chapter 3 Co(n)text and meaning

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Chapter 2 outlined what idioms are and how they relate to collocations. This chapter deals with idiomaticity as a central feature of “normal” language, and does so within a Sinclairian framework. By way of background, the contrasting open choice and idiom principles (Sinclair 1991), mentioned in passing in the previous two chapters, are explained in more detail. Following from this is a much more thorough discussion of collocation, colligation, semantic preference and semantic prosody, which together make up the ‘extended unit of meaning’ (Sinclair 1996b). These four features – none being entirely unproblematic in terms of their descriptions – are supplemented with a fifth, borrowed from Hoey’s (2005) work on lexical priming: semantic association. The addition of this fifth element, inserted between semantic preference and semantic prosody, is necessary in order to make a clear distinction between the pragmatic function of the unit of meaning (one aspect of semantic prosody) and the connotative, transferred, evaluative and other secondary meanings which can be inferred from the collocates (also commonly referred to as semantic prosody). Later chapters will demonstrate how important it is to differentiate between these related but fundamentally different aspects of meaning.


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