Semantic Preference, Prosody and Distribution of Synonymous Adjectives in COCA

Linas Selmistraitis


Synonymous word pairs often become an obstacle on the road to favourable result in composing academic texts because semantic prosody and semantic preference of these words are neglected. The current study examined the concordance lines with synonymous adjectives succinct & concise, coherent & cohesive, precise & accurate in the academic texts of Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and identified semantics of co-occurring collocates, interchangeability of synonyms and their distribution across nine academic disciplines. The research describes the semantic arrangement of collocations with synonymous pairs of words and encourages persons with academic pursuits rely on corpus data based tools to improve knowledge of semantic prosody and preference of words with similar meanings. The study showed that near synonyms succinct & concise, coherent & cohesive, precise & accurate have different semantic preference and distribution across registers which should be taken into consideration while building collocations with these words. However, semantic prosody tendencies of these synonyms are similar. The analysed synonyms cannot be used interchangeably in all contexts. They are also unevenly scattered across registers. The current study will help to improve learning, teaching, and research of English academic vocabulary in its many contexts.


Semantic Preference; Semantic Prosody; Collocates; Synonymous Words; COCA

Full Text:



Banister, Ch. (2016). The academic word list: Exploring teacher practices, attitudes and beliefs through a web-based survey and interviews. The Journal of Teaching

English for Specific and Academic Purposes. 4(2), 309-325.

Bi, Z. (2019). A Semantic Prosody Analysis on Two Synonymous Pairs in English Native Speakers’ and Chinese Learners’ Writings. English Language Teaching, 12(8), 14-

Elahi, A. & Rahbar, M. (2018). Semantic prosody: Its knowledge and appropriate selection of equivalents. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching & Research.

(22), 73-88.

Esimaje, A. U. (2014). A Descriptive survey of the character of English lexis in sermons. SAGE Open. November–December, 1-16.

Begagić, M. (2013). Semantic preference and semantic prosody of the collocation make sense. Jezikoslovlije. 14(2–3), 403-416.

Coxhead, A. (2011). The Academic Word List 10 years on: research and teaching implications. TESOL Quarterly. 45, 355-362.

Crosson A., McKeown, M., Ward, G. (2019). An Innovative Approach to Assessing Depth of Knowledge of Academic Words. Language Assessment Quarterly. 16(2), 196-

Gardner, D. & Davies, M. (2014). A New Academic Vocabulary List. Applied Linguistics. July, 35(3), 305-327,

Green, C. (2019). Enriching the academic wordlist and Secondary Vocabulary Lists with lexicogrammar: Toward a pattern grammar of academic vocabulary. System. 87,

Hoey, M. (2005). Lexical Priming: A New Theory of Words and Language. London: Routledge.

Hu, M. (2015). A semantic prosody analysis of three adjective synonymous pairs in COCA. Journal of Language and Linguistic Studies. 11(2), 117-131.

Hunston, S. (2007). Semantic prosody revisited. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics. 12, 247-268.

Khani R., Saeedi M., (2017). Material Development and English for Academic Purposes Word Lists; a Reductionist Approach. Journal of English Language Teaching and

Learning, 9, 53-72

Lei, L., Liu, D. (2016). A new medical academic word list: A corpus-based study with enhanced methodology. Journal of English for Academic Purposes. 22, 42-53.

Li, E. (2019). A Corpus-assisted Study of Synonyms in EFL Teaching: Take Preserve and Conserve as Example. Linguistics and Literature Studies. 7(2), 39-50. DOI:


Louw, B. (1993). Irony in the text or insincerity in the writer? In: M. Baker, G. Francis, T. Tognini-Bonelli, (Ed.). Text and Technology: In Honour of John Sinclair.

Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 157-176.

McDonough, K., Neumann, H., Hubert-Smith, N. (2018) How Accurately do English for Academic Purposes Students use Academic Word List Words? BC TEAL. 3(1), 77-

McEnery, T., Hardie, A. (2011). Corpus Linguistics: Method, Theory, and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nugroho, D. Y. (2018). A corpus linguistics investigation of two near-synonymous words: rich and wealthy. English education: journal of English teaching and research.

(2), 118-127.

Partington, A. (2004). Utterly content in each other’s company: semantic prosody and semantic preference. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics. 9(1), 131-156.

Pathan, H., Memon, R., Memon, Sh., Shah, S., Magsi, A. (2018). Academic vocabulary use in doctoral theses: A corpus-based lexical analysis of academic word list (AWL)

in major scientific disciplinary groups. International Journal of English Linguistics. 8(4), 282-288.

Pecoraria, D., Shaw, Ph. & Malmström, H. (2019). Developing a new academic vocabulary test. Journal of English for Academic Purposes. 39, 59-71.

Philip, G. (2009). Why prosodies aren’t always present: Insights into the idiom principle. In: M. Mahlberg, V. González-Díaz, C. Smith, (Ed.). Proceedings of the Corpus

Linguistics Conference CL2009. Liverpool: University of Liverpool.

Philip, G. (2011). Colouring Meaning: Collocation and Connotation in Figurative Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co.

Sinclair, J. (1991). Corpus, concordance, and collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sinclair, J. M. (2003). Reading Concordances. London: Longman.

Sinclair, J. M., Teubert, W. (2004). Interview with John Sinclair conducted by Wolfgang Teubert. In: English Collocation Studies: The OSTI Report. Ed. R. Krishnamurthy.

London: Continuum.

Stubbs, M. (2002). Two quantitative methods of studying phraseology in English. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics. 7(2), 215-244.

Wang, Q. (2019). A Corpus-based contrastive study on semantic prosody of English near synonyms: A case study of Motive and Motivation. Journal of Arts and

Humanities. 8(1), 2019, 1-15.

Wang, H. & Zou, Y. (2019). A Corpus-Based Study of Semantic Collocations of the Verb “Feel” in English Public Speaking Setting: Chinese EFL V.S Native Speakers.

International Journal of English Linguistics. 9 (1), 251-260.

Xue, G. & Nation, I.S.P. (1984). A university word list. Language Learning and Communication. 3, 215-229.

Zhang, C. (2010). An overview of corpus-based studies of semantic prosody. Asian Social Science. 6(6), 190-194.



  • There are currently no refbacks.




eISSN : 2550-2131

ISSN : 1675-8021