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Corpus Linguistics 2012. Session 3: Collocation Repeated, habitual co-occurence of certain words or phrases. “You shall know a word by the company that it keeps” (J.R.Firth). Collocation. cause. Ways of approaching collocation.

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Corpus Linguistics 2012

Session 3: Collocation

Repeated, habitual co-occurence of certain words or phrases.

“You shall know a word by the company that it keeps” (J.R.Firth)


Ways of approaching collocation

  • You can explore via 'corpus, concordance, collocation'.
  • Note also colligation - patterns of grammatical co-occurrence.
  • Semantic prosody (patterns of words with similar meanings),
  • It is often interesting to compare the collocational behaviour of synonyms, or near synonyms, e.g. strong and powerful.
  • An interesting cross-linguistic comparative study:

Collocation, Semantic Prosody, and Near Synonymy: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective, Richard Xiao and Tony McEnery, University of Lancaster. Applied Linguistics 2006 27(1):103-129.


A critical look at collocation

There is often a crude typography of 'prosodies': negative/neutral/positive

  • What is the benchmark for norms for 'negativity' in the text/corpus/genre? How 'negative' are texts in the corpus in general?
  • Difficult to disentangle the various forms of multi-word expression: collocations, compounds, idioms, n-grams, etc....
  • What are the units of meaning? Do words collocate with other words, or phrases, or more complex and variable structures?
  • Idiom principle v. open choice principle (Sinclair, John (1991). Corpus, Concordance, Collocation. Oxford, Oxford University Press, especially chapter 8)‏

Some more words and phrases

What are the collocational profiles of:

  • aftermath
  • borrow
  • on the edge of
  • on the verge of
  • on the brink of

Looking at collocations

  • BNCweb (Oxford log-in, experimental service):
  • BNCweb at Lancaster (register, restricted number of hits):
  • AntConc (download to use with your own corpus):
  • Corpora at Brigham Young University (web-based large corpora, incl BNC and COCA):

Tip of the week

Oxford Corpus Group

Friday 10 February, 4 pm OUCS

Pete Whitelock (Head of Language Engineering and Dictionaries at Oxford University Press): Oxford English Corpus: how it's collected, how it's analysed, how it's used.

(low-traffic) email list:


next week...

4. Corpus Linguistics: Annotation

In this session we will be looking at key methods and problems of applying linguistic annotation to a corpus, and how to use the annotated corpus.

Key topics:

  • annotation
  • tagging/tags/tag-set
  • word class

Corpus Linguistics

Session 3: Collocation