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Review of  Phraseology: Theory, Analysis, and Applications

Reviewer: Andrzej Zychla
Book Title: Phraseology: Theory, Analysis, and Applications
Book Author: A. P. Cowie
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Issue Number: 12.1901

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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

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

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
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
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).