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Feature 6: Phrasal chunks



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Feature 6: Phrasal chunks


Chunks are fixed words or phrases that can combine with other elements but act as ready-made lexical units of language, just as words do (Cullen and Kuo 2007). Because of the pressures of real-time processing, speak- ers rely on a relatively small number of fixed words and phrases to fill particular grammar functions (Leech 2000). Cullen and Kuo (2007, 370) cite different functions for dif- ferent phrasal chunks, including terms to

  1. create vagueness (e.g., “sort of,” “kind of,” and “stuff like that”), (2) modify and show politeness (e.g., “a bit” and “a little bit”), and (3) mark discourse structures (e.g., “you know” and “I mean”). Cullen and Kuo (2007)

also note that these phrases can act as con- versation fillers, allowing the speaker time to pause and think about what to say under the constraints of real-time conversation.

Pedagogical issues

Even among researchers who advocate teaching specific characteristics of spoken English to English as a foreign language (EFL) students, there is no consensus on the approach teachers should adopt or the extent to which they should teach features of spoken grammar. This section focuses on three peda- gogical issues for teaching spoken grammar:



(1) the need for authentic materials, (2) the necessity of teaching spoken grammar for developing students’ spoken communication skills in all contexts, and (3) the question of whether to teach production or to focus on the recognition of spoken grammar charac- teristics. Teachers who want to incorporate spoken grammar activities into their own classes must consider these issues in light of their own specific teaching contexts.

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