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Topic 11D – Lexical and semantic fields in English. Lexicon need for socialization, information and expression of attitudes. Typology linked to teaching and learning vocabulary in the foreign language classroom activities.


In this topic we will go into detail some aspects of semantics (study of meaning in language). The unit of semantics is the lexeme or lexical item.

We will discuss how vocabulary is organized, the vocabulary needed to express common communicative functions and some activities that we can use in learning and teaching vocabulary.

There are several ways of organizing lexemes. We can study also the paradigmatic relationships.

We will now focus on lexical and semantic items.


2.1. Lexical / Semantic fields

Semantic or lexical fields can be defined as semantically related groups. The words of a language can be classified into sets which are related to conceptual fields and divide up the semantic space: feeling, possession, perception, speech, existence.

2.2. Sense relationships

They are the internal organising principle that creates lexical fields. There are two types:

syntagmatic relationships: are the relationship on the horizontal axis when two items are often used together e.g. rural life, green area, dark, hair..

Paradigmatic relationships: are the relationships on the vertical axis. We can find several types:

a) Synonymy /sinonimi/: it should be noted (es importante decir) synonymy is not frecuent in the language. They are groups of words that share a general sense and so may be interchangeable in a limited numbers of contexts. e.g. die (morir), pass away (pasar al otro mundo)

b) Antonymy: antonymy is the relationship of oppositeness of meaning.

· Non-gradable or ungradable antonyms, are mutually exclusive, eg. alive/dead, male/female…

· Gradable antonyms permit the expression of degree, e.g. big/small, cold/hot. And the comparative (warm, cool, chilly, cold).

· Converses denote a reciprocal relationship: one term presupposes the other (family and social relation- e.g. parent/child…)

c) Hyponymy: it is the relationship of inclusion in that the meaning of the general term (superordinate) is included in the meaning of the specific term e.g. flower/rose, colour/blue, season (superordinate)/winter (hyponymy).

d) Incompatibility: exclusive members of the same superordinate category are referred to as incompatibles, e.g. winter/summer. Relationship between hyponymyns.

2.3. Componential analysis

Consists of breaking down the lexical items within the same semantic field into their constituent parts in order to examine the similarities and differences between them.


In this section we will deal with the vocabulary our students need to express themselves with fluency in common situations.

3.1. Socialization vocabulary

It is the vocabulary used to introducing ourselves. In socialization we will study the language related to:

a) Greetings:

· Introducing oneself and being introduced:

This vocabulary is used when people meet for the fist time.

– Hello, I’m / Hello my name is…

– Pleased to meet you (formal) / Nice to meet you (informal)

· Social abbreviations: Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Sir, Lady…

· Greeting people:

– Hello / Good morning (formal)/ morning (informal)

– Good night (formal) / Night – night (for children)

· Saying goodbye:

– Good bye / bye / See you later

· Congratulating:

– Well done / congratulations

· Seasonal greetings:

– Happy birthday! / Merry Christmas!

b) Expressing good wishes:

– Have a good time / day / Enjoy yourself

c) Inviting:

– Can / could I see you tonight? What time is good for you?

– Would you like to come round for dinner on Saturday?

d) Thanking:

-Than you / thank you very much/ thanks a lot

e) Apologizing:

– I?m sorry / sorry / I?m terribly sorry about that….

f) Expressing symphaty:

– What a pity / I?m sorry / How terrible!…

g) Offering to do something:

– Do you want me to … ? / Shall I …..?

3. 2. Information vocabulary

Typical structures to give or get information

A) Asking for and giving information

a) Information about oneself: name (what’s your name?), origin, Nationality, date of birth, address, telephone numbwer, age, mental status, job, family,..

b) Information about the time: What time is it? / what’s the time?

c) Information about physical cahracteristics: What does he look like? He is tall…

d) Information about prizes: How much is this book? / It is 5 pounds

B) Describing someone / something

Our pupils must learn to describe people and common places

– Declarative sentences: It is … , It has …

– Adjectives

– Prepositions

– Vocabulary: colours, sizes, materials, weight, etc..

C) Narrating

We can list the elementos that are essential for narration

– Verbal tenses

– Link (Connectors) (then, afterwards, later, so…)

D) Asking for an opinion

– What do you think about…? / I think … What about you? /

– How do you feel about?

E) Clarifying

– I mean / in fact / in other words

F) Asking for clarification

– Pardon? / Could you repeat that? / Say that again, please / What do you mean by..?

3.3. Attitude expression vocabulary

A) Intellectual attitudes

a) Expressing agreement and disagreement:

-agreement: I share your opinion / I agree / That’s just what I think / That’s all right

b) Expressing opinions:

– In my opinion / I believe / If you ask me / From my oint of view

c) Expressing certainly / uncertainly:

– Certainly: I am sure / I certainly think.

– Doubt: Maybe / Perhaps / I wonder if…

– Uncertainly: I don’t know if they are well / I’m not sure if they are well

d) Expressing possibility and impossibility:

– It is possible that… / It is impossible that… / They may be in July by now …

e) Expressing obligation:

– I must begin working now (internal obligation)

– you have to be here by five again (external obligation)

f) Expressing approval / disapproval:

– I approve of … / you are right in..

– I’m apposed to … / I object to / I strongly disapprove of…

B) Emotional attitudes

a) Expressing a feeling:

– Likes and dislikes: I like / I love fish / I enjoy / I am ford of / I hate

I dislike / I can’t stand / I am tired of ..

– Sadness: I really feel down today / I am under the weather

– Indifference: I don’t care at all

– Surprise: This is a surprise / It is surprising / How amazing / What a surprise..

– Hope: I hope so / I expect to come tonight

– Fear: I’m afraid of exams

– Gratefulness: thank you very much

b) Expressing intention:

– I’m going to + infinitive (intention to do something)

– I intend to come back on Sunday


There are three crucial factors in vocabulary learning:

1) Once the teacher has introduced the new lexical item, h/s should provide the students enough opportunities to bring the item into active meaningful use.

2) The lexical items taught should be relevant to the learners’ needs and interests.

3) In introducing vocabulary, the teacher should use visual aids. Visual back up is very important to help convey meaning and to help pupils memorize new words. (Flash cards, photos, realia, mime…)


a) Activities to practise language structures or patterns in context:

– Memorizing short dialogues / role plays / making dialogues with a similar structure, e.g. to do a menu, timetable….

b) Activities using the dictionary:

– Matching with their word definitions / looking up homophones

c) Activities based on semantic fields. Activities based on diagrams:

-e.g.: pupils must complete a diagram with different types of adjectives related to -hair (colour) (type)…

-e.g. : Which word do not belong in their groups? (for example words related to food)

– The students are provided with a list of words. They have to draw a diagram

– Odd man out (one word is different): Tick the word which does not belong in a series.

– Sequencing activities: Sutdents have to put a series of words rin the appropiate place on the cline, ladder, scale….e.g. bad, good, terrible, quite good, horrible, so-so, awful, fabulous, great

d) Activities based on antonyms.:

-matching antonyms, giving antonyms, antonym card game (complete pair of antonyms)

e) Activities based on pictures:

-Matching or labelling objects / Narrative based on pictures

f) Multiple choice activities

g) Games: Guessing games / Crosswords / word bingo / a word begining with…


In this topic we have expounded the different ways in which lexemes can be organised: semantic or lexical fields, sense relationships and componential analysis

We have then presented the vocabulary our pupils need to communicate with others in habitual situations. We have grouped this vocabulary into socialization vocabulary, information vocabulary and attitude expression vocabulary.

In last section of the topic we have suggested various types of vocabulary activities.


Byrne, D. Teaching writing skills. Longman. London (1988)

Hallyday, M.A.K. Functional Grammar. Arnold. London. (1982)

Materiales para la Reforma. Primaria. MEC. Madrid (1992)

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