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In recent years, there has been heightened awareness of the critical role of vocabulary in second language (L2) learning and teaching. Within this broad area of academic inquiry, there is also general consensus that the vocabulary of a given language is much more than a list of individual words. A speaker’s mental dictionary (or lexicon) also contains a wide range of multiword units such as phrasal verbs (“put up with”), social routines (“take care”), collocations (“plastic surgery”), and idioms (“bite the bullet”). There is good reason for focusing on multiword units: research suggests that a large proportion of language—perhaps as high as 50 percent—is composed of such sequences (cf. Erman and Warren, 2000). Many of these multiword units contain one or more figurative elements, such that the meaning of the entire phrase is not easily predicable.

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