In corpus linguistics, collocation defines a sequence of words or terms that co-occur more often than would be expected by chance. In phraseology, collocation is a sub-type of phraseme. An example of a phraseological collocation (from Michael Halliday[1])is the expression strong tea. While the same meaning could be conveyed by the roughly equivalent *powerful tea, this expression is considered incorrect by English speakers. Conversely, the corresponding expression for computer, powerful computers is preferred over *strong computers. Phraseological collocations should not be confused with idioms although both are similar in that there is a degree of meaning present in the collocation or idiom that is not entirely compositional. With idioms, the meaning is completely non-compositional whereas collocations are mostly compositional.

Collocation extraction is a task that extracts collocations automatically from a corpus, using computational linguistics.


Common features

Arbitrary restriction on the substitution of the elements of a collocation

We can say highly sophisticated, and we can say extremely happy. Both adverbs have the same lexical functions, that is adding the degree, or magnifying the impact of the adjectives (sophisticated, happy), However, they are not interchangeable. Still, other adverbs, such as very can replace both highly and extremely.

Syntactic modifiability

Unlike the majority of idioms, collocations are subject to syntactic modification. For example, we can say effective writing and write effectively.

Expanded definition

If the expression is heard often, transmitting itself memetically, the words become 'glued' together in our minds. 'Crystal clear', 'middle management', 'nuclear family', and 'cosmetic surgery' are examples of collocated pairs of words. Some words are often found together because they make up a compound noun, for example 'riding boots' or 'motor cyclist'.

Collocations can be in a syntactic relation (such as verb–object: 'make' and 'decision'), lexical relation (such as antonymy), or they can be in no linguistically defined relation. Knowledge of collocations is vital for the competent use of a language: a grammatically correct sentence will stand out as 'awkward' if collocational preferences are violated. This makes collocation an interesting area for language teaching.

Corpus Linguists specify a Key Word in Context (KWIC) and identify the words immediately surrounding them. This gives an idea of the way words are used.

The processing of collocations involves a number of parameters, the most important of which is the measure of association, which evaluates whether the co-occurrence is purely by chance or statistically significant. Due to the non-random nature of language, most collocations are classed as significant, and the association scores are simply used to rank the results. Commonly used measures of association include mutual information, t scores, and log-likelihood.[2]

Rather than select a single definition, Gledhill[3] proposes that collocation involves at least three different perspectives: (i) cooccurrence, a statistical view, which sees collocation as the recurrent appearance in a text of a node and its collocates,[4][5][6] (ii) construction, which sees collocation either as a correlation between a lexeme and a lexical-grammatical pattern,[7] or as a relation between a base and its collocative partners[8] and (iii) expression, a pragmatic view of collocation as a conventional unit of expression, regardless of form.[9][10] It should be pointed out here that these different perspectives contrast with the usual way of presenting collocation in phraseological studies. Traditionally speaking, collocation is explained in terms of all three perspectives at once, in a continuum:

‘Free Combination’ ↔ ‘Bound Collocation’ ↔ ‘Frozen Idiom’

Collocation in dictionaries

As long ago as 1933, Harold Palmer's Second Interim Report on English Collocations highlighted the importance of collocation as a key to producing natural-sounding language, for anyone learning a foreign language[11]. Thus from the 1940s onwards, information about recurrent word combinations became a standard feature of monolingual learner's dictionaries. As these dictionaries became 'less word-centred and more phrase-centred'[12], more attention was paid to collocation. This trend was supported, from the beginning of the 21st century, by the availability of large text corpora and intelligent corpus-querying software, making possible a more systematic account of collocation in dictionaries. Using these tools, dictionaries such as the Macmillan English Dictionary and the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English included boxes or panels with lists of frequent collocations[1]. There are also a number of specialized dictionaries devoted to describing the frequent collocations in a language[13]. These include (for Spanish) Redes: Diccionario combinatorio del espanol contemporaneo (2004), and (for English) the LTP Dictionary of Selected Collocations (1997) and the Macmillan Collocations Dictionary (2010)[2].

See also


  1. ^ Halliday, M.A.K., 'Lexis as a Linguistic Level', Journal of Linguistics 2(1) 1966: 57-67
  2. ^ Dunning, T. (1993): "Accurate methods for the statistics of surprise and coincidence". Computational Linguistics 19, 1 (Mar. 1993), 61-74.
  3. ^ Gledhill C. (2000): Collocations in Science Writing, Narr, Tübingen
  4. ^ Firth J.R. (1957): Papers in Linguistics 1934–1951. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ Sinclair J. (1996): “The Search for Units of Meaning”, in Textus, IX, 75–106.
  6. ^ Smadja F. A & McKeown, K. R. (1990): “Automatically extracting and representing collocations for language generation”, Proceedings of ACL’90, 252–259, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  7. ^ Hunston S. & Francis G. (2000): Pattern Grammar — A Corpus-Driven Approach to the Lexical Grammar of English, Amsterdam, John Benjamins
  8. ^ Hausmann F. J. (1989): Le dictionnaire de collocations. In Hausmann F.J., Reichmann O., Wiegand H.E., Zgusta L.(eds), Wörterbücher : ein internationales Handbuch zur Lexicographie. Dictionaries. Dictionnaires. Berlin/New-York : De Gruyter. 1010-1019.
  9. ^ Moon R. (1998): Fixed Expressions and Idioms, a Corpus-Based Approach. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  10. ^ Frath P. & Gledhill C. (2005): “Free-Range Clusters or Frozen Chunks? Reference as a Defining Criterion for Linguistic Units,” in Recherches anglaises et Nord-américaines, vol. 38 :25–43
  11. ^ Cowie, A.P., English Dictionaries for Foreign Learners, Oxford University Press 1999:54-56
  12. ^ Bejoint, H., The Lexicography of English, Oxford University Press 2010: 318
  13. ^ Herbst, T. and Klotz, M. 'Syntagmatic and Phraseological Dictionaries' in Cowie, A.P. (Ed.) The Oxford History of English Lexicography, 2009: part 2, 234-243

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • collocation — [ kɔlɔkasjɔ̃ ] n. f. • XIVe; lat. collocatio « placement » → colloquer 1 ♦ (1690) Dr. Classement des créanciers dans l ordre que le juge a assigné pour leur paiement. Par ext. Classement. 2 ♦ Région. (Belgique) Dr. Internement, emprisonnement …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • collocation — COLLOCATION. sub. fém. Terme de Pratique. Action par laquelle on range des créanciers dans l ordre suivant lequel ils doivent être payés. On a fait la collocation de ses créanciers. [b]f♛/b] On appelle Collocation utile, Une collocation pour le… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • Collocation — Col lo*ca tion, n. [L. collocatio.] 1. The act of placing; the state of being placed with something else; disposition in place; arrangement. [1913 Webster] The choice and collocation of words. Sir W. Jones. [1913 Webster] 2. (Linguistics) a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • collocation — Collocation. s. f. v. Action par laquelle on colloque des creanciers en ordre pour estre payez. On a fait la collocation de ces creanciers. Il signifie aussi, L ordre, le rang dans lequel chaque creancier est colloqué. Il a esté payé suivant sa… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • collocation — is a term in descriptive linguistics for the customary association of words with other words. A bystander is usually said to be innocent, consequences are often far reaching, and politicians are cautiously optimistic. For some reason, Catholics… …   Modern English usage

  • Collocation — (v. lat.), 1) Stellung; 2) im Concurs Anordnung der Reihe der Gläubiger, nach welcher solche ihre Befriedigung aus dem Vermögen des Gemeinschuldners erhalten sollen; angegeben in dem Collocationsurtel; vgl. Concurs; 3) Verheirathung, Ausstattung; …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • collocation — index arrangement (ordering), array (order), building (business of assembling), chamber (body), collection ( …   Law dictionary

  • collocation — mid 15c., from L. collocationem (nom. collocatio), noun of action from collocare (see COLLOCATE (Cf. collocate)). Linguistics sense is attested from 1940 …   Etymology dictionary

  • collocation — ► NOUN 1) the habitual occurrence of a word with another word or words with a frequency greater than chance. 2) a word or group of words that habitually occur together (e.g. heavy drinker). ORIGIN Latin, from collocare place together …   English terms dictionary

  • collocation — [käl΄ə kā′shən] n. [L collocatio] a collocating or being collocated; specif., an arrangement, as of words in a sentence …   English World dictionary

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