50-something years of work on collocations

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This paper explores ways in which research into collocation should be improved. After a discussion of the parameters underlying the notion of collocation, the paper has three main parts. First, I argue that corpus linguistics would benefit from taking more seriously the understudied fact that collocations are not necessarily symmetric, as most association measures imply. Also, I introduce an association measure from the associative learning literature that can identify asymmetric collocations and show that it can also distinguish collocations with high and low association strengths well. Second, I summarize some advantages of this measure and brainstorm about ways in which it can help re-examine previous studies as well as support further applications. Finally, I adopt a broader perspective and discuss a variety of ways in which all association measures – directional or not – in corpus linguistics should be improved in order for us to obtain better and more reliable results.


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