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    The figurative and polysemous nature of collocations and their place in ELT

    Macis, M and Schmitt, N (2017) The figurative and polysemous nature of collocations and their place in ELT. ELT Journal, 71 (1). pp. 50-59. ISSN 0951-0893


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    © The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved. There is little guidance on how to teach different meaning senses of collocations as most pedagogical materials treat collocations as word partners which co-occur together. However, if we consider meaning, collocations fall into three categories. Literal collocations are combinations where the literal meanings of the words are simply added together. Figurative collocations have idiomatic meanings which are not derivable from the component words. Duplex collocations are polysemous, having both literal and figurative meanings. This exploratory study analysed 54 collocations and found that even though the majority of the collocations appeared to be literal, a substantial percentage had both literal and figurative meanings, and relatively few seemed to be solely figurative. We discuss the teaching implications of this, depending on whether the most important collocational characteristic is a pattern of co-occurrence or of meaning. Overall, we argue that considering meaning can bring useful insights to the nature of collocations and how to teach them.

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