Synonymy at the Syntagmatic Level

by blogadmin

Synonymy at the Syntagmatic Level

Antoinette Renouf

The corpus-based Cobuild dictionary project represented an early large-scale affirmation of the Firthian theory that part of the sense or meaning of a word is revealed by its neighbours (henceforth ‘collocates’), in a given context.

The fact that collocation is not only an abstract associative relationship, but a regular surface feature of text, traceable along the syntagmatic plane, is rather important, because it makes the semantics of words in text amenable to study, both manually and automatically. It also permits the testing of the hypothesis that words with similar collocational profiles might have similar meanings, or be in some other significant sense relationship.

The existence of lexical collocation, or lexical ‘attraction’ in text, in turn suggests a corresponding phenomenon of lexical ‘repulsion’. Here, the hypothesis is that a word actively does not occur in the environment of another word for some reason, and that repulsion is thus also part of the meaning of a word.

In this paper, I shall show that these wonderfully simple hypotheses are true, and illustrate their power and fascination with examples taken from real language.


Firth, J. R. (1957). ‘Modes of meaning’. In: J. R. Firth: Papers in Linguistics 1934-1951. pp. 190-215. London: Oxford University Press.

Pacey, M, Collier, A.J. and A. Renouf (1996). ‘Refining the Automatic Identification of Conceptual Relations in Large-scale Corpora’, in Proceedings of the Sixth Workshop on Very Large Corpora, ACL/COLING, Montreal, 15-16 Aug, 1998.

Renouf, A. (1996). ‘The ACRONYM Project: Discovering the Textual Thesaurus’, in Lancashire, I., Meyer, C. & C. Percy (eds.): Papers from English Language Research on Computerized Corpora (ICAME 16). Amsterdam/ Atlanta: Rodopi, pp. 171-187

Renouf, A. (1996). ‘Les Nyms: en quète du thesaurus des textes’, in Lingvisticae Investigationes XX:1, Amsterdam: Benjamins. pp. 145-165.

Renouf, A. & R.H. Baayen (1998). ‘Aviating among the hapax legomaena: morphological grammaticalisation in current British Newspaper English’, in Renouf, A. (ed.): Explorations of Corpus Linguistics. Proceedings of the 18th ICAME Conference, University of Liverpool, 21-25 May 1997. pp. 181-189

Renouf, A. & J. Banerjee (2007). ‘Lexical Repulsion between sense-related pairs’, in M.Mahlberg (ed.), International Journal of Corpus Linguistics: 12.3. pp. 415-443 Renouf, A. & J. Banerjee (2009). 'The Phenomenon of Repulsion in Text' in ‘Proceedings of 25th International Conference on Lexis and Grammar, Palermo, Sicily, Sept. 6-10, 2006’, in Lingvisticae Investigationes, Leclère, C. et al (eds.). Amsterdam: Benjamins

Renouf, A. & J. Banerjee (2010). ‘Lexical repulsion and its Applications’, in Actes du 27e Colloque international sur le lexique et la grammaire (L’Aquila, 10-13 septembre 2008 ) ed. M de Gioia, in series Lingue d’Europa e del Mediterraneo:  Grammatica comparata, Aracne, Rome.



1 comment

Comment from: blogadmin [Member]
Apologies for the fact that link to this post does not reflect the title of the talk.
09/19/10 @ 13:42

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