Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Leo Selivan’s talk, taken from my tweets.

Leo starts with a brief history of English, with the Norman Invasion in 1066, which brought French and Latin affixes like ‘-ible’ ‘-dict- and more. Here are some examples. This kind of word makes up about 60% of English.


This is the pie that makes up English. It’s essentially a hybrid romance language:

He showed us this video:
When the Normans arrived, most basic words were already Anglo-Saxon. That’s why we ended up with lots of pairs. Here are examples of German/Latinate pairs which are synonyms, or have more specific meanings:

By number of words, English is by far the largest language in the world. That’s words, not meanings, excluding technically specific language, new words and variations on the same word.
There are challenges for learners, as they have to choose between different words for the same translation:

There are lexical voids in English too (missing words), like we only have one word for ‘no’. But most of the time English is much more lexically dense, for example three English words for the Spanish ‘humido’.
What’s the difference between these pairs of words?

Most synonyms are restricted, not true e.g. start/begin – they are based on collocation, register, colligation, semantic prosody.
Leo will focus on multi-part verbs as they are challenging but also creative:

Multi-part verbs do not have formal equivalents. Rather, they tend to collocate with different words. For example, here is the spread of ‘investigate’ and ‘look into’ by register.

Semantic prosody is the semantic environment a word tends to occur in. ’cause’ often negative, but ‘bring about’ is neutral.
Colligation is the grammatical environment of a word. For example, ‘take in’ is often passive.
Practical ideas: collocation forks:

Teach higher-level students affixes, especially if they are Romance speakers.
Look words up twice: once in bilingual dictionary, once in monolingual dictionary for depth of meaning.
Ask students to present the difference between a pair of words.
Try ‘Just the word’ – it’s a great site for collocations and word frequency.
Treat teaching lexis by offering synonyms with caution – we need learners to know how different words are.

Neil McMahon includes some comments on Leo’s talk in his post about day 2 of the conference.
Jonathan Sayer’s take on Leo’s talk.


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