Revisiting Collocation: An Investigation Into Phraseological Units Muddle

Hassan Badr


Research on collocations still generates plenty of interest among contemporary researchers of linguistics and translation research. The interest stems from the fact that there is a degree of inconsistency in terms of identifying and defining collocations in the literature. Conflicting views put forward by linguists made it difficult to draw a coherent interpretation of collocations. This suggests that collocational units are a fragmented area of research with blurred lines between frequently fixed co-occurrence sequences or a combination of words and free word combination. The collocation debate has hit a conceptual impasse. It rarely moves beyond merely giving broad definitions, overlapped with other technical terms in the field of corpus linguistics. This study examines the extension to which collocations are intertwined with other formulaic expressions such as idioms and free word combinations. Furthermore, the study considers whether Quranic collocations fit into the general standards of collocation. The study examined a sample of five selected English translations of the Quran to evaluate their degree of faithfulness and accuracy. The findings revealed that collocation is too multifaceted to be pinned down to a single definition. Linguists fell short of reaching a consensus or providing concrete empirical evidence on the complex nature of collocation. The findings also showed that the English translation of the Quran remains a work in progress. Views are polarised between those who advocate a close rendering of the Quranic text and those who believe in a ‘natural style’. Translators need to be aware how collocations are formulated and how they are embedded in the Quranic verses to convey their deep and implicit meaning and should not be interpreted at face value.


Collocation, Word Association, Figurativeness, Inconclusiveness, Frequency Trend, Phraseology Trend, Quranic Collocation

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