Things to look for when studying lexis

Are words predominantly HIGH or LOW frequency?


  • Standard English
  • Non Standard - dialect? colloquialism? taboo?
  • Germanic origin
  • Cliché or catchphrase
  • Idiom

If LOW FREQUENCY are they:

  • Technical/specialist
  • Latinate
  • Obsolete/obsolescent
  • Nonce-word/neologism


  • Comment on how these factors affect the text's LEVEL OF FORMALITY and REGISTER.
  • Say whether they are appropriate for the text's PURPOSE and READERSHIP

Grammatical Category

Comment on whether or not one grammatical category tends to predominate


  • Common - focus on objects/ concepts?
  • Proper - focus on people/places?
  • Abstract - focus on abstract ideas/emotions?


  • Descriptive emphasis?
  • Comparatives/superlatives - questions of degree significant?


  • Is there a focus on action?
  • Are they performatives - language as action?

Personal Pronouns and Possessive Adjectives

  • 1st person - personal opinion/experience?
  • 2nd person - address to reader - informative? persuasive?
  • 3rd person - narrative? objective? impersonal?

Usually the predominant grammatical category will reflect or be determined by the purpose or content of the text. Look for anything UNEXPECTED.

Semantic Fields

The topic of a text will determine at least some of the semantic fields that will be found. It is still worth looking at semantic clusters (groups of words within a text which share at least one semantic property) to consider their effect on STYLE and REGISTER.

Remember that on their own the factors described here may be of little significance. Look for where they OVERLAP, where you may find that the factors are likely to be most significant in terms of PURPOSE, READERSHIP, GENRE, TONE and REGISTER.