Chunking 1: Sentence Construction


What's the shortest sentence you know? 'I am.' perhaps. There's 'Ah.' as a reponse, but it's not really a sentence because we need a subject and verb. 'Go!' as a command has an implied 'you', but again, it doesn't follow the 'subject + verb' definition of a sentence. So we sometimes use individual words, but usually they go together with other words to form an idea. These ideas can be expressed using just two or three words and even complicated ideas are generally built from smaller concepts with no more than seven or eight words each. Although forming or studying long sentences can seem very complicated, it's just a question of breaking them into small parts, and we call these little groups of words that go together'chunks'.

From Word to Chunk to Sentence

As we read words, our brains look for more words to create an idea. Depending on the next word, we understand one thing or another. Luckily, lots of words often connect with other words to create an idea. The number of times words appear together is known as ‘collocation frequency’. So ‘Walk in‘ for example, is more frequent than ‘walk out‘, which in turn is more frequent than ‘walk out from‘. There are lots of multi-word expressions, by the way, which have their own independent meaning, like… ‘by the way‘!
By studying these collocations and multi-word phrases, we can improve our understanding of the language and avoid getting into trouble when we want to express ideas. This results in better accuracy and fluency.
What words in the sentence below have a strong connection with their neighbours?

So let’s look at
some small chunks
and build them
into a long sentence.
  • Answer
strong connections:

let’s + do + something

look + at + something

build + something + into + something

I separated the sentence above into four parts because there are 4 ideas:
  • suggesting we look at something
  • what it is we’re looking at
  • what we’re going to do with the chunks
  • what the chunks will become
Can you create a simiar sentence, using these ideas?

Here’s another example:
So let’s ring up
some old friends
and ask them
If they want to come to the party.
Now let’s / add an idea / and make our sentence / even longer.

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Watch and listen to the video, then complete the chunks to form the sentence.

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