The process of syllabus design involves itemizing language to identify what is to be learned. Communicative methodology involves exposure to natural language use to enable learners to apply their innate faculties to recreate language systems. There is an obvious contradiction between the two. An approach which itemizes language seems to imply that items can be learned discretely, and that the language can be built up from an accretion of these items. Communicative methodology is holistic in that it relies on the ability of learners to abstract from the language to which they are exposed, in order to recreate a picture of the target language.
The lexical syllabus attempts to reconcile these contradictions. It does itemize language. It itemizes language minutely, resting on a large body of research into natural language. On the basis of this research it makes realistic and economical statements about what is to be learned. But the methodology associated with the lexical syllabus does not depend on itemization. It allows learners to experience language items in natural contexts and to learn from their experience. It reliescrucially on the concept of the learners' corpus. It is the concept of the learners' corpus which reconciles the contradiction between syllabus specification and methodology. Once we had come to this realization the concept of the learners' corpus was simple. The processes by which we came to this concept, and the procedures which realized it are far from simple. It is those processes and procedures which are described in this book.