chapter 4 Words in usual collocations

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This chapter explores delexicalisation, which has been referred to as the ‘necessary correlate of co-selection’ (Sinclair 1992: 16). As words crystallise into collocations and those collocations attract stable cotextual patternings, the meaning potential of each of the component words is severely restricted. Just as ‘a word in a usual collocation stares you in the face just as it is’ (Firth 1957: 182), so too the established meaning of the combination overrides the other possible meanings that could be intended, but are not. Because they are highly salient and have an unambiguous “basic” meaning-referent, colour words are ideal for testing the strength of the “meanings have words” approach. The case studies and discussion in this chapter should be of particular interest to translators and foreign language teachers. It is demonstrated not only that the meaning of a phrase is fixed by its conventional lexical realisation, but also – and counter-­intuitively – that the salient meanings of its components are largely dormant.


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