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Collocations are patterns or consistencies in language use, which create an expectancy that a word, phrase or even the mention of an individual or group, will be accompanied by other specific words. According to the frequently cited maxim of the British linguist, J.R. Firth, ‘you shall know a word by the company it keeps’. In other words, the function and meaning of a word are fixed, from a range of possibilities, by the words which surround it. Examples of collocations are legion: for example, though ‘blonde’ is a colour, we expect it to be followed by ‘hair’ and not alternative nouns such as ‘flower’. So too, we expect ‘writhe’ to be collocated with ‘pain’ rather than ‘pleasure’, and perhaps even with ‘ground’. With many ...

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