What is collocation?
The definition of a collocation is not a matter of serious controversy. The British Linguist Firth is often quoted as one of the first who dealt with collocations. According to Palmer (1976:94), he argued that "You shall know a word by the company it keeps," and he gave the example of the company of the English word "ass," which occurred in a limited set of contexts and in the company of a limited set of adjectives silly, obstinate, stupid, and awful. In an article on modes of meaning published back in 1951, Firth introduced his often-quoted definition of collocation as "the company words keep." He maintains that "meaning by collocation is an abstraction at the syntagmatic level and is not directly concerned with the conceptual or idea approach to the meaning of words." He gives the example of the word night where one of its meanings involves its collocability with dark. In discussing seven differentiated types of meanings, Leech (1974:20) discusses what he calls "collocative meaning" which "consists of the associations a word acquires on account of the meaning of words which tend to occur in its environment." This definition is almost a replica of Firth's definition and instead of "ass," Leech gives the examples of pretty and handsome and the collocates of each. The words pretty and handsome share the common general meaning of "good-looking," but they are distinguished by the range of nouns with which they are likely to co-occur. He also gives the example of "quasi-synonymous" verbs like wander-stroll, and tremble-quiver, where each keeps a different company from the other. Benson, Benson, and Ilson (1986) try to develop criteria for defining collocations. They proposed the dual criteria of relative fixedness and non-idiomaticity and they use recurrent combination and fixed combinations for collocations. A collocation is two or more words that often go together. These combinations just sound "right" to native English...
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