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"There are five questions that linguists (and learners) need to ask about any word. These are:

1 What does the word mean?
2 What words does it associate with?
3 What meanings does it associate with?
4 What grammatical functions does it associate with?
5 What positions in the text does the word favour? "

Michael Hoey

http://www.macmillandictionary.com/MED-Magazine/August2003/10-Feature-Whats-in-a-word.htm

But do students and teachers ask all those questions when confronted with learning or teaching a new word? If not, why not?
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Comments  
The link doesn't work for me.

In a general way, the first question (What does the word mean?) covers the others. But students and teachers don't ask even this first question in much depth.

The reason? I think it's because we all understand on a somewhat subconscious level that language isn't really learned that way. It's a more intuitive process. It's not about talking about words; it's about using words to communicate. Constant contact with a word in its various contexts brings out the answers to all those questions, and more, in a way that a specific discussion of these five items would never do.

It's something like the difference between cataloging the names, positions, and spectral types of the stars and just looking up at the night sky and admiring it. If the students can't see the beauty of the night sky first, there's no hope that cataloging the stars will help.

Linguists may need to ask these questions, and many more; teachers should probably consider them; students probably need not think about them in the earlier stages -- when it can be a stuggle just to get the right spelling and one basic meaning across. Later -- it depends on the student; many pick up these things quickly and quite intuitively. Others may need a more formulaic, academic approach.

As Stravinsky once said, "If they don't really know how to praise God, let them burn incense".
[probably not an exact quote]

CJ
Try this link, Jim:

http://www.macmillandictionary.com/MED-Magazine/August2003/10-MED-Magazine-cover.htm

<In a general way, the first question (What does the word mean?) covers the others.>

Really? Not for me. If I ask for the meaning of a word in Spanish, my teacher normally gives me the general dictionary definition. Here too, posters such as you give basic meanings when asked.

< Constant contact with a word in its various contexts brings out the answers to all those questions, and more, in a way that a specific discussion of these five items would never do.>

The above is seen as a part of a whole and not as the only way to discover the use of a word. And, as far as I know, most native teachers have had constant contact with English vocabulary, but still can only give basic advice, or even bum steers, on meaning and usage. So, how can only constant contact help students?

<when it can be a stuggle just to get the right spelling and one basic meaning across.>

Problem is, when students are given that "basic" meaning, the word is often primed at that point and further research comes to a halt.

And if this is true "it depends on the student; many pick up these things quickly and quite intuitively", why is the situation desribed below the case regrding advanced learners?

"Collocations and idioms are of the greatest importance to the language learner; one of the things that distinguishes an advanced learner's language from that of a native speaker is that advanced learners often manifest grammatical correctness but collocational inappropriateness." (Hoey)
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Hoey's extension:

I would suggest that to know a word such as consequence is, at the very least, to know the answers to the following nine questions about the word:



1
What does consequence mean? (meaning)

2
How is consequence used grammatically? (grammar)

3
How is consequence pronounced? (pronunciation)

4
Are there restrictions on the use of consequence? (context and genre)

5
What are the collocations of consequence? (collocation)

6
What idioms and semi-fixed expressions does consequence appear in? (idiom)

7
What meanings does consequence associate with? (semantic association)

8
What grammatical constructions does consequence like to appear in or with? (colligation)

9
What positions in a text does consequence like to appear in? (textual colligation)
Do you agree with this?

“When a word is polysemous, the collocations, semantic associations and colligations of one sense of the word differ from those of its other senses” (Hoey 2005)
Yes, that link works fine. Very interesting. I think this is an exciting new development. (Where can I get the Spanish and French versions? Are there any besides the English?)

I may have read it too quickly, but was there anything on register? I didn't notice it, which surprised me.

And if this is true "it depends on the student; many pick up these things quickly and quite intuitively", why is the situation desribed below the case regrding advanced learners?
"Collocations and idioms are of the greatest importance to the language learner; one of the things that distinguishes an advanced learner's language from that of a native speaker is that advanced learners often manifest grammatical correctness but collocational inappropriateness." (Hoey)I don't think the idea that many students pick up language quickly and intuitively necessarily contradicts Hoey's observation that advanced learners often use correct but inappropriate collocations. Maybe the advanced students Hoey was speaking of were not as advanced as the advanced students I was speaking of. Emotion: smile Tuning in to the appropriate collocations is a lifetime process, which is why even the natives have trouble answering questions about them, as you point out.

I feel enthusiastic about this new approach, but I'm not convinced that the use of this new kind of dictionary would in itself result in dramatic improvements. I think it would take a very exceptional student to put in the work necessary to apply what could be learned from such a dictionary. But it does look very promising, and it's worth a try.

CJ

Try out our live chat room.

Do you agree with this?

“When a word is polysemous, the collocations, semantic associations and colligations of one sense of the word differ from those of its other senses” (Hoey 2005)
I have not studied it myself, so I can't actively agree with it, but I see no reason to doubt Hoey's well-researched claim. Anyway, my common sense tells me it's got to be correct.

Why do you ask? Don't you agree? Is there a problem somewhere?

CJ
In some ways, this reminds me of the "Perseus Project", which provides similar tools for the study of Latin and Greek – e.g. here, for "verbum" .

To some extent, it helps you build a native-speaker-like web of associations; on the other hand, it's easy to spend disproportionately long on less common words.

MrP
<Maybe the advanced students Hoey was speaking of were not as advanced as the advanced students I was speaking of.>

I've been teaching for 25 years and haven't seen many advanced students who totally avoid collocational inappropriateness. My wife is Basque, a Spanish speakers and studied english from 5 years old daily. She is near-native. Often, what "shows her up" are her inappropriate collocations. So, Jim, I'd like to meet these advanced students that you speak of.

<Tuning in to the appropriate collocations is a lifetime process, which is why even the natives have trouble answering questions about them, as you point out.>

They don't normally have trouble sensing an inappropriate collocation, do they?

<But it does look very promising, and it's worth a try.>

It's early days. Time will tell.
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