"The lexical approach is a way of analysing and teaching language based on the idea that it is made up of lexical units rather than grammatical structures. The units are words, chunks formed by collocations, and fixed phrases."
"A lexical chunk is a group of words that are commonly found together. Lexical chunks include collocations but these usually just involve content words, not grammar."
See also: Lexical Chunks Offer Insight Into Culture
HLT Mag Year 8; Issue 3; May 06
More on lexical approach:
"The lexical approach to second language teaching has received interest in recent years as an alternative to grammar-based approaches. The lexical approach concentrates on developing learners' proficiency with lexis, or words and word combinations. It is based on the idea that an important part of language acquisition is the ability to comprehend and produce lexical phrases as unanalyzed wholes, or "chunks," and that these chunks become the raw data by which learners perceive patterns of language traditionally thought of as grammar (Lewis, 1993, p. 95). Instruction focuses on relatively fixed expressions that occur frequently in spoken language, such as, "I'm sorry," "I didn't mean to make you jump," or "That will never happen to me," rather than on originally created sentences (Lewis, 1997a, p. 212). This digest provides an overview of the methodological foundations underlying the lexical approach and the pedagogical implications suggested by them."
Source: Lexical Approach to Second Language Teaching. Eric Digest.
Author: Moudraia, Olga
"According to Lewis (1997, 2000) native speakers carry a pool of hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of lexical chunks in their heads ready to draw upon in order to produce fluent, accurate and meaningful language.
Language is not learnt by learning individual sounds and structures and then combining them, but by an increasing ability to break down wholes into parts.
Grammar is acquired by a process of observation, hypothesis and experiment.
We can use whole phrases without understanding their constituent parts.
Acquisition is accelerated by contact with a sympathetic interlocutor with a higher level of competence in the target language.
Schmitt : 'the mind stores and processes these [lexical] chunks as individual wholes.' The mind is able to store large amounts of information in long term memory but its short term capacity is much more limited, when producing language in speech for example, so it is much more efficient for the brain to recall a chunk of language as if it were one piece of information. 'Figment of his imagination' is, therefore, recalled as one piece of information rather than four separate words.
The basic principle of the lexical approach is: "Language is grammaticalised lexis, not lexicalised grammar"(Lewis 1993). In other words, lexis is central in creating meaning, grammar plays a subservient managerial role. If you accept this principle then the logical implication is that we should spend more time helping learners develop their stock of phrases, and less time on grammatical structures.
Chris: Carlos tells me Naomi fancies him.
Ivor:: It's just a figment of his imagination.
Has Ivor accessed 'figment' and 'imagination' from his vocabulary store and then accessed the structure: it+to be+ adverb + article + noun + of + possessive adjective + noun from the grammar store? Or is it more likely that Ivor has accessed the whole chunk in one go?
Tomlinson (2003) sums up the principles, objectives and procedures of a language awareness approach as:
'Paying deliberate attention to features of language in use can help learners to notice the gap between their own performance in the target language and the performance of proficient users of the language.
Noticing can give salience to a feature, so that it becomes more noticeable in future input, so contributing to the learner's psychological readiness to acquire that feature."
Source: TeachingEnglish "Lexical Approach"
Carlos Islam, The University of Maine
Ivor Timmis, Leeds Metropolitan University
Lexical Approach 1
Lexical Approach 2