Present perfect Present perfect continuous Past perfect etc.

We'll test the machine tomorrow. We'll be testing the machine soon. We tested the machine. We were testing the machine. Weve tested the machine. Weve been testing the machine We had already tested the machine..

Voice is combined with these forms to produce, for example, the past perfect passive:
3 The machines had already been tested.

Or the past continuous passive:


4 The machine was being tested.

The models are usually taught lexically alongside concepts like ability:
5 I can speak a little Spanish.

possibility:
6 You can learn Spanish at evening school.

and function like asking and giving permission:


7 Can I go early please? Yes. You can go as soon as you've finished.

In addition to this, certain verb forms are taught within a particular structural context, such as the second conditional with the past tense and would marking a hypothesis:
8 You would soon learn Spanish if you went to evening classes.

and the third conditional with would have and the past perfect:
9 You would have learned Spanish if you had gone to evening school.

Our own treatment of the verb phrase came somewhere between the formal grammar approach, and that of the pedagogical grammar. In many ways it followed the traditional pedagogic description, but there were significant differences. We did not, as most pedagogic grammars do, identify a future tense with the modal will. Instead we identified ways of referring to the future. We treated all models lexically. Although we took conditional sentences as our starting point for the description of would we were careful to remove the dependence on if at an early stage. Although we used the terms present continuous and past continuous we did not teach these forms as such. Instead we encouraged learners to build them from their component parts, the verb be and the present participle ending in -ing, which was treated as an adjective. The past participle, too, was treated as an adjective, and from this we derived the passive voice. Finally our exploitation of the learner's corpus meant that we did not have to rely on sentence level citations to illustrate the use of verb forms, or indeed of any other forms.

94 The Lexical Syllabus

Tense Our treatment of the past and present tenses was similar to that found in most pedagogic grammars, but learners were exposed to both tenses right from the beginning. Specific exercises draw attention to the two tenses throughout Level 1. They are contrasted in Unit 4 of Level 1: 58 Beckys homes
The authors' teenage daughter, Becky, wrote this. We live in a four-bedroom semi-detached house in a town called Hemel Hempstead, about twenty miles from London. It was built in about 1960. When we lived in Birmingham, from 1979 to 1981, we lived in an old house in a district called Harborne. It was a large semi-detached house built in the 1 890s with five bedrooms and nice big rooms downstairs. It had a big garden at the back but no front garden. It was a really nice house, much nicer than our house in Hemel Hempstead. BW

Unit 5 draws attention to the commonest past tense forms in English:


A psychiatrist, receiving a new patient saw that she was carrying a duck under her arm. Saying nothing about the duck he asked her to sit down. Well, he said, can I help you? Oh, its not me who needs help, doctor, she replied, its my husband here. He thinks

Cartoon picture omitted

Past and present forms Match the verbs. asked went saw thought said was heard had is see go say has hear ask think

Units 9 and 11 give practice in the use of the past tense in narrative. By the end of Level 1 students have had ample exposure to both tenses and their basic uses. The negative and interrogative forms also occur right from the beginning of Level 1. In line with our lexical approach they are brought together in an analysis exercise on the words do and did in Unit 9:

95

132 Grammar words do What is the difference between sets 1 and 2? Set 1 Ask your teacher if you don't understand. How do you know? It doesn't matter. What does Chris say? I didn't get up until 8.30, so I was late. Did Chris give good directions? Set 2 I usually do the cooking and cleaning in the morning. My husband does the gardening at weekends. He did the meals when I was ill. What are you doing? All right. You do it first, then it's my turn. ________________________________________________________ These examples are a mixture of sets 1 and 2. Sometimes both types appear in the same sentence. Which is which? a What does your brother do? b Did you do your homework? c No, I didn't, because I had a lot of other things to do. d Who's going to do the dishes? e Which bus? A 62 or 63 will do just as well. f Is this yours? No, it's nothing to do with me. g Have you done your homework? h It doesn't matter. Look at the Grammar Book. Which categories do the last eight examples go into? This exercise asks learners to distinguish between two extremely common uses of the word do. It is used as an auxiliary in Set 1 and in Set 2 it is a delexical verb - a verb which does not carry meaning itself but takes its meaning from the noun which follows it. More examples of do as an auxiliary are given in the grammar reference section at the back of Level 1: ______________________________________________________ do, did (132)
1 used to form questions How many things did he remember? (42) Where did you live? (57) Why did you move? (57) Did you have a look at the shops? Where did you go yesterday? Do you know your teacher's name? (2) Do you live in a house or a flat? (52)

96 Lexical syllabus

Do you want milk and sugar? Do you work in the evenings? How many children does he have? When does she go to bed? (212)
Your friend, John has just introduced you to another friend of his, Peter. Use these frames to make questions you might ask Peter. Wherecome from? What work..? .live? Make questions from this table. When What time do does did you Myf start work? finish work? get up? go to bed? have lunch? get home in the evening? When meet john? Where?

2 used to make a verb negative I dont go to work as such. (118) I dont always have lunch actually. (113) A: Do you know where Green Park is? B: No, Im sorry, I dont. I didnt do anything interesting. I do not know yet whether I shall be staying with Vijay Bhatia. (193) Do not insert money. Say which of these things you do and which you dont do. Speak English/Italian/Spanish/German/French/ Chinese/ Japanese Play football/tennis/cricket/golf/chess Ride a bicycle Drive a car Fly a plane

The use of the past tense for hypothesis occurs in Unit 6:


10 If you were counting how would you say these numbers? 11depending whether it was English or American.

and is reinforced in association with would and with if:

if (209)
1 in conditions

1.1 when the speaker thinks something is likely to happen. What happens if the person isnt there? It will help if you know where the hole or button is on your phone. (205)

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 97 1.2 for something imagined, not real (see would 2) Which examples would be useful if you went to Britain? If you were counting, how would you say these numbers? (79) 2 for something imagined, not real (would) Imagine that person to see the

What do you think the weather would be like if you were: In London? In Rome? In Madrid? In Moscow? In Cairo? If you were asked to make a film: what book or play would you choose? who would the stars be? what parts would they play? Suppose an English friend asked you what to do and what places to visit in your country. What would you tell them? __________________________________________________________________________________ If you wanted to save money, which of these things would you do? Eat less? Drink less? Spend less on going out? Sell your car? Spend less on clothes? 208 What would you do if.?

Cartoon picture omitted here

Discuss briefly what you would do if you were in one of these situations. -if you heard the fire alarm in the building you are in now -if the electricity went off in your home, and you thought it might be a power cut -if you were by the sea and you heard someone shouting for help

Together with your partner, plan what you would say. If you were with a friend, what would you tell them to do? Act out the situation in front of the class. Dont say which of these three situations it is. Can the others guess what has happened?

98 The Lexical Syllabus

This is further developed in Level 2:


90 Language study
Would

a Look at the verbs in colour. What tense are they in? Do they refer tp past time? JV: Are we ready: Yes, erm, now what would each of you cook if someone dropped in unexpectedly and stayed for a meal in the evening? JV: What would you cook, David? DF: Whatever vegetables happened to be there. JV: Supposing they arrived after the restaurants had shut. JV: But, er, and if youd made it at home Why are they in past tense? b Look at these sentences. What does would mean? Why is it would, not will? We asked Jenny, Bridget, David and Danny what they would cook for an unexpected guest. JV: What would you do, Danny? DL: Would I have to cook them something, because Id prefer to take them out for a meal. JV: It says here What would you do if each of you cook? DL: Erm JV: So, to summarise, Bridget would cook sausage and beans, Danny would cook an omelette, David would cook something exotic that hed rustled up from bits in the fridge, and I would cook a cheese flan.

and Level 3: 115 Grammar Past forms and past participles a Say when the underlined words refer to past time. 1 2 3 4 5 If I saw a man-eater I would be terrified. The man-eater nearly killed the caretaker. Assuming a man-eater attacked you and your family, what would you do? The man-eater was sent to Tsavo by mistake. Suppose one of your friends was attacked by a leopard, what would you do?

Word structure, Function and Discourse 99

A future tense is not identified but attention is drawn to ways of referring to the future:
THE OPEN UNIVERSITY Dr. Markham L. Tickoo Chairman, Seminar Planning Committee, REGIONAL Planning Committee, 30 Orange Grove Road, Singapore 1025 Dear Dr. Tickoo, SEAMBO Language Seminar 1985 I am writing with regard to my traveling arrangements for the above seminar. I shall be travelling by Jordanian Airways and should arrive in Singapore at 13.50n on 18th April. The return booking is for 05.30 on 4th May. I have not yet got confirmation of the arrangements for the AmmanSingapore section of the journey so I shall have to confirm these timings as soon as I receive further information. I look forward to seeing you next month. Yours sincerely,

194 Language Study Look at this extract from John Swaless letter. I do not know yet whether I shall be staying with Vijay Bhatia. Ill let you know as soon as I have heard from him. Do the highlighted words refer to the past, the present or the future? In Professor Merritts letter there are four ways of referring to the future. Can you find them?

J. F. Morritt Professor of Teacher education c.c. Dr. J. D. Willis, English Language officer, British Council, Singapore.

192 Language study


Talking about the future Find the verbs in this transcript. Find all the verbs which refer to the future. How many different ways of referring to the future are there? DF: Will your paths cross? What about this coming week and weekend? Will you be going to the, er, Nisa this weekend? BG: Probably, yes. DF: Er, I might be as well, so thats a possibility. Ermare you going the thAre you going out this weekend to anything? Have you got any plans? BG: Erm, Im staying in London. Im going to a concert on Saturday night. DF: Where? Wheres that? BG: At Wembley. DF: Uhuh. What are you going to see? BG: Tina Turner. DF: Uhuh. Great! BG: Erm, ..Then Im going out to lunch on Sunday. DF: Where are you going out t lunch? BG: Parsons Green. DF: Ah. Im going out to lunch in Putney, which is close-ish. After that? BG: ErmI dont know. I havent really got anything else planned. DF: So what about shopping? BG: Oh, Ill probably-Ill have to go shopping at some stage, probably on Saturday. Say whether these sentences are about the present or the future. a Are you going to play tennis? b For the time being Im happy. c Ill just see what happens. d I am writing with regard to my travel arrangements. e Are you planning to stay with a friend? f If you come home tomorrow I wont be here. g Which examples would be useful if you went to Britain? h Take a good look and tell me if you see anything different.

These uses are highlighted separately under the modals and under have: 6.2 for something that will have happened at some time in the future
Hell be home Tell me (We can also use the present tense. Hell be home when he finishes work. Tell me when you finish.)

and brought together in the sections given above.

100 Lexical Syllabus

The decision no to treat will as the future tense was a deliberate one which was taken for a number of reasons. First, there seemed to be no good reason for treating will as being different from any of the other modals. It can be treated lexically, and we could see no reason why it should not be treated in this way. Secondly, treating will as the future tense implies that this use is in some way neutral in terms of modality. But this does not seem to be the case. The closest it comes to a neutral form is when it is used to express certainty or prediction:
12 If its midday in London Chicago will be 7 a.m. 13 In some areas you will find green cardphones. But the fact that will is not normally found in clauses with if and when: 14 *If it will rain well get wet. 15 *When you will finish you can go home.

shows that it is not neutral. It cannot be used in these clauses with its casual meaning of certainty or prediction, because the words if and when are selected in order to avoid the notions of certainty and prediction. Will is not acceptable in such clauses precisely because it carries a modal meaning. It is, of course, acceptable after if or when when it is used to express volition and to realise a request or offer:
16 If you will agree to the price we can sign the contract.

Treating will as the future tense actually draws learners into the kind of error exemplified in 14 and 15 above. Probably the closest thing we have in English to a future tense is the present simple, which many formal grammars treat not as present but as not-past, descr ibing English as a system which has a marked tenese form for the past and realises other time references, present and future, through this unmarked form unless some modal meaning is carried in addition. This accounts for uses like: 17 Give it to the first person you see. 18 I can't come next week. I'm on holiday. Progressive aspect A description which conflates tense and aspect means that the concepts of progressive and perfective aspect are not taught as such. In the case of progressive aspect, this omission means that the description is highly uneconomical. For example many coursebooks identify a use which is labelled the 'interrupted past'. This is realised by a pattern with the verb in one clause in the past simple tense and the verb in the other clause, usually a temporal clause, in the past continuous:
The postman called while I was cooking breakfast.

But the notion of 'interruptedness' is a feature of progressive aspect, not simply of the past continuous tense'. The sentences:
The postman usually calls while I'm cooking breakfast.

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 101

and:
I'll probably be cooking breakfast when the postman calls.

are equally possible. Progressive aspect in English is marked by the suffix -ing. Although our syllabus was basically lexical, we covered the uses of ring in all three levels. A consciousness raising activity comes towards the end of Level 1: Grammar words
.-ing 1 describing something : There were two girls eating fish and chips. Write down one or two interesting things about eacb person. 2 after am, is, be etc. One girl was carrying a white bag. The S student will be asking you questions about things that you usually do during the day. 3 after see, look at hear, listen to etc. Listen to them talking about when they go to bed. 4 before am, is etc. Dialling 999 is free. 5 after stop, start, remember, like etc. I remember going to London many years ago. She likes watching television. 6 after when, before, instead of etc. Remember that when dialling a number from within the same area, you do not need the prefix. Before attempting to break down the door, the man tried Write down five of these things. something you like doing something you stopped doing a long time ago something you can see someone doing what you were doing at this time yesterday what you will be doing this time tomorrow something you remember doing as a child someone who is sitting at the front of the class What categories do these sentences belong to? a Put in the money before making your call. b Listen to David and Bridget discussing the same problem. c The conversation ceased and she heard gasping sounds. d Using a cardphone is not difficult. e You can telephone your family back home without using money. f The special cards are available from Post Offices g and shops displaying the green 'Cardphone' sign. h I really like running. Swimming is nice too. i You have quite a long working day, don't you?

The grammar section in Level 1 offers this summary: -ing (213) 1 describing something I've got a man wearing a hat. There was a man carrying a brown bag. You hear a ringing tone. (206) A purring sound. 2 after 'am','is','be' etc. At one o'clock I'm normally eating my lunch. (143) They were walking past the newsagents. 3 after 'see','hear' etc. If you heard someone shouting for help. (208) He saw a woman Iying on the floor. (210) 4 before 'am','is' etc. Learning English is easy, difficult. Watching TV is. . . 5 after 'stop', 'start', 'remember', 'like' etc. He stopped talking and began to eat.

102 The Lexical Syllabus

6 after 'vvhen', 'before', 'instead of' etc. Instead of putting your money in first, you dial the number... (206) Can you use the cardphone without using coins? Certainly categories 1, 2 and 3, and possibly all six categories carry the notion of progressive aspect. Levels 2 and 3 draw particular attention to the use of progressive aspect in setting a scene in narrative, a scene which is soon to be 'interrupted' by a chain of events. Of course one of the main uses of the -ing form is category 2, which goes with the verb be to form what pedagogic grammars call the continuous tenses. By highlighting the use and meaning of -ing and also of the verb be: 3 '. .. be' + ring I shall be staying with Vijay Bhatia. (193) 2 used to make the present perfect w~th ring I've been doing it since I was sixteen. (98) I've been working here in Top Shop for 3 months. (98) 8 Grammar revision

am, is, are, was, were Look at these uses of the verb to be. 1 Who or what It's a very pleasant school. I was an insurance broker. 3 Where It's near Birmingham, isn't it' That was in Warrington. 5 With -ed, -en. He's married. Where were you born and brought up?

2 Describing He's about fifteen months. She's quite small.

4 With -ing He's getting to the more interesting stage isn't he? At the moment I'm looking for jobs.

Which category do these examples belong to ? a John is trying to get a new job. b It's a new town I think. c Now it's in Cheshire. d Hillingdon is a suburb of London. e It's two miles from Uxbridge. f His son is called Joe. g Joe is just starting to get mischievous. h Catherine left Dublin when she was seven.

we can enable students to produce for themselves the verb forms which carry progressive aspect. The fact that the present participle -ing is treated as an adjectival form gives learners a powerful indication of its use. The sentence: A man was carrying a brown bag. is descriptive in exactly the same way as: There was a man carrying a brown bag.

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 103

or: I saw a man carrying a brown bag. To bring out this feature of English, it is important not to treat the present continuous as a "tense', but rather to make a broader generalisation by treating the ring form as adjectival, with the collocation with be as one of its common uses. As we shall see below there are other important reasons for treating the present participle with -ing as adjectival. Perfective aspect The treatment of the present and past perfect tenses is very similar to that found in most pedagogic grammars, with two important exceptions. One of the consequences of working from research data and working with authentic text was that we identified the use of the present perfect tense with reference to the future: I'll let you know as soon as I've heard from him. Let me know as soon as you have fixed your travel plans. Answer the questions after you have read the passage. The second difference is methodological. The examples which illustrate the use of perfective aspect are taken from the learner's corpus: 173 Language study
had a In each example below there are two or more things that happened. Which thing took place first? 1 One evening the wife, white as a sheet, called me over to her flat saying that it had been burgled. 2 Her husband had dropped in briefly while she was out (before she got back), to look for his driving licence. Now what aboue these sentences from other units? 3 The assistant sold more ice-cream in the interval than anyone had ever done before. (55) 4 And I won the next year but not as much as I'd won the first year. 5 . . . they arrived after the restaurants had shut. (86) 6 The pilot then discovered the cockpit door had locked itself and he'd mislaid the key. (104) 7 One morning he found that someone had parked in front of his garage door. (150) b In what ways are had or 'd used in the story below? SB: Well, my girlfriend's very frightened of flying, and she had a bad experience. IDescribes how plane engine caught fire.] And they had to take the plane back to Heathrow. CM: Does that mean that nobody else had noticed? SB: I think maybe the pilots had noticed, but certainly nobody else on board had noticed, [ ] so they drugged her up with [ ] valium for the next flight, by when she'd missed her connection in New York to Texas and so she had to go on . . . Cartoon picture omitted

This helps the learners to build up a picture of the use of perfective aspect in real contexts of use, and also encourages them to look critically at the texts to which they are exposed. The modals As we have seen from looking at will and would all the modals were treated lexically in CCEC.

104 The Lexical Syllabus

can, could (93, 138)


1 ability/possibility What things could you describe as sort of reddish? (37) What other questions could I have asked? Can you explain the answers? (46) How much can you remember? (48) She ran away as fast as she could. (198) Ten twelve. That could be the time. (78)
Oriental definitely. It could be Thailand. (171) Make sentences from this frame. I can but I cant Here are some ideas to help you. speak English / Italian / Spanish / French / Japanese play football / chess / cricket / basketball swim / ski / sail a boat / canoe What can you see? I couldn't hear what he was saying. Look at the picture on page 58. Make three sentences starting: I can see

1.1 'could' for suggestions You could look in the newspaper.


Make suggestions in answer to these questions. 1 I want to go out for a good meal. Where could I go? 2 I've lost my book. Where could it be? 3 The telephone's ringing. Who could it be? 4 It's my birthday. What could we do?

2 permission You can go out now, but come back in ten minutes. Could I do it tomorrow instead of today? 3 offer / request Can you give me your address? (11) Can you spell your name for me? (11) Can I speak to Dr Brown please? (89) Can I take a message? (89) Can you tell me the time, please? (94) Can you tell me how long it takes? Could you give me your phone number please? (11) Could you look after the children for me? (97)

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 105

Make six sentences from this table (two offers and four requests).
Can Could I you help you tell me the time help me go home early give me a lift carry that for you (please)

4 can/could be That could be John . . . but I thought he was at work. (92) It could be China or Thailand. (171) Bring lots of jumpers as it can be quite cold. (176)
Imagine you are woken up by a loud noise at night. What could it be? . . . the cat? . . . a burglar? . . . someone coming home late? . . . someone in the kitchen? . . . someone falling out of bed? . . . the neighbours? . . . the traffic? Imagine you are telling someone about it the next day. Say: It could have been . . . Say which of these things can be: dangerous / interesting / fun / funny / exciting / boring driving fast visiting relatives TV programmes travelling by plane parties ski-ing

This is very much in line with other approaches, which also tend to treat modality lexically. The lexical research did, however, add certain insights. For example about 15% of the occurrences of can and could are followed by the word be. This is so common that we took special account of it in category 4. The passive voice I have already argued that the passive is best treated by regarding the past participle as adjectival. It is introduced in Unit 2:
DF: Yes, my brother's married. BG: And what's his wife called?

and is recycled throughout Level 1: 5 + -ed / -en Your father's called John? and your mother's called Pat? (19) It was built in 1890. (55) It was built for William Randolph Hearst. (55)

106 The Lexical Syllabus

This street is called Montague Street Precinct. (67) . . .teenage girls who are interested in fashion.. . (95) Are you tired? Wally is awakened by the phone ringing. (91) . . .so that I can make sure that you are properly looked after. (193) Listen for the words that are stressed. (103) There is a series of activities throughout the course recycling this concept and encouraging learners to analyse the use of verb forms and of other words:

111 Grammar words


by 1 who/what did it Do you think this would be said by a teacher? 2 how She begins by asking what time they start. Idomy shopping by car. I come to work by bus. 3 when I've got to finish this by tomorrow. It opens at eight, so I'm there by eight. 4 where There's a phone box by the school. It's over there by the post office. Find examples for each category. a She starts by asking what time they begin work b She usually gets back home by 9 a.m. c handicrafts made by people in the Third World d Come and sit here by me. e Guess what your partner's number is by asking 'Is it under 50. . .' . f I think I left it by the telephone. g I have to finish this by tomorrow. Compare the examples in each category with the examples in the Grammar Book.

by (111) 1 who / what did it Wally is awakened by the phone ringing. (91 ) Handicrafts made by people in the Third World. (104) Is that a magazine published by Macmillan? (146)

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 107

This work is brought together and reviewed half way through Level 3:

125 Grammar revision


Past participles and words ending in -ing Look at sentences 1-6 and find seven past participles. How many of them are in passive verbs? What about the one(s) left over? Look at sentences S-12 and find ten -ing forms. How many of them are adjectives? What about the others? . . . the sunrise is sometimes filmed separately and then thrown on a studio screen. (118) 3 Do you think they (crocodiles) should be kept in special places . . . (97) 4 . . . storms. . . I don't really like being caught in the middle of them. (121) : 5 It (the airbag) cannot totally prevent somebody being thrown forward . . . (83) 6 A man-eating leopard was trapped at Siaya Location... for killing a young girl... (113) 7 What might have happened if the Webbers had run screaming out of the banda . . . ? (110) 8 The following morning, the crew returned without the sunrise. (118) 9 I don't like getting wet. (121) 10 I remember once being really cold in Japan . . . (121) 11 . . . we went to bed thinking what an exotic place how exciting (109) 12 . . it started looking in at the window, at my baby son. (109) . . . such a frightening time. (109) All the examples given here and all the sentences in the rearranging exercise are part of the learner's corpus. Most of them occur in texts which come shortly before this particular activity. The result of this is that learners have a context for these sentences. They are involved both in consciousness raising and in developing a greater familiarity with and sensitivity to particular features of their corpus. The great difficulty with the passive and the present perfect is not what they mean but when they are used. Only by drawing attention to occurrences in text can learners begin to build up a picture of these forms in use. A final summary of the passive is given in the Grammar Book at the end of Level 3: be (am, is, are, was, were, be, been)
5 for the passive, followed by a past participle ending in red or -en. EG They were chosen from about 31,000 entries. (45b) The world population of them has been drastically reduced. (97) Stories about people being eaten by crocodiles

108 The Lexical Syllabus

by 16 1 (l50a, 163a ) issued by the Home Office/might be asked questions by the programme presenter A note on methodology One point which has emerged strongly in the discussion of the verb phrase above is the importance of retrieving examples of language in use from the learner's own language experience. We have several times made the point that language use involves choice and that learners must learn to exercise that choice. At the beginning of a lesson a teacher may choose to announce: Last lesson we looked at the present perfect tense. Or: Okay, we've had a look at the present perfect tense. Why does a teacher on a specific occasion choose one rather than the other? Learners need to acquire the ability to select the appropriate form to encode the desired meaning. They cannot learn to do this by working with decontextualised examples at the level of the sentence. They must have as many opportunities as possible to see and hear these forms in use. A second important feature is a refusal to resort to a contrastive methodology. There is little real gain in contrasting, say, the present simple and the present continuous tenses. Even if this strategy is successful, all it does is contrast uses in which the choice between the two seems to be clear cut. The present continuous and the present simple, for example, are often contrasted to show that the simple tense is used for an action which happens frequently, the continuous for an action which is happening at the time of speaking. The presentation may be made with a picture with the legend: John is going to school. He usually goes to school on his bike. But this ignores some important features of English. First, it ignores the convention in English that the simple tense is normally used to caption pictures. Johnny goes to school. would be a more likely caption. Secondly, it ignores the fact that the present continuous with adverbs of frequency is not uncommon. We have a recording in which native speakers repeatedly produce sentences like: Oh, I'm usually leaving for work at around that ~me. One of the dangers with contrastive teaching of this kind is that teachers spend a good deal of time making a straightforward contrast between two forms which holds true for most of the occurrences of those forms, but which does not create any learning difficulty. It is a time consuming process which achieves very little. Adult learners are very quickly aware of the 'rule', although they will take some time to incorporate it in their language use, no matter how long is spent drilling and contrasting at this particular stage. A more insidious danger is that once these contrasts have been made, they become institutionalised. What I mean by this is that materials writers often

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 109

redraw the language to make very specific contrasts between certain forms. Once they have done this, they allow learners to see only those forms which exhibit this contrast. They begin by doing for the learners what is easy, and then leave them to make for themselves the subtler more difficult inferences about language use. They compound this by concealing from the learner any text which runs counter to the 'rule' they have set up. Simplistic choices are dictated, subtler choices are avoided. This is a process which protects learners from language in the classroom, by preventing them from coming to terms with language choice. Choice operates in conformity to a simple set of rules, not as a response to the need to encode precise meanings. The noun phrase. One of the texts we selected for Level 3 threw up this sentence:
So, during the winter months, a van equipped with a loudspeaker and tape bearing the agonised squawks of a captured seagull held upside down slowly toured the reservoirs for two hours after dusk.

According to some grammars this is a simple sentence - the only finite verb it contains is toured. By any reasonable criteria, however, it is an extremely complex sentence. Given a context and appropriate introductory activities, the sentence did not cause too many comprehension problems and it was not difficult to devise an exercise to draw attention to the structure of the complex noun phrase: 81 Language Study Understanding a complex sentence Practise reading these sentences quickly. After each one, say what the new information is about. A van toured the reservoir. A van equipped with a loudspeaker and tape . toured the reservoir. A van equipped with a loudspeaker and tape bearing the agonised squawks of a seagull . toured the reservoir. A van equipped with a loudspeaker and tape bearing the agonised squawks of a captured seagull held upside down slowly toured the reservoir. Look at paragraph 5 of the newspaper article; how many additional phrases are there? Now work out how to read the whole paragraph out loud. 81: Listen to it being read on tape.

110 The Lexical Syllabus

But how could learners begin to produce sentences of this type? The example given may be an extreme example, but a look at any written text will show that complex phrases of this kind are a common feature of the language. The first sentence of the article from which this sentence is taken reads: Tape-recorded squawks of a seagull in distress have enabled water authorities in Strathclyde to cleanse two reservoirs at Milngavie, near Glasgow, by frightening away an estimated 5,000 seagulls which were polluting the water. The main clause in this sentence, in italics, consists of 28 words. But most coursebooks offer learners virtually no help with the kind of complex phrases involved in a clause of this kind. One feature of the first example given above is the use of participles - equipped, bearing, agonised, held. The recognition that participles play such an important part in the construction of noun phrases was a vindication of our decision to treat participles as adjectival. This participial use of the -ing form is, in fact, much commoner than its use in the continuous tenses. Similarly, the adjectival use of the past participle is much commoner than its use in the traditional passive. Another common feature of complex phrases is the use of prepositions, particularly with and of. But again we rarely find a principled treatment of these uses of prepositions in traditional coursebooks based on an inventory of structures or functions. This is hardly surprising since, almost by definition, such approaches are concerned with clause and sentence structure and pay relatively little attention to phrase structure. A lexically based syllabus, however, cannot fail to recognise the importance of prepositional phrases in building more complex phrases. The prepositions of, to, in, for, on, with, at, by, from, about and up all feature among the fifty commonest words of English. Any approach which recognises the importance of lexis, therefore, is bound to analyse carefully the uses of these words and to make sure that they are highlighted for the learner. Both with and of are comprehensively covered in Level 1:

of (17, 139)
1 used in expressions of quantity, size etc. I've got those. (25) your brothers. (26) Where's that (107) the yellow shapes are squares. (35) He talked to other people. (107) I did work last weekend. Bring jumpers. (176) 1.2 containing / consisting of something Here are two Let's find a place to have 1.3 'part of, some of etc. the morning. (84) Tell the class. (106) Tell each other your the story. (115) Saint Laurence Road. (125)

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 111

2 belonging to Do you know the names of the students in your class? (2) David tried to remember the names of Brigids family. (19) The number of a house. (77) Whats the name of the college? (109) 3 sort of etc. 3.1 spoken only used to show the speaker doesnt want to sound very exact; or used instead of a pause or hesitation The watch is sort of next to the glass of water. (42) We sort of get on well. (53) 3.2 That sort of roof? (171) Three types of telephone. (206) 4 dates, times, ages My father is the first of May. (81)

with (99, 204)


1 together with Ive come to Liverpool to stay with my parents (98) Discuss with your partner (78) I worked with her a long time ago. 2 used to describe things or people It was very very big, in very good condition with a thick lining. (104) How many expressions can you hear with think or thought? (92) A shirt with no buttons. (38) 3 how Something youre not going to actually work with. your friends need a watch to time you with. and again in Level 2: d ???? What's the missing word? He is married a 15 month old son called Joe. What words do your questions begin ? . . . is a suburb of London a population of. . . It is a large hotel 64 rooms, each

bathroom and shower.

112 The Lexical Syllabus

It has something to do the rhythms of the language. Do you have anything in common any other students? . . . wait a moment and I'll be you. In which sentences does the missing word mean 'and has'?

160 Preposition spot


of 1 with quantity (to answer the question How many? or How much?) Theres an awful lot of bad writers around. (121)

etc (rest of example omitted)

Yet another feature of English which is often incorporated in the complex noun phrase is the use of one noun to modify another. There are two examples above - winter months and water authorities. It is impossible to treat these noun + noun combinations systematically, let alone exhaustively, because the relationships which can exist between the two or more nouns are almost infinite. Nevertheless it is important to draw the attention of learners to this feature of English:

50 Grammar Noun plus noun In English we often put two nouns together to express quite complex meanings: 1 Have a one minute conversation. (a conversation lasting one minute) 2 I have had a Saturday job. . . (24) (a job on Saturdays) 3 What were your childhood fears? (34) (fears when you were a child) 4 . . . a back page summary of this news report. (38) (summary of a report containing news on the back page of a newspaper)

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 113

5 I was behind a big food shelf when the door was Iocked behind me. (38) (a shelf to keep food on) 6 . . . his original ambition was to be an engine driver like his father. (16) (a man who drives engines) Try to explain what these phrases mean: a I left school at the end of the summer term. (24) b . . . on the factory floor and in school playgrounds. (14) c . . . a great interest in country life. ( 16) d You are at a small dinner party. (59) e . . . John Helms clung to the safety fence. (36) f Grimble's home toast delivery service. (48) g . . . started a folk-dancing evening, in the village hall. (17) h They must have left the car engine on. (72) : i . . . to prevent serious injury. (83) : j . . . the position of Trainee Assistant Manager. (24) k A learner driver. . . l He had been put in the front passenger seat . . .(72) m Listen to the rain drop falling. (124) n This one is a news article. Once elements of this kind have been treated, Level 3 begins to look in detail at the complex phrases involving the elements, and to give examples of the way they can be structured: 155 Grammar Noun phrases Who's it about? a Newspapers pack a lot of information into a short space. One way of doing this is byexpanding the noun phrase when introducing the person the story is about: Mr. William Casey, the former CIA head . . .(150) A 16 week old kitten named Mor. . .( l50) A common pattern is: NAME AGE PLACE JOB John Brown, a forty-five year old London policeman. Sometimes the name comes at the end: Forty-five year old London policeman, John Brown. . . Write descriptions like this for some of your family and friends.

114 The Lexical Syllabus

b Sometimes the description can be even more extended: Handsome smiling forty-five year old former London policeman, John Brown . . . Can you write some like this? c The same thing often happens when the newspaper refers to the source of a story. Make some examples from this table:
DESCRIPTION PLACE/ NATION senior British official French London Paris EMPLOYER STATUS government hospital prison school trade union spokesman official representative

165 Grammar
Fronting information In Unit 15 we saw how newspaper articles pack a lot of information into descriptions of people: Handsome smiling forty-five year-old London policeman... (155) They do the same with events. Opening sentences particularly highlight a lot of information to set the scene for what follows: Police investigating the mysterious disappearance in Dorset of Mrs. Etty, a local farmer's wife . . . (161) Opposition party spokesmen, who have been calling for government action to bring piped water into the centre of the town . . . (161) Rearrange the following phrases to make opening sentences which you have seen before: 1 on how to reduce the risk A free booklet of falling victim of advice to women to violent crime - has been issued by the Home Office. (150) yesterday by Madrid underground workers A strike demanding a pay rise - cut the number of morning rush-hour trains by half (158) and crew members on board a Dutch plane last night All 91 passengers were released unharmed hijacked to Rome after brief but intense negotiations at Great Ormund Street Hospital, - Up to 20 children a month London, - through lack of equipment are refused treatment and a shortage of nursing staff - says Professor Lewis Spitz, a pediatric surgeon.

189 Language Study


Sentence building a We have seen how news reports pack a lot of information into a single sentence. See how this sentence is put together: A young man was senously injured. (What young man?) A young man, identified as Jack, was seriously injured. (Who identified him?) A young man, identified in an official statement as Jack, was seriously injured. (How was he injured?) A young man, identified in an oflicial statement as Jack, was senously injured when he tell down the hill. (What hill?) A young man, identified in an official statement as Jack, was seriously injured when he fell down the hill where the well was located

b Now look at this sentence:


The Ministry stated repeatedlythat there was no danger. (No danger to whom?) The Ministry stated that there was no danger to the public. How is sentence b related to the first sentence? Now see how the two sentences fit together. In spite of repeated statements by the Ministry that there is no danger to the public, a young man, identified in an official statement as Jack, was seriosly injured when he fell down the hill where the well is located

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse ll5

Again most of these exercises are consciousness-raising activities. The complexity and unpredictability of these phrases are such that we can offer no prescriptions. All we can do is outline the elements, and encourage learners to examine their experience of the language. It is, however, most important that we do this. It is difficult to see how anyone could become a competent speaker or writer of English without recourse to the kind of complex phrase structure which is too often overlooked in course design. Discourse structure In the past it has been very difficult for syllabus designers to offer learners systematic insights into the structure of discourse. The work of Hoey (1983) building on Winter (1977) suggested that a lexical approach might offer the most promising starting point. I have shown above the importance of words like thing, fact and idea in structuring discourse. In Level 3 we took a lexical starting point to look at a number of common discourse patterns. In Level 3 we used advertisements to illustrate a common discourse structure incorporating situation - problem - solution - evaluation: Leather Jackets
Leather jackets have become increasingly popular and fashionable over the last few years, but in the long winter months they just don't keep the cold out. Here's the solution. These beautiful XXXXXXXXXXXX jackets from Somerset combine the suppleness and style of real leather with the unbeatable XXXXXXXXXXXXXX of genuine 100% British sheepskin . . .

Time folds flat


Our buyers stay in hotels all over the world so they are very aware of the need for a good alarm clock a that doesn't take up space in the suitcase. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Just 3 square with all the latest functions, the soft black leather look case folds flat for travel. An inexpensive and very personal gift Personalisation: Up to 3 initials. Fold Away Alarm 6.95 JS3633C*

Designer Shirt Wallet There are times when you need to carry a wallet but you're not XXXXXXXXX This slim leather wallet (4" x 2 ") will hold credit cards and notes, and slips discreetly into your shirt pocket. From the house of Piem Cardin, this is the most elegant shirt wallet currently available at such a low price. Plerre Cardin Shirt Wallet 6.95 CZ847

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116 The Lexical Syllabus

79 Language study
SITUATIONPROBLEMSOLUTIONEVALUATION Notice the structure of these adverts. Read the notes in the table carefully, then suggest what words or phrases from the texts could go into the empty spaces. Then continue building up the table with notes from the other adverts
Situation General topic The problem is that Leather jackets popular and fashionable In winter, dont keep cold out (too thin) Line jacket with sheepskin warmth and comfort combined with style Men often carry a wallet when not wearing a jacket (too bulky for shirt pocket) slim leather wallet 4 x 2, fits in shirt pocket _____________ car keys (people lose them) (difficult to use in dark) bleeper device when you whistle, light ____________

The solution is to Evaluation

This structure is further exemplified in a short anecdote:


STICK AT NOTHING My three-year-old brother, who had been playing outside all morning, came into the kitchen begging for a snack. I gave him a slice of bread and peanut butter. Holding the bread carefully in both hands, he started to leave, but when he reached the closed kitchen door, a puzzled expression came over his face. He was too small to open the door without using both hands to turn the door knob. After a moment's consideration, he found a solution. He plastered the sticky side of his bread to the wall, used both hands to turn the knob, peeled his bread off the wall and went out happily to play. J. WHITE

SITUATION small hungry child is given bread and peanut butter PROBLEM . . . SOLUTION . . . EVALUATION . . . Before seeing this text learners were asked to speculate about it: 82 Peanut butter (Photographs of jar of peanut butter and slice of bread stuck to wall next to a door omitted

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 117

Why do you think the boy did this? This was the solution - can you work out what the problem was? Clue: The boy involved was three years old. ~ Tell the class what you think. ~ This idea was then further developed: 85 Grammar The problem is that the solution is to . . . We use that to introduce a situation or problem. We use to to introduce the action you would take in finding a solution: My brother's problem was that he couldn't open the door without using both hands, and he was carrying a slice of bread and peanut butter at the time. His solution was to plaster the sticky side of the bread to the wall while he opened the door. What bothered the old man was that he had borrowed his mother's car without asking, so he begged the police not to tell her. If you see smoke the obvious thing is to telephone the fire brigade. Which of these phrases do you think would introduce problems and which would introduce solutions? Are there any that might do either? The best thing is . . . I What worries me is . . . It was too big . . . One possibility might be The answer could be The trouble is The only thing is One difficulty is One way out would be The worrying thing is The disadvantage might be

118 The Lexical Syllabus

85 Grammar Problems and solutions


Look at this example: Lots of jobs around the house would be simple enough to do yourself, if only you had the tools the professionals use. trouble is The problem is I don't have the right tools. thing is answer The solution is to buy some good tools best thing Make sentences using words like TROUBLE, PROBLEM, ANSWER, SOLUTION and THING based on the following sentences: a. b. Let this electronic dictionary check your spelling. This revolutionary new mobile baby alarm enables you to listen in to your little ones wherever you are in the house - or even the garden. c. Cleaning brass, copper and silver is a dirty task, but these new Magic Gloves provide their own polish and keep hands clean.

Exercises of this kind both highlight patterns in text and also show how lexical items signal elements in these patterns: Problem What worries me is . . . It was too big . . . The trouble is . . . One diffculty is . .. The worrying thing is . . . The disadvantage is . . . Solution The best thing is . . . One possibility might be . . . The answer could be . . . One way out would be . . .

All of these items are strongly predictive. A statement of a problem strongly predicts an attempt to identify a solution. The exercises not only serve to highlight these functions in discourse, but also provide a structural environment for the predictive items: What worries me is The trouble is One difficulty is The best thing is The answer could be One way out would be

that . . .

to . . .

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 119

Other discourse patterns were treated in a similar way: 123 Language Study
HYPOTHESISEVIDENCECONCLUSION Discuss a-c below, rereading the relevant sections from earlier units if you can't remember the facts, so that you can answer the questions. Then write a short paragraph about each one, like the paragraph in a. See Unit 11 (sections 109 - 116). What did Mr Woodley think about the leopard? What did he finally decide? Why? Mr Woodley thought the leopard could have been either a stock-killer or a man-eater. Because of the way it behaved he concluded that it must have been a man-eater. What did Richard Webber and his wife think about the leopard when it was outside their hut Iooking in the windows? They thought (that) . . . What did they finally decide? : They decided that . . . What was their reason? : .. . because. See Unit 10 (section 100). : The Yetties lost their flight case on their way to Nepal. What did the Yetties think could have happened to it? Write a list of possibilities. (For example it could have been left in London.) What had actually happened?

162 Language Study


Classifying Bob Jobbins talks about diferent kinds of news broadcast. He begins by pointing to the difference: Different radio programmes require different styles of writing and broadcasting Then goes on to describe types and examples:

1 Not all jobs require the same kind of qualifications. Some e.g. teaching academic qualifications eg a degree. Others eg newspaper reporter personal qualities eg stamina, the ability to assimilate information quickly and accurately 2 Different sports appeal to different people 3 Different countries seem to enjoy different kinds of food

some programmes, for example on a pop music channel, like short snappy reports. Others on more serious channels want more details and perhaps some analysis. Can you expand these opening sentences in the same way? There are some notes in 1 to help you. Write notes, then full sentences.

4 Different means of transport offer different advantages Read one of your completed paragraphs out to the class. Find out who has thought of a similar way to continue. Listen to their report and continue in the same way.

120 The Lexical Syllabus A lexical approach to discourse structure affords us a way of identifying those language items which the writer uses to give shape to the discourse, and which the reader uses to make predictions and to develop his mental map in line with the writer's intentions. Nowadays a feature of most EFL courses is 'the skills lesson', in which learners are given opportunities to practise the skills which go to make up successful communication. I have no doubt about the value of the skills lesson as one item of the EFL menu. But I am sure that such skills as prediction, skimming, scanning and so on are much more readily accessible to the learner if we can highlight those language items which enable us to predict and which, because they mark the macro-structure of text, provide important clues as we skim or scan a given text. Coverage of functions There is little danger of a task-based syllabus failing to provide good coverage of the main language functions. The content of Level 1 lists among other things the 'Social Language' covered. This incorporates most of the functions covered in courses which take language functions as a basic element in syllabus planning. Units 6 to 10 in Level 1 list the following:

Unit 6

SOCIAL LANGUAGE Asking where people are. Telephoning: getting put through. Agreeing and disagreeing. Asking people to wait.

Unit 9

Asking for and giving directions. Making suggestions, offers, requests. Asking about someone else's education.

Unit 10 Unit 7
Informal inviting, accepting, refusing and giving reasons. Shopping for clothes: asking for other things, making queries

Comparing experiences to find out something or someone in common

Unit 8

Asking about what people do Making and responding to more formal invitations. Classroom questions, instructions and queries

Many of these functions are highlighted when the models are dealt with:

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 121

138 Grammar Words


can, could (For meanings 1 and 2, could is the past tense of can. For meaning 3 could is a more formally polite form than can.) 1 ability/possibility Can you follow these directions? It must be John. It can't be anyone else. I was so tired I couldn't stay awake. What can you see from your classroom window? 1.1 could for suggestions A: What shall we do? B: We could go to the cinema. What about 1989? Could it be a telephone number? 2 permission You can write three words to help you remember. I asked if I could go home early. 3 offer/request Can you open the window a bit please? Could you open the window a bit please? Can I help you?

Say if these sentences are expressing meanings 1, 2 or 3. a Close your books and see how much you can remember. b You can go out now, but come back in ten minutes time. c Do you think you could help? d I can understand English but I can't speak very well. e I can't come tomorrow. I've got a meeting. f Can you spell that for me please? : g Can I carry that for you? h The tape was so fast that we couldn't understand. : i That could be John. j Can you hear me? Compare the examples in each category with those in the Grammar Book. The expression can be is very common. 'Housework can be very hard work' means 'Housework is sometimes very hard work'.

122 The Lexical Syllabus What can you say about learning English? Learning English can be. . . interesting, easy, difficult, very difficult, hard work, : very hard work, exciting, boring, horrible, en1oyable, fun, good fun

More important is the way native speaker recordings illustrate important language functions: b Reaching agreement MS: Well when I see . . . er . . . a windmill I always think of Holland, so I would say Holland, for that. PK: Mhm. Yes I think I agree with you. Have they reached agreement that it is a picture of Holland? Look what they go on to say. At which point do they actually reach agreement? PK: Mhm. Yes I think I agree with you. It's flat as well isn't it? MS: Yes. PK: So it must be Holland. MS: The PK: And the third one along the top? 171a How do they reach agreement on the other countries? This shows that a function like 'reaching agreement' can be socially and linguistically complex, and is not simply a matter of saying 'Yes, I agree with you': PK: It's - Yes, yes. We ve got North Africa, so MS: Right. Okay, let's say North Africa. PK: I think that's North Africa. MS: Right. PK: I don't think it's anywhere else that's on the list, so MS: No. PK: North Africa. Mhm. Right, now this one on the left down here. That looks a bit like the Grand Canyon to me. The important thing here is that it shows that the realisation of a particular language function is very often a cooperative venture. It is certainly the case that such realisations are often, indeed usually, much more complex than functionally based syllabuses normally acknowledge. Learners are not likely to acquire the ability to negotiate language functions by acquiring linguistic realisations such as: Yes, that's right. Or: Yes, I agree with you.

Word, Structure, Function and Discourse 123

Much more important is experience of the way such functions actually are negotiated and agreed in authentic discourse. Summary When we checked against the TEFL Side Corpus the language coverage we had achieved in CCEC, we found that we had either covered all the items traditionally covered or, as in the case of reported speech, had made a deliberate decision to omit them. We found that even with items like the verb phrase, which are covered with great thoroughness in traditional approaches, we had achieved comparable coverage. Given lexis as our starting point, there were differences in our treatment, particularly the decision to treat participles as adjectival and to derive progressive aspect and passive voice from this description. The lexical approach also led us to treat will, like other models, as a lexical item, and therefore to deny the notion of a future tense. We also found that our lexical approach had highlighted many important aspects of language which are largely ignored in many other courses. I have already mentioned the treatment of participles as adjectives. These were combined with prepositional phrases and noun modifiers, all of which assume great importance in structuring complex phrases in English. Similarly, we were able to identify and highlight for learners lexical items which are important in structuring discourse and which make up the hidden agenda in many skills lessons. Finally, we were able to offer good coverage of most language functions. This was a feature of our methodology and our reliance on authentic or spontaneous material. This led us to look at the negotiation of language functions, rather than simply to list idealised realisations of target functions. Central to all of this is the notion of the learner's corpus. What we need to do is provide learners with a corpus which contains the language potential that they need, and then to enable and encourage them to look at that corpus in detail. In this way we move from an itemised syllabus to a dynamic description of language which learners can make their own.

124

The Lexical Syllabus; Dave Willis Originally published by Collins ELT, 1990

CHAPTER 8: A brief review


Real language The lexical approach as we have described it so far is firmly based on real language. It draws on the COBUILD research which provides an analysis of a corpus of natural language of twenty million words. The COBUILD corpus provided the content of the lexical syllabus- the commonest words and phrases in English and their meanings. It also provided some insights into that content which modified and shaped the way we treated the language in the coursebooks. As a result, the picture we presented of the language was quite different from what we might have offered intuitively. Intuition alone would not have identified the most frequent words and phrases of the language, or recognised their importance. In the past the coursewriter's reliance on intuition has led to distortions in the treatment of the language. Pedagogic grammars have placed great emphasis on the verb phrase to the detriment of other aspects of language. The basic meanings of prepositions, usually to do with space and time, have been thoroughly treated, but other prepositional meanings have been undervalued. Less than half the uses of the preposition in, for example, are temporal or spatial. The central function of lexis in structuring discourse has also been largely overlooked. These and other failings of established approaches to syllabus specification amply justified the decision to go back to a description of real language. There were, in addition, many specific insights into the language - the use of some and any; the use of would for past habit; the collocation between can and be, and so on. The description of language implicit in the Collins COBUILD English Course is very different from other courses. We would argue that it is a more accurate description, and that this derives from the fact that it is based on real language. The CCEC materials offer a corpus of language to illustrate the insights derived from the original research. This corpus is in part natural language drawn from a number of sources (mainly written), and in part spontaneously produced spoken language drawn mainly from recordings of native speakers carrying out the tasks which form the basis of the course. This again is a departure from usual practice. Up to now no other coursebook at the elementary level offers predominantly authentic language. But I do not feel that there is any need to justify the decision to use almost exclusively authentic language. The onus rests with those who provide simplified and contrived language. They are the ones who should justify their procedures. The only real criticism of the use of authentic language would be if it proved too demanding for its target audience. That has not turned out to be the case. Indeed, it is not difficult to provide justification for the decision to use authentic language. The spontaneous recordings provide listening material which is very different from scripted material. The structure of overtly interactive spoken discourse is extremely complex and extremely difficult to simulate. There are a number of features in the CCEC recordings which are typical of spoken discourse, but which are often omitted in scripted dialogues:

A Brief review 125

191a DF: So. What do you do, again? You're a secretary, or BG: Yes. DF: more thanBG I'm a secretary for Alistair. DF: Okay. Erm BG: And I also do all his admin. And I work for John, who's our African Manager. DF: Okay, so like a PA. BG: To Alistair, yes. DF: Yeah. Okay. BG: And then, I sort of help John out with all his administration. DF: Right. Erm Are you planning to stay where you are? BG: Yes. DF: In your job? BG: For the - for the time being. DF: Erm So you're quite happy with it? BG: Yes. DF: Erm Have you got any long-term plans for the future, in terms of work? BG: Erm I'm not sure. I - it depends sort of what happens between now and then really. Erm But, for the time being I'm happy. I'll just see what happens. DF: Right. How long have you been there? BG: Since May, last year. DF: Oh. So you've only - you have have you BG: I haven't even been there a year yet. DF: Yeah. Yeah.... Okay. Right.

The turntaking is not as neatly organised as in most scripted dialogues. David and Bridget build up a description of Bridget's job over ten turns. The basic structure of their discourse is not simply a series of question and answer pairs. David constantly uses items like yeah, and okay, to signal that he has received and understood the answer to his question. The basic structure, therefore, is a three part exchange with question and answer followed by an acknowledgement of the answer before the next question. This structure has been familiar to discourse analysts (see Sinclair and Coulthard 1975) for many years, but these insights have rarely been incorporated in teaching materials. The word right is used twice. Each time it indicates the end of one part of the agenda and the beginning of another. The use of again in David's opening utterance links back to an earlier stage in the discourse. There are two important points here. The first is that there is a great deal happening in spontaneous discourse which is idealised out of scripted dialogues. The second is that these features are a result of the fact that discourse is negotiated interactively. It is not a question of interlocutors taking turns to encode meanings. It is a matter of interlocutors combining to create a discourse. Scripted dialogues usually have more in common with written than with spoken language. There is an implied attempt to teach learners to speak written English. Not surprisingly this is something they find difficult to do.

126

The Lexical Syllabus

When we began to pilot spontaneous recordings, we were worried that they might cause insurmountable problems for remedial beginners. This did not turn out to be the case. If anything, the spontaneous recordings were easier to process. We were surprised at this, but we should not have been. Interactive spoken discourse is structured the way it is in order to make comprehension easier, not in order to make it more difficult. The redundancy and overt discourse signals built into it do not obscure the message. Just the reverse - they make the discourse more accessible both to the participants and to other listeners. The reason why spontaneous discourse is often inordinately difficult to understand is that there is shared knowledge and shared assumptions between the participants which are not shared by other listeners. In the case of taskbased listening the tasks can be designed to ensure that shared knowledge between the participants which is not shared by the listener can be kept to a minimum. Written texts in EFL coursebooks are often used simply to illustrate the pedagogic grammar which the coursebook writers want to impart to learners. But as we have seen, this grammar is often of doubtful validity. It is also based on the belief that the selection of, say, the past simple rather than the present perfect is a function of meaning in some objective sense. In fact the selection of one form rather than another is a result of the speaker's or writer's choice. It is difficult to see how one might justify contrived texts which are designed to present a precise contrast between past simple and present perfect, when we know that very often the contrast is not precise but a matter of choice. A procedure which focuses on a clear cut contrast and ignores cases in which choice operates, obscures the fact that very often no such contrast exists objectively. Language use is not a matter of conforming to a set of restrictive rules. It is a matter of exploiting the language system to achieve communicative intentions. The language used is shaped by the purpose for which it is being used. Language which is being used simply to illustrate an abstract grammatical system has no purpose and therefore offers no basis for choice. Some coursebook writers defend the use of simplified language on the grounds that simplification is a natural phenomenon. We simplify our language when we are speaking to children and also when we are speaking to language learners. There is therefore no reason why writers should not simplify their language in this way when they are writing material for an EFL coursebook. This might be acceptable if they then took the trouble to ascertain that the language produced in this way is in fact typical of the target language, and that the words and phrases which their students are likely to meet outside the classroom are indeed covered by the simplified language they are offering. It may be that what they are offering is not simplified, but simply restricted. They would also need to show some principled development from the simplified code in the direction of the target language as used by adult native speakers. On the question of how far simplified language is typical of language as a whole - how far it exploits the typical words and patterns of English - I would suggest that there are at least two reasons why simplified language is not typical of language as a whole. When simplifying our language we use specific techniques- repetition, paraphrase, exemplification and so on. Simplified language is, therefore, likely to be different in discourse structure from other manifes-

A Brief Review 127

tations of natural language. There are also doubts about the simplification techniques used in selecting or creating examples to demonstrate features of language form for the learner. A language description which focuses on sentence structure is likely to simplify out any features which detract from that focus. Thus the sentence:
Yes I do, I like being a father.

is a very likely sentence at the presentation or practice stage of a lesson. A sentence like:
Yes, my wife and I both like having kids around the house.

is very unlikely as a pattern sentence in a teaching context, but it is by no means an unlikely sentence of English. Language materials based on a functional description of language tend to produce highly explicit realisations of language functions. In such materials suggestions are realised by:
If I were you I would . . .

or:
Why don't you . . .

They are rarely realised by:


Well what I do is . . .

or:
One answer would be to . . .

Simplification, therefore, is not neutral. It is conditioned by the description of the language which materials wish to present. If they wish to describe the language structurally, that will dictate certain priorities and omissions. Contrived simplification of language in the preparation of materials will always be faulty, since it is generated without the guide and support of a communicative context. Only by accepting the discipline of using authentic language are we likely to come anywhere near presenting the learner with a sample of language which is typical of real English. Task-based methodology By a task I mean an activity which involves the use of language but in which the focus is on the outcome of the activity rather than on the language used to achieve that outcome. It is what I described earlier as a replication activity, because it replicates important features of communication outside the classroom. Most teachers are well aware of the value of tasks in language learning. Most teaching centres have shelves full of books which help teachers bring activities of this kind into their classrooms. But tasks have rarely been used as the basis of published coursebook materials. This is because there is a basic contradiction between the structural syllabus and the use of tasks. The structural

128 The Lexical Syllabus

syllabus depends on grading language patterns according to certain notions of difficulty, and then presenting these patterns to the learner one at a time. Control of language is essential to the structural approach. A task-based methodology on the other hand, does not control in the same way the language demands placed on the learner. It encourages learners to make the best use they can of whatever language they have. It assumes that learners will find ways of encoding the meanings they need in order to achieve the desired outcome, but it does not try to predict or control the language that will be used to achieve the outcome. One way of looking at the opposition between form-focused and task-based approaches is that form-focused approaches see language as a system of patterns or structures. Learners are gradually introduced to more and more complex patterns until they have built up a picture of the whole language. Task-based approaches see language as a system of meanings. This view is succinctly characterised by Halliday (1975) in the title of a study of child language acquisition, Learning How to Mean. For Halliday, the learning of a language is essentially the learning of a semantic system. Language develops in response to the demands made on the learner's meaning system. The crucial thing is what meanings can the learner encode? How well can learners exploit the language they have in order to meet the demands imposed upon them? From a learning point of view, how readily can they expand their language system in response to the demand placed upon them? When one looks at language as a semantic system, this offers a whole new perspective on the dichotomy between fluency and accuracy. The concept of accuracy relates very much to a form-focused view of language. In thinking of accuracy, most teachers are addressing the question of how far the language tokens produced by learners do accurately reflect the grammar of English. But one might ask another question. How precisely are learners able to encode the meanings they wish to encode? This is an ability which requires them, particularly in the early stages of learning, to exploit their language learning resources in a way that distorts formal code:
(Errors) take place because the learner attempts to adjust the language he is learning to make it an effective instrument of communication and he does this by calling upon those strategies which he employs in his own language. Errors are the result of the learner's attempt to convert his linguistic usage into communicative use. (Widdowson 1979)

It is these demands on the learner's system which oblige learners to refine and expand their language resources. The exercise of choice will lead the learner into error because only in exercising choice in this way are learners obliged to create new meanings, and, in creating them, to extend their language resources. This creation of meaning is the first stage of learning. Refining the language used is a later stage. A presentation methodology is based on the belief that out of accuracy comes fluency. A task-based methodology is based on the belief that out of fluency comes accuracy, and that learning is prompted and refined by the need to communicate. Once we view language as a semantic system, the arguments for a task-based methodology of some kind are overwhelming. The problem then is to devise a

A Brief Review 129

methodology which will place appropriate demands on the learner's system. The Collins COBUILD English Course attempts to do this first by ordering tasks as far as possible according to the communicative demands they place on learners, and secondly by varying the communicative circumstances through a basic Task - Planning- Report cycle, so as to place varying demands on the need for formal accuracy. A form-focused approach does not place such demands on the learner. It requires the learner to produce target forms to a large extent irrespective of meaning. In the final event it is still rooted in a behaviourist theory which believes in controlling and shaping the learner's code towards a desired outcome. Advocates of such approaches argue that we cannot reasonably expect learners to carry out certain tasks because 'they don't have the language to do it' because 'they haven't done conditionals yet', and so on. But trying to carry out tasks which stretch their language resources is useful to learners in two ways. It obliges them to make the best possible use of the language they do have. And it makes them aware of failings in the meaning system they have developed - it highlights the need for learning. A shortcoming of task-based approaches is that they make it difficult to specify syllabus content, and as teachers we cannot be sure what is being learnt in the course of a given language activity or in a given unit. What we can do, however, is define a learner's corpus which covers the most important meanings and patterns in English. We can then exploit that corpus by using it as a source for language awareness activities, and we can enable the learner to exploit it by referencing and recycling the material it contains. An approach of this kind takes account of the fact that we cannot describe the logic by which a learner's system develops. We must equip learners to take advantage of whatever learning opportunities occur, not by presenting language to them a piece at a time, but by enabling them to look more and more critically at their own language experience. The lexical syllabus Taking lexis as a starting point enabled us to identify the commonest meanings and patterns in English, and to offer students a picture which is typical of the way English is used. We were able to follow through the work of Wilkins and his colleagues in their attempt to specify a notional syllabus. We were also able to offer learners a way of referencing the language they had experienced. Thus learners were able to use their corpus in the same way as grammarians and lexicographers use a corpus - in order to make valid and relevant generalisations about the language under study. We did not work from other pedagogic grammars, but from a body of research into natural language. This meant that we were able to offer a more complete pedagogic description of the language and also a better balanced description. Coursebooks which take other coursebooks as their starting point draw on the strengths of accumulated experience. But unless they go back to look at language they are also likely to perpetuate the failings of other courses. They spend an inordinate amount of time on the verb phrase and ignore other

130 The Lexical Syllabus

important features of language. We not only took a lexical description as our starting point, we also checked the course content against other courses by checking against the TEFL Side Corpus. We found that we had covered to our satisfaction all that is traditionally in elementary and intermediate courses in terms of structures and functions, and had covered a good deal more besides. Where we made omissions, we did so on the basis of a deliberate decision. We decided, for example, that reported speech was not a valid category in a pedagogic, or indeed in a formal grammar. We did not, therefore, find it necessary to spend a large amount of time on tenses in reported speech. Similarly, by highlighting the meaning of would and encouraging learners to identify these meanings for themselves we avoided the need to spend time focusing specifically on the second conditional. There were several reasons why we were able to offer more complete coverage. The first reason of course was that we were working from a more complete description of the language than most materials writers are able to work from. The data sheets for Level 1 alone ran to hundreds of pages which we had to distil into fifteen units (around one hundred and twenty hours of study for remedial beginners). Secondly, having omitted items like reported speech and the second conditional, we made time to look at other features of language which we felt to be more important or more problematic. We looked, for example, at the use of prepositions and participles in the noun phrase, and at those lexical items which are important in the structuring of discourse. This gave us a more balanced picture of language than pedagogic grammars normally achieve. Most important of all, we shifted responsibility for learning onto the learner - where it belongs. A presentation methodology purports to teach the language, resting on the belief that there is a close relationship between input and intake. A methodology of this kind spends a large amount of time on a very limited number of language patterns. It fails manifestly to work in the way it is supposed to work. Learners do not extend their control of the language piece by piece. It cannot work in the way it is supposed to, because we do not have a description of language which might enable us to input the grammar in any worthwhile sense. Instead of presenting discrete patterns to the learner, we enabled the learner to experience a corpus of language which is in many ways typical of the language as a whole, and to learn from examining and analysing this corpus. By offering learners exposure to carefully selected language, and by equipping them to analyse that language for themselves, we are enlisting the learners help. There is no longer an appearance that learning is dependent on teacher control. The most dynamic element in the process is the learner's creativity. By exploiting rather than stifling that creativity, we make learning vastly more efficient. The role of the teacher We hear more and more frequently nowadays that the role of the teacher is not so much to teach as to manage learning - to create an environment in which learners can operate effectively. Sometimes this is taken further, and the job of the teacher is to help learners manage their own learning. This is the teacher

A Brief Review 131

helping learners to discover for themselves the best and most effective way for them to learn. Certainly there is a move to a much greater focus on the learner, and a greater recognition of the fact that the most important variable in the language learning process is the individual learner. We are much more likely to realise this ideal if we abandon the idea of the teacher as knower and concentrate instead on the notion of the learner as discoverer. There is nothing new in this notion. It was put forward by interlanguage theorists like Corder and Selinker almost twenty years ago. But there is an understandable reluctance on the part of teachers to abandon the role of knower. It is a comfortable role in a number of ways, not least because, since the role of knower is a high status role, it paradoxically allows us to cover up or redefine what we do not know. But even when teachers wish to break away from the role, it has not been easy for them to do so. Materials which are based on the assumption that the best way for learners to learn is to discover the grammar for themselves and that the teacher is a guide to this discovery process, have been few and far between. It is to be hoped that techniques which specify a learner's corpus, and provide learners with a framework within which to examine that corpus, will enable teachers to place learners at the centre of the learning process. The way ahead Most of the things we have tried to do in the Collins COBUILD English Course have been done with varying degrees of success by other materials writers and teachers for years. Language tasks which focus on outcome rather than form are part of the repertoire of most teachers, and there is a wealth of material to support activities of this kind. The promotion of language awareness and the analysis of language by learners are also established techniques but, although other materials writers have used authentic materials, to my knowledge none have made spontaneous spoken interaction the basis for a course at the elementary level. But this is not a denial of the desirability of using language of this kind - simply an acknowledgement of the difficulty of doing so. The notion of a learner's corpus and the deliberate attempt to reference and exploit that corpus are, I think, innovations. The learner's corpus is a direct consequence of taking the COBUILD corpus as a starting point. It was this starting point which gave us the idea of enabling the learner to work with a corpus just as a lexicographer or grammarian works with a corpus. It was the computational techniques used in the COBUILD project which enabled us to exploit the learner's corpus in this way. As computers are used more and more in the study of large corpora of text and as aids to teachers and learners of languages, so these techniques will be further developed. In the Collins COBUILD English Course we, as materials writers, acted as intermediaries between learners and corpus, taking decisions as to what was worth highlighting and when. It is now technically possible to bring decisions of this kind much closer to the classroom. Teachers can scan a corpus and decide for themselves which features are likely to be most useful and valuable for their students. Students themselves can have access to a corpus. Using the FIND command on a word processing package they can examine

132

The Lexical Syllabus

a range of uses of a given word in its original contexts. Using a concordancing programme they can bring those uses together and either compare them with a description provided by a teacher or a set of materials, or produce their own description. Given the rapidly improving state of technology it is more than likely that the notion of the learner's corpus will play a progressively larger part in the repertoire of the coursewriter, the teacher and the learner. In future we may come to think of the business of designing a syllabus as a process of constructing and exploiting a corpus of language with a particular group of learners in mind. A process of this kind acknowledges the proper respect due to both the learner and the language.

Index
ability to learn/generalise/activate knowledge iiif, viii, 8ff, 12f, 22ff. 41 ff, 64. 129, 131 see acquisition; knowing a language; learners role about 110 abstract use of language 50f accumulated entities 7, 42ff see structural syllabus; synthetic approaches accuracy v 495. 42, 60ff 86.124. 128f see form-focused activities acquisition 22. 24. 41. 5i, 59, 69. 81.108 active voice 18 activities see communicative activities; form-focused activities: tasks adapted texts see inauthentic texts adequacy 60f adjectival relative clauses 91 adjectives 8, 16ff. 23. 93,102f. 105ff, 110, 123 adverbial phrases 43 adverbials 26 adverbs of frequency 108 affirmative sentences 9, 49, 51 again 125 agent 17 analysis of language vii, 12, 68. 72, 82, 85, 106, 123,130f analysis stage 64f, 68, 72f, 94f see Language Study analytic approaches 42. 44ff. 72 see synthetic approaches anv 9,13. 49, 5L 53ff, 70, 76, 92,124 appropriacy see style are 87 articles 24 aspect 15, 17, 24, 92, 100ff see -ed/-en; -ing; perfective aspect; progressive aspect; tense assimilation see acquisition at llO authenticity 74ff see language use authentic language 74ff, 85,123,124,127 authentic materials 26, 45f, 74ff, 85,103.123, 131 auxiliaries 87 95 awareness raising 23f. 86. 101, 107, 115, 129, 131 be v 16f 38 85. 93 102. 105. 124 beginners 42 see false beginners behaviourism 129 Birmingham University vf Bongers, H 46 broad 40 Brumfit C J 6 by 17, 48f, 68f, 88ff. 106ff see passive voice can 88,104. 124 Caroll, J B et al.46 categories 40ff, 48ff. 77fl, 82, 91,102 see description of the language structural syllabus cause and effect 6, 81f choice see communicative purpose; contrastive presentation; language use chunks of language 39, 72f see collocation; fixed phrases; holophrases circumstances of communication 59ff, 129 citation 57ff. 93 see controlled pattern practice classroom see language classroom classroom talk 12ff, 34f. 63f, 77 clause structure 3, 7. 15, 43 closed grammatical systems 43 COBUILD corpus vii, 18, 27ff, 46, 48ff, 74. 78f, 91,124,131 COBUILD project/research vff, 27ff, 46, 47ff, 72, 76, 92. 105, 124, 131 Collins v, 15 Collins COBUILD English Course (CCEC) vf, 15.17,19ff, 28, 32, 34ff, 47ff, 52, 59.61, 63, 66ff, 74ff, 91ff, 124ff, 129.131 see teacher's notes Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary 18, 27ff, 41. 52, 78, 91 see dictionary entries collocation 40f. 52, 124 see 'chunks'of language; fixed phrases; holophrases common meanings ivff, 15, 46ff, 70, 74, 79,124,129 common patterns ivff, 15, 38. 51f, 70. 72. 74. 77. 83,129 common phrases 31 common words vff, 15. 28, 38, 39, 46ff. 51. 70f, 74. 77. 80. 83, 85, 91 110 124 see frequency communicative ability see skills communicative activities iii, 1, 495. 57ff see replication communicative aims iv. 5 see communicative effect; communicative purpose communicative approach v, viii, 2, 4ff, 57ff, see communicative methodology communicative context 60, 127, see circumstances of communication communicative effect 10f see communicative purpose communicative methodology 6,14,57ff,see communicative approach; methodology; task-based methodology communicative purpose 5. 12, 60, 74f, 126 see communicative aims complements see adjectives complex phrases 123 see noun phrases computer input slips 29ff computers 131f see COBUILD project; concordances; corpus; database concordances 28ff. 48f, 53, 69. 76ff, 132 concrete objects 51 conditionals 15f. 1 8f. 22f. 50f. 81. 91, 93 see first/second/third conditional consciousness raising see awareness raising consensus syllabus see TEFL Side Corpus continuous tenses 102, 110 see -ing; progressive aspect contrastive presentation 25.108.126 controlled pattern practice 1, 72f, 90 see drills; form-focused activities conventions of communication 11 co-occurrence see collocation Corder S P iii 24 42 131 corpus 68f, 72 74 77 84f, 91,124,129ff see COBUILD corpus; learner's corpus; TEFL Side Corpus correction see teacher's role could 6 13. 18f. 63f 88, 104f Coulthard, R M 125 Council of Europe v. 6, 42 44f see notional-functional syllabus Wilkins course writers see materials coverage 77f see syllabus; TEFL Side Corpus Dahl, R 20.78 database vi, 30ff. 48, 78 see COBUILD corpus; COBUILD project data sheets 32ff. 52. 54ff, 71. 74. 76ff, 130 definite articles 24 delexical verbs 95 description of the language iiif, vii. 7f, 10ff, 15. 20ff. 23f, 27, 69, 73, 123, 124, 127, 129f see formal grammars; pedagogic grammars determiners 24 dictionary entries 30ff, 48, 78, 84 see Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary did 94f difficulty v, 9, 15f, 19ff, 24ff, 39, 44, 77, 85, 107, 108, 124, 126, 128, 131 discourse v 11f, 30f, 50ff, 70, 74, 77, 91,123,124ff discourse structure 50, 83, 115ff. 123, 124ff, 130 do 87, 94f drills 58, 72f. 90, 108 see controlled pattern practice Duff, A iii dynamic adjectives 8, 16f economy of description 100 economy of syllabus v, viii, 19, 21, 23, 41, 44, 51, 75, 91f --ed/-en 17, 81,105ff efficiency 61 elementary level 50ff, 77. 85, 92.124,130f see false beginners Ellis, R iii. 59f English as a lexical language 22ff English text vi 46 74 see COBUILD corpus, natural language established approaches 43, 52, 92, 129 examples 74, 90, 108,.127 exercises 36 see communicative activities; form-focused activities; grammar exercises; tasks experience of language 14, 41, 51, 63, 91,. 108, 123, 129f see exposure to language learner's corpus exposure to language iiif, vii, 9, 14, 24, 26, 40, 42ff, 47, 50, 51f, 63, 74f, 79, 84, 90, 91ff, 130 events 51 false beginners iv, 47, 74, 76f, 126, 130 see elementary level first conditional 9f see conditionals first language 12, 51 fixed phrases 31, 39, 41 see 'chunks' of language; collocation; holophrases fluency v, 6, 11, 42, 72f, 128 see communicative activities for I 10 formal grammars 15. 60. 92f, 100 see description of the language formality see style form-focused activities 1ff. 10. 14, 26, 57. 62. 64. 72f, 90 form-focused approach 128f see presentation methodology; structural syllabus frequency 28. 46ff, 52. 74, 7'ff frequency bands 46f, 74 frequent words see common words from functional labels 81 functional syllabus see notional-functional syllabus functions 3, 6, 15, 44, 47, 72, 91ff, 110, 118, 120ff, 127, 130 see notional-functional syllabus

Index 135
future 3f. 9f, 12. 42.51, 68, 93. 99,103 future continuous 93 future tense 93, 99. 100, 123 games see communicative activities; replication General Service List 47 gerund 57 see -ing going to 4 42 51 grading ivf, 44, 85ff, 128 grammar 70. 79ff, 81, 90, 91ffsee description of the language; formal grammars; pedagogical grammars: user's grammar Grammar Book 88ff. 95f, 101f, 107 see reference sections grammar exercises 35, 37. 68, 79ff, 87. 89. 94f, 98. 101f, 106f, 112ff, 117f. 121 grammar-translation 12f grammatical behaviour 39. 80 grammatical description see description of the language grammatical syllabus see structural syllabus grammatical system 14, 24. 43f, 126 see user's grammar Halliday, M A K 92. 128 Hanks, P 40f has 81 have 99 have got 86f Hoey, M 115 holophrases 72f see chunkst of language; collocation; fixed phrases hypothesis 1 8f, 23, 50f. 64f. 68, 93, 96f, 119 see would idealised language 123 see inauthentic texts; simplified language; TEFLese if 18f. 93. 96ff, 100 imperative 17 in 110 124 inauthentic texts 12, 26, 75.124 see idealised language; simplified language indefinite articles 24 indexes 82. 90f see reference sections infinitive vi. 35f, 38 see to inflection 24, 81 -ing vi If 36f 49 57 81 93.101ff. 107,110 input iii, i4, 22f, 64f, 76. 80.130 instructions 13 see rubrics interlanguage24, 131 intermediate level 49. 52, 92, 130 interrogative forms 9. 49. 94f interrupted past 100f intonation 86 introduction stage 63ff, 72 introspection 27 see intuition intuition v, 41, 49f, 52. 77, 85,124 is 81 invented texts see inauthentic texts inversion 86 knowing a language 10f. 41, 51, 60, 70 see ability to learn Krashen. S D 65 Labov 59 language awareness see awareness raising language behaviour 7f language classroom iv, 7, 12ff. 42, 51, 57, 59ff, 75,109 language in use see language use language lesson as social event 13. 60f Language Study 19, 67, 82. 84ff, 98, 99. 103. 109, 114, 119 see analysis stage language system 59 language usage 10ff. 26, 45f. 71,129 language use ivff, 2ff, 10ff. 14,15,18, 22f, 26, 39ff. 45f. 50f, 58f. 63f 68ff. 73, 74f, 90, 91, 103, 10.'f. 126, 127f see possible language use, typical language use language varieties 59ff learner's corpus viif. 49, 65ff. 72, 74. 76ff, 84f. 88. 90. 91. 93, 103. 107. 123, 124. 129ff learner's role 10,13, 90, 128ff learner's system 129 see user's grammar learning objectives 70f, 79 learning strategies 8 see learner's role level of detail 52. 70f see syllabus Lewis, M 10 lexical items31, 118.123,130 see common words lexically-based grammar 80ff, 90 lexical objectives 71, 79 lexical research see COBUILD project lexical sets 77 lexical syllabus vff 15ff 22ff. 27. 32. 46ff, 52. 59ff. 70ff, 76, 81, 88 90, 91ff. 124ff. 129 lexicon entries 36 see dictionary entries; reference sections like 78f linguistic syllabus see structural syllabus listening and repeating see form-focused activities listening stage 64f, 72f see recordings Littlewood 5 Main Corpus 28, 48 see COBUILD corpus Maley. A iii management of learning 130f materials 10. 69. 90.131 McTear. M F 2 meaningful use of language 58 see language use meanings see categories metalanguage 43, 91 see semantic labels; structural labels methodology iiiff vi ii, 1ff. 15. 42ff. 57ff. 61. 65 72f. 76, 84, 90 103.108f. 123. 129 see communicative methodology; presentation methodology; task-based methodology might 4. 18f mini-corpus see learner's corpus modal verbs v. 6,13.18f. 42, 87. 92f, 99f, 103ff, 120f. 123 mood 92 morphemes 81 motivation 60, 75f Nation, I S P 46 native speaker language 39.41 see language use; natural language, recordings natural language 85, 91. 124. 127. 129 see language use naturally occurring text 27 see authentic text; language use naturalness 40 see language use need for language forms 65 needs of learner 39ff, 47.70 negative forms 9, 49, 94f negotiation of meaning 61, 125 notional-functional syllabus iii. 6. 15, 42. 44ff. 57, 91, 110.122, 127, 129 not-past 100 noun 16 noun clauses 22f noun clauses with that v, 21f noun modifiers see noun plus noun noun phrases 15 17. 43, 91f. 109ff, 123,130 noun plus noun 1l2ff, 123 objects see concrete objects occasion for use 41 of vi 36f, 52. 110ff okay 125 omissions 77, 92,123, 127,129f on 110 open-ended grammatical systems 43 operational system see user's grammar ordering of syllabus content 42f, 45. 85ff see grading; syllabus order of acquisition 24 order of tasks/texts 77, 85 outcomes see communicative activities; language use; tasks; task-based methodology Palmer, H E 46 participles 110. 123,130 see adjectives; past participles; present participles passive voice v 16ff 22f. 42. 44. 48. 72, 90. 93, 105ff. 110. 123 past continuous 24, 93, 100 past habit 49ff, 124 past participles 16ff. 23, 81, 93. 105ff, 110 past perfect 93,103 past simple 10. 24ff, 93,100,126 past tense 19f. 23, 64f, 81, 92ff, 96f past time 2() past time adverbials 26 pattern practice see controlled pattern practice patterns 51f see controlled pattern practice; structural syllabus pedagogical grammars iii. 8ff. 15. 22. 43. 49. 63ff. 69f. 91ff, 102f. 124 126.129f see description of the language perfective aspect 24,100,103 person 21.81 Phrase-building 83 phrase structure 110 see noun phrases piloting 76ff. 85.126 place 21f, 23 see space planning 61ff, 72f, 129 plural 81 point 41 possession 81 possible language use 40f see typical language use possibility 18. 64f. 68. 88, 93 Prabhu, N S iii, 8, 24.43 practice see controlled pattern practice; presentation methodology pragmatics 31. 39, 48 prediction 14. 118ff prepositional phrases 16. 110ff. 123 prepositions 69.110ff. 124, 130 presentation methodology iiif. 395, 12ff, 57f. 60. 69, 72. 127f, 130 presentation practice and production see presentation methodology present continuous ivf, 2ff, 8, 12, 24, 42, 92, 103, 127 present participles 102 see -ing; progressive aspect present perfect 9f, 25f, 93, 103, 127 present perfect continuous 93

Index 136
present simple iv, 9f, 24, 92, 108 present tense 9f, 20, 85, 92ff present time 9 prestige variety 59ff priority 15f problem solving 63 see communicative activities; replication production see presentation methodology progress 5, 24 progressive aspect 17, 24, 49f, 92f, l00ff, 123 proliferation 40 sec difficulty propositional adequacy see adequacy questions 295. 59. 85ff, see interrogative forms Quirk, R et al. 17 r re 85 real English see language use; real language real language 124ff see language use real meanings see language use real outcomes see language use recordings 34f 62, 64, 74ff, 91,108 sec spontaneous recordings recycling 69 8Sf 88, 90, 105f, 129 reference sections 80, 84f, 88, 90, 91. 95f reference skills 84 referencing 81. 90f. 129,131 rehearsing 61f, 74 sec form-focused activities; report; task-based methodology relative clauses vi. 43, 91 remedial beginners see false beginners Renouf, A Z7, 76 repetition see controlled pattern practice replication 58ff, 127 report 61ff, 72. 129 reported speech 16. 20ff, 23,44, 51, 81.90. 91f, 123,130 reported statements see reported speech reported thought 22 reporting verbs 20ff requests 6 Review pages 34f, 90 right 125 role of teacher see teacher's role role play 58 see communicative activities; simulation rubrics 34. 77f rules 7f, 20f. 23. 26, 40, 108f, 126 Rutherford, W E iii, 7f -s 81 s 81, 85 scripted dialogue vii, 75, 124f see inauthentic texts; recordings scripted recordings see scripted dialogue second conditional 18f, 23, 44, 50f, 90, 93,130 second language acquisition 59 see acquisition see 50 selection of syllabus content see syllabus selection preference 40 Selinker, L iii, 24, 131 semantic distinctions 40 semantic fields 30 semantic labels 81 semantic system 128 sentence structure 3, 6f, 10,15 see structural syllabus shared knowledge 126 signalling see discourse structure; prediction simplified language 45f, 74, 124f. 126f see inauthentic texts; TEFLese simulation 57ff Sinclair, 3 M v, 12; 46,125 skills 5, lOf, 14,120,123 see reference skills so 80f social context see style; language lesson social language 70, 120ff social pressures 60f see circumstances of communication some 49, 92. 124 we any space 50, 124 specialised text 46f specially written text 26 see inauthentic text specific needs 47 see needs of learner spoken discourse see spontaneous recordings; discourse spontaneity 74ff see language use spontaneous language use 61, 74ff, 85,123 see language use spontaneous recordings vii, 64. 74ff, 85, 124ff, 131 stative adjectives 8.16f stative verbs 49 structural labels 82 see metalanguage structural syllabus iii, vi, 2f. 5ff. 14, 1 5ff, 22f, 27, 41ff, 52, 60, 91, 110, 127f, 130 style 59ff subject 18 subject-verb concord 22.24 subordinate clause 9 surrender value 42, 45f see economy of syllabus syllabus ivf, viii, Iff. 15, 27. 39ff. 50. 52. S7ff. 65, 70f, 74ff. 91. 120ff, 123, 124ff. 129. 132 see economy of syllabus; level of detail syllabus coverage sec syllabus; TEFL Side Corpus syllabus design see syllabus syllabus organisation 74ff see syllabus syntactic environment 31, 38, 39, 48, 52, 118 synthetic approaches 41 ff see analytic approaches; structural syllabus system see grammatical system; language system; rules; semantic system task based methodology 15. 61ff, 70, 77, 84f. 90,120,123.126, tasks iv, vii, 19, 34, 35. 61ff, 70, 72f. 74ff, 84f, 97.124,126, 127ff teacher control sec teacher's role teacher's notes 70f teacher's role 3ff, 10,13, 26. 42, 59ff, 69, 90,130f teaching strategy 24ff. 42, 44, 57 TEFLese vii see simplified language TEFL Side Corpus 16, 79, 92, 123, 130 temporal clauses 9 see time adverbials tense 15f, 20f, 23.81, 92ff, 100 and see tenses listed separately text see corpus; English text text-patterns see discourse structure texts vii, 14, 6Sff, 68. 70, 74. 76ff. 91. 103. 107,126 see authentic materials, inauthentic texts that v, 21f, SO, 52 thing 39ff, 50, 52 third conditional 93 this 50 Thorndike vi Threshold Syllabus v, 6, 45 Tickoo M L 47 time 21f, 23 26, 50,124see future; present time; past time; past time adverbials to vi, 35f, 38. 52, 110 topics 1, 76 transformation 18.23 see form-focused activities transitivity 15 turntaking 75,125 see scripted dialogue typical language use 40f, S l. 69, 126f, 129f see collocation unscripted language see recordings; spontaneous language up ll0 usage see language usage use see language use used to 49ff user's grammar 8, 10, 24, 60 utility 44, 47, 74, 77 variable competence methodology 61ff variable competence model 59 varieties see language varieties verb group 43 verb phrases 15, 91ff, 123,124,129 verbs of motion 50 vocabulary 39 46 voice 15, 92f see active voice; passive voice way vi. 28ff, 40ff, 50.69 Waystage Syllabus v, 45 West, M vi, 46f when 100 which 91 who 91 wh- words 88 Widdowson, H G lOff. 26, 45,128 wide 40 Wilkins, D A 42, 44f, 72,129 wil1 4 18f 42, 92f, 100, 103, 123 Willis, Dave (J D) v, 15, 57, 61 Willis, Jane (J R) v, 1.15, 61 Winter, E O 115 with 110ff word indexes see indexes word meanings see common meanings; lexical syllabus word order 24 Wordpower 36.83 written language 65, 74, 76. 78, 124ff see texts would 6.18f, 23. 49ff, 56, 65f, 70, 76, 77, 79, 93. 96ff. 103, 124, 130# yeah 125