ESL Term:

De-lexicalized Word

ESL/EFL Glossary: A Guide to applied linguistics terminology.


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de-lexicalized word: Words that have a very wide applicability but have very little meaning on their own.

Michael Lewis, in his book the Lexical Approach, divides de-lexicalized words into two categories: verbs and functions. Some examples of de-lexicalized verbs are take, give, have, make, do, get. Some examples of de-lexicalized function words are with, of, by, and on.

De-lexicalized words have little meaning on their own but have strong generative power. As an example, consider get:

get - become more of some characteristic

         get older, get colder, get uglier

get - change in life which is recognized officially

       get married, get divorced, get promoted

get - receive

         get paid, get a loan, get a present

get - be allowed

         get to watch TV, get to sleep at a friend's house

get - move to another place

         get in, get out, get down, get back