Collocations selon John R. Firth
Attraction mutuelle entre les mots

Vendredi 18 janvier 2013

Les collocations ou phraséologismes sont une façon conventionnelle de dire les choses par des groupements stéréotypés de termes dans des locutions (terminological phrases) syntactiquement bien formées qui ne sont pas créées au fur et à mesure des besoins, mais qui sont reproduites telles quelles par l'usager, car elles sont formées d'avance. Les locuteurs puisent dans leur mémoire des expressions relativement stables au fur et à mesure de l'énonciation.


John Rupert Firth (1890-1960), Modes of meaning [1951], in J. R. Firth, Papers in Linguistics 1934–1951, London, Oxford University Press, 1957, pp 190–215.


John R. Firth, A synopsis of linguistic theory 1930–55 [1957], in F. R. Palmer, Ed., Selected Papers of J. R. Firth 1952–59, Bloomington, Indiana UP, 1968, pp. 168–205.

Locutions figées: au fur et à mesure, chemin de fer, passer son tour

Expressions idiomatiques ou idiotismes: poser une question, une pluie diluvienne; faim de loup; sauter du coq à l'âne; faire chou blanc; prendre ses jambes à son cou

Idioms: a stiff breeze et non *a stiff wind, mais a strong wind; broad daylight et non *bright daylight; to teach a course pour donner un cours, mais to give a lecture; to shake hands pour serrer la main; to kick the bucket; to hear it through the grapevine

Locution terminologique: anorexie mentale

Noun phrases: strong tea, weapons of mass destruction

Phrasal verbs: to make up

Stock phrases: the rich and powerful

La collocation est une co-occurrence lexicale d'abord formulée par Firth en termes d'attraction mutuelle sans prendre en compte l'ordre des mots ni leur proximité:

Collocations of a given word are statements of the habitual or customary places of that word in collocational order but not in other contextual order and emphatically not in any grammatical order. The collocation of a word or a 'piece' is not to be regarded as mere juxtaposition, it is an order of mutual expectancy. The words are mutually expectant and mutually prehended. It is also an abstraction, and though the name of a collocation is the hearing, reading or saying of it, its 'meaning' at other levels must not be directly taken into consideration (firth_synopsis_ linguistic_theory.pdf, 181).

Pour désigner une relation mutuelle entre des catégories grammaticales, Firth disait colligation. Il opposait ainsi la collocation d'occurrences push+through à la colligation de classes grammaticales [verbe+particule].

Collocations are characterized by limited compositionality. We call a natural language expression compositional 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 meanings of the parts of the expression. We are not talking about buckets or grapevines literally when we use these idioms.

Collocations are important for natural language generation (to make sure that the output sounds natural and mistakes like *powerful tea or *to take a decision are avoided [la formule idiomatique étant to make a decision]), computational lexicography, parsing [analyse syntaxique], and corpus linguistics.

Neglected in structural linguistic traditions that follow Saussure and Chomsky. Structural linguistics concentrates on general abstractions about the properties of phrases and sentences. In contrast, Firth's Contextual Theory of Meaning emphasizes the importance of the social setting (as opposed to the idealized speaker), the context of spoken and textual discourse (as opposed to the isolated sentence), and the context of surrounding words; hence Firth's dictum: You shall know a word by the company it keeps! (firth_synopsis_ linguistic_ theory.pdf, 179).