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A Collocation is a multiword expression whose component words can be syntactically rearranged but (generally) cannot be substituted.



  • (WordNet, 2009) ⇒
    • S: (n) collocation (a grouping of words in a sentence)
    • S: (n) juxtaposition, apposition, collocation (the act of positioning close together (or side by side)) "it is the result of the juxtaposition of contrasting colors"
  • (WordNet, 2009) ⇒
    • Noun
      • 1. (linguistics) A grouping or juxtaposition of words that commonly occur together.
      • 2. (military) The placing of two or more units at the same location.
  • (Wikipedia, 2009) ⇒
    • Within the area of corpus linguistics, collocation is defined as a sequence of words or terms which co-occur more often than would be expected by chance.
    • Collocation comprises the restrictions on how words can be used together, for example which prepositions are used with particular verbs, or which verbs and nouns are used together. Collocations are examples of lexical units. Collocations should not be confused with idioms.
    • Collocation extraction is a task that extracts collocations automatically from a corpus-using computer in computational linguistics.
    • Non-substitutability: We cannot substitute a word in a collocation with a related word. For example, we cannot say yellow wine instead of white wine although both yellow and white are the names of colours.
    • Non-modifiability: We cannot modify a collocation or apply syntactic transformations.
    • If the expression is heard often, transmitting itself memetically, the words become 'glued' together in our minds. 'Crystal clear', 'middle management', 'nuclear family', and 'cosmetic surgery' are examples of collocated pairs of words. Some words are often found together because they make up a compound noun, for example 'riding boots' or 'motor cyclist'.





  • C Gledhill. (2000). “Collocations in Science Writing.” Narr, Tübingen.


  • (Manning and Schütze, 1999) ⇒ Christopher D. Manning and Hinrich Schütze. (1999). “Foundations of Statistical Natural Language Processing." The MIT Press.
    • QUOTE: A COLLOCATION' is an expression consisting of two or more words that correspond to some conventional way of saying things. Or in the words of Firth (1957:181): "'Collocations' of a given word are statements of the habitual or customary places of that word." Collocations include noun phrases like strong tea and weapons of mass destruction, phrasal verbs like to make up, and other stock phrases like the rich and powerful. Particularly interesting are the subtle and not-easily-explainable patterns of word usage that native speakers all know: why we say a stiff breeze but no ??a stiff wind (while either a a strong breeze or a a strong wind is okay), or why we speak of broad daylight (but not ?bright daylight or ??narrow darkness)).

      Collocations are characterized by limited compositionality. We call a natural language expression compositions if the meaning of the expression can be predicted from the meaning of the parts. Collocations are not fully compositional in that there is usually an element of meaning added to the combination. In the case of strong tea, strong has acquired the meaning rich in some active agent which is closely related, but slightly different from the basic sense having great physical strength. Idioms are the most extreme examples of non-compositionality. Idioms like to kick the bucket or to hear it through the grapevine only have an indirect historical relationship to the meaning of the expression. We are not talking about buckets or grapevines literally when we use these idioms.

      There is considerable overlap between the concept of collocation and notions like term, technical term and terminological phrase. As these names suggest, the latter three are commonly used when collocations are extracted from technical domains (in a process called terminology extraction). The reader should be warned, though, that the word term has a different meaning in information retrieval. There, it refers to both words and phrases. So it subsumes the more narrow meaning that we will use in this chapter.


  • (Howarth, 1996) ⇒ P. Howarth. (1996). “Phraseology in English Academic Writing.” Tübingen: Niemeyer.
    • Collocations are “fully institutionalised phrases, memorized as wholes and used as conventional form-meaning pairings”.



  • (Smadja & McKeown, 1990) ⇒ F A Smadja, and K R McKeown. (1990). “Automatically Extracting and Representing Collocations for Language Generation.” In: Proceedings of ACL 1990.


  • (Hausmann, 1989) ⇒ F J Hausmann. (1989). “Le dictionnaire de collocations.” In: F. J. Hausmann, O. Reichmann, H. E. Wiegand, and L. Zgusta (eds), Wörterbücher : ein internationales Handbuch zur Lexicographie. Dictionaries.