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Review of Phraseology: Theory, Analysis, and Applications
Cowie, A. P., ed. (2001) Phraseology: Theory, Analysis, and Applications. Oxford University Press, paperback ISBN: 0-19-829964-8, 272pp, $24.95 (Oxford Studies in Lexicography and Lexicology) [hardback edition published originally in 1998]
Reviewed by Andrzej Zychla, Teachers' Training College of English, Zielona Gora, Poland.
For the announcement of this book, see http://linguistlist.org/issues/12/12-1014.html#2
The book is the first comprehensive, and relatively objective, survey of phraseology in English. Since it naturally touches upon other, more or less related, disciplines (lexicography, language learning, corpus linguistics, stylistics, computational analysis, natural language processing, automatic translation) it should be of interest to (meta)lexicographers, (corpus) linguists, translators and language teachers.
The book starts with an introduction by Cowie and is divided into four main parts, each filled with respective contributions in the form of individual chapters (their brief descriptions can be found below). The introduction is crucial for at least two reasons: it helps to establish the links between the chapters and attempts to systematise the, not yet homogenous, terminology. It is both a guide to the main parts of the book as well as an official recognition of the East's significant contribution to phraseology.
Part 1. Theoretical Perspectives: The Russian Tradition; The Cultural Element 2. Collocations and Lexical Functions (by Igor Mel'cuk)- offers a definition of collocations as well as their taxonomy developed for highly practical purposes (lexicographic application); discusses the two key concepts for which Mel'cuk is known, namely lexical functions (Chapter 9 shows their practical application in lexicography) and the Meaning-Text framework.
3. Phraseology as a Language of Culture: Its Role in the Representation of a Cultural Mentality (by Veronika Teliya, Natalya Bragina, Elena Oparina, and Irina Sandomirskaya) - suggests that systematic, linguo- cultural analysis is of tremendous value in phraseology (especially in the case of restricted lexical collocations); the cultural information incorporated in many phrases needs to be taken into account, if their description is to be comprehensive (many interesting examples from Russian discussed).
Part 2. Phraseology in Written and Spoken Corpora 4. Frequencies and Forms of Phrasal Lexemes in English (by Rosamund Moon)- reports on some corpus queries concerned with phrasal lexemes and suggests that phrasal lexeme frequency seems to be genre- or register- dependent; it is likely that the choice of (semi) fixed phrases is genre driven, but further research and confirmation are still necessary.
5. On the Phraseology of Spoken English: The Evidence of Recurrent Word-Combinations (by Bengt Altenberg)- is an analysis of a spoken language corpus, suggesting that the overwhelming majority of the words in the corpus form parts of recurrent word-combinations and that spoken language is to a great extent prefabricated; yet one more voice for the building-blocks approach to language generation.
Part 3. Phraseology in Special-Purpose Languages and Foreign-Learner Language 6. The Stylistic Potential of Phraseological Units in the Light of Genre Analysis (by Rosemarie Gl�ser) - incorporates a detailed taxonomy of the 'phrasicon' ('the whole inventory of idioms and phrases') of modern English with close attention given to connotative meaning and intertextuality; the analysis of excerpts from popular scientific articles, academic-scientific monographs, student textbooks, commercial advertising and prose fiction shows how astonishingly great the stylistic potential of the 'phrasicon' is.
7. Prefabricated Patterns in Advanced EFL Writing: Collocations and Formulae (by Sylviane Granger) - advocates, on the basis of the research described, a balanced approach to language teaching - both prefabs and explicit grammar instruction should find their place in language classrooms; as the research into First and Second Language Acquisition is not yet conclusive and little is known about the acquisition and L1-L2 interaction of prefabs, it may be too hasty a thing to base English coursebooks exclusively on the phrase- approach and 'let grammar take care of itself'.
8. The Phraseology of Learners' Academic Writing (by Peter Howarth) - points out that even though many learners are aware of the free combinations and idioms, they fail to understand that there exists a very important 'in-between' that they have to master in order to become effective English writers; learners do not know either that restricted collocations form a significant part of a typical NS's production and that they are crucial for effective communication in certain genres, especially academic writing.
Part 4. Phraseology and the Dictionary 9. Discovering Significant Lexical Functions in Dictionary Entries (by Thierry Fontenelle) - visit http://linguistlist.org/cgi- bin/dissfly.cgi?fontenel to get an idea about the extracting procedure applied; the author shows how the extracted collocations can, having been carefully supplemented with Mel'cuk's lexical functions (see Chapter 2), be retrieved at dictionary user's will.
10. Phraseological Dictionaries: Some East-West Comparisons (by A. P. Cowie) - presents a diachronic survey of the major developments in British and Russian phraseology (the most significant dictionaries of idioms and collocations are analysed and the relationships between East and West approaches to phraseology discussed).
There is a joint bibliography and an index at the end of the book.
The book is an up-to-date and cross-cultural survey of phraseology, the first one in English. Since phraseology, as an autonomous discipline, is still relatively young and dependent on other fields of research, the authors are aware of certain limitations of their work. They point out (chs. 4 and 5) that much larger corpora are necessary if any conclusive statements are to be made (very few instances of certain kinds of fixed expressions can be found in the corpora available currently); and that further research in other fields of science is indispensable for phraseology development (ch. 7 - First and Second Language Acquisition). The volume also lists certain aspects of phraseology that need to be researched in the future, thus giving some food for thought to prospective scholars. Phraseology is quickly establishing itself as a science in its own right, clarifying and systematising its key terminology and ideas and the book is clearly a proof of thereof.
Chapter 10, though, includes a couple of glaring errors that need to be clarified (they should not have emerged, in the first place, as it had been read thoroughly by a Russian scholar). First of all, the 'East side' of his analysis is not entirely Russian, as Cowie seems to suggest. 'Selected English Collocations' by Kozlowska and Dzierzanowska (1982) is, in fact, a Polish dictionary, published by one of the most renowned publishing houses: Polskie Wydawnictwo Naukowe (Polish Scientific Publishers). This fact may account for the disturbing discrepancies that Cowie finds between the dictionary and the Russian phraseological theory (its authors might not have been aware that such theories existed!).
What is more, (Jerzy) Tomaszczyk, whose pioneering research into the habits of dictionary users (1979) was received with enthusiastic acclaim, is no more Russian than the writer of this review. He is a Polish linguist, living and working in Lodz. I hope these two misunderstandings will be clarified in the forthcoming editions of this, otherwise extremely useful, book.
The author of this review is an assistant at the Teachers' Training College in Zielona Gora. He defended his MA thesis (a critical evaluation of one of the Polish bilingual dictionaries) in 1998. He is currently working on his PhD dissertation (Defining strategies used by EFL teachers and their possible implications for dictionary definitions). His interests include: (meta)lexicography and applied linguistics (language teaching methodology and translation).
Douglas Kozlowska, Ch., H. Dzierzanowska (1982) Selected English Collocations. PWN: Warszawa.
Tomaszczyk, J. (1979). 'Dictionaries: users and uses'. Glottodidactica XII: 103-119.
The reviewer is an assistant at the Teachers' Training College in Zielona Gora. He defended his MA thesis (a critical evaluation of one of the Polish bilingual dictionaries) in 1998. He is currently working on his PhD dissertation (Defining strategies used by EFL teachers and their possible implications for dictionary definitions). His interests include: (meta)lexicography and applied linguistics (language teaching methodology and translation).