The term collocation was coined by the British linguist J.R. Firth (1890-1960) in the 1950s to refer to the common co-occurrence of certain words. He considered that part of the meaning of a word derives from the words with which it is associated with.
|- Firth, John R.,1957. Modes of meaning.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. A collocation is two or more words that often go together and this combination just sound "right" and natural to native English speakers.
A collocation is two or more words that often go together and which sound "right" and natural to native English speakers.
|Sounds right||Does not sound right|
|gross negligence||bad negligence|
|safe driver||secure driver or risk-free driver|
Some important definitions:
|To collocate (verb)||To appear with another word with a higher frequency than by pure chance.||The word Babylonian collates with confusion.|
|Collocation (noun)||The combination of two or more words appearing more frequently than by chance.||Using collocations properly would make our writing richer and more interesting.|
|A collocation (noun)||A specific example of a collocation.||Backlog of work is an example of a collocation.|
There are several different types of collocation, which are derived from combinations of verb, noun, adjective, adverb etc. Some of the common combinations are as follows:
There is some degree of predictability in terms of which words "gel well" and are associated with other words.
In any collocation, one word (named as the head word) will "flash" another word in the mind of a native English speaker. It's possible to predict the second word with knowledge of the head word, with varying degrees of success. Even though this predictability is not 100%, it is much higher than with non-collocates (words which do not collate).
Strong predictability is indicated if the headword collates with very few words and is positioned in the same place (before or after) the other word.
Examples: ballpark estimate, ballpark figure
Weak predictability is indicated if the headword collates with several tens or hundreds of other words. In such case, a reader would not be able to easily guess which other word would collate with the head word.