- Word count: 2848
- Category: Language
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The problems non-native speakers may have with English vocabulary use – in particular with the appropriate combinations of words. This is an aspect of language called collocation. An example of collocation that many learners of English may be familiar with is the different adjectives that are used to describe a good-looking man and a good-looking woman. We talk of a beautiful woman and of a handsome man, but rarely of a beautiful man or a handsome woman. A collocation is two or more words that often go together. These combinations just sound “right” to native English speakers, who use them all the time. On the other hand, other combinations may be unnatural and just sound “wrong”. Look at these examples: Natural English…| Unnatural English…|
the fast train
fast food| the quick train
a quick shower
a quick meal| a fast shower
a fast meal|
Types of Collocation
There are several different types of collocation made from combinations of verb, noun, adjective etc. Some of the most common types are: 1. Adverb + Adjective: completely satisfied (NOT downright satisfied) 2. Adjective + Noun: excruciating pain (NOT excruciating joy) 3. Noun + Noun: a surge of anger (NOT a rush of anger) 4. Noun + Verb: lions roar (NOT lions shout)
5. Verb + Noun: commit suicide (NOT undertake suicide) 6. Verb + Expression With Preposition: burst into tears (NOT blow up in tears) 7. Verb + Adverb: wave frantically (NOT wave feverishly) How to learn collocations
* Be aware of collocations, and try to recognize them when you see or hear them. * Treat collocations as single blocks of language. Think of them as individual blocks or chunks, and learn strongly support, not strongly + support. * When you learn a new word, write down other words that collocate with it (remember rightly, remember distinctly, remember vaguely, remember vividly). * Read as much as possible. Reading is an excellent way to learn vocabulary and collocations in context and naturally. * Revise what you learn regularly. Practice using new collocations in context as soon as possible after learning them. * Learn collocations in groups that work for you. You could learn them by topic (time, number, weather, money, family) or by a particular word (take action, take a chance, take an exam). * You can find information on collocations in any good learner’s dictionary. And you can also find specialized dictionaries of collocations. B. Sense Relations
Sense relations are therefore the relationships between meaning of words, in either their similarity or contrast in a language. It (Sense relations) is used in lexical semantics to describe the relationship between terms (words), as Semantics largely deals with word meaning. The relations which most language teachers encounter with the greatest frequency in day-to-day teaching are synonymy, antonymy, and hyponymy. 1. Synonymy
Synonymy is the relationship between two words that have the same sense. This is a strict definition of synonymy – the identity of sense. Some linguists, however, consider synonymy a similarity of meaning. At least one meaning identical
You have my deep / profound sympathy.
The lake is deep / profound.
She speaks with a very wide / broad Scottish accent.
The river is very broad / wide at this point
Most often, synonyms share at least one meaning, while with the change of context, they both change their meaning, and lose their referential identity with the other member of the pair. 2. Antonymy
Antonymy is a sense relation in which oppositeness of meaning is observed.
* Types of Antonyms :
Contraries display a type of semantic contrast, illustrated by such pairs as rich and poor. Contraries are gradable, and the semantic contrast in a contrary pair is relative; i.e. there are often intermediate terms between the two opposites. So the negation of one does not necessarily mean the assertion of the other. b. Contradictory terms
Contradictory terms are also called complementarities. The meanings of these terms are mutually exclusive and no possibilities are allowed between them. The assertion of one is the negation of the other. c. Relative terms
They show a reciprocal social relationship and a contrast of direction. One of the two presupposes the other of the two. * Some characteristics of antonyms
a. Antonyms are classified on the basis of meaning b. Antonyms can be used for efficient expression of an opposite idea, etc. c. Antonyms can be used for emphatic effect.
Hyponymy refers to the relationship of semantic inclusion. Words with more specific meaning or narrower meaning are hyponyms, while words with more inclusive or general meanings are superordinate terms. The status either as superordinate or subordinate is only relative.
1) Apple is a hyponym of fruit.
2) Frame: A is a type/kind of B.
3) Fruit is a superordinate of apple.
4) Extensionally, the superordinate includes the hyponym (sub-class). 5) Intentionally, the hyponym includes the superordinate.
C. Semantic Fields
In studying the lexicon of English (or any language) we may group together lexemes which inter-relate, in the sense that we need them to define or describe each other. For example we can see how such lexemes as cat, feline, muggy; puss, kitten, tom, queen and meadow occupy the same semantic field. We can also see that some lexemes will occupy many fields: noise will appear in semantic fields for acoustics, pain or discomfort and electronics (noise = “interference”). Although such fields are not clear-cut and coherent, they are akin to the kind of groupings children make for themselves in learning a language. A semantic field – is a large group of words of different parts of speech in which the underlying notion is broad enough to include almost all-embracing sections of vocabulary. The main feature of a semantic field is its national specifics.
* E.g., cosmonaut (n), spacious (adj.), to orbit (v) belong to the semantic field of ‘space’. * Of colors: blue, red, yellow, black, etc.
* Of kinship terms: mother, father, brother, cousin, etc. * Of pleasurable emotions: joy, happiness, gaiety, enjoyment, etc. * The word ‘captain’
Cannot be properly understood until we know the semantic field in which this term operates — the army, the navy, or the merchant service. Thus, captain is determined by the place it occupies among the terms of the relevant rank system. What captain means we know whether his subordinate is called mate or first officer (merchant service), commander (‘navy’) or lieutenant (‘army’)? * Semantic field of ‘space’:
Nouns: expanse, extent, surface, etc.
Verbs: extend, spread, span, etc.
Adjectives: spacious, roomy, vast, broad, etc.
D. Homonymy and Polysemy
This contains a brief explanation of homonymy and polysemy. * A word is polysemous if it can be used to express different meanings.
The difference between the meanings can be obvious or subtle. * Two or more words are homonyms if they either sound the same (homophones), have the same spelling (homographs), or both, but do not have related meanings. * In other words, if you hear (or read) two words that sound (or are written) the same but are not identical in meaning, you need to decide if it’s really two words (homonyms), or if it is one word used in two different ways (polysemy). * The only real way we have of telling the two apart is by applying our judgment. There are no tests that can tell them apart in a foolproof manner. Still, for many cases this is enough.
* There are, however, many other cases for which this decision is not clear. This doesn’t mean that they are both or halfway between each; that makes no sense, because a word can’t be both one word and two words. Rather, it means that one of the following options holds: a. Different speakers treat the word differently. It might be one word for me but two for you. b. We are dealing with two homonyms, but there is enough overlap between them. c. We are dealing with one word whose different uses are relatively far enough apart. * A clear case of homonymy: The word down in sentence (a) and the word down in sentence (b). These are two words that happen to share sound and spelling. There is no relation between them: a) Sarah climbed down the ladder.
b) Sarah bought a down blanket.
* A clear case of homonymy: The word bark in sentence (a) and the word bark in sentence (b). a) My dog would always bark at mailmen.
b) The tree’s bark was a rusty brown.
* A clear case of polysemy: The word Newspaper in the following sentences. The object that got wet cannot fire people, and the company didn’t get wet. Still, it’s obvious that the same word is used to refer to them both. a) The newspaper got wet in the rain.
b) The newspaper fired some of its editing staff.
* A clear case of polysemy: The word Good in the following two examples. In one case it’s a moral judgment, in the other case it’s a judgment of skill. a) John was a good man. He donated a lot of money to charity. b) Bill was a good painter. His drawings always were exciting to look at. * Unclear case: Hammer in sentence (a) is a noun referring to a physical object. Hammer in sentence (b) is a verb describing an action normally (but not in this case) performed with that object. Is this one word or two? Different people may disagree. a) I own a big heavy hammer.
b) I hammered the tent pole into the ground using a small rock. * Unclear case: The word bright in the following two sentences. The meanings are clearly not the same, but are it one word that is used metaphorically in (a) and literally in (b), or are these two different words? a) Laura was a very bright student and always got good grades. b) The lights in this room are very bright.
1) Central or Focal Meaning
In English, ‘table’ can mean the piece of furniture used for eating at, an ordered list of facts, or a flat area of rock or stone. Foe most people, the psychologically central or focal meaning is probably the first, the piece of furniture. ‘Foot’ in English can be a part of the body, the base of something, or a measurement; again, the first meaning is central for most speakers. Such psychological perceptions are powerful and may not necessarily coincide with actual frequency of occurrence in language data, but the power of the central meaning and its transferability across languages may be important features in how words are learnt and how different sense are felt to relate to the center or periphery of a word’s meaning potential.
Sentence: Did you hurt your head?
2) Metaphorical extension
A metaphorical extension is the “extension of meaning in a new direction” through popular adoption of an original metaphorical comparison. Metaphorical extension is almost a universal and natural process in any language undergone by every word. In general, it’s not even perceived in everyday usage as meaning change. When it’s least obvious, users don’t even see it as extending the meaning of a word. Consider the example of illuminate: it originally meant “to light up” something dim or dark, but has evolved to mean “to clarify”, “to edify”. After a while these new meanings seem as natural as to be integral parts of the word, where senses such as “to celebrate” and “to adorn a page with designs” seem like more obvious additions.
‘Hand’ becomes a metaphor for ‘help/assistance’ in ‘give me a hand’ or ‘farm-hand/factory-hand’.
We have looked at metaphorical extensions of words like ‘hand’ in D.2. Metaphor, as a device for creating and extending meaning, is very important in the study of vocabulary. The definition of a metaphor is “a figure of speech containing an implied comparison, in which a word or phrase ordinarily and primarily used of one thing is applied to another (Ex.: the curtain of night, “all the world’s a stage”).” A metaphor is distinct from, but related to a simile, which is also a comparison. The primary difference is that a simile uses the word like or as to compare two things, while a metaphor simply suggests that the dissimilar things are the same. If this is confusing, take a look at some of these metaphor examples to get a better understanding of exactly what a metaphor is. Metaphor: Situation vs. the Real Thing
You may have often heard expressions such as “he drowned in a sea of grief” or “she is fishing in troubled waters,” or “success is a bastard as it has many fathers, and failure is an orphan, with no takers.” All these expressions have one thing in common: a situation is compared to a real thing, although the situation is not actually that particular thing. * Sea of grief – How and where does one come across a sea that is filled not with water, but with grief? * Fishing – It is not used to mean that the person is actually fishing; it is an expression which is used to signify that the person is looking for something that is difficult to obtain.
* Success is a sense of achievement; it is not an illegitimate child! – The saying is used to reinforce the age-old belief that everyone wants to take credit for something that became a success, either by fluke or by conscious effort. On the other hand, no matter how much effort or creativity may have gone into an enterprise, the moment it is considered a failure, no one wants to take responsibility for it, much like an abandoned infant. * Broken heart – Your heart is not literally broken into pieces; you just feel hurt and sad. All of these expressions are examples of metaphors. They are juxtaposing an actual (literal) thing and a figurative thing in order to give more meaning to the figurative concept. To use the above examples, the literal expression in the phrase is “sea,” while “grief” is the figurative item. Purpose of Metaphors
Expressions are used to give effect to a statement. Imagine how bland a statement such as “he was sad” is, compared to a statement describing a “sea of grief.” The metaphor is sure to give the reader a better idea of the depths of grief in this situation. Similarly, who would really spend time thinking of the vast differences between success and failure if the metaphor was missing, and the statement was just “Everyone wants to be successful, no one wants to be a failure?” That statement would be a failure itself, in inspiring interest in the conversation! F. Componential Analysis
We can observe that words which cluster together to form lexical fields have certain features or attributes in common. Thus ‘spaniels’, ‘terriers’, and ‘pekinese’ not only have in common that they are domesticated pets, but that they are canine ones (separating them from cats). But cats and dogs share the attribute of being mammals, of being non-human ones, of being animate (unlike ‘hammers’ or benches’) and so on. These features or attributes enable us to organize our field in terms of what the entities within it have in common and what distinguishes them from one another. A ‘spaniel’ and a ‘terrier’ have in common that they are domesticated and canine; we can express these as semantic markers (Katz and Fodor 1063; Carter and McCarthy 1988:30-2), and enclose the attributes in round brackets:
(+ domesticated + canine)
Both also have in common their use as sporting or hunting dogs, and other possible features, but they also have distinguish features, which may be expressed in square brackets (the plus signs simply mean ‘possesses that features’): Spaniel [+ large, droopy ears + silky coat + sporting retriever] Terrier [+ small + hairy + burrowing when hunting]
The markers and distinguishing features put together are an analysis of the meaning of the word. This technique is usually called componential analysis (CA). The individual labels such as ‘+canine’ and ‘+hairy’ are the components of the meaning of the word. CA attempts to describe the systematic ways in which words are alike or unalike. CA tends to present a rather static, abstract view of the vocabulary of a language. It is also sometimes difficult to state precisely what the components of a given word are, and subjective judgments vary. This is because our lexical competence is highly variable, is dynamic, in constant change and development.
What I know about a word (or need to know to function socially) may not be the same as what you know. What is more, meaning changes over time and develops, and what an individual knows about a word changes too. When the language learner encounters a new word, certain features may be more salient than others; in a particular context it may be irrelevant that terriers have a burrowing instinct, in another context it might be crucial. CA does not claim to address these issues; it is more concerned with the structure of the lexicon. However, CA has influenced vocabulary teaching and learning.