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Exploring the valency of collocational chains

Piotr Pęzik

Whereas the prefabricated status of idioms or restricted collocations is relatively self-evident in their context of use, the “underlying rigidity” (Sinclair 1991: 110) of other types of phraseological units may only become evident through large-scale analyses of reference corpora. This chapter focuses on the identification of subtle lexico-grammatical petrification of multiword units in dependency-annotated corpora. More specifically, it investigates restrictions on the valency of binary collocations and their tendency to be regularly subsumed by larger collocational chains. For example, the binary collocation deep breath is almost invariably a direct object of a small set of verbs: take, draw, let out. This restriction can be contrasted with collocational chains in which other adjectival collocations of breath (e.g. bad breath) have a wider range of syntactic roles determined mainly by the potential valency of their head noun (i.e. its propensity to function as subject, object etc.). Apart from discussing examples of such constructions from Polish and English corpus data, the chapter also attempts to show how lexico-syntactic properties of multiword units can be systematically accounted for and explored using a dependency-based approach to phraseology extraction.

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