Collocation – New Directions and Opportunities for Interdisciplinarity

Michaela Mahlberg

University of Birmingham

The concept of ‘collocation’ is one of the most fundamental concepts in corpus linguistics. It is often considered in relation to work by Firth (1957) who highlights that habitual co-occurrence patterns are crucial to the meaning of a word. Sinclair et al. (2004: 10) define ‘collocation’ as “the co-occurrence of two items in a text within a specified environment”. Corpus software packages tend to include the retrieval of collocates among their standard functionalities. Although the concept seems to have been around for a long time, collocation still has the potential to move corpus linguistics forward by raising new questions and furthering research across disciplinary boundaries. To make this point, I will consider examples from the CLiC project and the analysis of literary texts (joint work with Peter Stockwell). A new functionality of the CLiC app (  Mahlberg et al. 2016) is a KWICgrouping option (cf. O’Donnell 2008) to support the viewing of collocations in context. I will also discuss challenges of comparing collocations across corpora and discourses (joint work with Viola Wiegand and Anthony Hennessey) and indicate potential for future work in this area.


Firth, J.R. (1957). Papers in Linguistics 1934-51. London: Oxford University Press.

Mahlberg, M., Stockwell, P., de Joode, J., Smith, C., O’Donnell, M. B. (2016).

CLiC Dickens – Novel uses of concordances for the integration of corpus stylistics and cognitive poetics, Corpora, 11 (3), 433-463.

O’Donnell, M. B. (2008). KWICgrouper – designing a tool for corpus-driven

concordance analysis. International Journal of English Studies, 8 (1), 107-121.

Sinclair, J., Jones, S. & Daley, R. (2004). English Collocation Studies. The OSTI Report.

(ed. by R. Krishnamurthy). London: Bloomsbury.

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