From teachingenglish.org.uk: "The lexical approach is a way of analysing and teaching language based on the idea that it is made up of lexical units rather than grammatical structures. The units are words, chunks formed by collocations, and fixed phrases."
An article I read, recently, said that 50% or more of our speech in English consists of "lexical chunks." Other scholarly articles suggest that when people learn vocabulary they retain it as lexical chunks rather than individual words. So what does all that mean?
Definition of "lexical chunk" from academypublication.com: "Lexical chunk is a frequent, meaningful sequence of words that may include both lexical and grammatical words."
Oh, great! So what does "lexical" mean?
Definition of "lexical" from merriam-webster.com: "lexical -- of or relating to words or the vocabulary of a language as distinguished from its grammar and construction."
Basically a "chunk" can be a phrase, a common expression, a collocation, an idiom, a phrasal verb and more.
For example, "How is it going?" is a lexical chunk. Of course you say this as if it were two words, not four: "Howzit goin'?"
Here are three lexical chunks strung together: "Did you ever have a problem going to sleep?" This is 9 words and 11 syllables.
However it is said as "Dijever 'ava-problum, goinda-sleep?" This is only 3 chunks. It is probably 5 syllables, depending on how fast you say it.
Contemporary articles suggest that your brain stores language not as words but as lexical chunks; therefore that's the best way to teach vocabulary.
Well, whaddaya know? With my emphasis on reductions and phrasal verbs, I've been teaching with a lexical approach!