Volume 15, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1384-6655
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9811
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Using the Corpus of Contemporary American English as the source data and employing a corpus-based behavioral profile (BP) approach, this study examines the internal semantic structure of a set of five near-synonyms (chief, main, major, primary, and principal).1 By focusing on their distributional patterns, especially the typical types of nouns that they each modify, the study has identified several important fine-grained semantic and usage differences among the five near-synonyms and produced a meaningful delineation of their internal semantic structure. Some of the findings of the study challenge several existing understandings of these adjectives’ meanings and usage patterns. Furthermore, the results of the study have affirmed (i) the theory and applicability of the BP approach for studying the semantic and usage patterns of synonyms in a set, and (ii) previous research findings about the co-occurrents of adjectives that best capture the essence of the semantics of adjectives, especially attributive adjectives.


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