Syntaxemes as a method for selecting learning resources in teaching English

The purpose of the article is to discuss twenty-seven varieties of Russian syntaxemes defined by G.A. Zolotova, the semantic basis of which is considered universal for any other language. This achievement in the field of communicative linguistics allows to consider similar typical syntaxemes in English. The authors of this article are interested in syntaxemes because of the linguodidactic potential which serves as a “bridge” for statements within the thematic field. In contrast to the abstract means of structural linguistics, syntaxemes are capable of integrating lexical and grammatical material into the learning process. Whereas the traditional technique artificially tied the types of phrases and sentences of the topic, syntaxemes by semantic bundles are used in different exercises, i.e., within one exercise the teacher will be able to assimilate two or three ways of expressing the same idea and a sufficient amount of one syntaxeme as a typical union of the same type of lexemes. The article focuses on the optimization of learning process, in which the criteria for the selection of learning material based on certain methodological principles of teaching English are considered. By relying on the appropriate principles for the selection of learning material, an effective system of teaching English is purposed to be achieved. The article presents the most active syntaxemes, their meanings and interpretation found in the English textbook for 5th graders. Also, as an illustrative material, one of the speaking topics for 5th graders is considered, which is represented in the table with essential examples. Syntaxeme as a linguodidactic unit makes it possible to select language resources on a scientific basis, considering certain selection of parameters (frequency, functional significance, etc.).


In the past ten years modern society had been in the information flow, where every person was and still is faced the flow coming from the world, and for successful socialization in the community being familiar with a foreign language is very important. The most common foreign language for the means of communication in the information flow is English, which is considered as the language of communication worldwide. Consequently, learning the language starts from the preschool period. However, in order to teach and learn English effectively up from kindergartens, schools, colleges and universities in Kazakhstan it is necessary to optimize the learning process in accordance the functional units of the language system.

Methods and approaches

Research methods include observation of the activity of syntaxemes as learning units in educational texts by specialty, a statistical method for identifying the frequency of syntaxemes in the implementation of certain speech tasks, modeling the mechanism for selecting units and introducing them into the process of teaching a foreign language, experimental verification of the effectiveness of syntaxemes as learning units, generalization of the obtained scientific results.

The methodological basis for the scientific substantiation of the functional-semantic approach to the selection of grammatical material for educational purposes is the idea of cognitive linguistics about the categorization of the world in language [1: 41]. According to this concept, the gestalt characteristic of the objective world acts as a basic level in the perception of a fragment of reality: objects are perceived as a whole as a type prototype. These are syntaxems, which are then described in a more or less complete list by G.A. Zolotova in a monograph with students N. Onipenko and M. Sidorova, and are presented as a repertoire of elementary units of syntax in the “Syntactic Dictionary of the Russian Language” [2, 3]. We are also impressed by the idea of G.I. Isenbayeva, described in the article “On the methodological foundations of the study of the functional unity of cognitive and linguistic structures” [4]. No less important is the linguodidactic aspect, when the cognitive structuring of the language system is taken as a basis in the methodology of language teaching. This way is more effective when semantic units of the lexical and grammatical plan are tied to speech tasks. Then the learner can easily navigate the use of the means of another language for the implementation of their speech tasks, since in their mind an associative connection will be formed between the situation and the language tools that serve this situation. Active work in this direction is carried out at L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University.

The common glossary provided by E.G. Asimov and A.N. Shchukin [5] is a special conceptual tool that is a set of different means of selecting and organizing learning sources while planning the learning process. At the same time it should be kept in mind that even if it remains a fundamental work that reveals the methodological system of language teaching, the glossary itself is focused on the abstract language system. Meanwhile, today there is a contradiction between the need to implement the strategic goal of forming a foreign language communicative competence and the use of the means of an abstract language system as learning units. The last one largely becomes a “braking” tool, artificially lengthening the path to achieve the mentioned goal.

This situation has predetermined the content of the article, which substantiates the practical significance of using new units in teaching a foreign language. The learning material is primarily a lexical, grammatical and speech basis for exercises and tasks for the formation of key competencies in teaching English. The correct and successful educational process is determined by certain methods of teaching English, selection criteria and principles in preparing learning material for teaching English.

Modern methods of teaching English are primarily conditioned by the development of productive learning activities and creativity of the student, that is, the teacher must be autonomous and capable of flexibility, professional adaptability and constant creative search. A student who creates educational products by exploring an idea, hypothesis, or a problem in a particular topic of study serves as an example of heuristic method of teaching English. The interaction of the teacher and the student in the process of communication and learning in order to solve linguistic and communicative problems is a method of interactive learning. Interactive activities include the organization and development of dialogic speech aimed at interaction, mutual understanding, and solving problems that are important for each of the participants in the educational process. Interactive training is primarily aimed at developing interactive communication in the group. In the method of interactive learning, the teacher is the coordinator of the educational process, that is, the activity of the teacher is inferior to the activity of the students. These methods are the most important in this study and are determined by certain criteria for the selection of educational material in English.

Criteria for selecting learning material:

  1. Informative content.

Set of exercises designed in accordance with the informational and educational necessities of students. The richness of the learning resources is implemented by a sufficient and at the same time concise amount of information on the topic, when the student receives cognitive basis for the sake of further discussions. The criterion of informative content of educational material is implemented by including in the content of training a large amount of information about the country of the target language and about the native country. Thus, students form a multicultural personality in themselves, which is important in modern society, since when forming a multicultural personality students are able to conduct intercultural communication respecting the traditions and customs of different countries.

  1. The volume of learning material.

Large volume of learning material divided into blocks implies a preliminary preparation of texts by EFL teachers for making it flexible for certain proficiency level of students, thereby stimulating students’ cognitive activity during learning English, increases their motivation in developing communicative skills.

  1. Cultural spectrum of learning material.

This criterion implies the selection of learning material and information directly related to the cultural phenomena or global perspectives of the language being studied. Taking this aspect into account ensures a quick adaptation to foreign language culture.

  1. Match of lexical and grammatical range in speech.

The selection of lexical and grammatical material considering the implementation of speech intentions on the topic is an important condition for the integration of extralinguistic and linguistic issues. These conditions allow to achieve functional minimum and some grammatical means from dictionaries. In addition, the lexical and grammatical material can be stylistically ranked and the selection of desired level is determined by the level of students’ proficiency in the target language.

  1. The communicative value of learning material.

This criterion implies the selection of learning material containing important information for the interlocutor. On the basis of entertaining, relevance, singularity or systematization of knowledge, the learning material becomes most efficient and quickly memorable.

  1. Availability and relevance of learning material.

To create a favorable atmosphere in the classroom and maintain motivation of students it is necessary to present learning material according to the psychological and age characteristics of students. The presented material should be modern with reference to the traditions and history of the target language.

  1. Consideration of motivation while selecting learning material.

Motivation is the most important criterion in selecting learning material, the provided information should conform with educational standards and be interesting. The motivation for selecting learning material should be a natural necessity for the expression of thoughts and/or the exchange of information (it is important to create such a situation in the learning process, according to the mechanism of verbal creations). The text representation and extraction of means are in the domain of teacher, who deliberately contemplates the situation for stepping the development of productive skills by their own methodical structuring, which are necessary for learning means of the language system.

These criteria contribute to the implementation of such methodological principles of teaching a foreign language as the necessity and sufficiency of the content of the learning material, the intensity of the learning material. The principles determine the strategic line of formation of foreign language communicative competence. The intensity of learning material is significant in general education schools and universities in Kazakhstan, as a large amount of knowledge is mastered in a short period of training and classes are saturated with various types and forms of education. An important task of the lesson is the revitalization process; it is the personal activity of the student and the teacher, which should be maintained throughout the lesson and is considered to be an important element of the intensity of the learning material. The frequency of language units within the topic is considered to be the determining factor in achieving the set of training tasks in the planning process. In order to enhance students’ knowledge it should be consistently used in grammatical and lexical exercises within any relevant topics in English classes. The frequent repetition of the material in different conditions and at different stages of solving educational problems will ensure the natural use of the introduced language resources in the productive speech of students. In this aspect it is important to formulate tasks in speaking practices on the basis of key verbal intentions within the topic of interaction, which increases the functional (productive skills) significance of the language tools.

According to scientists such as J. Austin [6], J. Searle [7], A.V. Bondarko [8], etc., intention is a communicative purpose of the speaker in the process of transmitting the meaning of speech. Verbal and communicative intents are closely related to the functional significance of language and language units. For example, it is possible schematically show the implementation of key verbal intentions: verbal intention — informative intention (the intention of the speaker to inform the already known fact) — communicative intention (intention towards the fact) — illocutionary intention (speech fulfillment, it is the choice of language patterns) — verbal filters (age, gender, social group, etc.) — result (achievement or failure).

The intensity of learning process is also achieved at the expense of lexical and semantical groups (LSGs), since the same type of language tools in semantic and formal aspects are effective because of the possibility of covering more words in one exercise. As ways of transmitting a certain meaning it is relevant to mention sampling constructions (one speech intention can be realized in two or three ways, i.e., synonymous constructions) which represents favorable conditions for the activation of LSGs. For example: Where can I find animals? — They can be found in the desert, in the yard, on the field, in the woods, in a barn, on pastures, in the winter caves, etc. They can be seen.../They inhabit/are/spend the winter, etc. The same syntaxeme — the locative — is used in several constructions. Such methodological condition gives the students a free opportunity to use foreign language. Thereby, in a short academic term a large amount of learning material can be covered.

With the systematic use of criteria and principles of selecting learning material an effective system of teaching English can be created. It is advisable to use a variety of sources in learning material, such as various texts on the different proficiency levels, audio and video material, songs, proverbs and sayings, etc. These sources help correctly identify the frequency of syntaxemes as meaningful units. The noted aspects of selecting learning material show the importance of specific syntaxemes within the topic, not lexemes as names of objects and subjects. By comparison, in the traditional teaching method words in the nominative case are selected, their case forms are given. Thus, syntaxemes are designed to significantly reduce the unjustified waste of educational time working with the whole grammatical paradigm of nouns. The wide usage of communicative grammar allows to develop speaking and communicative practices first.

Results and discussion

For considering syntaxemes as a means of teaching and selecting learning material in order to form the foreign language competence of students in English classes the following clarification should be noted. A syntaxeme is a grammatical word form with a typical meaning of location, time, object, subject, etc. The syntaxeme is the basic element of the syntactic construction [3].

Syntaxemes might be highlighted from the key points of texts/passages, so it is important to rely on a variety of texts in different styles and genres for adaptive use in the learning process. Another meaning of syntaxeme may lead to its indisputable recognition as a functional unit, capable to provide the content of speech and communication in a foreign language. Moreover, all significant parts of speech can be recognized as syntaxemes.

G.A. Zolotova has identified more than twenty-seven syntaxeme nouns of the same notion in Russian, which determine their purpose in various situations and are similar to some meanings in English [6]. The scientific description syntaxeme-adjectives, syntaxeme-verbs, syntaxeme-adverbs of syntaxeme- numerals, etc still insufficient. They are also important for linguodidactics and should be semantically grouped. The most active syntaxemes, their meaning and interpretation in English are presented in Table 1.

Table 1

Syntaxemes, meaning and example sentences



English equivalent

Examples of syntaxemes






assessment and perception of speechthoughts of the author


I was told I guess


the designation of the person and subject


To students …..

To readers are addressed …


state and perception of the action


Students play chess


the purpose of the subject


Canteen for students


component of the size


The height of the gym is up to 10 meters


the direction of movement focused on the action and position of the subject


From the school window you can see the church


distribution relations


Students sit one by one


instrument of the action


View through a magnifying glass


cause of action


Students argue over


quality and the property of the subject


Students (will be) with education


relationship skills


The teacher is a middle-aged man


quantitative characteristics


Up to 30 students in the class


action, attribute, subject and person


Students are engaged in physical education to the music






compliance or non-compliance of the subject


The student is serious beyond his years


the meaning of the location


The school stands opposite the church


method, means of action


Students chat by messenger


part of the whole


The school has three floors


affiliation, possession


Students acquire knowledge


potential action


To plan a class, you need to…


the situation is external, natural, social


The class is in smoke because of the experiments


information source or sensory perception


Light from a lamp in the classroom


the topic of the assessed situation


In the student’s documentation is a mess


temporal characteristics


The students were given a task until Saturday


the way of movement


The students went home


purpose, purpose, action


Meeting to discuss student behavior

Topics concerning 5th graders in English [9, 10] are considered to be used in daily routines and are most often focused on specific events and characteristics, which justifies the frequency of such syntaxemes that answer the questions who-where-when, what did/does/will do; what-where-is/was/will be; who-what/what- what. Therefore the frequency of such syntaxemes as locative, temporative, subject of action, action, or attribute is a consequence of selecting the age-appropriate issues. For instance; locative is a component with a location value:

  • I’m from Scotland;
  • Alan went to study at Cambridge University;
  • In Cambridge, you can walk in a beautiful park;
  • There is a boat race on the River Thames in London.

In the second place the number of syntaxemes in speaking topics in the first chapter is possessive. It relates to belonging and possession. For example:

  • have got a lot of electronic gadgets;
  • Alan has an idea;
  • I use my laptop to write emails.

Each speaking topic is “served” by a certain group of intensive syntaxemes, which are identified on the basis of speech intentions. Students do not need to know the term “syntaxeme”. The syntaxeme as a unit of selecting and training is a tool for educators (school teachers or university teachers). It is proposed to introduce the term of “word form with a typical meaning...” (K.N. Bulatbayeva) for methodological purposes, which are familiar and comprehensible for teachers.

Another feature of the syntaxeme is the repeatability of syntaxemes in different speaking topics (the locative can occur as a frequency unit in 10 topics in the curriculum of a certain grade). At the same time, the lexical implementation of this typical syntaxeme in different speaking topics might be different. The locative in the topic of “Wildlife” is implemented by LSGs as “habitat” and the topic “My Motherland Kazakhstan” by LSGs as “location” (in the village, the city, the territory... in the centre... on the South, East, West, North, Southeast, etc.), in the topic “Home. Apartment” by such LSGs as “location”, however in different types of lexemes (in the living room, in the kitchen, in the bedroom, in the hallway, in the courtyard).

To enhance the detailed understanding of syntaxeme presented within the topic “Flora and Fauna of Kazakhstan and other countries of the world” table 2 is provided below.

Table 2

Intensive syntaxemes within relevant topics



Speech intentions

Intensive syntaxemes

Animal and plant life of Kazakhstan and other countries of the world

  1. Animals and plants of Kazakhstan
  2. Animals of Kazakhstan listed in the Red Book
  3. Plants in Kazakhstan listed in the Red Book
  4. Animals and plants of Great Britain

1. List the plants and animals that live in Kazakhstan 2. Tell about rare animals of Kazakhstan listed in the Red Book

3. Tell about rare plants of Kazakhstan listed in the Red Book

4. List animals and plants in the UK and compare with Kazakhstan

  1. LOCATIVE: in the sky; on the field; in the steppe; near the river; under the hill; in the forest; in the low mountains; in the forest-steppe; in the Big Almaty Gorge; on the ridges; in zoos; in high-altitude areas;

in Kazakhstan; in America; in Canada; in Japan; on the meadows of England; on the plains of England; in the nature reserves of Ireland; in the north of Scotland; on the lower belt of the mountains; on the Scottish Highlands; on the shores of Wales; off the coast of Scotland

  1. QUANTITATIVE: up to 100 animals;
  2. CAUSATIVE: due to poaching; with red wolf; for food; for survival; for household needs; due to water pollution; due to environmental degradation
  3. TEMPORATIVE: winter; summer; autumn; spring
  4. SOURSIVE: spruce, fir, larch and cedar
  5. OBJECT: water, plants, animals; belong to nature; to the category of valuable tree species
  6. SUBJECT: fox; rabbit; badger; otter; ermine; weasel hawthorn; honeysuckle; wild rose

As we can see in this table, lexicalized syntaxemes can organize internal lexical and grammatical semantic paradigms among themselves (the last column of the table): different prepositional-nominal combinations are grouped on a semantic basis into one typical meaning “locative” or “sursive”, etc. Meanwhile, such syntactic groupings of elementary units of syntax can form semantic paradigms of higher-order units (at dawn, during dawn can participate in the creation of syntactic synonymy, which is also a semantic the paradigm of the language system). Thus, the semantic paradigms of the language system can be actively and effectively used in teaching a foreign language.

In the context of learning the methodology of teaching a foreign language 3rd-year students (groups FPE-31a (foreign philology of English language), FPE-31b, FPE-32, 2020–2021 academic year) learned to actively use the proposed methodology for selecting and using syntaxemes as training units in practice. During teaching practice they conducted lessons planned under our guidance. The results were positive.

Therefore, when planning lessons students acquired the ability to determine the range of microthemes within the topics according to the age of the students, for each microtheme — speech intentions. At the same time, the selection was based on the texts from which the most active syntaxemes were isolated. A sufficient number of texts allowed them to deduce semantic paradigms. So, for example, on the topic of animals they managed to group into semantic paradigms the actions of animals (barking, meowing, moo, neigh, howl, chirp, etc.), the movements of animals (running, jumping, crawling, etc.), the emotional state of animals (caressing, licking, rejoicing, basking on their knees, etc.). Students on this basis learned to organize continuous work on vocabulary, lexicalized grammar, and meaningful dialogues within the topic. We were convinced that the entire sequence of types of lessons leads to the achievement of foreign-language communicative competence of students. Because of such work students conducted lessons during the practice.


As it can be seen from the analysis, the syntaxeme as a linguodidactic unit that makes it possible to select learning language material on a scientific basis, concerning previously mentioned selection of parameters such as frequency, functional significance, etc. The typical nature of the syntaxeme allows methodologists to determine the frequency and ensure sufficient repeatability in different topics. Ensuring repeatability of syntaxes in different speaking topics allows students to learn a large thematic vocabulary, virtually explore the location of a certain syntaxeme in the construction of syntaxemes, using several methods of making the same thoughts based on syntaxes, to achieve the naturalness of speech.

For the successful achievement of possible results a foreign language teacher must have appropriate linguodidactic training. The extensive content on the same issue is presented in the eight-level modelling manual from the foreign language expertise in the monograph named “Scientific foundation of linguodidactic training of foreign language specialists in Kazakhstan” by A.E. Bizhkenova, K.N. Bulatbayeva, L.S. Sabitova (2017) [11].

Scientific and methodological training of students on the functional-semantic approach to the selection of educational material for foreign language lessons is based on the fact that they, along with the structural language system, gain knowledge of the functional language system, which is then used in the content of the course of foreign language methods. This is one of the ways to solve the problem of isolation of the studied material in a foreign language from the speech requests of students, when the content of a foreign language primarily meets the speech strategies of the speaker within a certain thematic field.



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Year: 2021
City: Karaganda
Category: Pedagogy