LINGUIST List 13.2883

Thu Nov 7 2002

Review: Applied Linguistics: Altenberg & Granger (2002)

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  1. Melinda Tan, Altenberg and Granger (2002), Lexis in Contrast

Message 1: Altenberg and Granger (2002), Lexis in Contrast

Date: Thu, 07 Nov 2002 21:43:17 +0000
From: Melinda Tan <>
Subject: Altenberg and Granger (2002), Lexis in Contrast

Altenberg, Bengt and Granger, Sylviane, eds. (2002) 
Lexis in Contrast: Corpus-based approaches. 
John Benjamins Publishing Company, hardback ISBN 1-58811-090-7 (US), 
x + 337pp, Studies in Corpus Linguistics.

Book Announcement on Linguist: 

Melinda Tan, Institute for English Language Education, 
Assumption University, Thailand. 

This edited book is made up of a collection of articles which was
presented at the 'Contrastive Linguistics and Translation
Studies. Empirical Approaches' conference held in Louvain in 1999. Two
other articles: one by Bengt Altenberg and the other by Sylviane
Granger and Wolfgang Teubert have also been added to the original
collection. The book is divided into five parts: Introduction,
Cross-Linguistic Equivalence, Contrastive Lexical Semantics,
Corpus-based Bilingual Lexicography and, Translation and Parallel
Concordancing. The editors identify three emerging trends in the area
of corpus linguistics research: a) the growing interest in
corpus-based research, b) the great variety of methodological
approaches used in the research and c) the wish to empirically support
cross-linguistic research.

Summary of the content of the book

In Altenberg and Granger's introductory article, they explain how the
traditional notion of lexis as being unimportant compared to grammar
and syntax does not hold sway now with the advent of computer research
as it has helped bring lexical analysis to the foreground of
linguistic research. The rest of the article summarises the recent
trends that have emerged from cross-linguistic lexical studies.

Salkie's article, 'Two types of translation equivalence' starts off
Part II of the volume where the focus is on contrastive investigations
involving translations. Salkie argues that since there is no firm
agreement on the accuracy of translation equivalence using, a
translation corpora could therefore provide a solution. Unlike
monolingual corpora which rely on frequency of common occurrence as
the basis for analysis, the value of translation corpora is that it
focuses on uncommon associations between words and expressions in
different languages. Bonelli's main argument in her article
'Functionally complete units of meaning across English and Italian
follows in the same vein. However, her study goes further in
addressing the issue of translation equivalence by proposing an
approach which identifies 'functionally complete' multiword
lexico-grammatical units used for language or translation comparison
items. Functionally complete units are syntagmatic units that can be
identified by analysing patterns of co-selection in the semantic
environment surrounding a word. The focus on translation equivalence
is further illustrated in the final article of Part II by
Altenberg. The article argues for the value of integrating
corpus-based interlanguage research with contrastive studies by
illustrating, through causative constructions in Swedish and English,
how apparent similarities in these constructions have resulted in the
overuse of many L2 patterns.

In Part III of the volume, the unifying thread among all the papers in
this section is their focus on cognitive principles of meaning
disambiguation across different languages. Viberg's study illustrates
through an analysis of polysemic words in Swedish and English how
disambiguation can be conducted through an investigation of the
interaction between word meaning and linguistic context (syntactic and
semantic cues). Viberg suggests that at the start of contrastive
investigations, primary word meaning should first be represented as a
prototype before further analysis is done on the various meaning
extensions. Lan Chun's research on the similarities in the extended
meanings of the spatial terms 'up' and 'down' in Chinese and English
lend further support to the application of cognitive semantic
principles in contrastive meaning disambiguation. The study applies an
'experiential' view of cognition which focuses on basic conceptual
classes and image schemas in the disambiguation of meaning.
Paillard's article ends this section on contrastive lexical semantics
by illustrating through the examination of specific examples of
hypallage and metonymy, how their syntactico-semantic patterns differ
in English and French. Paillard's examination of corpus and dictionary
evidence shows that in the case of metonymy, there is 'a greater
degree of semantic heterogeneity between argument and predicate' in
French, whereas in the case of hypallage, English allows 'greater
syntactic flexibility in the form of movement and ellipsis'.

In Part IV, all the articles focus on the applications of corpora in
bilingual lexicography. Teubert's article argues the value of parallel
corpora, in the form of bilingual databases, for lexicography as they
are able to aid traditional tools which are used in translations such
as dictionaries, termbanks and translation memories. Alsina and
DeCesaris' paper, while agreeing with the merits of bilingual and
multilingual corpora in aiding the compilation of dictionaries, argue
that bilingual corpora are also beset with the main problem of
overlapping polysemy. The authors end their paper by concluding that
while monolingual corpora may not be able to solve the problem of
overlapping polysemy, they are useful in two respects: a) ranking the
order in which translation equivalents should be presented and b)
selecting relevant fixed expressions to include in particular entries.
The focus on lexicography is further illustrated in Cardey and
Greenfield's article which explicate the problems and results
encountered in constructing computerised set expression
dictionaries. The main problems that beset the process are those
related to data collection, their representation for translation and
the recognition of expressions in context together with their
translation equivalents. In the final article of Part IV,
Chodkiewicz, Bourigault and Humbley suggest that a computerised 'term
extractor' called Lexter, can be used to construct a glossary which
would aid professional translators and illustrate how a human rights
glossary could be made using the text extractor as well as the help of
experts. The main advantage of Lexter is that it reduces the problem
of multiple equivalence as it gives priority to multiword term

The three articles in the final section, Part V of the volume, focus
on tools and techniques that can be used for bilingual translation and
parallel concordancing. Kraiff's article starts off this section,
defining and explaining the concepts and techniques involved in
bilingual alignment which can be applied to translations. Kraiff
distinguishes between two types of bilingual pairing: the alignment of
translation equivalents and the lexical correspondence of stable
lexical units. Maniez' paper proposes the use of an automatic
translation program for syntactic disambiguation. The program would
scrutinise electronic databanks comprising frequently used compounds
and collocations. The analysis focuses on the lexical frequency of a
particular polysemous lexical item as well as the examination of the
lexical environment surrounding the item. Maniez concludes that at
various stages of the analysis, human intervention is necessary,
especially in the aspects of data collection and formatting. In the
final article of Part V, Corness explicates the processes and methods
involved in using Multiconcord, a parallel concordancing programme, as
a resource in constructing a bilingual translation corpus. Corness
suggests that results from parallel concordancing have important
implications for teaching and learning, especially with regard to
further research in contrastive analysis of linguistic patterns in
translation corpora.

Critical view

The main merit of this book is its appeal to empirical validity
conducted through rigorous analytical scrutiny. This is in keeping
with the book's central aim of giving cross linguistic studies 'a firm
empirical foundation' based on evidence of language use and not
intuition. However, while the main focus of the book has been to
explicate the variety of methodological approaches applied on
different multilingual corpora, it was surprising that practically all
the articles supplied no description of the corpora that were used for
analysis. Basic details such as the size of the corpus used, its
composition and parameters for construction are vital for information
exchange among the corpus linguistic research community; especially
for those interested in conducting further investigations in the area
of contrastive linguistics. The question of corpus size is indeed an
important one which has implications for validity since as Sinclair
(1997) has reiterated that:

'In order to uncover the regularities of structure, to identify, if
possible, exactly what the realisations are of meaningful choices and
to give precise shape to all the linguistic categories of linguistic
description, it is necessary to assemble a large number of putative
instances of each phenomenon. Given the well-known distribution of
word tokens in a language, a large corpus or collection of texts is
essential to provide a body of evidence'

Finally, the rationale behind the division of the book into four main
sections is not very clear, especially Parts I and III. For example,
the articles in Part I are grouped under the heading Cross-Linguistic
Equivalence, but the main content of Salkie and Altenberg's articles
focus on the problem of translation equivalents and this repetition of
the problem is found in Teubert's and, Chodkiewicz' Boourigault and
Humbley's articles in Part III 'Corpus-based Bilingual
Lexicography'. One suggestion to prevent this overlap in content
between Parts I and III is simply to group all the articles in these
two sections under one general heading 'Translation Equivalents and
Bilingual Lexicography'. However, this overlap in content is not
limited only to Parts I and III. There are three articles - Viberg,
Alsina and DeCesaris, and Maniez' - which all cover the same topic of
polysemy but are put in three different sections of the book: Viberg's
under 'Cross-Linguistic Equivalence', Chun's under 'Contrastive
Lexical Semantics' and Maniez' under 'Translation and Parallel
Concordancing'. Altenberg and Granger's conclude in their
Introductory section that the articles in this volume are a reflection
of how 'revolution in contrastive linguistics (CL) has just begun'
although there are still challenges facing CL in the future. However,
the lack of an overarching aim behind the collection of articles in
the book might hinder readers from developing clear notions of what
exactly the future of CL is.


Sinclair, John (1997) 'Corpus evidence in language description,' in
A. Wichmann, S. Fligelstone, T. McEnery and G. Knowles (eds) Teaching
and Language Corpora. London: Longman.
About the Reviewer

Melinda Tan is a lecturer at the Institute for English Language
Education, Assumption University, Bangkok. She is the editor of
'Corpus Studies in Language Education'. Her research interests include
applications of corpus linguistics in the language classroom,
cognitive semantics and critical discourse analysis.
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