Contextual Associations of Thinking Verbs: A Corpus-Based Investigation of English

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  • In this study, the linguistic contexts of the English verb THINK and its near-synonyms CONSIDER, REFLECT, and PONDER will be investigated from a corpus linguistic perspective in order to determine what, if any, contextual factors are preferentially associated with the usage of each verb. Underlying this approach is Harris’ (1954) distributional hypothesis that words with similar contexts have similar meanings, and its corollary that differences in contexts suggest differences in meaning. The near-synonyms are selected on the basis of their frequency in the British National Corpus and their dictionary meaning overlap within words expressing the activity of thinking. Data extracted from the British National Corpus is annotated for morphological, syntactic, and semantic factors following the behavioural profiling principles compiled by Divjak & Gries (2006), and a statistical analysis, following Arppe (2008), is performed on the annotated information to reveal the contextual associations of the verbs. These results are used to construct semantic characterizations of the four verbs and the characterizations are then compared crosslinguistically to a selection of verbs meaning think in Finnish, which have been previously studied by Arppe (2008). More generally, the results provide evidence that statistical methods can be used to better understand in what ways a semantic field like thinking is lexically divided similarly or differently across languages.

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    Research Material
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International