Language – Lexis

Hi! How are you? I bet you’re gorgeous today! Haha, so this is for Paper 1 again, which I’m going to go through first – please enjoy it!


  • Lexis means ‘word’
  • Lexis is a linguistic term for vocabulary – the words of a language.
  • Lexis is key is analysing language.
  • It’s divided into word classes – also called ‘parts of speech’ e.g. nouns, verbs, adjectives.
  • Lexis can also be analysed in chunks or phrases, known as lexical phrases. These are well known groups of words like ‘on the other hand’ and ‘once upon a time’. There are hundreds of these and they’re used all the time.

English has been influenced by a lot of other languages meaning there are lots of everyday Old English words that we use all the time now days (like ‘house’, ‘on’ and ‘be’), mainly languages like French and Latin, which have been brought to England. This is one of the reasons we have so many synonyms (words meaning the same thing) – some are from one language, some from others. Words from Latin are generally more formal than Old English ones – ‘chew’ comes from Old English and ‘masticate’ comes from Latin.

The English language is always changing. We are also still influenced by other languages. Words that are borrowed from other languages are called loan words, such as ‘shampoo’, which is Hindi. This happens because we are in contact with other cultures. New words are also entered into our language due to advances in science and technology, and new words are called neologisms. Once a word has been entered into our language it becomes a part of our everyday language in different ways.


  • This is where the word classes of existing words are altered.
  • For example, ‘gift’ can be a noun (‘the gift’), but it can also be a verb (‘to gift’).

Creating compound words

  • Compound words are created by joining two or more words together, such as ‘rainbow’ is ‘rain’ and ‘bow’.
  • The separate words are combined to create a new meaning, which is different to the meanings of the original words.

The lexis people use depends on the situation

There are different levels of formality. Informal lexis is relaxed, familiar and conversational. It’s colloquial and often non-standard, so it will contain dialect words and slang. It tends to have smaller words than formal lexis and contain more monosyllable words like ‘nice’ and ‘grub’. It contains lots of abbreviations like ‘can’t’ and ‘you’ll’. Informal lexis for ordinary things often has Old English roots.

Formal lexis is more serious and impersonal. It tends to be made up of Standard English words, so it’s unlikely to contain dialect words or slang, so phrases like ‘mentally-ill’ and ‘not in possession of their faculties’ would be used. It has bigger, more complex words than informal lexis, so there are more polysyllabic words like ‘enjoyable’ and ‘comestibles’.

Written and spoken lexis

  • As a general rule, written language is more formal than spoken language.
  • The most informal language is found in speech between friends and family. The most formal is found in writing between people who don’t know each other, such as in essays or business letters.
  • One of the main reasons for this is because speech tends to be spontaneous, so the lexis is smaller and there’s lots of self-correction – speakers notice their own errors and correct them mid-sentence.
  • Speech also tends to contain lots of abbreviations, like ‘shan’t’. This is even the case with planned speech, which can sound strange and stilted if the speaker doesn’t abbreviate some words.
  • However, there are situations where speech is more formal that writing. This is especially the case when it’s planned – e.g. a politician’s speech. Likewise, there are situations when written speech is informal, e.g. an email between friends.

And there you are! Some of these topics are very short, but others are a lot longer. I hope you enjoyed this, please comment anything you liked or I missed!

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