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KONYA 2008
CHAPTER I – INTRODUCTION………………….…………………...…………………..1
1.1. Background of the Study ………………………………………………………..1
1.2. Statement of the Problem ……………………………………………………….2
1.3. Goal and Scope of the Study …………………………………………………….3
1.4. Significance of the Study ………………………………………………………...4
1.5. Research Questions ……………………………………………………………...5
CHAPTER II – LITERATURE REVIEW …………………...................………………….6
2.1. Introduction ……………………………………………………………………...6
2.2. Vocabulary Teaching in ESL / EFL Settings …………………………………..7
2.2.1. Historical Overview ………………………………....……………………......10
2.3. The Definition and Categorization of Collocation ……………………..…….16
2.3.1. Definitions of Collocation ……………………………………………………16
2.3.2. Types of Collocations ……………………………………………………...…24
2.3.3. Classification of Collocations ……………………………………………..…26
2.4. The Importance of Collocations in EFL Context …………………………….29
2.5. Difficulties in Collocational Use ……………………………………………….33
2.6. Empirical Studies on Collocations …………………………………………….36
CHAPTER III – METHODOLOGY ……………………….………………………….….40
3.1. Introduction …………………………………………………………………….40
3.2. Subjects ……………………..…………………………………………………..40
3.3. Materials and Procedure ……………………………………………………....40
CHAPTER IV – DATA ANALYSIS ………………….………………………………...…43
4.1. Data Analysis Procedures ………………………………...…………………………...44
CHAPTER V – CONCLUSION ………………………...…………………………………48
5.1. Conclusions and Discussions ……………………..……………………………………48
VI. BIBLIOGRAPHY ………………..……...…………………………………………...…52
APPENDICES ………………………………………………………………………………55
APPENDIX A ………………………………...……………………………………………..55
APPENDIX B ………………………………………………………….……………………57
APPENDIX C ……………………………………………….………………………………60
APPENDIX D ……………………………….………………………………………………61
APPENDIX E ………………………………………………….……………………………63
APPENDIX F ……………………………………………………..…………………………64
APPENDIX G ……………………………………………….………………………………65
APPENDIX H ……………………………………………………………………………….66
APPENDIX I ………………………………………………………………………………..68
APPENDIX J ………………………………………………………………………………..69
I would like to express my deepest gratitude and special thanks to my advisor Assist.
Prof. Dr. Ece SARIGÜL who helped and guided me in completing my thesis.
My thanks goes to Lec. Gülgün SERTKAYA and Dr. Osman DÜLGER for being so
kind to let me implement the data analysis procedure in their lessons.
I owe my special thanks to my mother and father for their endless help, patience and
Finally, I would like to thank my cousin Hasan BABALIK who has been a great
support to me for parts especially related to the statistical analysis.
In foreign language teaching vocabulary has been a neglected area for a long time.
Since 1970s, the perspective on vocabulary teaching has changed. It must be highlighted that
as far as communication is concerned, vocabulary is just one of the components in the whole
system. Vocabulary should be recognized as a central element in language instruction from
the beginning stages. With the recognition of the importance of vocabulary, many techniques
and approaches to teaching and learning vocabulary have emerged. One of these is teaching
vocabulary through collocation.
Teaching vocabulary through collocation is a comparatively new technique. The
purpose of this study is to investigate whether teaching vocabulary through collocations will
result in better vocabulary learning than teaching vocabulary using classical techniques such
using definition, synonym, antonym and mother tongue translation. The study was
conducted at Selçuk University, Faculty of Education, ELT Department. The participants
were 79 undergraduates of first-graders.
In the first chapter, the background of the study, statement of the problem, goal and
scope of the study, siginificance of the study and research questions are presented.
The second chapter includes literature review which centers on the place of vocabulary
in foreign language teaching and the definition and types of collocation.
In the third chapter, the method of the study, participants, materials, procedure and
information about the statistical analysis are given.
The significance of vocabulary was not noticed by the people who devoted themselves
in linguistics such as teachers, theorists, researchers and the others involved in EFL . But
fortunately, by the help of scholars who managed to address English as a Foreign Language
(EFL) teachers by their experimental studies and pedagogical material provided an arising
interest in vocabulary teaching and this has been one of the most valued issues of English
Language Teaching since then.
It is widely believed that the amount of words which someone knows directly equals
to his / her vocabulary knowledge. However, vocabulary knowledge refers to much more
skills than that. It rather means a learner’s knowledge about the possible relationship of the
words in question, which one fits more with which. The word “combinality” merits to be
given more attention simply because one of the first subjects in which EFL students have
difficulty and tend to make mistakes is the collocational properties of words.
1.1. Background of the Study
Word combinations such as cause damage, sharp reaction, scream silently which are
called “collocation” were originally introduced by Firth and he directed the attention of
theorists and linguists to this phenomenon.
However, it is after the increasing number of contribution that some scholars (e.g.
Sinclair, 1991; Nattinger, 1992; Lewis, 1993) make with their significant theoretical and
pedagogical works that the importance of collocation has been fully realized. Today, it is
almost an undeniable truth by the scholars and foreign language teachers that collocations are
integral elements of second and foreign language teaching.
Many researches and studies have been conducted on collocation up to now. Scholars
like Nattinger (1988), Sinclair (1991) and Lewis (2000) are among the ones who first
categorized collocations and made invaluable contributions with their studies.
Also, some of them (Meara, 1984; Carter, 1987; Nesselhauf, 2003) have focused on
the receptive (comprehension of word meaning) and productive (the relationship between
words ,i.e. collocation) vocabulary skills of EFL / ESL learners not only revealing the learner
errors in production but also offering some solutions to keep the collocational errors at
minimum as an end product.
Dictionaries also are the most important sources that learners and instructors can apply
to access lexical information. Almost every learner of a language as a foreign language has
got at least one dictionary. But these typical dictionaries are not much helpful in the field of
collocation and their application. They just help decoding, that is, make the unknown word
known by definitions. However, after the recognition of collocations more dictionaries
focusing on collocations have appeared and been served to the use of all learners interested in
their more complex and advanced phraseological structure.
In short, collocations still need to be examined thoroughly in the aspect of learner
needs since most researchers have handled this issue from other perspectives. The focus of
this study is to fill just a part of this gap by having students get consciousness toward
collocations and helping learners retain these combinations of words.
1.2. Statement of the Problem
The purpose of this study is whether using collocation has any positive effect on the
retention of vocabulary by letting students have an interest and understand the importance of
collocations itself, that is, a conscious-raising toward collocations. As words are the smallest
meaningful part of a language, then collocations are located at the hub and should be handled
with great care and importance. Many linguists (Lewis, 2000; Nation, 2001) are aware of this
fact and state that language knowledge is directly linked with collocations.
It has been accepted that vocabulary learning is an important skill in language
learning. However, despite its importance vocabulary instruction has not received the
attention it deserves in EFL / ESL instructional contexts (Zimmerman, 1997). In many
institutions, for example, many teachers do not recognize the variety of vocabulary teaching
techniques available. One of the teachers’ responsibilities is to provide learners with effective
opportunities that will enable them to learn more vocabulary items and retain them for a
longer time. Traditionally, vocabulary instruction has been mostly incorporated into reading
lessons and has been mostly taught through dictionary definitions, synonyms and antonyms.
Guessing meaning from the context is something which has been frequently used. However,
there are many other vocabulary teaching techniques that teachers can use, such as word
families, collocations and formal groupings. The efficiency of these techniques needs to be
empirically investigated (Nattinger, 1988). This experimental study was set up to investigate
whether teaching vocabulary in collocations will result in better vocabulary learning than
teaching vocabulary using mere definitions.
However, students tend to make mistakes while using collocations which mostly stem
from their L1. Almost all students adapt their vocabulary knowledge of L1 to L2 which a
linguistic term called “mother tongue interference” and as a result some odd sentences may
appear. Therefore, students should be given the chance to develop collocational competence.
1.3. Goal and Scope of the Study
The goal of this study is to find out whether teaching vocabulary through collocations
will result in better vocabulary learning than teaching vocabulary using classical techniques
such as definition, synonym, antonym and mother tongue translation. Our purpose is to show
the contribution of collocations to vocabulary learning of students in English as a Foreign
Language (EFL) classes. Our suggested hypothesis is that learning vocabulary through
collocations is an effective strategy that positively contributes to the development of
vocabulary learning.
If it could be shown that teaching vocabulary through collocations improves the
vocabulary learning more than classical techniques, teachers of English could be encouraged
to spare some more classroom time for this type of training in their classes and to assign more
importance to the application of certain learning strategies in vocabulary development.
The scope of this study is to discuss the vocabulary teaching techniques that the
teachers use and to discuss a relatively new technique in order to make his process more
effective and more meaningful.
1.4. Significance of the Study
Language learners are supposed to know thousands of words to be dominant over the
language, that is, grasp it in all its aspects, to be able to use and understand it efficiently. That
is why, seeking for plausible solutions for students’ problems about vocabulary building by
the help of appropriate techniques is vital on the part of the teacher. That being said, most of
the teachers who know this fact fail to let their students restore the amount of vocabulary they
desire in spite of a great deal of time spent on this issue. The critical point and –almost always
the omitted one- is that to know the definition of a word does not necessarily mean knowing
this word. A much more successful result can be acquired by the words’ various use in
context, their connotational aspects and so forth. Thus teachers should use more productive
and effective ways to enable students to retain more words in less time at hand. Teaching
vocabulary through collocations may be of great help to teachers to realize this.
This study aims to create and add new perspectives about collocations for EFL
teachers and encourage them to develop or/and use vocabulary teaching techniques in order to
build an awareness towards collocations in their students and to enhance retention of
1.5. Research Questions
This study intends to find answers to the following questions:
1) Does presenting new words through collocations result in a better learning of the
words than presenting them without collocations?
2) Does presenting new words through collocations enhance retention of new
vocabulary items?
2.1. Introduction
Vocabulary learning is central to language acquisition, whether the language is first,
second or foreign. Although vocabulary has not always been recognized as a priority in
language teaching, interest in its role in second language (L2) learning has grown rapidly in
recent years and specialists now emphasize the need for a systematic and principled approach
to vocabulary both by the teacher and the learner. The increased interest in this topic is
evidenced by a rapidly expanding body of experimental studies and pedagogical material,
most of which addresses several key questions of particular interest for language teachers.
As stated before, many researchers have conducted a great deal of study to know about
the complex procedure of vocabulary acquisition and develop some techniques to enhance
this process by speeding it up. One of these techniques is the presentation of vocabulary along
with collocations and see the influence of it over the retention of vocabulary in compliance
with the very aim of this study.
The first part consists of a brief retrospective of vocabulary and collocation as an
integral element of it and their increasing importance over the years in ESL / EFL settings.
The second part is based simply on the definition and categorization of collocation. The third
section handles the importance of collocations in vocabulary teaching in EFL context. The
last section is about the problems of collocation that both learners and teachers can come
across frequently as a part of applied linguistics and also factors affecting EFL learners’
performance while dealing with collocations.
2.2. Vocabulary Teaching in ESL / EFL Settings
Vocabulary teaching is concerned with the selection and presentation of words for
learners. Neglected for much of the twentieth century in favour of pronunciation and
grammar. It has re-emerged since the 1980s as a central factor in language teaching.
Vocabulary played a central role in Grammar-Translation and early Direct Method
approaches but Audiolingulism and the Structural Syllabus subordinated vocabulary to the
requirements of pattern practice. Notional / Functional Syllabuses and Communicative
Methodology gave no special emphasis to vocabulary. In the 1980s, research into lexis and
Discourse Analysis combined with arguments from Psycho-Linguistics and L1 literacy
research to reassert the importance of vocabulary in language learning. Computerized
databases (such as COBUILD – the Birmingham University research project in lexical
development with a corpus of over 20 million words of spoken and written English) gave
researchers and materials writers access to powerful tools for vocabulary analysis. Proposals
were made for a lexical syllabus (Willis, 1990) and approach (Lewis, 1993), assuming that
“Language consists of grammaticalised lexis, not lexicalised grammar”. In practice, a lexical
syllabus is hard to develop: grammatical structures are easier to select and sequence for
teaching vocabulary. Furthermore, while it is obvious that vocabulary is of more use than
grammar at the early stages of second language learning, supporters of grammar point out that
successful processing and production of language will always rely heavily on grammatical
It is estimated that an educated native English speaker has a vocabulary of about
50,000 words. Attempts have been made to determine a common core vocabulary for nonnative learners. The 1930s Vocabulary Control Movement was concerned with delineating a
minimum adequate vocabulary, primarily based on frequency counts. Ogden and Richard’s
Basic English Project (1930) listed 850 basic words which would allow learners to express
complex ideas. West’s more influential General Service List (1953) consisted of the 2000
words that comprised 80% of the words in any written text.
Such word lists and frequency counts avoid the issue of multiple meanings: it has been
calculated that the 850 words of Basic English have 12,425 meanings and that each of West’s
2000 words has, on average, 21 meanings. Which meaning(s) should be taught and in what
order? High frequency of us may be less important than coverage (the contexts in which the
word is used). Learnability is also a consideration: factors like spelling, syntactic or
phonological difficulties can make a word difficult to learn. “Familiarity” is another important
issue, bringing together the concepts of frequency, concreteness and meaningfulness. In
addition, low-frequency words are precisely those which demarcate topic and therefore carry
essential meaning. It is clear that trying to identify a common core vocabulary for all learners
is almost impossible; while students of general English may benefit from learning such a core,
students with specific needs will have different vocabulary requirements. Decisions will be
affected by whether students need access to spoken and / or written language and by whether
lexical items need to be in the active / productive vocabulary, which is always smaller than
the receptive / passive one.
Learners cannot be taught all the vocabulary they will need and therefore must develop
inferential strategies for dealing with unfamiliar vocabulary: e.g. by means of cloze and
words-in-context exercises. Research reported by Carter (1987) suggests more proficient
learners benefit most from these techniques. For all learners, the issue of how much unknown
vocabulary impedes comprehension is an important one; Nation and Coady recommend
West’s guideline of a maximum of %2 unknown words in a written text.
Exploitation of what linguists identify as the crucial area of lexical relations in
teaching vocabulary is another issue, including consideration of cohesion and coherence.
Meaningful and appropriate context is vital, helping learners to develop an awareness of
lexical patterns such as collocation and sense relations (e.g. synonymy). Componential
analysis can help by grouping vocabulary into lexical fields according to common features or
attributes. Word sets and grids have been developed for advanced learners, based on research
that recall of words is often according to conceptual mapping of categories or semantic fields.
Lower-level students may find lexical relations confusing; research, for example, argues
against teaching pairs of opposites together, as only one item tends to be retained. However,
creating associations within the language. (e.g. by organizing vocabulary according to topic
and studying word formation) can promote learnability. Interlanguage associations are also
useful, particularly in the early stages. Traditionally, students learned paired L1-L2 word lists;
recall of these can be improved by association of target words with native words plus graphic
or mnemonic representations. The more words are analyzed or enriched by association, the
greater the possibility they will be remembered. Recycling vocabulary taught in similar and
different contexts is, of course, also crucial to learning.
Analysis of words can be enhanced by efficient dictionary use. Developments in
lexicography mean there is a range of dictionaries for non-native learners of English.
Bilingual dictionaries are useful in the beginning stages and should than be used to check
insufficiently understood explanations from monolingual dictionaries. The latter give
considerably more information about entries and learners must be taught how to exploit these
Concordancing texts on computers also develops analytical skills. A concordance
shows all the occurrences in context of a given word-form in a particular corpus and therefore
allows learners to discover the range and frequency of uses of that word in the corpus.
2.2.1. Historical Overview
There is now general agreement among vocabulary specialists that lexical competence
is at the very heart of communicative competence, the ability to communicate successfully
and appropriately (Coady and Huckin, 1997). Given the current focus on vocabulary study,
many non-specialists might be surprised to learn that, in past years, this area of teaching was
often neglected because it was thought that vocabulary could simply be left to take care of
itself. Although by the late 1970s and early 1980s more and more voices began to challenge
this view (Judd 1978; Meara 1981; McCarty 1984; Laufer 1986), in 1988, Carter and
McCarty were still taking note of the relative neglect of vocabulary in previous years. By then
its reputation as the poor relation in language teaching was rapidly coming to an end.
The low status of vocabulary study and vocabulary teaching was in large part due to
language teaching approaches based on American linguistic theories that had been dominant
throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Most influential in the early years was Charles
Fries’s Teaching and Learning English as a Foreign Language (1945), based on American
structural linguistics, which emphasized grammatical and phonological structure. Fries
believed that grammar should be the starting point of language learning, and he also adopted
the view that learning was a matter of habit formation. His audio-lingual method incorporated
these ideas by paying systematic attention to intensive drills of basic sentence patterns and
their pronunciation. Because the emphasis was on teaching grammatical and phonological
structures, the vocabulary needed to be relatively simple, with new words introduced only as
they were needed to make the drills possible (Larsen Freeman 2000; Zimmerman 1997). The
assumption was that once students learned the structural frames, lexical items to fill the
grammatical slots in the frames could be learned later, as needed. Although the shift to
generative (transformational) linguistics in the 1960s brought about revolutionary changes in
linguistic theory, triggered by Chomsky (1957), it did little to challenge the idea that the role
of lexis was secondary to that of grammar. Chomsky rejected the behaviorist notion of habit
formation and supplanted it with a rationalist framework, the central assumption being that
language is represented as a speaker’s mental grammar, a set of abstract rules for generating
grammatical sentences. The rules generate the syntactic structure and lexical items from
appropriate grammatical categories (noun, verb, adjective etc.) are selected to fill in the
corresponding slots in the syntactic frame. The interests of generative linguists centered
mainly on rule-governed behaviour and on the grammatical structure of sentences and did not
include concerns for the appropriate use of language. Language learning approaches based on
this theory viewed learning as rule acquisition, not habit formation, and emphasized
grammatical rules. Vocabulary was afforded somewhat more importance, but the focus on
rules of grammar still served to reinforce the idea that lexis was somewhat secondary (Carter
and McCarty 1988).
Hymes (1972), while not rejecting Chomsky’s model, extended it and gave greater
emphasis to the sociolinguistic and pragmatic factors governing effective use of language.
Hymes was especially concerned with the concept of communicative competence, which
emphasized using language for meaningful communication, including the appropriate use of
language in particular social contexts (for example, informal conversation at the diner table
versus formal conversation at the bank etc.).The teaching approach that evolved from these
notions, referred to as communicative language teaching, promoted fluency over accuracy and
consequently shifted the focus from sentence-level forms to discourse level functions. (e.g
requests, greetings, apologies and so on). Once again, though, vocabulary was given
secondary status, taught mainly as support for functional language use. As in previous
approaches, it was generally assumed that vocabulary would take care of itself (Schmitt
This picture has changed dramatically within the last two decades. The challenge to
the status quo began in the late 1970s and early 1980s and by the late 1980s and early 1990s,
vocabulary studies were developing exponentially and vocabulary teaching was coming into
its own. One reason for the resurgence of interest on the part of researchers was that
computer-aided research was providing vast amounts of information that had not previously
been available for analysis, such as information about how words behave in actual language
use, larger units that function in discourse as single lexical items, and differences between
written and spoken communication. Further, psycholinguistic studies were providing insights
concerning mental processes involved in vocabulary learning, such as memory, storage and
retrieval. Interest in these issues led in turn to related studies concerned with developing more
effective vocabulary teaching and learning strategies.
Today, it is accepted that learning word meanings can not be achieved only through
the use of a dictionary, and that vocabulary acquisition is a complex process. This
understanding has led to a considerable emphasis on vocabulary. The principal reasons for the
present focus on vocabulary, according to Allen (1983:5) are these:
First, many ESL and EFL classes have revealed disappointing results
although a great deal of time has been devoted to vocabulary teaching by
teachers; second, recent research into word meanings which has dealt with
lexical problems, indicates that these lexical problems frequently interfere
with communication and that not using the right words results in a
communication breakdown.
Nation (1990:1-2) supports the idea that vocabulary should be taught in a
systematic and principled approach due to the following reasons:
1. Because of the considerable research on vocabulary we have good
information about what to do about vocabulary and about what vocabulary
to focus on.
2. There is a wide variety of ways for dealing with vocabulary in
foreign or second language learning.
3. Both learners and researchers see vocabulary as a very important if
not the most important element in language learning. Learners feel that
many of their difficulties in both receptive and productive language use,
result from an inadequate vocabulary.
He also argues that the language tasks in which students with inadequate vocabulary
will be involved will cause them to suffer from frustration and concludes that vocabulary has
vital importance in reading and therefore giving attention to vocabulary is unavoidable.
Nattinger (1988) states that comprehension requires understanding the words and
storing them and also committing them to memory whereas production requires retrieving
them from memory and using them in appropriate situations. Hence, our aim in teaching
vocabulary should be to strengthen this memory storage.
Learning vocabulary is something more than memorizing lists of words. To know a
word in a target language as well as the native speaker knows it may mean the ability to:
a) recognize it in its spoken or written form;
b) recall it at will;
c) relate it to an appropriate object or concept;
d) use it in the appropriate grammatical form;
e) pronounce it in a recognizable way in speech;
f) spell it correctly in writing;
g) use it with the words it correctly goes with, in correct collocations;
h) use it at the appropriate level of formality;
i) be aware of its connotations and associations
(Wallace, 1982:27)
Wilkins lamented the neglect of vocabulary in the audio-lingual years. While it is true
that to learn nothing but words and little or no structure would be useless to the learner, it
would also be useless to learn all the structure and no vocabulary: “Without grammar very
little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed” (Carter and McCarty,
According to Carter and McCarty, Wilkins’s work is significant for his desire to bring
to vocabulary teaching which have become a major feeding ground for vocabulary
practitioners in the 1970s and 1980s. Also, they state that Twaddell’s arguments around the
same time that it is impossible to teach learners all the words they need to know, and so it is
important to teach them guessing strategies that will enable them to tackle unknown words
and lose their reliance on dictionaries is the beginning of viewing vocabulary learning as a
language skill, of shifting the responsibility to the learner. By the mid 70s, we have a picture
of a growing concern with vocabulary teaching and learning. What is more, we have the
beginnings of the view of the vocabulary as a skill in which the learner is actively involved
and a concern with what and how the learner might learn.
The move away from seeing vocabulary as lists of items to be learnt raises the
question of precisely what it means to learn vocabulary. Richards tries to tackle this issue,
considering some of the knowledge that is assumed by lexical competence. (Carter &
McCarty, 1988)
Carter and McCarty (1988) state that by the end of the 70s, vocabulary teaching
gained importance. Its place within language teaching had been reasserted, insights from
lexical semantics had been brought to bear in the incorporation of notions such as senserelations and collocation into teaching materials, the learner had been brought to the center
stage and the lexicon was beginning to be seen as a resource for the needs of the learner and
for strategic use in the gaining of communicative objectives.
Nation (2005) points out the main problem with vocabulary teaching is that only a
few words and a small part of what is required to know of a word can be dealt with at any
one time. He also adds as follows:
The first decision to make when teaching a word is to decide
whether the word is worth spending time on or not. When deciding how to
spend time on a word, it is useful to consider the learning burden of the
word. Part of effective vocabulary teaching involves working out what
needs to be taught about a word. This is called the learning burden of a
(Nation, 2005:2-3)
McCarty (1984) points out that attention has recently been turned to the problems of
vocabulary in foreign-language teaching, and a steadily growing amount of work is
beginning to challenge assumptions that have relegated vocabulary teaching to a secondary
position in the priorities of language teaching. At the beginner or lower intermediate level,
the treatment of vocabulary as a teaching area in itself is sadly lacking. Beginner courses do
present many new orthographic words in a carefully controlled way, but do nor generally
deal with words lexically and they view vocabulary acquisition as a cumulative by-product of
the teaching of structures or the communicative functions of sentences.
Deveci (2004) states that the importance of vocabulary acquisition has always been
recognized, although at times, vocabulary was treated as separate from grammar and other
skills. However, the communicative and natural approach emphasized the importance of
vocabulary development, which resulted in more interest in vocabulary teaching. He also
points out that we can not use structures correctly if we do not have enough vocabulary
Zughoul and Abdul-Fattah (2003) state that development of word lists for English
based on frequency distribution directed the attention of teachers, ELT practitioners and
curriculum specialists. Mastering the upper ends would be adequate for the development of a
good measure of proficiency in English. Besides, the upper ends would be efficiently
exploited for learning English phonology and syntax. This restricted view of vocabulary,
beside its notional falseness from a statistical point of view, has caused learner lexical
deficiency and incapability to function adequately in real life situations. Work in the area of
corpus linguistics has convincingly triggered the urge for a reconsideration of the pedagogues
have been on the wrong track in their assumptions about the role of vocabulary frequency
distribution. The counter argument has led to the recognition of a fundamental role for lexical
learning. The area of collocation within the realm of lexis is of prime importance and forms a
serious problem for language learners.
2.3. The Definition and Categorization of Collocation
2.3.1. Definitions of Collocation
The term ‘collocation’ is used in widely different and often rather vague senses in
linguistics and language teaching. Among the many diverse uses of the term, two main views
can be identified (Klotz 2000: 63.; Nesselhauf 2004). In one of these two views, a collocation
is considered the co-occurrence of words at a certain distance, and a distinction is usually
made between co-occurrences that are frequent (or more precisely, more frequent than could
be expected if words combined randomly in a language) and those that are not. This view has
therefore been called the ‘statistically oriented approach’ (Herbst 1996: 380) or the
‘frequency-based approach’ (Nesselhauf 2004a). In the other view, collocations are seen as a
type of word combination, most commonly as one that is fixed to some degree but not
completely. This view has been referred to as the ‘significance oriented approach’ (Herbst
1996: 380) or the ‘phraseological approach’ (Nesselhauf 2004a). The frequency-based
approach goes back to J. R. Firth and has been developed further in particular by Halliday and
J. Sinclair.
The term ‘‘collocation’’, as is well known, was first coined in its modern linguistic
sense by the British linguist J. R. Firth, along with the famous explanatory slogan: ‘‘you shall
judge a word by the company it keeps’’. In an article entitled “Modes of Meaning” (Firth
1957), he outlines how the study of ‘‘meaning by collocation’’ can contribute to a formal and
contextual approach to word meaning: Meaning by collocation is an abstraction at the
syntagmatic level and is not directly concerned with the conceptual approach to the meaning
of words. One of the meanings of night is its collocability with dark, and, of dark, of course,
collocation with night. Later writers on collocation have picked up different aspects of Firth’s
ideas. A number of different but related definitions of ‘‘collocation’’ have been forthcoming.
Sinclair, who was a student of Firth’s at London University, sees it as follows: Collocation is
the occurrence of two or more words within a short space of each other in a text ( Sinclair
1991). We might call this the ‘‘textual’’ definition. One item collocates with another if it
appears somewhere near it in a given text. Another definition is given by Leech in his
discussion of ‘‘Seven Types of Meaning’’, one of which is ‘‘collocative meaning’’:
Collocative meaning consists of the associations a word acquires on account of the meanings
of words which tend to occur in its environment ( Leech 1974). This could be referred to as
the ‘‘psychological’’ or ‘‘associative’’ definition. It is part of a native speaker’s
communicative competence to know what are normal and what are unusual collocations in
given circumstances. Through lifelong exposure to a language, native speakers acquire what
Firth calls ‘‘expectancies’’ (1957) of which items commonly co-occur with which others in
texts. The contribution of collocation, in psychological terms, to meaning is also emphasized
by Aitchison, who says that ‘‘humans learn word-meaning from what occurs alongside’’
(1994: 21). The learner, child or adult, faced with an unknown word looks at the co-text to
gain clues as to what the unfamiliar item might mean. Meaning is function in context, as Firth
used to say. Finally, Hoey highlights another aspect of the concept: collocation has long been
the name given to the relationship a lexical item has with items that appear with greater than
random probability in its (textual) context. (Hoey 1991) We might call this the ‘‘statistical’’
definition of collocation. It is a good working Definition of the concept for those studying
corpus linguistics, where large quantities of text can be made available for computer analysis.
The co-occurrence of two items becomes interesting if it seems to happen for a purpose, and
especially if it is repeated, if there are ‘‘patterns of collocation’’. The habitual associations of
a word with other items can thus be studied both by calling up concordances of that word and
by obtaining lists of its most frequent collocates. Firth himself gives the example of the word
“time” whose common collocates include “saved”, “spent”, “wasted” and also “presses” and
“flies” and even the word “no”. By these means, it is possible to build up a picture of the way
in which each and every lexical item in a language behaves. The majority of modern learners’
dictionaries make use of computer facilities for lexical analysis and include information on
collocation. ‘‘Collocation’’ is usually used to refer to the co-occurrence of two single words.
However, Firth himself originally used the term to refer to the co-occurrence of items at all
grammatical levels, not just the word level. If we concentrate on higher levels of language,
there is theoretically no qualitative difference between word with word, word with phrase,
phrase with phrase, even phrase with clause and clause with clause collocation.
The phraseological approach has been strongly influenced by Russian phraseology.
Typically, researchers adopting this approach work in the fields of lexicography and/ or
pedagogy; among the main representatives are A. P. Cowie and F. J. Hausmann. For the
frequency-based approach, Sinclair’s view of collocations will be discussed, for the
phraseological approach, that of Cowie. Sinclair defines collocations as “the occurrence of
two or more words within a short space of each other in a text” (1991: 170). A short space, or
‘span’, is usually defined as a distance of around four words to the right and left of the word
under investigation, which is called the ‘node’ (e. g. 1991: 170; Jones & Sinclair 1974: 21f.).
If, for example, in a given amount of text, the word house is analysed, and the word occurs in
an environment such as He went back to the house. When he opened the door, the dog barked,
the words went, back, to, the, when, he, opened, they are all considered to form collocations
with the node house; these words are then called ‘collocates’. Sinclair distinguishes two types
of collocations, namely ‘significant’ and ‘casual’ collocations, and sometimes reserves the
term ‘collocation’ for the former type (e. g. 1991: 115). Significant collocations are cooccurrences of words “such that they co-occur more often than their respective frequencies
and the length of text in which they appear would predict” (1974: 21). In the example above,
the and house would probably not be significant collocations, as, although these two words
can be assumed to co-occur frequently, “the” is itself a frequent word in virtually every kind
of text. The words “dog” and “barked” would, however, very likely constitute a significant
collocation, as “barked” is not usually very frequent and, if it occurs, is likely to be found near
the word “dog”. Exact formulae of how to determine exactly whether co-occurring words
constitute a significant collocation have also been developed by Sinclair and others. Given
that even Sinclair sometimes varies in how he defines collocations, it is not surprising that
some researchers adopting a frequency-based approach to collocations consider cooccurrences of all frequencies to be collocations (e. g. Halliday 1966; Moon 1998), while
others reserve the term for frequent co-occurrences (e. g. Stubbs 1995). Some use recurrence,
i. e. co-occurrence more than once in a given corpus, as the defining criterion. Other points of
variation in the definition of collocations in the frequency-based approach are also mirrored
by variation in Sinclair’s writings. Whereas he uses ‘word’ in the sense of ‘lexeme’ in the
above definition, and thus sees collocation as a relationship between lexemes, he previously
regarded it as a relationship between ‘lexical items’. This latter view is also shared by
Halliday, who exemplifies ‘lexical item’ with the group of derivationally related lexemes
STRENGTH, STRENGTHEN, STRONG (1966: 156). According to this view, a strong
argument, he argued strongly, the strength of the argument, his argument was strengthened
would all be considered instances of the same collocation. A third view on this question is that
collocation is a relationship between word forms, i.e. that combinations such as hold tight and
holds tight are two different collocations. A more fundamental aspect in which definitions
vary is the question of the nature of the collocation as such.
Unlike the frequency-based approach, the phraseological approach consistently
requires that the elements of collocations should be syntactically related. Hausmann even goes
so far as to call only those combinations collocations that appear in a pre-defined set of
syntactic relations: adjective + noun, (subject-) noun + verb, noun + noun, adverb + adjective,
verb + adverb, verb + (object-)noun. He thus also only allows the combination of two lexical
elements in the category of collocations, while Benson et al., for example, also permit a
lexical word plus a preposition. As in the frequency-based approach, the number of
participating items varies between two and two or more, but often this question is not
addressed at all. Shrug one’s shoulders, for example, can therefore be viewed as a collocation
consisting of either three elements (shrug + ones + shoulders) or of two (shrug + shoulders).
As to the question of whether lexemes, word forms, or lexical items/ roots are the elements of
collocations, most authors assume that the participating elements are lexemes (with the
exception of Cowie). A final important point on which representatives of the phraseological
approach differ is on how they view the relationship between the elements of a collocation.
Often, the assumption seems to be that there is no difference in the nature of the elements, as
for example in Cowie’s definition, which merely requires that one of the elements is restricted
but does not specify which one (e. g. Cowie 1992: 51.). What can also be found is a double
use of the term ‘collocation’, i. e. its use in both the sense of the frequency-based approach
and the phraseological approach in one and the same piece of work. F. R. Palmer, for
example, on the one hand reserves the term for free and restricted combinations as opposed to
idioms (1981: 77.), and on the other refers to “the collocation of kick and the bucket” (1981:
79), where ‘collocation’ apparently means co-occurrence.
Sometimes ‘collocation’ seems to be used purely to describe a phenomenon in a given
amount of text; more commonly, it also seems to be considered a more abstract tendency in a
language. Further points that are viewed differently by authors adopting a frequency based
approach are the number of words involved in a collocation and whether or not these have to
be consecutive. A final aspect in which definitions vary is the syntactic relationship of the
elements involved in a collocation. In the frequency-based approach, the syntactic relationship
between the elements does not usually play a role in deciding whether they form a collocation
or not.. A. P. Cowie is a typical representative of the phraseological approach: he considers
collocations a type of word combination, i. e. an abstract combination with instantiations in
actual texts, and defines them by delimiting them from other types of word combinations,
most importantly from idioms on the one side and from what he sometimes calls ‘free
combinations’ on the other (e. g. Cowie 1981, 1994; Cowie et al. 1993). At the same time he
is one of the most important representatives of the phraseological approach, as his attempts to
define collocations and to delimit different kinds of word combinations are among the most
precise. Cowie divides word combinations into two main types, ‘composites’ and ‘formulae’.
Formulae are combinations with a primarily pragmatic function such as “How are you?” or
“Good morning”. Collocations belong to the group of ‘composites’, which are described as
having a primarily syntactic function. The distinctions in the group of composites are made on
the basis of two criteria, which Cowie assumes to interact closely: the criterion of
transparency and the criterion of commutability (or substitutability). Transparency refers to
whether the elements of the combination and the combination itself have a literal or a nonliteral meaning, and commutability refers to whether and to what degree the substitution of
the elements of the combination is restricted. On this basis, he distinguishes the following
four types of combinations, stressing, however, that these types are not clearly delimitable,
but should rather be seen as forming a continuum:
Free combinations (e. g. drink tea):
– the restriction on substitution can be specified on semantic grounds
– all elements of the word combination are used in a literal sense
Restricted collocations (e. g. perform a task):
– some substitution is possible, but there are arbitrary limitations on substitution
– at least one element has a non-literal meaning, and at least one element
is used in its literal sense; the whole combination is transparent Figurative idioms (e. g. do a
U-turn, in the sense of ‘completely change one’s policy or behaviour’):
– substitution of the elements is seldom possible
– the combination has a figurative meaning, but preserves a current literal interpretation
Pure idioms (e. g. blow the gaff ):
– substitution of the elements is impossible
– the combination has a figurative meaning and does not preserve a current literal
The most important variation in Cowie’s use of the term ‘collocation’ is that while he
sometimes applies it only to combinations with an arbitrarily limited substitutability in which
one element is used in a non-literal sense, he sometimes applies it to free combinations as
well. In this case, however, he makes a distinction between ‘open collocations’ (i. e. free
combinations) and ‘restricted collocations’. As in the case of Sinclair, Cowie’s variation in the
use of the term reflects some of its different uses by different authors adopting a
phraseological approach. A number of researchers apply the term ‘collocations’ to both free
combinations and restricted collocations. Some of these do not differentiate further, while
others, like Cowie, distinguish between ‘open collocations’ (or ‘free collocations’) and
‘restricted collocations’. The number of categories towards the more restricted and opaque
end of the scale also varies between authors. Cowie’s distinction between two types of idioms
(figurative idioms and pure idioms) is often not made, and Benson et al., for example,
consistently postulate an additional category between collocations and idioms, which they call
‘transitional combinations’ or ‘transitional collocations’ (Benson et al. 1986: 254) An
important aspect of variation which is not present in Cowie’s own definition(s) concerns the
criteria that are used for the delimitation of collocations from other types of word
combinations. The distinction between combinations with a pragmatic function and those
without such a function is sometimes explicitly made, but often the question is not addressed.
For the distinction of different types of non-pragmatic word combinations, many authors
apply the same two criteria as Cowie, i. e. the criteria of opacity and commutability. Some of
them, however, use the criteria differently for the distinction between (restricted) collocations
and free combinations than for the distinction between (restricted) collocations and idioms.
Hausmann, for example, considers arbitrarily restricted combinability the main factor for
distinguishing collocations from free combinations, and transparency the main factor for
distinguishing collocations from idioms (1989: 1010). Even when the same criteria are used
by different authors, however, the delimitations between different types of word combinations
are not necessarily identical. Among those authors basing the distinction between free
combinations and collocations on commutability, for example, (restricted) collocations are
sometimes a broader category than in Cowie’s classification, and sometimes a narrower one.
Interestingly, a number of authors use the criterion of frequency of co-occurrence, i. e. the
main criterion of the frequency-based approach, in addition to phraseological criteria such as
commutability and transparency (e. g. Nation 2001: 317; Herbst 1996: 389; Benson et al.
1986: 253). For these authors, for a combination to be considered a collocation, it has to be
restricted, transparent and frequent; Benson et al. even seem to assume that the criteria of
restriction and frequency coincide.
2.3.2. Types of Collocations
We have already noted that some collocational phrases are fixed and some allow
degrees of variation. A fully fixed phrase is one which allows no syntactic transformation and
no internal lexical variation. Sinclair (1991: 110— 11) cites the example of the phrase of
course whose constituent words cannot be shifted around, or added to, or altered in any way.
It effectively functions as a single unit and it is only the vagaries of English orthography
which prevent it from being spelt as one word along the lines of insofar as, an invariable
phrase in which three out of four of its constituents are in fact written as one. Compare also in
spite of which, with three orthographic words, does the same work as the single word despite.
Nattinger & DeCarrico call these items ‘‘polywords’’ and note how some of them maintain a
regular grammatical form (are ‘‘canonical’’, in their terminology. Other types of fully fixed
phrases include proverbs and sayings, quotations and those idioms which have a frozen form
(e. g. on the wagon). They also include the category of fully restricted collocation, that is,
phrases in which the appearance of one item implies the co-occurrence of another. For
example, if we meet the word “stinking” before an adjective, this can normally only be “rich”,
or if we meet the word “blithering” it is almost certain that “idiot” will follow. Variations in
phraseology come about in a number of ways. As Sinclair notes, ‘‘many phrases have an
indeterminate extent’’, in other words, it is not always possible to say precisely what is
properly part of the phrase and what is an optional addition: As an example, consider “set
eyes on”. This seems to attract a pronoun subject, and either never or a temporal conjunction
like the moment, the first time, and the word has as an auxiliary to set. How much of this is
integral to the phrase? (Sinclair 1991: 111) Many phrases allow what Sinclair calls ‘‘internal
lexical variation’’. There seems to be little to choose, he says, between in some cases and in
some instances. Other phrases allow some variation in word order. We might add that some
phrases are susceptible to lexical insertion. Even highly restricted collocational phrases such
as vested interest(s) can have words inserted in them to produce, for example, vested financial
interest or vested political interests. Carter (1987) proposes a number of clines in the criteria
which are relevant in determining how fixed or how free particular lexical patterns are. One of
these is the cline of syntactic structure or word order, similar to that described above. As an
example of fixed order he cites phrases such as go it alone and the more the merrier. He points
out that the more irregular (or non-canonical) a phrase’s syntax, as in the above examples, the
more likely it is to be a fixed phrase. As an example of a phrase with a more flexible pattern
he cites break someone’s heart which can take on a number of forms including he broke her
heart, they’re heart-broken, she’s a right little heart-breaker. Another of Carter’s clines is that
of collocational restriction. The most restricted are phrases such as “stinking rich” and
“blithering idiot” where the occurrence of one item is conditioned by the other. Total
conditioning however is probably quite rare, except for the special category of ‘‘irreversible
(or ‘‘ordered’’) binomials’’, which include cash and carry, bread and butter, ups and downs
and so on. At the opposite end of the scale, we have what Carter calls ‘‘unrestricted
collocation’’, which ‘‘describes the capacity of particular lexical items to be open to
partnership with a wide range of items’’. Most common lexical items (e. g. fat, bright, head)
are in this category. In between the two extremes are the items which have a ‘‘semi-restricted
collocational range’’, that is, they normally collocate with a limited number of other lexical
items. Carter’s examples include the item harbour (as a verb) which collocates with doubts,
uncertainty, a grudge, suspicion. There is less difference between the categories of
‘‘unrestricted’’ and ‘‘semirestricted’’ collocational potential than might at first sight appear.
Whilst it is true that a word like head— one of Carter’s examples of an item with unrestricted
collocationalability— collocates very widely, corpus evidence nevertheless demonstrates its
collocational preferences, in the sense that it is found more often with particular items than
others. It collocates frequently with bang, scratch, turn, nod, and so on, in non-idiomatic uses,
with “lose one’s”, “come to a”, “go to one’s”, “fill one’s”, “go over one’s” etc in idiomatic
expressions. The word head is not unusual in this. In fact, every lexical item enters into
particular collocational relations with the rest of the lexis of a language, a behaviour which
can be studied and described in terms of frequencies and preferences.
2.3.3 Classifications of Collocations
There have not been many attempts to classify restricted collocations, but the
classifications that have been made can be divided into three types. The first type is based on
the syntactic characteristics of the collocation, the second on its the semantic characteristics of
the collocation and the third on the commutability of its elements. In the first type, restricted
collocations are classified according to the word classes in which their elements appear. As
already mentioned above, Hausmann (1989), for example, divides collocations into six types:
adjective + noun (heavy smoker), (subject-) noun + verb (storm – rage), noun + noun (piece
of advice), adverb + adjective (deeply disappointed), verb + adverb (severely criticize), and
verb + (object-)noun (stand a chance). Aisenstadt (1981) proposes a similar classification, but
divides the verb + noun group further into verb + noun (e. g. make a decision) and verb +
preposition + noun (e. g. come to a decision). Benson et al. make the same distinctions as
Hausmann, but owing to their broader definition of collocations add the combinations noun +
preposition (e. g. interest in), preposition + noun (by accident), and adjective + preposition
(angry at). They also make a more fundamental distinction, which is based on the word
classes to which the elements of a collocation belong. Collocations in which two lexical
elements co-occur are called ‘lexical collocations’, collocations in which a lexical and a more
grammatical element (such as a preposition) co-occur, are called ‘grammatical collocations’.
The second type of classification is based on the semantic characteristics of the combination.
Two different kinds of attempt to classify collocations in this way can be discerned. One is
limited to verb-noun collocations and is based on the nature of the meaning of the verb.
Cowie is one of the few researchers who attempt such a classification. He distinguishes
between verbs with a ‘figurative’, a ‘delexical’ and a ‘technical’ meaning. Corresponding
collocations would deliver a speech, make recommendations, try a case. Cowie’s
classification, which was also adopted by Howarth, was probably inspired by Aisenstadt
(1979), who makes a similar distinction between verbs with a “secondary, abstract meaning”,
verbs with a “grammaticalized, wide and vague meaning”, and verbs with a “very narrow and
specific meaning” (1981: 57). From the examples she gives, it may be assumed that the first
two categories roughly correspond to Cowie’s figurative and delexical meanings; the last
category is exemplified by shrug one’s shoulders. The second type of attempt at classifying
collocations on a semantic basis is much more detailed and also more comprehensive in that it
applies to all grammatical types of collocations. The classification is based on the notion of
what is called ‘lexical functions’. An example of a lexical function is the meaning
‘do’/‘perform’. If this meaning is to be expressed with respect to the noun cry, one of the
possible lexemes is let out; with respect to support, lend is possible. Possible collocations thus
are let out a cry and lend support (but not *lend a cry or *let out support). In theory, it should
be possible to classify most collocations according to lexical functions, i. e. according to the
meaning the collocator expresses. The third type of classification that has been established for
restricted collocations is based on the commutability of the elements of a collocation. The
distinction made by Benson et al. between ‘collocations’ and ‘transitional collocations’ may
be considered an example of this type of classification, as it is based on the variability of
elements( foot a bill, for example, is assigned to this category, as foot in this meaning can
only combine with bill). An attempt to explicitly subclassify collocations on the basis of
commutability is made by Aisenstadt (1979, 1981). She divides collocations into two groups
depending on whether both or only one of the participating lexical elements are restricted in
their commutability. In the combination “shrug one’s shoulders”, for example, she assumes
that both lexical elements are restricted, and illustrates this with the following paradigm:
“shrug one’s shoulders”, “shrug sth. ff”, “shrug sth. away”, “shrug one’s shoulders”, “square
one’s shoulders”, “hunch one’s shoulder”. In combinations such as to make/ take a decision or
“auburn hair”, on the other hand, only one element is considered restricted in its
commutability. In the former combinations, the verbs are said to “have a rather wide and
vague meaning and collocate with different nouns” (1981), whereas the noun “is restricted in
its commutability, though not to one verb only”; in the latter combination, the commutability
of “auburn” is considered to be restricted to hair whereas hair commutes freely with a great
number of other adjectives” (1981). The most comprehensive classification on the basis of
commutability to date has been established by Howarth; it is, however, restricted to verb-noun
collocations. Howarth distinguishes five ‘levels of restrictedness’ according to two criteria,
namely the number of elements that are restricted in their commutability and the degree of the
restriction (1996). These levels are described and exemplified as follows (1996: 102):
1. freedom of substitution in the noun; some restriction on the choice of verb an open set of
nouns, a small number of synonymous verbs:
adopt/ accept/ agree to a proposal/ suggestion/ recommendation/ convention/ plan
2. some substitution in both elements a small range of nouns can be used with the verb in that
sense there are a small number of synonymous verbs:
introduce/ table/ bring forward a bill/ an amendment
3. some substitution in the verb; complete restriction on the choice of the noun no other noun
can be used with the verb in that sense; there are a small number of synonymous verbs:
pay/ take heed
4. complete restriction on the choice of the verb; some substitution of the noun
a small range of nouns can be used with the verb in that sense
there are no synonymous verbs:
give the appearance/ impression
5. complete restriction on the choice of both elements
no other noun can be used with the verb in the given sense
there are no synonymous verbs:
curry favour (with)
Howarth also relates these five levels to the semantic categorization of combinations
into those with figurative, delexical, and technical verbs, which he adopts from Cowie. He
finds that there are no combinations with figurative and technical verbs on level five and no
combinations with technical verbs on level one, but that all other combinations of type of verb
and level of restrictedness occur (1996: 118), which means that there is no direct correlation
between the type of verb in the combination and its level of restrictedness. This attempt to
relate aspects of meaning and commutability in some detail in a classification of collocations
is probably unique to date.
2.4 The Importance of Collocation in EFL Context
Collocations, i. e. arbitrarily restricted lexeme combinations such as make a decision
or fully aware, are one type of a group of expressions whose importance in language has been
increasingly recognized in recent years. This group of expressions has been variously called
prefabricated units, prefabs, phraseological units, (lexical) chunks, multi-word units, or
formulaic sequences. They are made up of more than one word and are lexically and/ or
syntactically fixed to a certain degree. Following a period in which, largely due to the wide
influence of generative grammar, prefabricated units were considered peripheral in language,
it is today widely assumed that their number is vast and that they play a major role in
language processing and use. Bolinger was among the first linguists to point out that a
generativist view, which relegates prefabricated units to the periphery of language, fails to
account for a considerable part of observable language data. On the basis of numerous
examples he claims that our language does not expect us to build everything starting with
lumber, nails, and blueprint. Instead it provides us with an incredibly large number of prefabs
(1979: 96). He also points out that most of these prefabs are not completely but only partially
fixed. Many linguists have since made similar claims, most notably Pawley and Syder. They –
also mainly on the basis of a sizeable collection of prefabricated units – come to the
conclusion that “by far the largest part of the English speaker’s lexicon consists of complex
lexical items” (1983: 215). Further empirical support for this view has come from corpus
studies, which have regularly found that most of naturally occurring language, both spoken
and written, consists of recurrent patterns, many of which are phraseological (e. g. Altenberg
1998; Sinclair 1991). Corpus studies have also shown that collocations are a frequently
occurring type of semi-prefabricated unit. In an analysis of over 5,000 verb-noun
combinations in a written 240,000 word corpus, for example, over a third of the combinations
were found to be collocations (Howarth 1996: 120). Several important functions have been
identified for prefabricated units. First, there is growing evidence that they play an essential
role in language learning, as they seem to be the basis for the development of creative
language in first language and childhood second language acquisition. Secondly,
prefabricated units are essential for fluency in both spoken and written language.
Psycholinguistic evidence indicates that the human brain is much better equipped for
memorizing than for processing, and that the availability of large numbers of prefabricated
units reduces the processing effort and thus makes fluent language possible (Aitchison 1987).
Thirdly, the use of prefabricated units supports comprehension, as the recipient can
understand the meaning of a passage of text without having to attend to every word (Hunston
& Francis 2000). And fourthly, prefabricated units serve to indicate membership of a certain
linguistic group; they fulfill “the desire to sound like others” (Wray 2002). For the adult nonnative speaker, the first of these functions probably does not play a major role, as it seems that
prefabricated language is not regularly used as a basis for creative language in adult L2
acquisition. However, two of the other functions are at least as essential for non-native
speakers as for native speakers. Enhancing fluency through reducing processing effort must
be of particular interest for non-native speakers, as they naturally need more processing effort
to convey their intended message. Indeed, it has been shown that whether or not L2
production is fluent crucially depends on the learner’s control over a large repertoire of
prefabricated units (Towell & Hawkins 1996). The third function, making comprehension
easier, is doubtless of importance for every user of a language. While the use of native-like
prefabs aids comprehension, non-native-like prefabs can irritate the recipient and draw the
attention away from the message. Being perceived as a member of a certain linguistic group
that speaks the L2 natively, finally, though clearly not an aim of all non-native speakers, is
also important to certain learners of a language. The knowledge of and the ability to use
prefabricated units are thus essential for the language learner; unfortunately, however, they
also pose considerable difficulties, even for the advanced learner. Language learners often
stumble across co-occurrence relations. Any analysis of students’ speech or writing shows a
lack of
collocational competence. Knowing which subset of grammatically possible
utterances is actually commonly used by native speakers is an immense problem for even the
most (Wray 1999) proficient of non-natives. There is also wide agreement that prefabs have to
be taught (Bahns 1997; Cowie 1988; McCarthy 1990 and many others). In spite of this, many
types of prefabs, including collocations, are still not treated adequately in English language
teaching today. Although collocations have received increasing attention in language teaching
in recent years (Granger 1998; Howarth 1998), we are still far from the development of a
coherent methodology and even further from a wide-spread and systematic treatment of
collocations in language teaching materials and syllabi. In recent years, however, a few
approaches to language teaching have been developed, which, far from neglecting
phraseological units, put them at the centre of teaching: Willis’s lexical syllabus, Lewis’s
lexical approach, and the lexical phrases approach by Nattinger and DeCarrico. As with most
other suggestions for teaching prefabs, even these approaches are at best based on the analysis
of native speaker prefabs; none of them is based on any systematic observation of prefabs in
learner language However, if efficient pedagogical measures are to be devised, they need to
take into consideration the difficulties learners have with prefabricated units.
More recently, Nattinger & DeCarrico too have noted that: In formulating
performance models of language processing, researchers endeavour to offer direct
descriptions of psychological categories and processes, attempting to describe languages in
terms of how they are perceived, stored, remembered and produced. These researchers feel
that the storage capacity of memory is vast, but that the speed for processing those memories
is not (Crick 1979: 219), so that we must learn short cuts for making efficient use of this
processing time.—( Nattinger & DeCarrico 1992: 31) Principal among these short cuts is the
use of prefabs. A still more powerful reason for the employment of semi-preconstructed
phrases probably lies in the way it facilitates communication processing on the part of the
hearer. Language consisting of a relatively high number of fixed phrases is generally more
predictable than that which is not (Oller & Streiff 1975). In real-time language decoding,
hearers need all the help they can get. Redundancy in communication is often explained in
this way and the collocational principle probably has the same functional origins.
‘‘Every linguist makes room in his scheme of things for lexical units larger than words,’’
Bolinger writes. ‘‘He calls them idioms’’. What is new is that: we are now in a position to
recognize that idiomaticity is a vastly more pervasive phenomenon than we ever imagined,
and vastly harder to separate from the pure freedom of syntax, if indeed any such fiery zone
as pure syntax exists.— (Bolinger 1976: 3) Clearly Bolinger is using ‘‘idiomaticity’’ to refer
to a wider phenomenon than many other linguists, who tend to reserve it to indicate items
with some metaphorical content
Questions arise when we consider learning and teaching collocation, and the
collocation definitions previously mentioned.
1. How often does a combination have to recur to be considered 'frequently' or
2. How can we determine a combination 'commonly co-occurs'?
3. How can we know a combination is 'habitual'?
4. Who is the judge that rules that a collocation does 'sound natural'?
5. Should a sequence that occurs only once in textbooks or database but is recognized
immediately and intuitively by a native speaker as a combination be taught as a collocation?
2.5. Difficulties in Collocational Use
Collocations, in the present sense of the term, have not been a frequent focus of
attention in analyses of learner English so far. One of the problems with a number of studies
of ‘collocations’ in learner language is that the use of the term is often hazy. In these studies,
although the definition of collocations seems to be the same or at least close to the one
adopted in this study, in practice collocations are not carefully delimited from other types of
word combinations. In particular compounds, but also idioms and combinations that are not
arbitrarily restricted, are often without further discussion included in the combinations
investigated. Studies are then included disregarding what the combination in question is
actually called and how the notion of collocation is theoretically defined. About half of the
published studies on collocations in learner language are based on elicitation tests and about
half on production data. Most elicitation studies have focused more on the production than on
the comprehension of collocations, the reason being that the former is much more problematic
for learners than the latter. This is due to the nature of collocations and has been confirmed by
studies (Marton 1977; Biskup 1990). In both of these studies, collocation comprehension and
production of advanced Polish learners of English is investigated by means of a translation
test. The result of both studies is that the translation of collocations from L2 to L1 is almost
always accurate, while the translation of the same collocations from L1 to L2 poses
considerable difficulty for the learners. Two studies have examined whether learners are able
to determine whether certain combinations are actually used in English. Advanced learners
had to mark which of a number of given words combine with certain words from another
word class (adjectives and nouns in one case and adverbs and adjectives in the other). The
principal result of both studies is that a large number of combinations that are acceptable were
not marked by the learners. The elicitation studies of collocations concentrating on the
question of what learners can produce have used either cloze tests or translation tasks or both.
Typically, they are based on small amounts of data and the results are not analyzed in more
detail. So whereas they have consistently produced the result that collocations are difficult for
the learner, the analysis often only goes slightly beyond this. The result of a cloze test by
Herbst (1996) is that (advanced) non-native speakers vary considerably more in their answers
than native speakers. Bahns and Eldaw (1993), examining advanced German learners’
knowledge of verb-noun collocations, observe that the translation of verbs that are part of
collocations poses many more problems than the translation of other lexical elements. They
also find that the proportion of collocation errors does not differ significantly between the best
and the worst translations. Marton (1977) observes that mere exposure to collocations does
not usually lead to their acquisition, and Bahns and Sibilis (1992) similarly observe that
reading only slightly improves learners’ knowledge of collocations. Biskup (1992) describes a
study in which 34 Polish and 28 German advanced learners were asked to translate 23
collocations into English. Clear differences between the two groups emerged. The Polish
students produced more collocations than the German students, but they also much more
frequently gave no answer at all. The German students more frequently tried to paraphrase the
intended meaning without using a collocation but made more mistakes. According to Biskup,
this emphasis on accuracy on the part of the Polish students and creative strategies on the part
of the German students can probably be put down to the different emphases in foreign
language teaching in the two countries. She also observes that the L1 influence on non-native
forms is greater with the Polish than with the German students, and that different types of
transfer are preferred by the two groups. Studies of collocations in learner language based on
production data have almost exclusively investigated written learner language. Two types of
study can be distinguished: those in which all collocations are extracted manually from a
given corpus and those in which a predefined set of collocations is extracted (semi)automatically. So far, studies using automatic analysis have only dealt with adverb-adjective
combinations and with collocations of high-frequency verbs. They tend to concentrate on
overuse and underuse (by comparing the quantity of certain collocations in native and nonnative speaker writing) and not primarily on the analysis of non-native-like combinations.
Another finding is that learners are often insecure in the use of collocations, which can be
seen in frequent ‘corrections’ by the learners, in which incorrect collocations are often
replaced by other incorrect ones. Howarth (1996) is one of the most thorough investigations
of collocations in learner language to date, although his database is comparatively small. He
manually investigates verb-noun combinations in a corpus of 10 essays (about 22,000 words)
written by non-native speakers with different L1s and compares them to combinations in
native speaker writing. His analysis produces two main general results. He finds that learners
use slightly fewer collocations than native speakers and that there is no correlation between
the general proficiency of a learner and the number and the acceptability of the collocations
used. More specific results include that non-native-like collocations are often either blends of
two acceptable collocations with a similar meaning or the result of what Howarth calls
‘overlaps’, i. e. sets of nouns that share certain but not all verbs. As this survey has shown,
apart from the fact that most studies of collocations in learner language have focused on the
advanced or intermediate learner, the studies differ widely, in particular with respect to their
method of investigation. But not only do the existing studies differ widely, their number is
also small, and many of them are quite limited in size and/ or scope. In elicitation studies, 15
to 20 items (the selection of which often seems somewhat arbitrary) are tested on average, and
in some production studies, the data is limited to a few verbs or a small number of essays. In
spite of this, some results have emerged. Most of these results, however, mainly confirm and
elaborate on the observation that collocation production presents a problem for second
language learners. A conclusion reached by a number of studies is that learners use overall
fewer collocations than native speakers (e. g. Hasselgren 1994; Howarth 1996; Granger 1998;
Lorenz 1999) except for a small number of frequent ones which are overused. Other recurrent
findings have been that learners are often not aware of restrictions, but that they are at the
same time not aware of the full combinatory potential of words they know (Channell 1981;
Granger 1998). Individual studies have indicated that learners are insecure in the production
of collocations and that the collocation problems are more serious than general vocabulary
problems (Bahns & Eldaw 1993).
2.6. Empirical Studies on Collocations
Taylor (2000) conducted an important study on collocation. They stated that there is a
consensus among researchers and language teachers about the importance of collocations for
second and foreign language learning. These researchers applied the idea to the second /
foreign language curriculum because then it can be believed beneficial for the development of
L2 vocabulary and communicative competence. Taylor believed that collocations are difficult
to learn because joining words that are semantically compatible does not always produce
acceptable combinations. Secondly, there are no standard rules that can be applied to the word
combinations as word combinations differ from language to language. The knowledge of
collocations requires pragmatic knowledge as well. Another reason is negative transfer from
L1 and the unfamiliarity with the structure of the particular collocations.
The purpose of their study was to investigate the patterns of acquisition of English
collocations. In the study, 275 junior high school Greek learners in three different levels
participated. They used three measures: a writing task, a gap-filling task and a translation task.
They found that the knowledge of collocations occur gradually; the higher levels were
more successful than the lower levels. Gitsaki (2000) also found that lexical collocations were
more difficult to translate than grammatical collocations and the higher levels were more
accurate in translating. Another finding was that the amount of exposure to a particular
collocation correlated with better acquisition of that collocation. The most important
conclusion of this study was that subjects were less accurate with fixed, arbitrary and
unpredictable verb-noun lexical collocations.
This conclusion shows that collocations are language specific and direct translation
would end with inaccuracy. They should be dealt with as a significant part of vocabulary
instruction. It can be inferred that lexical collocations should be taught separately, otherwise
students would try to translate them, which leads them to wrong use.
Another study of collocations was done by Biskup (1992). In his study, he defined
collocations as different from idioms, since they are transparent. It means that they are nonidiomatic. In this study, Biskup tried to find out whether lexical collocations cause problems
for L2 learners and which subtypes are difficult for them. After the tests, there seemed to be
no difficulty in perception, but in production and when the students were asked to provide the
translation of collocations. They also had difficulties in the verb + noun category. The results
showed that L1 has a significant influence on L2 use. He also concluded that verbs are the
main part in most collocations and they determine the collocational system of a language. He
stated that it is not easy for a non-native speaker to guess the collocates of a word, it needs
exposure so collocations should be taught. In addition when learners encounter a new
collocation together with a word they do not make an effort to learn it and this does not ignite
their mental process. That is why teaching collocations should be dealt with separately and it
should be focused.
In another study, Biskup (1992) tried to find the collocational errors and the role of L1
in committing these errors. There were two groups in his study, Polish and German students
who both received 10 years of English language instruction. They were asked to provide the
equivalents of lexical collocations. According to the results, Polish students were doubtful
about giving answers but German students were trying to render the meanings of collocations.
The results generally showed that, if the semantic field of a given item is wide, the possibility
of the errors increases. If the word in a collocational item has more synonyms, it is produced
less. Sometimes it is possible to find a word-for-word translations for some collocations but
learners tended not to translate them.
Nist and Simpson (1993) states that knowing the definition of a word is important and
may be sufficient in many situations. However, memorizing and connecting a definition to a
targeted word is just a beginning point. According to them a memorized definition is often the
tip of the iceberg, the part mistakenly believed to be the total iceberg because it is so visible
and obvious. Beneath the surface of the water is a much larger mass of ice which is far more
Deveci (2004) states that over the last few years, vocabulary teaching has gained more
interest from English teachers and theorists who argue that, without a wide range of
vocabulary, grammar does not help learners much. Having a wide range of vocabulary is not
adequate because a single word rarely stands alone. Therefore, language teachers need to
make sure that their students know which word goes with other word(s), and that necessitates
teaching collocations. Doing so will help learners acquire the language more quickly and
Altınok (2000) conducted a study on collocation. The purpose of her study was to
investigate whether teaching vocabulary in collocations will result in better vocabulary
learning than teaching vocabulary using definitions only.
The participants were from
Çukurova University, Center of Foreign Languages Department. In the study, there were 65
students participating, one control group and two experimental groups. According to the
results of her study, teaching words in collocations did not produce ant statistically significant
difference in learning new vocabulary items; she still suggests that the idea that collocates of
words should be taught when presenting new vocabulary because students particularly
Turkish students have difficulty in finding appropriate collocates for words.
The purpose of my study is to find out whether the learners learn the lexical items
better in collocations rather than individually. Also, it aims to find out the extent to which the
known collocates can help the students learn unknown items. This study will give a chance to
gain an insight about teaching and learning collocations and compare it with teaching words
in isolation.
3.1. Introduction
The purpose of this study was to compare the effect of two different vocabulary
teaching techniques in learning new words. In particular, the study investigated whether
teaching vocabulary in collocations would result in better learning.
In this chapter, the aim is to describe the methodological procedure of the study. First,
the participants who contribute to the study are described. Then, the materials to collect data,
the way the data were collected and also how the scores were given are explained and
3.2. Subjects
The participants were from Selçuk University, Faculty of Education, ELT Department.
Two classes of first graders participated in the study, one as the control group and the other as
the experimental group. Totally there were 79 students participating.
In the experimental group (1-A), there were 40 students and in the control group (1-B)
there were 39 students. Their ages ranged from 18 to 20.
3.3. Materials and Procedure
The main aim of the study was to find out whether collocations would help students to
learn and remember the new words with which they were associated. The first step was to
select words they did not know.
In order to select these words, a list of a 75 words was constructed and given to
students as a first pre-test (see Appendix A). The aim of this pre-test was to find out the words
that the students did not know because these words were to be taught during treatment. Since
the level of the students were high-intermediate, the 75 words, especially difficult words,
were chosen from two intermediate level course books. The two classes had to indicate their
knowledge of the words by circling one of three options: I know the word, I don’t know the
word at all or I think I know the word but I am not sure. Only those words they indicated they
did not know at all were selected for further use. Then for those words, appropriate collocates
were found by using Collins Cobuild Corpora and the study lasted for four weeks.
Students’ knowledge of collocates were also tested using another pre-test in order to
select and keep the ones that the students knew. The aim of the second pre-test was to select
the words that the students knew because during the treatment these known collocates would
help them to learn new vocabulary items better. This second test was a gap-filling test which
is composed of 20 questions totally. The purpose of the second test was to select the known
words (as collocates) which would be taught to students together with the unknown
vocabulary items. In this way, the effect of the known collocates would show that whether
these collocates help the students to learn and remember the newly presented vocabulary
For this stage, I selected 10 collocates among the correct answers, in this way I
selected the known words and I put the known and the unknown words together and
categorized them into the subgroups such as verb + noun, adjectives + noun, noun + noun,
verb + adverb (see Appendix C)
Two classes participated in the research: one experimental and one control group. The
level of these classes were both advanced. In these classes the items were presented in sample
sentences (see appendix D) since it would be nearly impossible to construct meaningful and
cohesive reading passages including these words and collocates. In the first session, for the
collocation group, the collocation technique was used. The students first read the sentences
and then teacher presented vocabulary items and explained their meanings. He also provided a
collocate (which students knew the meaning of) for each word, in this way while students
were learning a new word, they were learning them with collocations. Finally, a gap-filling
exercise was practiced for newly learned vocabulary (see appendix E). The gap filling
exercise involved both these new words and the collocates. Two words were given together
and the students were asked to fill in the blanks with these two words.
The control group received only the dictionary definitions of words. The students read
the same sample sentences. However, for this group while the teacher was presenting the
vocabulary, he did not provide the collocates of the words, only the definitions were given. In
order for the teacher to spend nearly the same amount of time in two classes during the
presentation stage, the teacher practiced the word formation of new vocabulary items with the
students. For this group the gap-filling exercises consisted only of single words. (see appendix
After the treatment sessions, the two classes took two immediate post-tests, which
were given the day after (see appendices F and G). In the first post-test, the students answered
multiple-choice questions. In the second post-test students were given 10 items and asked to
write their meanings in English and use them in meaningful sentences. In order to counterbalance the effect of tests, each class was divided into two halves and the first half took the
multiple-choice test whereas the second half took the definition sentence test and then they
did the reverse.
The next week, delayed post-tests were given to the students, which included the same
questions, but in a different order (see appendices H and I)
The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of collocations in helping learners to
learn the meanings of unknown words. Two groups, one as the experimental group and the
other as the control group participated in this study. The experimental group consisted of 40
students and was presented with definitions only. The control group, a total of 39 students, did
not receive such treatment. In total, 79 students participated in this study during the treatment.
Before the experiments, two separate pre-tests were given to both groups. In the first
pre-test, the aim was to be sure that they did not already know the meaning of the new words
to be presented to them. The second pre-test aimed at they knew the meanings of collocates
which would be presented together with a new word. The treatment took place over two
consecutive class hours. The delayed post-tests were given a week later. The immediate and
delayed sets of post-tests were the same; however, the questions were in different order.
Although during the presentation stage some of the students were absent, during the
testing stage the number decreased. The numbers of the students who took each test are as
follows: in the immediate multiple-choice test, 31 students in the collocation group, 22
students in the control group. In the immediate definition-sentence test, 27 students in the
collocation group, 22 students in the control group were present. In the delayed-post tests the
numbers decreased. The number of the students in delayed multiple-choice test are as follows:
20 students in the collocation group; 26 students in the control group. In the delayed
definition-sentence test; there were 19 students in the collocation group and 20 in the control
After scoring each test analysis of variance was used. In order to determine the
difference between the immediate post-tests and the delayed post-tests, t-tests were employed.
4.1. Data Analysis Procedures
The scoring of the immediate and delayed multiple-choice tests was done by giving
one point to each correct answer. For all these tests, the means and the standard deviations of
both groups were calculated. Then, both groups were compared to see if there were
differences between the groups. For the next stage, the differences between the immediate and
delayed post-tests were determined. First, the mean and the standard deviations of the tests for
each group were calculated. The results of these analyses are presented in the tables below.
Table 1 contains the means and the standard deviations of the immediate gap-filling tests.
Table 1
Means and Standard Deviations of the Immediate Multiple-Choice Tests
Standard Deviation
Note: n=The number of the students
An examination of Table 1 shows that in the immediate multiple-choice tests, the
mean for the collocation group was 22.80 and the standard deviation was 6.66. The mean for
the control (definition) group 23,66 and the standard deviation was 6.98. As can be seen, there
are no differences between the two experimental groups in terms of learning words either in
collocation or definition. This might show that collocations did not help learners to learn new
words; otherwise the mean of the collocation group would be higher.
Table 2
Means and Standard Deviations of the Delayed Multiple-Choice Post-Tests
Standard Deviation
In Table 2, in the delayed multiple-choice post-test, the mean for the collocation group
was 23.50 and the standard deviation was 7.39. The mean for the definition group was 11.75
and the standard deviation was 5.68. The mean for the collocation group is 13.50 which is
higher than the definition group’ means. This might indicate that collocations helped learners
to remember the vocabulary items in the delayed test.
For the definition sentence post-tests, means and standard deviations were calculated
to see the difference in the scores of both groups. Table 3 shows these figures.
Table 3
Means and Standard Deviations of the Immediate Definition Sentence Post-Tests
Standard Deviation
As Table 3 demonstrates, the mean for the collocation group was 17.35 and the standard
deviation was 6.67. For the definition group the mean was 17.25 and the standard deviation
was 4.91. In these tests the treatment group got higher means than the control group, which
might suggest the effectiveness of the treatment.
Table 4 indicates the means and standard deviations for the delayed definition-sentence posttests.
Table 4
Means and Standard Deviations of the Delayed Definition Sentence Post-Tests
Standard Deviation
As Table 7 shows, in the delayed definition-sentence post-test, the mean for the
collocation group was 13.66 and the standard deviation was 2.29. The mean for the definition
group was 14.50 and the standard deviation was 2.71. Since the collocation group’s mean was
lower than the definition group, this might suggest that collocations were not effective in
remembering vocabulary for collocation group.
In order to determine whether there were any differences between the immediate and
the delayed post-tests in each group, several t-tests were calculated. The results are displayed
in Table 5.
Table 5
Comparison Between the Immediate Multiple-Choice Post-Tests and the Delayed MultipleChoice Tests
Between the means and the standard deviations of the immediate and the delayed posttests, any significant difference can not be seen. The letter t shows the significance between
the groups. In Table 5, although for each group there is no significant difference between the
immediate and the delayed post-tests, it can be seen that collocation group got a higher mean
in the delayed post-test which suggests collocations helped the students to remember the
words, whereas the mean of the definition group decreased in the delayed post-test.
Next, t-tests were calculated for the immediate and delayed definition-sentence posttests for the groups. Table 6 shows the results of the t-test for both of the groups in immediate
and delayed post-tests.
Table 6
Comparison Between the Immediate Definition-Sentence Post-Tests and the Delayed
Definition-Sentence Post-Tests
For the definition-sentence post-tests the only significant differences is in the
collocation group. The mean for the collocation group decreased significantly in the delayed
post-test, which suggests collocations did not help the students remember the meanings of the
The intention of this study was to investigate whether teaching vocabulary using
collocations was an effective method. In particular, it aimed at finding out if teaching new
words using collocations could result in a better learning and remembering of those words
than teaching them with definitions only.
The study was conducted at Selçuk University, Faculty of Education, English
Language Teaching Department. Two classes of first graders participated in the study, one as
control group and the other as experimental group. The first treatment group comprised of 40
students was presented with the new words along with their definitions and collocations. The
control group, a total of 39 students, did not receive any of the above treatments.
The data collection procedure was as follows. First, using a pre-test the vocabulary
items that the students did not know was selected and then in another test the collocates of
those items that they knew were selected. Next, these words were presented to the
experimental group used in sentences. There were 20 new words, 10 of which were presented
in these sentences. The experimental group students were presented with the presentation of
vocabulary, followed by gap-filling exercises. The control group was presented with only the
definition of words and their usage in sentences and then gap-filling exercises.
5.1. Conclusions and Discussions
The first research question was as follows: “Does presenting new words in
collocations result in a better learning of the words than presenting them without
collocations?” The result of the multiple-choice post tests showed no significant difference
among the groups. The means and the standard deviations of the treatment groups were higher
than the control group in both immediate post-tests. In the immediate multiple-choice posttest the scores of the definition group were higher, whereas the scores of the collocation group
were higher in the immediate definition sentence post-tests. Although the groups showed
differences in the test results, Anova, which was conducted to find out whether these
differences were significant, showed that the differences were not statistically significant.
This result was unexpected since the collocation group was expected to score higher than the
other group. Because the researcher assumed that collocations would help learners learn
vocabulary items better than the other group. This result indicates that using collocations may
not help learners very much with vocabulary learning.
The second research question was whether there were any differences among the
groups in terms of remembering the vocabulary items. The results of the delayed post-tests
given after 10 days, showed that means were different, that is, although collocations were not
effective in learning vocabulary, the case was not the same in the retention of vocabulary. The
group on which collocational techniques were implemented was more successful in
remembering the words.
There were several reasons why the results of this study on the part of learning
vocabulary did not show any significant difference among the groups. The amount of time
could be an important reason. The students in my study were taught words with collocations
in a short period of time, which was two class hour per week. However, the research study
conducted by Gitsaki et al. (2000) concluded that it is not easy for learners to learn
collocations in a short period of time. According to this research, learning collocations
requires more time than devoted to it. One reason was that it requires pragmatic knowledge
and there are no standard rules for combining words. Another reason this study found was
negative transfer from L1. The solution the research recommended was “learners need more
exposure to collocations, also these words should be taught as a significant part of vocabulary
Another reason might be that the students might not have paid very much attention
when presented with new words in the treatment. Biskup (1992) mentions this in his study.
After conducting the study, he concluded that, it is difficult for learners to learn the collocate
of a word because they had difficulty in producing collocations and also, when learners
encounter a new word, they do not pay attention to the collocate of that word. This
inattentiveness to collocations may be because students are not aware of the notion of
A study conducted by Elkhatib (1984) analyzed writing samples of four Arab college
freshmen students and eight types of lexical errors were found. One of them was unfamiliarity
with word collocation. This result might indicate that students should be more familiarized
with the notion of collocation. Similarly, the results of another study which was done by
Farghal and Obiedat (1995) showed that learners don’t learn collocations because they are not
familiar with them. The students participated in my study may not have been familiar with
collocations. Indeed they were not taught collocations before. This might be another reason of
their not being successful.
In addition, in this study, the total number of students were only 79. That might be
another reason why I could not find any significant difference among the groups. As this was
a small study and the number of the participants was quite low, the results of the study cannot
be generalized. If there is to be further research on collocations, this limitation should be
taken into consideration and the number of the participants should be increased.
Another limitation of this study was the level of the students. It was limited to only
high-intermediate level students. If it were applied to other levels, the results might have been
different. The study conducted by Gitsaki et al. (2000) revealed that students from different
language proficiency levels responded differently to collocations.
However, as mentioned before the most important limitation of this study was the time
limitation. Extended exposure to the collocations is an important factor and this requires a
longer time period. Thus, the time span for the treatment should have been longer. It might
have lead to different results if the time was longer. In this way, students would have been
exposed to collocations more and the results might have been more accurate.
From all these studies, it might be concluded that collocations should be dealt with
more carefully especially in our context and the teaching of them should take more time.
Thus, although in this study teaching words in collocations did not produce any statistically
significant difference in learning new vocabulary items, the idea that collocates of words
should be taught when presenting new vocabulary is still worth considering, because
particularly Turkish students have difficulties in finding appropriate collocates for words.
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Dear student,
Please tick the column “I exactly know the word”, “I don’t know the word at all”, “I am not
sure” which best indicates your knowledge of each word.
Selçuk University Faculty of Education ELT Department
Research Assistant Gökhan Şimşek
A: I exactly know the word
B: I don’t know the word at all
C: I am not sure
1. attend
2. scar
3. fortune
4. casualty
5. aspect
6. unlikely
7. expand
8. accurate
9. bizarre
10. blame
11. flaw
12. perceive
13. vigorous
14. comparatively
15. ambitious
16. identical
17. royal
18. scale
19. indispensable
20. mature
21. fame
22. impact
23. manipulation
24. review
25. severe
26. trace
27. indifference
28. vary
29. vital
30. wisdom
31. agony
32. appeal
33. figure
34. challenge
35. deficit
36. deceive
37. haste
38. hazardous
39. inclination
40. unity
41. inspection
42. likelihood
43. postpone
44. merit
45. mild
46. velocity
47. notion
48. undermine
49. nod
50. occasion
51. dominance
52. poverty
53. rage
54. mislead
55. redundancy
56. scatter
57. shift
58. sequence
59. talent
60. trace
61. defeat
62. neighbourhood
63. urgency
64. rational
65. virtue
66. wage
67. welfare
68. absence
69. asset
70. corruption
71. transition
72. policy
73. exploit
74. catastrophe
75. ambiguity
Read the sentences below and choose the best word from among the choices to fill the gap
1. The child suffered __________ injuries in the car accident and has been leading a
vegetative life since then.
b) ridiculous
c) rapid
d) random
2. The water closet had been patented in 1775 but the ___________ use of water carriage for
sewage needed abundant water supply and good leakproof drains.
b) widespread
c) principal
d) massive
3. There was ___________ competition between the rival companies to get the contract.
b) gradual
c) exceptional
4. The __________ climate of the region and the many different habitats support a wide
variety of birds and flowers, butterflies.
a) random
d) conventional
5. The experience of older people is not only a(n) ___________ source of history, it is an
essential element of counselling empathy.
a) outstanding
b) average
c) random
6. He regarded his ____________ problem as lack of time since he was working for nearly 15
hours a day.
b) principal
c) petty
d) invaluable
7. As far as the ___________ criminal is concerned, it was afternoon when the incident
c) rapid
8. Our problems seem ___________ when compared to those of people who never get enough
to eat.
a) random
b) principal
c) petty
d) widespread
9. Jumping off a bridge with a specially equipped rope around your feet and body was really
a(n) __________ experience.
b) mild
c) outstanding
d) ridiculous
10. Other areas, those of ___________ aesthetic, historic or scientific interest, are regarded as
entirely unsuitable for housing developments of any sort.
a) principal
c) gradual
d) random
11. More recently the ___________ increase in the wealth of the Japanese, their greater
consumption of diamonds have led to a sharp increase in their use of platinum for jewellery.
a) conventional
12. It was accepted from the outset of the study that it would be unrealistic to expect changes
to be made overnight, and that a(n) ___________ evolution to the desired state would be
13. A(n) ____________ computer is turned into a `;thinking machine'; by programming it to
behave as if it consisted of a collection of brain cells --; neurons --; which will respond to a
14. He had a way of dealing with objections which, even if he didn't face them, made it
appear absolutely __________ to maintain the opposite position.
15. Although most psychologists attach ___________ importance to early experience, there is
no agreement concerning the factors.
16. Most top managers are above ___________ in intelligence (numeric and verbal reasoning)
but are not in the genius class.
17. In most cases the infected cells eventually disintegrate and die, their own metabolism
__________ disrupted by the presence of the virus.
18. After being ___________ damaged in a storm, the spire was replaced with a square tower
in 1969.
19. Very little is known about what triggers most animal viruses; indeed it seems possible that
integration is a(n) ___________ and accidental process
20. One __________ solution recommended in the report would be to stop shipping in
western grain and to start buying Somali farmers' crops instead.
1. invaluable + asset
2. massive + redundancy
3. mild + agony
4. petty + corruption
5. exceptional + merit
6. ridiculous + notion
7. rapid + transition
8. enormous + velocity
9. fatally + undermine
10. logical + sequence
Redundancy: The state of not or no longer being needed or wanted especially as a worker.
- The value of redundancy payments increases with a worker's length of service and any
break deprives workers of their rights to payments.
Agony: Very great pain or suffering of mind or body.
- He screamed in agony and fell to his knees, cradling his broken nose between his bloodied
Asset: somebody or something that is useful and contributes to the success of something
- Although many people overlook the fact with worldly things in their minds a good health is
the best asset.
Corruption: dishonest exploitation of power for personal gain
- The regime is blamed for a rise in corruption, mafia crime, public debt and a lack of public
Merit: value that deserves respect and acknowledgment
- There is little merit in passing the test if you cheated.
Transition: a process or period in which something undergoes a change and passes from one
state, stage, form, or activity to another
- A peaceful transition from colonial rule to self-government
Notion: An idea, belief or opinion in someone’s mind, concept.
- An education system based on the old-fashioned notion of women as home-makers
Velocity: Speed in a certain direction; rate of movement.
- Obviously the most important quantity to be measured in most flows is the fluid velocity.
Undermine: To weaken or destroy gradually.
- These incidents could seriously undermine support for the police.
Sequence: A group of things that are arranged in or happen in an order; especially following
one another in time.
- A sequence of bad accidents has prompted the council to put up warning signs.
B- Gap filling exercise
1) The economic downfall of the 1930s triggered a(n) ___________________ causing tens of
thousands of people around the world divorce, commit suicide and so on.
2) He didn’t have even a(n) ________________ for the loss of lives he had caused so far as a
high-rank officer in war.
3) As English is increasingly becoming very familiar as a lingua franka throughout the world
and loses its value, speaking some other foreign languages is considered a(n)
___________________ by some.
4) The CEO of the huge Ltd. company couldn’t get away with the __________________
unlike he had planned since the Treasury inspectors were very conscientious.
5) This year’s award was given to a deaf person of __________________ who showed great
resolution, leadership and general achievement.
6) Those who fail to keep up with the __________________ in the technological field in a
highly globalized world will also, without a doubt, not succeed to keep their relationships
with people updated and fresh.
7) His old mind was playing tricks and he always started to keep his mind stuffed with
___________________ like he’d be murdered by his old wife while he is asleep.
8) One can say from the scene of the car accident that the car crashed the tree head-on with
a(n) ___________________.
9) Years of heavy smoking along with high blood-pressure ___________________ his health
and physicians have nothing to do but slow down the detoriation.
10) They play a fairly passive role, though the taking of notes involves the student actively in
the learning process, particularly if an attempt is made to record the main points of the lecture
in a(n) ____________________.
1) The closure of the export department led to a lot of ____________.
2) The ______________ he felt deep down inside was so intense that he couldn’t bear it and
ended his life.
3) A sense of humour is a great _____________ when your job requires communicating with
4) The government immediately terminated the ministry official whose name was mentioned
in a(n) ______________ .
5) The teacher tried to convince his students that there is little _____________ in passing
exams by cheating.
6) No one can say the _______________ from tyrannic rule to democracy will be smooth and
7) Almost everyone in Turkey abandoned the old-fashioned _______________ that women
are to be housewives.
8) The car came round the corner at such a ______________ that the driver was unable to
keep it on the road.
9) The house is unsafe and must be evacuated immediately since the foundations were
______________by floods.
10) The ______________ of events on the night of the murder still isn’t known by the police.
1. The value of ____________ payments increases with a worker's length of service and any
break deprives workers of their rights to payments.
a) redundancy
2. He screamed in ___________ and fell to his knees, cradling his broken nose between his
bloodied hands.
a) agony
3. Although many people overlook the fact with worldly things in their minds a good health is
the best __________.
a) asset
4. The regime is blamed for a rise in ____________, mafia crime, public debt and a lack of
public responsibility.
a) corruption
b) contraction
c) contamination
d) contortion
5. There is little ___________ in passing the test if you cheated.
a) merit
b) medium
c) maze
6. A peaceful ____________ from colonial rule to self-government
a) transition
b) transportation
c) trauma
d) treachery
7. An education system based on the old-fashioned ___________ of women as home-makers
a) notion
b) nation
c) negotiation
d) notorious
8. Obviously the most important quantity to be measured in most flows is the fluid
a) velocity
b) vaccinate
c) vascular
d) vapor
9. These incidents could seriously ____________ support for the police.
a) undermine
b) determine
c) underlie
d) unambiguous
10. A ___________ of bad accidents has prompted the council to put up warning signs.
a) sequence
c) sentry
d) sentinel
d) serpent
C- Definition-Sentence Test
Explain the meanings of the words and use them in meaningful sentences as in the example
a) the condition of being very well known
b) She won overnight fame with her first novel.
APPENDIX I (delayed post-test)
1. A peaceful ____________ from colonial rule to self-government
a) transition
b) transportation
c) trauma
d) treachery
2. He screamed in ___________ and fell to his knees, cradling his broken nose between his
bloodied hands.
a) agony
3. The regime is blamed for a rise in ____________, mafia crime, public debt and a lack of
public responsibility.
a) corruption
b) contraction
c) contamination
d) contortion
4. There is little ___________ in passing the test if you cheated.
a) merit
b) medium
c) maze
5. Although many people overlook the fact with worldly things in their minds a good health is
the best __________.
a) asset
6. An education system based on the old-fashioned ___________ of women as home-makers
a) notion
b) nation
c) negotiation
d) notorious
7. A ___________ of bad accidents has prompted the council to put up warning signs.
a) sequence
c) sentry
d) sentinel
d) serpent
8. The value of ____________ payments increases with a worker's length of service and any
break deprives workers of their rights to payments.
a) redundancy
9. These incidents could seriously ____________ support for the police.
a) undermine
b) determine
c) underlie
d) unambiguous
10. Obviously the most important quantity to be measured in most flows is the fluid
a) velocity
b) vaccinate
c) vascular
d) vapor
APPENDIX J (delayed post test)
C- Definition-Sentence Test
Explain the meanings of the words and use them in meaningful sentences as in the example
a) the condition of being very well known
b) She won overnight fame with her first novel.