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Family collocation

Exploring relations between lexical families

Gregory Garretson

Abstract

This chapter introduces the concept of ‘family collocation’, to address a problem with traditional methods of studying collocation: namely, that focusing on the co-occurrence in text of individual forms ignores connections between related forms that are likely to exist in the mental lexicon. For example, the phrases satisfactory conclusion, satisfactory conclusions, unsatisfactory conclusion, and satisfying conclusion are seen as completely unrelated according to some approaches to collocation, despite the likelihood of speakers seeing connections between them. While some corpus studies have grouped forms by lemma, this method goes one step further and groups related words into ‘families’. To demonstrate family collocation, a study is presented of the co-occurrence of 100 high-frequency word families in the British National Corpus. The results suggest that such co-occurrence is very frequent, creating complex sets of relations that should be taken into consideration. Three case studies demonstrate various implications of family collocation for corpus studies.

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