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Review of  Estudio de las estructuras verbo-nombre en un corpus de textos literarios


Reviewer: Louisa Buckingham
Book Title: Estudio de las estructuras verbo-nombre en un corpus de textos literarios
Book Author: Inés Lareo Martín
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): Syntax
Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Book Announcement: 20.2380

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AUTHOR: Lareo Martín, Inés
TITLE: Estudio de las estructuras verbo-nombre en un corpus de textos literarios
SUBTITLE: Las colocaciones en inglés moderno tardío
SERIES: Studies in English Linguistics
PUBLISHER: LINCOM
YEAR: 2008

Louisa Buckingham, Sabanci University, Universidad de Granada.

This book, fruit of the author's doctoral thesis at the University of A Coruña,
deals with verb-noun combinations (broadly also covering those known as verb
support or light verb combinations), using the verbs _make_, _take_, _have_ and
_do_. It constitutes a comprehensive study of these combinations from a
collocational perspective using a specialized corpus created by the author
comprising 900,000 words of literary texts by nineteenth century British
writers. The study seeks the frequency of use of these collocations in literary
language between 1800 and 1930, the degree of collocational stability of the
four verbs studied, the degree to which the author's gender, age and
geographical origin contribute to the frequency of use of these combinations and
the degree to which the verbs _make-do_ and _take-have_ are used
interchangeably. The author also provides a brief analysis of the
morphosyntactical properties of the noun.

The work consists of eight chapters, including an introduction and conclusion.
Chapters two to five constitute an overview of the concept of collocation and a
presentation of the approach employed by the author in the present study. For
readers new to the study of verb-noun collocations with a support verb, chapters
two to four provide a useful synthesis of relevant literature in English.

In chapter two, Lareo Martín positions collocations within the broader context
of phraseological expressions, and provides an overview of previous
conceptualizations of collocations. In chapter three, she gives a critical
overview of the inclusion of constructions with a light verb (_make_, _do_,
_have_ etc.) in twentieth century grammars of English before moving on to a
discussion of terminology used to refer to the verb (light verb, support verb,
delexical verb, functional verb etc.). In the following chapter, the author
summarizes previous attempts at taxonomies of verb-noun collocations with a
light verb. She closes the chapter with a discussion of the challenges these
combinations present to second language learners, translation and lexicography.

In chapter five, Lareo Martín outlines the approach she has taken in her study
to verb-noun collocations within the framework of Mel'čuk (1998). In chapter
six, she discusses in detail the process of compiling her corpus. The author
addresses the hypothesis previously posited by other scholars that
socio-economic changes of the nineteenth century impacted language use, with
specific focus on the frequency of verb-noun combination use. Her approach to
this question has been to divide her corpus into three periods (1800-1850;
1850-1900; 1900-1930), and identify further variables such as gender,
geographical location, and the author's age when each work was produced.

The analysis of the corpus was undertaken using the program Text Search version
2.4 (Alcott, 2003), and the compilation and organization of data was managed
using the _Access 2000_ data base. The author includes ample use of
illustrations and tables displaying how combinations were saved and ordered. The
detailed nature of the results is due to the author's careful compilation of the
corpus. Firstly, the author confirms that, in contrast to what had been
previously maintained by scholars based on introspective analysis, the number of
verb-noun combinations display a gradual decline over the period of 1800 to
1900. With respect to gender, the author's data suggest that a slight preference
exists for the use of these combinations among males.

Lareo Martín presents a detailed analysis of the use of each of the four verbs
in her corpus. _Have_ is the most prolific verb in verbo-noun collocations. As
the author explains, among the 957 lexemes in her corpus, 502 correspond to the
verb _have_. The second most common verb, _make_ is just over half as common as
_have_, but its frequency shows a marked decline at the beginning of the
twentieth century. _Take_, slightly more infrequent than make, is followed by
_do_, which, representing under seven per cent of the examples, proves to be the
most infrequent, but also is the only verb which is used more frequently by
female authors.

The author's discussion of individual verb frequency is followed by an analysis
of morphosyntactic characteristics of the combinations such as the use of
determiners, adjectival modification, plural forms, negation, variation in verb
choice (examples from her corpus are provided). The author comments extensively
on variation of verb choice (e.g. _have/take a bath_) due to the attention it
has received previously by linguists (Wierzbicka, 1982, Dixon, 1992) in the
context of diatopic variation. The author ascertains, however, that no such
claim can be made on the basis of her data as forms previously ascribed to US
English appeared amply within her own British English corpus. Indeed, she shows
that rivalry between _have_ – _take_ and _make_ - _do_ occurs frequently among
British authors, continuing even in contemporary language use. She does,
however, point to a gradual increase in the use of _make_ in place of _do_ in
the nineteenth century.

The book ends with a number of appendices displaying the results obtained from
Lareo Martín's corpus.

EVALUATION
There are few studies involving a specialized electronic corpus of verb-noun
combinations, and this alone makes this book an important work in the area of
English language phraseology. The author's careful construction of her corpus
(as detailed in chapter six), which thus enables a similarly detailed analysis
of data, further contributes to the book's undeniable value. As the author
herself notes, one of the invaluable contributions of corpus work is the
possibility it provides the researcher to describe authentic language use, and
the results derived from corpus work may often negate previously held
understandings of language use based on introspective source. The author's data
serves to challenge (but also support) previous assumptions on more than one
occasion.

A point of curiosity concerns why the author chose to extend her study to all
verb-noun combinations, rather than limit herself to those which qualify as verb
support constructions, given that much of her preliminary theoretical
discussion, as well as her analysis of data focus on these verb support
constructions. It is interesting to note that the vast majority of the results
listed in the appendix, constitute such constructions. The reader may also wish
further detail with regard to morphosyntactic features. For example, although
the author makes passing mention of the phenomenon of what is sometimes known as
complex or co-ordinated constructions in her initial description of verb noun
combinations, there is no mention of these in her subsequent analysis of her
data, despite the appearance of one such construction in her examples (_making
all manner of horrid faces and silly protestations_ [p.164]). Further, more
detailed analysis of the different types of adjectival modification (e.g.
multiple adjectives, adjectival and adverbial modification etc.) might have been
included. Regardless, the book is a valuable contribution to the study of
phraseology and, more specifically, to the study of collocations and verb
support constructions.

REFERENCES
Alcott, G. (2003) Super Text Search. Ver. 2.4

Dixon, R. M. W. (1992) _A new approach to English grammar on semantic
principals_. Oxford: Claredon Press.

Mel'čuk, I. (1998) Collocations and lexical functions. In A. P. Cowie, ed.,
_Phraseology, theory, analysis and applications_. Oxford/New York: Oxford
University Press.

Wierzbicka, A. (1982) Why can you have a drink when you can't *have an eat?
_Language_, 58, 753-799.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Louisa Buckingham completed her Ph.D. at the University of Granada (Spain) in
the area of phraseology (verb support constructions in a specialized corpus).
She has taught second language acquisition and academic writing at the
University of Tuzla (Bosnia) and Sabanci University (Turkey). She has published
in the areas of phraseology, and second language writing.
 

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