Language as chunks, not words

Ramesh Krishnamurthy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference publication


Many people think of language as words. Words are small, convenient units, especially in written English, where they are separated by spaces. Dictionaries seem to reinforce this idea, because entries are arranged as a list of alphabetically-ordered words. Traditionally, linguists and teachers focused on grammar and treated words as self-contained units of meaning, which fill the available grammatical slots in a sentence. More recently, attention has shifted from grammar to lexis, and from words to chunks. Dictionary headwords are convenient points of access for the user, but modern dictionary entries usually deal with chunks, because meanings often do not arise from individual words, but from the chunks in which the words occur. Corpus research confirms that native speakers of a language actually work with larger “chunks” of language. This paper will show that teachers and learners will benefit from treating language as chunks rather than words.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOn JALT2002 : conference proceedings
Subtitle of host publicationwaves of the future
EditorsMalcolm Swanson, Kent Hill
Place of PublicationTokyo, (JP)
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)4-901352-06-7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2003
EventConference of the Japan Association for Language Teaching 2002 - Shizuoka, Japan
Duration: 22 Nov 200224 Nov 2002


ConferenceConference of the Japan Association for Language Teaching 2002
Abbreviated titleJALT 2002


  • COBUILD dictionary
  • language
  • chunks
  • words

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Language as chunks, not words'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this