Are high-frequency collocations psychologically real? Investigating the thesis of collocational priming.
Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory
Words which frequently co-occur in language (‘collocations’) are often thought to be independently stored in speakers’ minds. This idea is tested here through experiments investigating the extent to which corpus-identified collocations exhibit mental ‘priming’ in a group of native speakers. Collocational priming is found to exist. However, in an experiment which aimed to exclude higher-order mental processes, and focus instead on the ‘automatic’ processes which are thought to best reflect the organisation of the mental lexicon, priming is restricted to collocations which are also psychological associates. While the former finding suggests that collocations found in a large corpus are likely to have psychological reality, the latter suggests that we may need to elaborate our models of how they are represented.
Vol. 6, Issue 2, pp. 125 - 155