On Collocation of Words
Collocation can be defined as rules that determine the appropriate use of different words when they appearing in the same sentence. For instance, certain prepositions can only be used together with specific verbs and certain verbs can only be employed in collaboration with specific nouns.
The collocation among words, to a certain degree, involves meanings of these words. For example, “money” may be frequently used with these words like “bank”, “pay”, “store” and “salary” while it is seldom used in conjunction with these words like “sun”, “moon” and “butter”, which is, to a great degree, determined by its meaning.
Take another example. “Carry forward” is often used in collaboration with words indicating positive characteristics or notable qualities other than words indicating negative features.
In terms of collocation range, superordinates can be used with more words than hyponyms can do. For instance, among these words like “animal”, “elephant”, “monkey”, “cat” and “dog”, “animal” is the superordinate of the rest and can be used with more words than the rest words do.
However, meanings of words can not be used to explain all collation patterns. In terms of meaning, “进行演讲” can go together with “carry out”, “perform” and “undertake”.
However, in English-speaking countries, people often say “make a speech” instead of “perform a speech” or “undertake a speech”. Take another example. In Chinese, “吃饭” and “吃药” are both acceptable. However, in English, “eat a meal” is acceptable while “eat medicine” is unacceptable.
The customary expression should be “take medicine”. Similarly, in English, both “female teacher” and “female dog” are acceptable while in Chinese, we can only say “女老师” and “母狗”. “母老师” and “女狗” are obviously unacceptable. In these cases, the selection of collation pattern is determined by the custom instead of being dependent on meaning of words.
In accordance with the above content, collocation can be either dependent on meaning of words or custom. Apart from this, collocation may be involved with grammatical function of words like property of these words.
Inadequate understanding of property of words may cause improper collocation. Take an example, “height speed” is unacceptable as “height” and “speed” are both nouns and this collation is not in compliance with grammatical rules.
In this case, “high speed” is the proper collation. In texts for different purposes, vocabulary may have different collocation. Consequently, translators must be familiar with relative background information and the customary collocation in different types of texts to produce a desirable translation.
Translators need to read more original articles or books to expand their own accumulation of customary collocation in this language. In this way, translation can be more in compliance with the expression mode of the target language.
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