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Review of  The Phraseological View of Language

Reviewer: Phoebe M. S. Lin
Book Title: The Phraseological View of Language
Book Author: Thomas Herbst Susen Faulhaber Peter Uhrig
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Computational Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 23.2248

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EDITORS: Herbst, Thomas; Faulhaber, Susen & Uhrig, Peter
TITLE: The Phraseological View of Language
SUBTITLE: A Tribute to John Sinclair
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2011

Phoebe M.S. Lin, Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics, City
University of Hong Kong

Herbst, Faulhaber and Uhrig’s ‘The phraseological view of language’ is a tribute
to the late John Sinclair, whose insights and vision for lexis and corpus
linguistics continue to inspire many studies on phraseology. The volume brings
together 16 papers from the workshop Chunks in Corpus Linguistics and Cognitive
Linguistics held in Erlangen, Germany in October 2007. Papers are presented in
four sections: I. John McH. Sinclair and his contribution to linguistics
(Preface and Chapters 1-2), II. The concept of collocation: theoretical and
pedagogical aspects (Chapters 3-8), III. Variation and change (Chapters 9-12)
and IV. Computational aspects (Chapters 13-15).

Chapter 1, ‘A tribute to John McHardy Sinclair (14 June 1933-13 March 2007)’, by
Michael Stubbs presents Sinclair’s life and contributions in three related
areas, namely language in education, discourse analysis and corpus-assisted
lexicography. Sinclair was strongly influenced by the tradition of British
empiricism and had a great passion for research on spoken English, classroom
discourse and corpus-based lexicography. His most notable works include his
search for units of meaning, the Birmingham discourse model, the OSTI report,
the COBUILD project and Linear Unit Grammar.

Chapter 2, ‘Corpus, lexis, discourse: a tribute to John Sinclair’, by Stig
Johansson highlights Sinclair’s contributions in redefining lexis and placing
lexis at the centre of the study of language. At a time when most linguists
championed grammar over lexis, Sinclair’s foresight to bring lexis to centre
stage was clearly demonstrated in the early 1970s in the OSTI Report. In the
rest of the chapter, Johansson continues to highlight Sinclair’s various
successes in discourse analysis in the mid-1970s, the development of monitor
corpora and the COBUILD project in the 1980s, the analysis of collocation,
colligation, semantic preference and semantic prosody in the 1990s, and the
proposal of Linear Unit Grammar (with Anna Mauranen) in the new millennium.

Chapter 3, ‘Choosing sandy beaches -- collocations, probabemes and the idiom
principle’, by Thomas Herbst treats Sinclair’s concepts of collocation and
single choices in detail. Like many others, Herbst maintains the distinction
between semantically-significant collocations and statistically-significant word
combinations. He argues that statistically significant word combinations do not
all by default constitute single choices from a cognitive perspective (and,
therefore, are collocations). They have to be tested on a number of factors
including whether they represent a conceptual unit in the speech community and
whether they are established uses in a language.

Chapter 4, ‘Sinclair revisited: beyond idiom and open choice’, by Dirk Siepmann
introduces the principle of creativity to complement Sinclair’s idiom and
open-choice principles, and discusses how the three principles may shape the
teaching of translation. The new principle of creativity is founded on the basis
of Sinclair’s open-choice principle. Upon examination of Hausmann’s (2007) and
Sinclair’s typologies of collocations, Siepmann observes that Sinclair’s idiom
and open-choice principles can be divided further into finer types: co-creation
and collocation under the idiom principle, and analogical creation and
counter-creation under the open-choice principle. Analogical creation, as a
sub-type, is also called the principle of creativity. It refers to word
combinations which ‘constitute a more or less deliberate deviation from accepted
norms that can be accounted for in terms of a set of semantic relations such as
analogical transfer, lexical substitution, metaphor or metonymy’ (p. 65).

Chapter 5, ‘Accessing second-order collocation through lexical co-occurrence
networks’, by Eugène Mollet, Alison Wray and Tess Fitzpatrick introduces a new
concept called second-order collocation. The authors argue that the analysis of
the collocates of a node word’s collocates (hence, second-order collocation) may
yield new insights into the collocational behaviour of a word. The highly
sensitive second-order collocation analysis becomes particularly useful when
existing collocation analysis methods fail to discern subtle relationships
between words. Unlike traditional collocation analysis, the notion of
second-order collocation recognises that in any lexical network a node word’s
collocational behaviour can change depending on the presence of other words. In
order to show the subtle differences between lexical items, second-order
collocation analysis goes beyond the consideration of the collocation pair
(i.e., a node word and a collocate) and captures the potential influence of a
third word on the pair using a specially-developed formula. After a
demonstration of this formula using various examples, the chapter ends with a
discussion of the potential applications of second-order collocation analysis
for the disambiguation of word meaning and in the areas of stylistics and
critical discourse analysis.

Chapter 6, ‘From phraseology to pedagogy: challenges and prospects’, by Sylviane
Granger examines the confusion surrounding the lexical approach to language
learning. According to Granger, ‘the diverging interpretations of the very
concept of lexical approach and the very forceful pronouncements found in the
literature are liable to create confusion in the minds of teachers and materials
designers and may even end up being less -- rather than more -- efficient in
learning terms’ (p. 124). Therefore, the paper sets out to clarify the
definition, scope, strengths and weaknesses of the lexical approach. There are
three major challenges when it comes to the practical implementation of the
approach: the lack of a clear description of effective classroom methodology,
the lack of appropriate terminologies in teaching to describe multiword units,
and the need to develop criteria to guide the selection of multiword units for
teaching. The chapter ends with a discussion of the role of learner corpora in
the development of the lexical approach.

Chapter 7, ‘Chunks and the effective learner -- a few remarks concerning foreign
language teaching and lexicography’, by Dieter Götz discusses the acquisition of
phraseology from a lexicographer’s perspective. The author begins by noting the
importance of acquiring phraseology in context. In other words, the learner
should be able to connect phraseology with a concrete situation in which it is
used so that he/she will also remember the communicative factors (e.g.,
register, social distance and jargon) associated with the phraseology. Götz
highlights the usefulness of bridge dictionaries (or dictionaries that present
items in the learner’s native language) in showing learners a phrase’s context
of use. As he argues, examples in the target language will help to re-enforce a
learner’s understanding of the unknown item only if the learner already knows
the phrase (and can associate the phrase with its context of use). If the
learner has never encountered the example utterance before, only a carefully
chosen and translated example in the learner’s native language can raise his/her
awareness of the appropriate context of use of the unknown phrase.

Chapter 8, ‘Exploring the phraseology of ESL and EFL varieties’, by Nadja
Nesselhauf investigates the phraseological patterns in ESL and EFL varieties
represented respectively by the International Corpus of English (ICE) and the
International Corpus of Learner English (ICLE). Comparisons between the ESL and
EFL varieties were drawn across three domains: competing collocations (e.g.,
play a role versus play a part, take into account versus take account of),
internal variability of collocations (e.g., no intention of V-ing in British
English versus have every/the intention or have intentions or have intention to
in ESL and EFL varieties) and the emergence of new prepositional verbs (e.g.,
answer to, approach to and discuss about). In analysing the distribution of a
number of example phraseologies in the ESL and EFL corpora and the British
National Corpus (BNC), the author shows that some patterns of phraseology used
in ESL varieties (e.g., those pertaining to the internal variability of
collocations) lie in between those of British English and the EFL varieties.
However, other patterns in ESL varieties (e.g., those pertaining to the
emergence of new prepositional verbs) appear further removed from the L1
patterns than the EFL varieties.

Chapter 9, ‘Writing the history of spoken standard English in the twentieth
century’, by Christian Mair uses the cases of the specificational cleft, modal
verbs/periphrastic forms and s-genitives to exemplify three possible scenarios
of diachronic change in speech and writing. The rare first scenario, that change
proceeds simultaneously in speech and writing, is demonstrated in the case of
the specificational cleft structure all I did is X, where X can be the
to-infinitive (as in, all I did was to ask), the bare infinitive (as in, all I
did was ask) or the V-ing (as in, the other thing I'm doing is trying). The much
more common second scenario is that change proceeds broadly along parallel lines
in speech and writing albeit at a different pace. This scenario is exemplified
by the case of modal verbs/periphrastic structures (e.g., must, have got to and
need to). The third scenario is that speech and writing demonstrate autonomous
development, as in the cases of the finite-clause clefts (e.g., all I did was I
asked) and s-genitives. Each scenario is illustrated with a wealth of examples
from five corpora in the Brown family (i.e., representing written British
English: B-LOB, LOB and F-LOB, and representing written American English: Brown
and Frown) and the spoken language corpus, the DCPSE.

Chapter 10, ‘Prefabs in spoken English’, by Brigitta Mittmann compares the use
of phraseology in American and British English. By examining the demographic
part of the British National Corpus (3.9 million words) and the Longman Spoken
American Corpus (LSAC, 4.9 million words), the author shows that American and
British phraseologies demonstrate small but crucial differences. For instance,
the two varieties have established differences in the use of articles (e.g., get
a hold of (something) in American English versus get hold of (something) in
British English). In addition, many phraseologies associated with responses to
another speaker’s turn (e.g., no, I won’t; yeah I know and oh I see) are used
much more frequently in British English than in American English. Because of the
markedly high frequency of phrases such as no, it isn’t and yes it is in British
English, Mittmann argues that they should be regarded as prefabricated despite
their syntactic regularity.

Chapter 11, ‘Observations on the phraseology of academic writing: local patterns
-- local meanings?’, by Ute Römer presents a study of the semantic prosodies of
high-frequency phrases in the 3.5 million word Book Reviews in Linguistics
Corpus (BRILC). Using a combination of phraseological search-engines (i.e.,
Collocate, kfNgram and ConcGram), Römer identified and analysed the evaluative
meaning of four phrases: lie in, at the same time, it seems to me, and on the
other hand. While these phrases are found to demonstrate different semantic
prosodies in the book reviews corpus (lie in and at the same time: positive; it
seems to me: negative; on the other hand: in-between neutral and negative),
these patterns no longer hold in the reference corpus, British National Corpus
(BNC) written component. These findings support the author’s argument that
phraseological patterns can be ‘very restricted-language [or text-type]
specific’ (p. 223).

Chapter 12, ‘Collocational behaviour of different types of text’, by Peter Uhrig
and Katrin Götz-Votteler sets out to test three hypotheses: firstly, there is an
interrelation between the collocational behaviour of a text and its perceived
difficulty; secondly, there is an interrelation between the collocational
behaviour of a text and the text-type; thirdly, there is an interrelation
between the collocational behaviour of a text and its idiomaticity. Eight
English texts of 20,000 words each from four genres (i.e., fiction, non-fiction,
EFL essays and an automatic translated novel) provided data for the study. Word
pairs from these genres were compared in terms of their Mutual Information (MI)
score, which is a measure of the strength of association between two words. Due
to certain technical and methodological constraints, the results were
inconclusive and did not support the hypotheses.

Chapter 13, ‘Corpus linguistics, generative grammar and database semantics’, by
Roland Hausser presents the theoretical framework of a natural language
processing system called Database Semantics (DBS). The system needs to address
many challenges because, unlike a human language learner, the computer does not
have any existing language knowledge as a foundation to help decode unknown, new
material. Therefore, a natural language processing system like the DBS involves
many components that need to be developed from scratch. These components include
an automatic word form recognition process, a syntactic-semantic interpretation
process, a storage process and a language realisation process. Each of these
components is introduced in the paper.

Chapter 14, ‘Chunk parsing in corpora’, by Gunther Görz and Gunter
Schellenberger discusses the usefulness of chunk parsing in speech processing
systems and the technological/methodological challenges facing chunk parsing.
Recognising the weaknesses of pure rule-based chunk parsing systems, the authors
propose the use of a method called Transformation-based learning and evaluate
the performance of such a system in theoretical terms.

Chapter 15, ‘German noun+verb collocations in the sentence context:
morphosyntactic properties contributing to idiomaticity’, by Ulrich Heid
discusses issues pertaining to the extraction of German noun-verb collocations.
The paper begins with a description of the current approaches to the extraction
of collocation candidates from text corpora. According to the author, there is a
need to distinguish collocations from non-idiomatic, fully compositional word
combinations. Furthermore, he states that the idiomaticity of word sequences can
be judged by considering the extent of the restrictions in terms of
determination, modification and preference for negation or coordination, and
compatibility with NP or PP fronting. Put simply, idiomaticity and the degree of
fixedness are correlated. The second part of the paper demonstrates a method of
collocation extraction. The method involves the use of Schiehlen’s (2003)
dependency parser on a German corpus and the subsequent extraction of
unambiguous noun-verb combinations. As the morphosyntactic features of the
combinations are extracted with the lemmas, researchers can inspect the
idiomaticity of the output word sequences manually on a case-by-case basis.

As a tribute to the late John Sinclair, the book demonstrates vividly how this
great scholar’s ideas have inspired research in a wide range of linguistic
disciplines. The studies in Sections II to IV are all extensions of Sinclair’s
insights in corpus and computational linguistics, collocations, lexicography,
language teaching and patterns of spoken English. The book as a whole not only
enhances readers’ understanding of Sinclair’s contributions, but it also
provides practical examples of the latest research inspired by Sinclair.

Among the 16 papers, many innovative ideas are put forward, e.g., a new emphasis
on the analysis of the collocates of a node word’s collocates, the unique value
of bridge dictionaries in drawing learners’ awareness to a phrase’s context of
use. Theoretical discussions aside, the book has also addressed practical
issues, such as the implementation of the lexical approach in the language
curriculum and changes in the teaching of translation. Altogether, ‘The
phraseological view of language’ is a book that has achieved a difficult balance
between the theoretical and the practical. Its comprehensive coverage of the
diversity of aspects of phraseology will be welcomed by readers who share an
interest in corpus, lexis and lexicography.

Hausmann, F. J. (2007). Apprendre le vocabulaire, cést apprendre les
collocations. In Elke Haag (ed.), F. J. Hausmann: Collocations, phraséologie,
lexicographie: Études 1977-2007 et Bibliographie (pp. 49-61). Aachen: Shaker.
[First published as Hausmann, F. J. (1984). Wortschatzlernen ist
Kollokationslernen: Zum Lehren und Lernen französischer Wortverbindungen. Praxis
des neusprachlichen Unterrichts, 31, pp. 395-406.]

Schiehlen, M. (2003). A cascaded finite-state parser for German. In Proceedings
of the Research Notes Sessions of the 10th Conference of the European Chapter of
the Association for Computational Linguistics (EACL 2003), Budapest, April 2003
(pp. 133-166). Budapest: Association for Computational Linguistics.

Phoebe M. S. Lin is Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics, City University of Hong Kong. She holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Nottingham, UK. Her research focuses on the acquisition, processing and use of formulaic language by first and second language learners. Her publications appear in peer-reviewed journals and books on corpus linguistics, applied linguistics, vocabulary and second language acquisition. She also has a forthcoming monograph on the prosody of formulaic language in Continuum's Corpus and Discourse series.