A Critical Review of Lexical Collocations: a Contrastive View

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A Critical Review of Lexical Collocations: a Contrastive View By Jens Bahns
Lexical Collocations is a paper written by Jens Bahns, the subtitle of which is a contrastive view. The paper was published in ELT journal in 1993. It mainly tells us that lexical collocations are an essential part in the field of EFL teaching, and showed us a more effective way to teach the students---- by using contrastive analysis of lexical collocations. The paper aimed to reduce the burdens for both the students and the teachers. It is a well-organized paper with clear points and strong evidences. With the help of some other ways, the teacher can mainly adopt this method in classroom to get a better result. Ⅰ. Summary of the paper

Jens Bahns, a scholar in second language acquisition, vocabulary learning and teaching in German, is the author of this paper. The paper can be divided into seven parts. Jens Bahns pointed out in the first part that there was a neglected aspect of vocabulary teaching in the field of EFL teaching—word combinability or word collocation. And he made it more convincing by means of quoting the statements of Rudzka, B., one of the authors of The Words You Need. And he supported his point with a few examples. Such as: feeble tea, laugh broadly and so on. In the second part, he made it clear what (lexical) collocations are. In one of the useful collocation dictionaries — The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English: A Guide to Word Combinations (1986) — the word collocation was defined as follows: ‘In English, as in other languages, there are many fixed, identifiable, non-idiomatic phrases and constructions. Such groups of words are called recurrent combinations, fixed combinations, or collocations’.[i] Then he sorted collocation into two groups: grammatical collocation and lexical collocation. With the help of some examples, we got to know them respectively. In the third part, Jens Bahns distinguished three terms that are easily confused: collocations, idioms and free combination. He quoted Benson, Benson, and Ilson’s explanation again. Using different combinations of the noun murder and by means of comparison, they illustrated the distinguishing features of the three terms. Free combinations can combine freely with other words; idiom are relatively frozen expressions whose meanings do not reflect the meanings of their component parts; collocations are those whose meanings reflect the meaning of their constituent parts (in contrast to idioms) and they are used frequently, spring to mind readily, and are psychologically salient.[ii] In the fourth part, the author related collocations to foreign language teaching. He gave some examples of combinatory dictionaries to indicate the significance of lexical collocation in EFL teaching. He raised 3 questions in order and advanced step by step. This paper mainly focused on the second question, that is which of the tens of thousands of collocations should be selected to teach. In answer to the question, Jens Bahns gave us two contradictory opinions. The positive side was represented by Joanna Channell and Waldemar Marton, while on the contrary, Ronald Mackin is skeptical about the possibility of teaching such a large number of lexical collocations in classrooms. He sees the only way for the foreign language learner to acquire some degree of collocational competence is in 'years of study, reading, and observation of the language'.[iii] In order to strengthen the convincingness of the former opinion, the author gave us an experiment by Bahns and Eldaw, which consisted of a translation task and a gap-filling task with 58 advanced learners of English with German as a native language. It turns out that the advanced learner’s lexical collocation knowledge couldn’t catch up with their knowledge of vocabulary. However, Ronald Mackin’s suspect is quite reasonable. There indeed existed many lexical collocations, and the author gave us...
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