Lexical item  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Lexical items are single words or words that are grouped in a language's lexicon. Examples are "cat", "traffic light", "take care of", "by-the-way", and "don't count your chickens before they hatch". Lexical items are those which can be generally understood to convey a single meaning, much as a lexeme, but are not limited to single words. Lexical items are like semes in that they are "natural units" translating between languages, or in learning a new language. In this last sense, it is sometimes said that language consists of grammaticalized lexis, and not lexicalized grammar.

The entire store of lexical items in a language is called its lexis.

Lexical chunks

Lexical items composed of more than one word are also sometimes called lexical chunks, gambits, lexical phrases, lexical units, lexicalized stems or speech formulae. The term polyword listemes is also sometimes used. Common types of lexical chunks include:

  • Words, e.g., "cat", "tree".
  • Phrasal verbs, such as "put off" or "get out".
  • Polywords, e.g., "by the way", "inside out".
  • Collocations, e.g., "motor vehicle", "absolutely convinced".
  • Institutionalized utterances, e.g., "I'll get it", "We'll see", "That'll do", "If I were you", "Would you like a cup of coffee?"
  • Idioms, e.g., "break a leg", "was one whale of a", "a bitter pill to swallow".
  • Sentence frames and heads, e.g., "That is not as...as you think", "The problem was".
  • Text frames, e.g., "In this paper we explore...; Firstly...; Secondly...; Finally ...".

An associated concept is that of noun-modifier semantic relations, wherein certain word pairings have a standard interpretation. For example, the phrase "cold virus" is generally understood to refer to the virus that causes a cold, rather than a virus that is cold.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lexical item" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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