Dictionaries of LSP Collocations

The Process of Compilation Based on Polish, English and Italian Banking Law

by Anna Zagórska (Author)
Monographs 560 Pages


The work is intended as an aid for those who aspire to create multilingual LSP collocational dictionaries. Apart from an extensive theoretical background and formal advice for lexicographers, it encompasses a model dictionary, i.e. a Polish, English and Italian collocational dictionary of banking law. The dictionary is designed as a resource for translators, LSP learners and teachers, lawyers and bank employees who use in their professional communication at least two of the above-mentioned languages.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. Collocations
  • 1.1. The notion of collocation
  • 1.1.1. Historical background
  • 1.1.2. Defining and explaining the notion of collocation
  • 1.1.3. Collocational restrictions
  • 1.2. The importance of collocations for linguistic competence
  • 1.3. Typologies of collocations
  • 1.4. Defining collocations for lexicographic purposes
  • 2. Law and language
  • 2.1. Language, LSP and LGP in the light of the anthropocentric theory of human languages
  • 2.2. Terms and terminology
  • 2.2.1. Terms
  • 2.2.2. Terminology
  • 2.3. Law and the language of law
  • 2.4. Characteristics of the language of law
  • 2.4.1. The English language of law
  • 2.4.2. The Polish language of law
  • 2.4.3. The Italian language of law
  • 2.4.4. Differences between the English, Polish and Italian language of law
  • 2.5. A multilingual dictionary of legal collocations
  • 3. Lexicography and corpus linguistics
  • 3.1. The notion of lexicography
  • 3.2. The notion of dictionary
  • 3.2.1. Dictionary types
  • 3.2.2. Specialised dictionaries
  • 3.3. Dictionary structures
  • 3.4. Dictionary planning
  • 3.4.1. Historical development of dictionary design
  • 3.4.2. Dictionary planning
  • 3.4.3. Macrostructure decisions
  • 3.4.4. Microstructure decisions
  • 3.4.5. Access structure decisions
  • 3.5. Corpus linguistics and language corpora
  • 3.5.1. The notion of corpus linguistics
  • 3.5.2. The notion of language corpora
  • 3.5.3. Types of language corpora
  • 3.5.4. Types of multilingual corpora
  • 3.6. The creation of language corpora for lexicographic purposes
  • 3.6.1. The creation of DIY language corpora
  • 3.6.2. The creation of multilingual corpora
  • 3.6.3. The creation of specialised corpora
  • 3.7. The analysis of language corpora
  • 3.7.1. Software for corpus analysis
  • 3.7.2. Statistical analysis of language corpora
  • 3.8. Planning and creating a collocational dictionary
  • 3.8.1. Looking inside a collocational dictionary
  • 3.8.2. Planning the entry
  • 3.8.3. Extracting collocations for lexicographic purposes
  • 3.9. The creation of LSP dictionaries
  • 3.9.1. LSP dictionary size and content
  • 3.9.2. Compiling an LSP dictionary
  • 3.10. The creation of multilingual LSP dictionaries
  • 3.10.1. Looking inside a multilingual LSP dictionary
  • 3.10.2. Looking for interlingual equivalents
  • 4. The corpus of Polish, English and Italian language of banking law
  • 5. Polish-English-Italian dictionary of banking law collocations
  • 5.1. The process of compilation
  • 5.2. Dictionary structure
  • 6. Conclusions
  • 6.1. The language of Polish, English and Italian banking law
  • 6.2. Dictionary compilation process
  • 6.2.1. Rejected headwords
  • 6.2.2. Problems related to statistical significance
  • Free combinations
  • MI test and t-score test application
  • Meeting expectations of potential dictionary users
  • 6.2.3. Fighting for consistency
  • Prepositional collocations
  • Verbal collocates
  • Other consistency-related problems
  • References
  • Dictionaries
  • Language corpora and databases
  • Legislation
  • Software
  • Index of Names
  • Series Index

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Despite the unquestionable importance of collocational knowledge for linguistic competence, collocations are still not given sufficient attention in LSP research, translation, and instruction. Besides, dictionaries of LSP collocations are very sparse and have been subject to limited amount of research, particularly as far as the process of their compilation is concerned. The gap in lexicographic research and practice is very serious and should be plugged by assiduous measures taken by academics. Without dictionaries of LSP collocations, it is unlikely that collocations will ever be devoted the necessary attention by LSP users. The neglect of collocations is in turn clearly undesirable, since without their knowledge it is impossible to fully master and correctly use a foreign language in any specialised field. Besides, the lack of dictionaries of LSP collocations clearly implies that collocations are problematic to lexicographers.

The present work aims at the creation of a model of multilingual dictionary of LSP collocations. The dictionary model is intended to contribute to the efficient interlingual communication in specialised domains, which will be the decisive factor in all the organisational and structural decisions. It is assumed that the model should be universal, i.e. usable in various specialised domains and with any combination of languages (cf. Parowenko 2007: 6). It is intended as an aid for those who aspire to compile dictionaries of LSP collocations.

The above-mentioned dictionary model is created on the example of Polish, English, and Italian banking law. Thus, the most significant part of this work comprises a collocational dictionary of Polish, English, Italian and banking law. Hopefully, the dictionary will prove to be a useful resource for translators, interpreters and LSP learners and teachers. Besides, it is recommended to lawyers and bank employees who use in their professional communication at least two of the above-mentioned languages.

The work is divided into two parts, the first of which consists of three chapters and is supposed to constitute a theoretical background. In the first of the chapters, attention is devoted to the notion of collocation, which is defined for the purposes of specialised lexicography. As for the second chapter, it describes the Polish, English and Italian language of law, most of all in terms of their lexical features. Furthermore, the third chapter is devoted to the process of dictionary creation. As the work aims at the creation of a dictionary model, the above-mentioned process is described as comprehensively as possible, with particular focus on LSP dictionaries and collocational dictionaries. Besides, special ←11 | 12→attention is given to dictionary structures as well as corpus linguistic tools which are employed in lexicographic work.

The second part of the work comprises a collocational dictionary of English, Italian and Polish banking law. Created with the aid of AntConc 3.4.3 concordance programme, it consists of three partially autonomous parts, containing Polish, English, and Italian collocations respectively. The entries in each of the dictionary parts contain cross-references to entries in the two other parts of the dictionary (cf. Hartmann 2001: 59, 65–66). The dictionary compilation process as well as the dictionary structure are presented in detail in Chapter 5. Besides, Chapter 4 contains a description of the employed corpus, consisting of Polish, English, and Italian normative acts which regulate the activity and organisation of banks.

The conclusions consist, among others, of a review of problems encountered in the dictionary compilation process as well as some suggestions for other LSP collocational dictionary authors. Besides, they contain a description of Polish, English and Italian language of banking law, most of all in terms of their lexical and collocational features. Hopefully, the work will lead to the creation of a useful resource for law and banking professionals as well as constitute a guide for those who aspire to create multilingual dictionaries of LSP collocations.

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1. Collocations

The present chapter is devoted to the notion of collocation, which breeds considerable controversy among linguistic researchers. Inter alia, it explores various attempts to define the notion as well as various typologies of collocations. It also focuses on the role of collocation as an aspect of language knowledge. Besides, the chapter is concluded with an attempt to define the discussed notion. The proposed definition of collocation is not universal but intended for application in the process of creation of an LSP collocational dictionary.

1.1. The notion of collocation

Although collocations have been examined by a significant number of researchers, the term itself remains a subject of controversy. Linguistic literature provides various definitions of collocations. Besides, there are numerous terms which are related to the notion of collocation, and which are often equally controversial in terms of their meanings. To give an example, apart from the term collocation, English researchers mention fixed expressions, multi-word items, phraseological units, lexical phrases, idioms, prefabricated phrases, prefabs, etc. (Nuccorini 2003: 367, Nesselhauf 2005: 1). Polish researchers refer to związki łączliwe, idiomy, skupienia nierozerwalne, połączenia frazeologiczne, połączenia konwencjonalne, analityzmy, frazemy, utarte zwroty, etc. (Geller and Dąbrówka 2007: XI, Śliwiński 2008: 314–315, Białek 2009: 8, 2011: 8). In France, linguistic research is devoted to locutions, expressions figées, expressions idiomatiques, phraséologismes or phrasèmes. In Italy, it concerns locuzioni, combinazioni di parole, unità fraseologiche and espressioni idiomatiche (Nuccorini 2003: 367, Sułkowska 2013). The above-mentioned terms are employed alongside the term collocation, which was transferred to languages other than English, e.g. kolokacja (Polish), collocazione (Italian), and collocation (French). It should be mentioned, however, that the term under discussion was disseminated by British researchers, such as J. R. Firth and J. Sinclair.

The various terms relating to the notion of collocation often partially overlap, though they are not fully synonymous (Białek 2009: 8). In majority, they do not have definitions which would be universally acknowledged (Nuccorini 2003: 367). Nuccorini (2003: 368) notices that the variety of terms entails “different syntactic and semantic categorisations” as well as ‘the inclusion or exclusion of various types of “phrases”’. Besides, it reflects ‘the scientific, lexicological, and academic ←13 | 14→status of phraseology whose domain is not marked by clearcut boundaries and whose inner subdivisions merge along a continuum rather than forming separate, discrete classes’ (Nuccorini 2003: 368). Accordingly, various phraseological and collocational dictionaries differ in their content and in the approaches to its description. Their authors adopt diverse theoretical principles in the course of selecting, classifying, and presenting the expressions included in dictionary entries (Nuccorini 2003: 368, cf. Gledhill 2000: 7–18, Nesselhauf 2005: 12–13).

As will be shown in subsection 1.1.2., the notion of collocation is highly problematic in terms of its definition. What is more, collocations have been devoted scarce amount of research, though they constitute a particularly significant aspect of language knowledge (see section 1.2.). One of the reasons is that the group of items which are termed as collocations is extremely heterogeneous. Moreover, collocations as a linguistic phenomenon are on the borderline between grammar and lexis, thus they constitute a particularly problematic subject of linguistic research. Their investigation requires various forms of linguistic analysis, which relate to semantic, lexical, syntactic, pragmatic and even phonological description. Nevertheless, the description and analysis of collocations is typically limited to only one level and frequently constitutes a part of wider linguistic research principally devoted to other arguments (Bartsch 2004: 27, Handl 2008: 48). For the sake of example, Firth (1957) considers collocations as one of the modes of meaning. Bartsch (2004) analyses them in terms of their structural and functional properties. Białek (2009) devotes attention to collocations as translation units. Rudnicka (2010) investigates their value assuming that they are a kind of lexicographic example of word usage. Finally, collocational research by Caldas-Coulthard and Moon (2010) relates to critical discourse analysis, whereas Scinetti (2014) compares the use of collocations by first and second language speakers of Italian.

1.1.1. Historical background

The term collocation is usually attributed to J. R. Firth, who uses it while discussing various modes of meaning. The researcher assumes that collocations convey some part of word meaning. To give an example, while considering the expression ‘dark night’ Firth (1957: 196) notes that ‘one of the meanings of night is its collocability with dark and of dark, of course, collocation with night’ (cf. Bursill-Hall 1966: 46–48, Lyons 1966: 295–296, Moon 1997: 41–42, Léon 2007). The researcher recommends the study of collocations as a form of research in the domain of descriptive linguistics. Besides, he notices that collocations can be divided into those ‘general or usual’ and those ‘technical or personal’, the latter being more restricted than the former (Firth 1957: 195).

←14 | 15→Though Firth is commonly believed to be the father of collocational research, it should be mentioned that according to Barnbrook et al. (2013: 9) the term collocation in its linguistic understanding was present in texts already at the beginning of the XVIIIth century. Besides, it is used in A Grammar of English Words, which was first published already in 1938, to refer to ‘a succession of two or more words that may best be learnt as if it were a single word’ (Palmer 1947: x, cf. Nation 2001: 317, Bartsch 2004: 30–33). Its author, Palmer (1947: xi) distinguishes collocations from phrases, postulating that the former resemble single words in terms of their meanings and functions, whereas the latter ‘are more in the nature of conversational formulas, sayings, proverbs etc’. Finally, according to Akasu (2011: 45–46), the first collocational dictionary was published already in 1939 by Katsumata, with the title Kenkyusha’s Dictionary of English Collocations.

In any case, it seems that the truly deep interest in collocations was sparked by the works by Firth, in particular Papers in linguistics 1934–1957. One of the subsequent breakthrough publications is probably In memory of J. R. Firth (1966), where the notion of collocation is devoted attention by Halliday, Lyons and Sinclair. Inter alia, Lyons (1966: 295–296) rejects the Firthian view that collocations constitute a part of word meaning, though he admits that it is possible to convey the meaning of a word by presenting a well-chosen group of its collocates. Sinclair (1966) devotes attention to the methods of describing lexical items in terms of their collocational patterns. Additionally, he recommends investigating collocations with the aid of statistical tests (Sinclair 1966: 418, 428). Finally, Halliday (1966: 151) proposes some methods of describing collocations and notices that the collocating items are sometimes placed in different sentences, though ‘there are limits of relevance to be set to a collocational span of this kind’ (cf. Sinclair 1966: 413–414). Besides, the researcher notices that collocability is sometimes independent of parts of speech. For instance, apart from a strong argument, one may refer to the strength of argument or may argue strongly (Halliday 1966: 151, cf. Palmer 1976: 101).

In general, as Herbst (1996: 380–383) points out, collocational research can be conducted based on two distinct approaches, i.e. statistically oriented approach and significance oriented approach. In the former approach, collocations are perceived as co-occurrences of items within a given span of words. Special attention is devoted to co-occurrences whose frequency is greater than could be expected on the basis of chance. Contrastingly, in the latter approach, the significance of a given collocation is related to its semantic unpredictability (cf. Nesselhauf 2005: 11–12). Herbst (1996: 388) presents two main types of word combinations the approach is devoted to. Firstly, these are combinations in which one of the elements has a very restricted set of collocates. To give an ←15 | 16→example, the noun flock collocates with sheep. As the collocation constitutes a part of its meaning, the noun in question does not collocate with cows, for which the appropriate collocate is herd. As for the second type of combinations, one of their elements collocates with a limited set of items, which is, however, not motivated by its meaning. For the sake of example, the verb to commit collocates with murder and crime, but not with burglary or theft (Herbst 1996: 389–389, cf. Palmer 1976: 96–97).

The two approaches under discussion above relate to different understandings of the term collocation. The variety of opinions on what should be perceived as collocation is reflected in numerous definitions of the term, which will be devoted attention in the following subsection.

1.1.2. Defining and explaining the notion of collocation

The notion of collocation is defined and understood in a number of ways. Some example definitions of the term are quoted below:

The term collocation will be used to refer to sequences of lexical items which habitually co-occur, but which are nonetheless fully transparent in the sense that each lexical constituent is also a semantic constituent. These are of course easy to distinguish from idioms; nonetheless, they do have a kind of semantic cohesion – the constituent elements are, to varying degrees, mutually selective. (Cruse 1986: 40)

Collocations (…) are fixed, recurrent combinations of words in which each word basically retains its meaning. (Benson 1989: 85)

Collocation is a term used to describe a group of words which occur repeatedly in a language. (Carter 1994: 47)

A collocation is a predictable combination of words: get lost, make up for lost time, speak your mind. Some combinations may be very highly predictable from one of the component words – foot the bill, mineral water, spring to mind. Some “strong” collocations have the status of idioms – shrug your shoulders – they are not guessable and are non-generative. Some may be so common that they hardly seem worth remarking upon – a big car, a nice flat, have lunch. (Hill 2000: 51)

Collocation is the way in which words co-occur in natural texts in statistically significant ways. It sounds an innocent definition, but one very important point needs to be made: collocation is about the way words naturally co-occur in what David Brazil brilliantly called ‘used language’. (Lewis 2000: 132)

Collocations exist in every language. The term itself denotes word combinations, consisting of two or more words, that repeatedly co-occur. (Osuchowska 2001: 7)

What is a collocation? It can be said to be a set of two or more words that frequently occur in juxtaposition, and that seem to ‘fit together’. (Douglas Kozłowska 2004: 9)

←16 | 17→As employed in this chapter, the term collocation refers to combinations of two lexical items each of which makes a distinct semantic contribution, belongs to a different word class and shows a restricted range (Gramley and Pȁtzold 2004: 51)

Collocations are recurrent co-occurrences of words in texts. They certainly are statistically significant; but this is not enough. They also have to be semantically relevant. They have to have a meaning of their own, a meaning that isn’t obvious from the meaning of the parts they are composed of. (Teubert: 2004: 188)

‘Collocation is the co-ccurrence of two items in a text within a specified environment.’ (Sinclair, Jones and Daley 2005: 10)

Le collocazioni sono espressioni formate da due o più parole che per uso e consuetudine lessicale formano una unità fraseologica non fissa ma riconoscibile. (Tiberii 2012: 3)

Some of the definitions are quite elaborate and detailed (e.g. Cruse 1986, Hill 2000), whereas others, especially those included in dictionaries as opposed to theoretical linguistic literature, are relatively simple and general (e.g. Douglas-Kozłowska 2004, Osuchowska 2001, Tiberii 2012). Some of them may be perceived as relatively narrow (Cruse 1986: 40, Teubert 2004) whereas others are quite broad (Carter 1994, Hill 2000: 50–51). Even those relatively complex definitions make the impression that the notion of collocation deserves more detailed explanation (cf. Meer 1998, Fontenelle 1994). In fact, after formulating a definition of collocations, numerous researchers provide further information on the notion, and the information under discussion is frequently crucial. It can even be assumed that in order to describe properly the notion of collocation, one needs to go beyond its definition, since the above-mentioned notion cannot be accurately described in just few words or sentences. It is probably for this reason that numerous researchers who devote their attention to collocations resign from formulating any definition of the term and instead provide a detailed description of the concept.

Furthermore, while examining the definitions quoted above, it is not difficult to notice that there are several researchers who perceive collocations as word combinations which are recurrent or which occur repeatedly or frequently (Carter 1994, Osuchowska 2001, Douglas Kozłowska 2004). Nevertheless, Nation (2001: 324) notices that collocations cannot be satisfactorily defined solely in this way, as corpus-based frequency research returns many combinations such as of the, although he or but if. The combinations in question do have high frequency of occurrence, nonetheless intuition suggests that they are not collocations. According to Nation (2001: 324), the expressions which can be termed as collocations are ‘closely structured’ and demonstrate ‘some element of grammatical or lexical unpredictability or inflexibility’. In addition, it should be ←17 | 18→pointed out that a number of researchers assume that collocations are statistically significant (Lewis 2000, Sag et al. 2002, Teubert 2004) or mutually selective word combinations (Cruse 1986, cf. Herbst 1996: 383).

Still, it should be highlighted that some authors may decide to employ relatively simple definitions of collocations for specific reasons. For the sake of example, the definitions by Osuchowska (2001), Douglas Kozłowska (2004) and Tiberii (2012) appear in collocational dictionaries which are presumably intended most of all for non-native users of English and Italian. It is probable that a significant part of dictionary users could find more complex definitions confusing. In fact, it can be assumed that all that they the need is only a general and basic understanding of what are collocations. Besides, the seemingly very simple definitions of collocations are often followed by more detailed description of the notion. For instance, Sinclair, Jones and Daley (2005: 9) immediately after their definition propose the distinction between significant collocations, whose component parts ‘co-occur more often than their respective frequencies, and the length of text in which they appear, would predict’, and casual collocations, which are non-significant collocations.

Besides, various definitions of collocations share the tendency to refer to lexical items. In this work we assume the definition of lexical item proposed by Sinclair, Jones and Daley (2005: 9), who postulate that ‘a lexical item is a unit of language representing a particular area of meaning which has a unique pattern of co-occurrence with other lexical items’. Some lexical items can be identified with orthographic words. Others correspond to various senses of a polysemous word. Others again take the form of a group of words associated paradigmatically (e.g. kick, kicked, kicking, kicks) or syntagmatically (e.g. to beat about the bush). Lexical items are sometimes juxtaposed with grammatical items, i.e. units of language whose presence in a given text is related to their grammatical function and not their specific meaning (Sinclair, Jones and Daley 2005: 9). Besides, they are sometimes referred to as lexemes, though the term lexeme may also be understood as an uninflected word form (Carter 1994: 22, cf. Aprile 2005: 9–10).

Some authors assume that collocations may involve lexical items as well as grammatical items (Benson 1989, Carter 1994: 47–48). Accordingly, the researchers divide collocations into grammatical and lexical. Other authors, however, present collocations as combinations of lexical items rather than those grammatical (Cruse 1986, Hill 2000, Gramley and Pȁtzold 2004). Nevertheless, sometimes their examples of collocations include some grammatical words, such as prepositions (e.g. completely obsessed with, moved to tears, Hill 2000). Finally, it should be mentioned that collocation is sometimes juxtaposed with ←18 | 19→colligation. In such cases the former pertains to ‘constrained lexical choice’ (Bartsch 2004: 31), whereas the latter refers to what is elsewhere called grammatical collocation (e.g. argument for, discrimination against, Flowerdew 2009: 87).

In addition, various works devoted to collocations differ in the approach adopted with respect to idioms and free combinations. Let us firstly focus on the former of the two notions. In this work, idioms will be defined as multi-word items with holistic meanings which are not retrievable from the meanings of their component elements (e.g. the English to kick the bucket, or the Italian darsi delle arie, Moon 1997: 46). Hill (2000: 50–51) and Geller and Dąbrówka (2007: XIV) state that idioms constitute a kind of collocation (cf. Palmer 1976: 98, Moon 1997: 43), whereas Cruse (1986: 40), Benson (1989), Jędrzejko (ed., 1998: 74), Crowther et al. (2002: vii) and Rokicka (2007: 81) claim that they are a different type of word combination. Besides, Moon (1997) takes an intermediate approach assuming that multi-word items, such as idioms, phrasal verbs, compounds, fixed phrases and prefabs, ‘in many respects can be seen as extreme cases of fixed collocations’ (Moon 1997: 43). Finally, Palmer (1976: 96) criticises clear distinctions between collocations which are predictable from the meanings of their components and those which are unpredictable. He notices that ‘co-occurrences are determined both by the meaning of the individual words and (…) by conventions about “the company they keep”’. In addition, the researcher postulates that the notion of collocation should not be restricted in any precise way, though understandably every researcher is allowed to limit their research to any items that they find interesting.

Let us now turn to the so-called free combinations, which are also termed as occasional or casual collocations (Roos 1976, Sinclair 1966: 418, Sinclair et al. 2005: 10). They are expressions of the smallest degree of restrictedness whose components combine with vast numbers of items, sometimes coming from different grammatical categories. For instance, the verb to see may be accompanied by a variety of nouns (for instance, to see a car, a cat, a teacher, a flower, etc.), prepositional phrases (to see somebody on the street, in the park) and adverbs (to suddenly see, to see today) (Roos 1976). Crowther et al. (2002: vii), Proost (2007: 165), Hausmann and Blumenthal (2006: 4), and McKeown and Radev (2000) distinguish between collocations and free combinations. Contrastingly, Howarth (1996: 33–34) assumes that free combinations constitute a kind of collocation and Hill (2000: 51) provides examples of collocations which are in fact free combinations (a nice flat, a big car).

Furthermore, some researchers who notice that the notion of collocation is problematic in terms of its definition approach the term in an unconventional way. To give an example, Meer (1998: 315) assumes that it is not possible to ←19 | 20→formulate a clear-cut definition of collocation, as the notion does not feature clear-cut distinctions in natural language. Thus, the researcher proposes to formulate a definition of the prototypical collocation (cf. Herbst 1996: 385). He tentatively defines the prototypical collocation as a combination:

1.of two or more lexical units, with meanings also occurring independently in other combinations;

2.of lexical units which are used non-metaphorically;

3.which appears normally, repeatedly and conventionally in a language;

4.which is available as a whole to the language user and serves to express conventional, established concepts;

5.whose constituents are in a modifier-modified relation;

6.whose constituents naturally select each other since the sense definition of the modifier includes the modified (and sometimes vice versa) in a non-banal way (semantic motivation).

7.which typically functions as part of a larger group and not as a complete utterance itself.

Meer (1998: 316) points out that the above-mentioned criteria eliminate a number of fixed expressions which are not prototypical collocations, such as proverbs, idioms, or catchphrases. Additionally, the researcher distinguishes collocations from free combinations, assuming that the former convey conventional concepts and are crucial to discuss some topics.

1.1.3. Collocational restrictions

Let us now turn to another notion which is crucial for understanding of the term collocation, i.e. the notion of collocational restrictions. Before their discussion, it should be stated that collocations are frequently divided into two parts, i.e. nodes and collocates. Nodes, which are also called bases (Spohr 2012) and headwords (Douglas Kozłowska 2004: 9), are modified by their collocates and constitute the most significant and meaningful element of a given collocation. For instance, provided that a collocation consists of a noun and adjective, the noun tends to be the node and the adjective its modifying collocate (e.g. financial aid / pomoc finansowa / aiuto finanziario). It should be added, however, that the identification of node and collocate is situation dependent. In some cases it is hardly possible to identify the more prominent part of a given expression (Malec 2010: 130). Besides, taking a different perspective, Sinclair (1991: 115) and Sinclair, Jones and Daley (2005: 10) assume that nodes are the lexical items subject to linguistic investigation, whereas collocates are the items which occur ←20 | 21→in their contexts. Finally, it should be mentioned that some researchers use the term collocate to refer to all of the components of a given collocation, including the node.

According to Palmer (1976: 97), collocational restrictions relate to the knowledge what kind of collocates can be used with a given node. To give an example, though one can say that a rhododendron died, they will not say that a rhododendron passed away, since the verb to pass away does not collocate with the names of shrubs. Similarly, in Italian the noun caffè (coffee) collocates with forte (strong), but not with potente, though the two adjectives can be perceived as synonyms. In other words, some collocations are rejected not because they have never been heard before, but because the language user knows the collocational range of a given node.

Palmer (1976) distinguishes three kinds of collocational restrictions, though he admits the existence of some borderline cases. Firstly, he postulates that some collocational restrictions are related to the meaning of a given lexical item, as in the case of the word pair *hot ice. The second type of collocational restrictions pertains to the collocational range of a given item. As in the case of rhododendron which dies and not passes away, some nodes will not collocate with a set of items which share some semantic features. Finally, some restrictions are ‘collocational in their straightest sense’, i.e. they are not determined neither by the node meaning not by its range. To give an example, though one can say that eggs are addled, they would not say that they are rancid (Palmer 1976: 101, cf. Halliday 1966: 151).

1.2. The importance of collocations for linguistic competence

A number of researchers (Brown 1994, Ellis 1997, Hill 2000, Nation 2001, Crowther et al. 2002, Handl 2008, Jamrozik 2014) agree that collocational knowledge is a critical aspect of language knowledge. For the sake of example, Brown (1994: 27) states that collocations offer ample opportunities ‘as a means of accessibility to the multifarious uses of language’. Ellis (1997: 129) observes that ‘speaking natively is speaking idiomatically using frequent and familiar collocations, and the job of a language learner is to learn these familiar word sequences’. Nation (2001:318) states that ‘language knowledge is a collocational knowledge’ and ‘all fluent and appropriate language use requires collocational knowledge’. Besides, the researcher claims that a myriad of lexical items are employed in restricted sets of collocations, hence a significant part of vocabulary cannot be correctly used unless one learns or acquires their collocations. Crowther et al. (2002: vii) point out that ‘language which is collocationally rich ←21 | 22→is also more precise’, since the exact meaning of a given word is frequently determined by its context. Thus, if one chooses the most suitable collocations, they can express their ideas more clearly. Finally, as Hill (2000: 55) notices, an individual who knows collocations that they need does not have to focus on the form and is able to concentrate better on what they intend to convey.

Furthermore, the importance of collocations has been confirmed by research on the human mind. As the research in question has demonstrated, recurring collocations are probably learnt, stored, and processed as wholes, which positively influences the speed and fluency of production and comprehension (Leśniewska 2002, Nation 2001: 321). Bringing together a number of units to form a larger unit, which is stored in the mind as a whole, is often referred to as chunking (Miller 1956, cited in Nation 2001, Newell 1990, cited in Ellis 1997). The process of chunking occurs not only at the level of words, but also at all the other levels of written and spoken language (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.Examples of chunking at different levels of written language (Nation 2001: 319).

The processing of chunks by human mind may consist in their use to form larger units or in the analysis of their component parts. In the case of non-native language users, the storage of multi-word chunks in long-term memory may be problematic, as the number of chunks is much greater than the number of their components. Additionally, the task of finding the required chunk in such a store may prove very challenging (Nation 2001: 319–321). An alternative to ←22 | 23→chunking is the so-called rule-based processing, which consists in recreating a given complex item each time when it is needed (Nation 2001: 320). According to Nation (2001: 321), previous research on the subject suggests that the process of chunking is typical of high-frequency complex units, whereas low-frequency complex items are re-created each time when they are needed (cf. Nation 2001: 321).

Lacks in collocational knowledge result in linguistic problems. If a language user knows the form of a given word but is unaware of its collocational restrictions, they are prone to committing language errors, such as lexical calques and semantic extensions (Gabryś-Barker 2005:102). Lexical calques occur when language users transfer to the target language collocations that are unique to another language, which is usually their mother tongue. In the case of Polish users of the English language, an example of lexical calque is saying *dense hair instead of thick hair or *sincere field instead of open country (Zybert 1999: 68–69). As for semantic extensions, they tend to occur when some interlingual equivalents are not exact synonyms. For instance, the French word porte is synonymous to the English word door when it comes to the door of a house or a room. Nevertheless, it is not used to refer to the door of a car, which is denominated as portière. The above-mentioned case of non-exact synonymy may trigger errors resulting from overgeneralisations (Swan 1997:168).

The differences between collocations in various languages give rise to numerous translation problems, which have been described Siepmann (2011: 70–76). The problems in question arise, for instance, in the case of polysemous collocations, interlingual collocational gaps and differences of frequencies between equivalent collocations in different languages. In addition, the problems under discussion may be due to some textual and stylistic factors. To give an example, due to textual factors, the French expression jours heureux is often translated into English as happier days and not happy days. As for stylistic factors, they may be related, for instance, to the tendency to synonymic variation which is typical of some languages (e.g. French) and less typical of others (e.g. English).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (December)
Lexicography Dictionary Collocations LSP Language of law Corpus linguistics
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 560 pp., 35 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Anna Zagórska (Author)

Anna Zagórska holds a PhD in linguistics and is employed in the Institute of Specialised and Intercultural Communication, Faculty of Applied Linguistics of the University of Warsaw. Her areas of research center on lexicography, lexicology, specialist communication, and corpus linguistics.


Title: Dictionaries of LSP Collocations
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