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13 Questions out of 30 on the English lexicon and half an answer

Below are 13 out of the 30 questions or considerations which are part of the Foundation Course workbook for topic 10/1993  to help you prepare well and write a good essay on The English Lexicon and its word-formation processes.

13 Questions on the English Lexicon

Lexical Competence and Lexis

  1. How would you define lexical competence?
  2. What is the difference between a lexical item and a grammatical word? And between variable and invariable words?
  3. Is be/am/is/are/was/were/being/been the same word or are they different? Justify your answer.
  4. Explain the difference between words such as hard/harder and meaning/meaningful.

Word-formation processes

  1. How would you define the main characteristics of English Lexicon, particularly in terms of word formation?
  2. Is there a generic term for suffixes and prefixes? If so, what is it?
  3. Suffixes can be classified into two large groups, which are they and what’s their connection with variable and invariable words? And between lexical and grammatical competencies?
  4. What type of words do suffixes form?
  5. Can you name two suffixes which have entered the language fairly recently?
  6. How would you justify the need to teach students the rules of word-formation in English?

Implementation in the classroom

  1. How would you connect the use of dictionaries with word-formation?
  2. Would you advise your students or require them to draft their own glossaries? Why/why not?
  3. How would you use ICT to teach or develop lexical competence?

What happens if the current list of topics for the Oposición or Competitive Exam changes?

If the list of topics were to change and no topic on word-formation processes were included,  which I very much doubt, the questions would still be relevant.  If only to help you understand the English lexicon better and to select what and how it could be taught at different levels. This is certainly something all the groups attending my face-to-face or Skype classes and/or doing the Poppies’ Foundation Course will need to consider and answer. Of course, they are welcome to include any other aspect they may consider relevant to the topic. 

I advise every English teacher at Secondary School level to consider it too.

Ask yourself questions to recall and understand contents better

 All these questions and the remaining 17 included in the workbook for topic 10 in the Foundation Course- will help you recall important aspects concerning this topic on word formation.

Bear in mind as well that the best way to learn and to remember is by asking yourself questions… Keep on doing it and encourage your students to do the same!

You can find the answer to the questions on the topic provided in the Foundation Course and in our book on Linguistic Competence, available here.

An extract from the Poppies’ book on “Linguistic Competence”

It is also included in our Topic 10 in the Foundation Course, although the topic cannot contain the detail included in the book, of course.

 The English lexicon: Creative, versatile, voracious

While many languages try to control the number of words coming into them from other languages or the possible internal combinations to make up new words, English has no qualms about borrowing from others and has proved particularly versatile in combining various elements within the language to make up new words, including, occasionally, foreign non-classical affixes.

Needless to say, this creativity and versatility only applies to the lexical (i.e. nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs) not the grammatical elements, aka closed-class items, of the lexicon. And yet, English often makes use of close-class group items such as prepositions, conjunctions or auxiliaries to form new elements within the open-class group, as will be shown later in this chapter.

With half of the answer to one of the 13 questions above

Here is one example we have extracted from that chapter:


Coined by William Saphire

As a peculiar example of linguistic creativity, this suffix was coined by the Washington Post columnist William Saphire in the early 1970’s after Nixon’s Watergate scandal.

To refer to some kind of scandal

It is often added to proper nouns to refer to some kind of scandal associated with the name, usually in the political, artistic, journalistic, academic or sports arena.

Officially recognised in 1991

It was officially recognised as a suffix in 1991 (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22464422).

One example

You will find some further examples with explanations on their meanings in the article and in the book. One of those examples is Skidgygate. Do you know what it refers to? You may be too young to know, but it is part, in a way, of British culture.

a brief sketch

And because we at POPPIES believe that we learn better when there is some fun, here is

Hope you’ve liked both the sketch and the extract. David Mitchell is a great comedian. He and Ebb were in Peep-show, a series of sketches which lots of people found really funny. I must say that I prefer “The Unbelievable Truth”: Mitchell is very witty there and so are the other participants.

The second half of the answer, in the book on Linguistic Competence

In the book, you’ll find mostly “classical” suffixes with useful explanations/clarifications and some others really new, like the one above.

In fact, Vernon, my husband and old partner, and I first noticed one of them in 2013 and we have found two examples so far. It is the other second half of the answer to question no. 5 in this post. I’ll give you the first clue: it’s a suffix which is a borrowing from Spanish. That’s versatility and voraciousness for you!

Do you know which one we are talking about? If you do… drop us a line. Or if you can give us some further examples with explanations of the suffix -gate.  We’d love to read your comments.

Apasionada de la lengua inglesa y sus múltiples matices, mi objetivo es ayudarte en la preparación de la oposición a profesores de inglés y contribuir a que la escuela pública ofrezca la enseñanza de calidad –de y en lengua inglesa– que nuestros alumnos necesitan en el s. XXI

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