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A Collocation Inventory for Beginners

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posted on 07.11.2021, 23:16 by Shin, Dongkwang

This study has two goals - (1) to see what criteria are needed to define collocations and (2) to make a list of the high frequency collocations of spoken English that would be useful for guiding teaching, learning and course design. The existing criteria for defining collocations are generally not well defined and have not been applied consistently. Wray and Perkins (2000) identify more than forty terms used for designating multi-word units. To avoid this confusion, three criteria are strictly applied - frequent co-occurrence, grammatical well-formedness and predictability in L1. The ten million word British National Corpus (BNC) spoken corpus is used as the data source, and the 1,000 most frequent spoken word types from that corpus are all investigated as pivot words. It is found that the three criteria can be applied in a systematic way. The most striking finding is that there are a large number of collocations meeting the first two criteria and a large number of these would qualify for inclusion in the most frequent 2,000 words of English, if no distinction was made between single words and collocations. There are nine major findings in this study - 1) there is a very large number of grammatically well-formed high frequency collocations, 2) collocations occur in spoken language much more frequently than they occur in written language, 3) the more frequent the pivot word, the greater the number of collocates, 4) a small number of pivot words account for a very large proportion of the tokens of collocations, 5) adjectives tend to have more collocates than other content words, 6) the shorter the collocation, the greater the frequency, 7) content word plus content word collocations outnumber other patterns of content word collocations, 8) there are more collocates on the left than collocates on the right, but this difference is not striking, 9) a third of the 500 most frequent collocations of English did not have word for word equivalents in Korean (L1). A balanced approach is needed for the teaching and learning of collocations, employing opportunities for both deliberate and incidental learning, and giving appropriate attention in each of the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Bauer, Laurie; Nation, Paul