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CQPweb: Collocations

Watch Andrew Hardie elaborate on collocations and how to generate them using CQPweb.
In this CQP web practical, we’re going to look at collocation. And collocation is the analysis of what tends to go with what in proximity to one another in the corpus data. So the way that we analyse this in CQP web is to start by doing a query, and then to ask the system to analyse for us what occurs near to the results of that query. So there in the search box, I’ve got a query, which will find all forms of verb please. You’ve seen that before. And there we are. There’s the query results. We’ve got 521 matches, all different forms of the verb to please. So there’s various ways of analysing collocation. CQP web does statistical collocation.
So what we need to do is instruct CQP web to run that statistical analysis. And the way we do that is from the concordance action menu. You’ll see that, if you drop down that menu, there is an option collocations dot dot dot. If you click that, up pops a window where you are invited to adjust the settings. Now for anyone who is not a high level expert, the default settings are usually just fine. So we can leave all of that as it is and simply press View Collocations. And there it goes, and we get our result. Now I have to point out that there’s a lot of different controls that you can twiddle here.
And it would take me a longer video than we have time for to go through what each one of these things does. So I’m actually going to kind of skim over those, and we’re going to assume that the settings we used are actually OK. And let’s have a look at what the collocation data is showing us and is telling us. So I’ll just make this a little bit bigger on the screen. There we go. So if we go down, past the control up top, to our actual collocation table, the collocation table lists words which the statistics have detected as being particularly frequent nearby to the verb please. And it tells you some information.
It tells you how often that word occurs near verb please, and it tells you how many texts they co-occur, and then there are some more statistical information here, which I haven’t got time to go into. And then over here, we have the statistical score of the link. The higher the score, the stronger the two words are linked together. So we can see that please is linked very strongly to the words majesty, highness, lordship, worship, and grace. This is starting to tell us something about usage. It’s suggesting that there is a kind of pattern where the verb please goes with words that refer to people with high status, especially if you are of a lower status. So that’s suggesting something there.
It suggests that high ranking nobility are the people who are linked to the verb please in Shakespeare. We’ve also got honour and then once we get past that, we’ve got some slightly different words. We’ve got the word you and your, which is very similar, of course. If and then, we have some what you may know, are called modal verbs. You’ve got may and will. So there are some patterns coming out. The if is particularly interesting because we’ve got the if and we’ve got the you further down, although these scores are still quite strong. And that immediately suggests a phraseology. If you please, for instance. We know that if you please is a phrase in English.
And there we’ve got the word please, and it’s co-occuring with if and it’s co-occuring with you, so that’s actually a reasonable guess. However, when we’re analysing collocations, we don’t like to actually make those guesses. What we like to do, when we’ve made some kind of theorization about what the collocates are indicating about the meaning and the usage of what we searched for, we want to actually go into the concordance and have a look at the cases where they co-occur. And in CQP web, clicking on this cell, which has the number in it, will take you to that concordance. So let’s see if if you please really is in there. So I’m going to click on if.
And you’ll see that this is a concordance where it’s just the examples from the original query that I’ve got an if nearby. And what you’ll see is that actually the phrase if you please, we do have it, there it is. It occurs, but it’s not exactly super common. There is lots of other patterns involving if, as well. If he please, if you please, if the King please, if heaven had pleased– lots of different configurations. So there is a pattern, but it’s not as tight a pattern as I anticipated. If we go on to the next page of the concordance to see examples, the next 50 examples– you get 50 examples per page.
We’ve got a few more examples of if you please here. And if we were seriously interested in the pragmatics of people pleasing, then we could do some very interesting analysis here. I will just finish off by underlining that, to do a proper linguistic or stylistic or literary analysis, you can’t just look at statistical collocations. There are hints to what to look at in the actual data, but we always have to take it back to the real words of the text. That’s all for now. Thanks.

This talk focuses on collocations, a concept you have met already, and in particular how to generate them and interpret them. As always, there will be copious illustration and hints about how you can take it further.

If you have any concerns, or, if you discover some interesting things, put them in the comments.

We strongly advise you to listen to Andrew Hardie’s video in one window of your computer, and open up his program, CQPweb, in another, so that you can practice what he is saying as he goes along. Obviously, you will need to pause periodically.

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