A Corpus-based Contrastive Study on Semantic Prosody of English near Synonyms: A Case Study of Motive and MotivationA Corpus-based Contrastive Study on Semantic Prosody of English near Synonyms: A Case Study of Motive and Motivation


  • QIAN WANG Northwestern Polytechincal Unviersity




Collocation, Corpus, Semantic Prosody, Synonyms.


Corpus-based studies on semantic prosody of synonyms provide a new lens to teaching and learning synonyms in English. However, using corpus-based approach to facilitate teaching and learning English synonyms is still in its infancy in China. This study, based on Chinese Learner English Corpus (CLEC) and Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), conducts a contrastive analysis of English near synonyms “motive” and “motivation” in terms of frequency, collocation features and semantic prosody between Chinese English Foreign Language learners and native English speakers. Findings suggest that the node word is underused by English learners. Furthermore, motive tends to co-occur with collocates related to illegal activities while motivation is apt to appear with collocates involved with normal or beneficial activities. In addition, Chinese language Learners overuse negative semantic prosody of motivation and positive semantic prosody of motive. Reasons for underuse and misuse are explored and research implications are discussed as well.

Author Biography

QIAN WANG, Northwestern Polytechincal Unviersity

Associate Professor, School of Foreign Studies


Anthony, L. AntConc. Downloaded from http://www.laurenceanthony.net/

Channell, J. (2000). Corpus-based analysis of evaluative lexis. In S. Hunston & G. Thompson (Eds.), Evaluation in text: Authorial stance and the construction of discourse (pp. 39-55). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Firth, J. (1957). Papers in linguistics, 1934-1951. London: Oxford University Press.

Gries, S. T. (2008). Phraseology and linguistic theory: A brief survey. In S. Granger & F. Meunier (Eds.), Phraseology: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (pp.3-25) Amsterdam: John Benjamins

He, X.D (2003). Dictionary of English Synonyms. Beijing: The Commercial Press.

Hoey, M. (1991). Patterns of lexis in text. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hoey, M. (2000). A world beyond collocation: New perspectives on vocabulary teaching. In M. Lewis (Ed.), Teaching collocations: Further developments in the lexical approac (pp. 224-245). Hove, UK: Language Teaching.

Huang, R.H., (2007). A corpus-based study of semantic prosody of adjectives amplifiers of Chinese English learners. Foreign Language Education, 28 (5), 57-60.

Hunston, S. &Thompson, G. (2000). in Text: Authorial Stance and the Construction of Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Hunston, S. (2002). Corpora in applied linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kjellmer, G. (1987). Aspects of English Collocations. In W. Meijs (Ed.), Corpus Linguistics and Beyond. Proceedings of the seventh international conference on English language research on computerised corpora (pp. 133-140. ). Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Louw, B. (1993). Irony in the text or insincerity in the writer? The diagnostic potential of semantic prosodies. In M. Baker, G. Francis, & E. Tognini-Bonelli (Eds.), Text and technology: In honour of John Sinclair (pp. 157-176). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Louw, B. (2000). Contextual prosodic theory: Bringing semantic prosodies to life. In C. Heffer, H. Sauntson, & G. Fox (Eds.), Words in context: A tribute to John Sinclair on his retirement (pp. 48-94). Birmingham: University of Birmingham.

Lu, J. (2010). A corpus-based study on collocational behavior and semantic prosody in Chinese English learners. Modern Foreign Languages, 33(3), 276-285.

Partington, A. (1998). Patterns and meanings: Using corpora for English language research and teaching. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Partington, A. (2004). Utterly content in each other’s company: Semantic prosody and semantic preference. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 9(1), 131-156

Sardinha, T. (2000). Semantic prosodies in English and Portuguese: A contrastive study. Cuadernos de Filologia 9(1), 93-110.

Sinclair, J. (1991). Corpus, concordance, collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sinclair, J. (1996). The search for units of meaning. Textus: English Studies in Italy, 9, 75-106.

Sinclair, J. (2000). Lexical grammar. Naujoji Metodologija, 24, 191-203.

Sinclair, J. (2004). Trust the Text: Corpus and Discourse. London: Routledge,

Stubbs, M. (1995). Collocations and semantic profiles: On the cause of trouble with quantitative studies. Functions of Language, 2(1), 23-55

Stubbs, M. (1996). Text and CorpusAnalysis. Oxford: Blackwell

Stubbs, M. (2009). The search for the unit of meaning: Sinclair on empirical semantics. Applied linguistics, 1, 115-137.

Stubbs, M. (2001). Words and phrases: Corpus studies of lexical semantics. New York: Blackwell.

Sun, L. (2017). A new approach to investigate the features of the synonyms’ semantic prosody of the Chinese EFL learners: A contrast between “Affect” and “Influence”. Modern Foreign Language Studies,1, 57-61.

Tognini-Bonelli, E.(2001). Corpus Linguistics at Work. Amsterdam: John Benjaxnins.

Wilkins, D. (1972). Linguistics in Language Teaching. London: Hodder & Stoughton Educatinnal.

Wei, N.X. (2002). A corpus-driven study of semantic prosodies in specialized texts. Modern Foreign Language, 25(2), 165-175

Wei, N.X. (2006). A corpus-based contrastive study of semantic prosodies in learner English. Foreign Language Research, 132, 50-54.

Xiao, Z., & McEnery, A. (2006). Collocation, semantic prosody and near synonymy: A cross-linguistic perspective. Applied Linguistics, 27(1), 103-129

Zethsen, K.K. (2006). Semantic prosody: Creating awareness about a versatile tool. Tidsskrift for Sprogforskning, 4(1), 275-294