Some words go along together better compared to other words. This is known as collocation. For example, academic research, fast food, prince charming, et cetera. If collocations are used in sentences, then they form better sentences.
In corpus linguistics, a collocation is a sequence of words or terms that co-occur more often than would be expected by chance.
(Note: Corpus linguistics is the study of language as expressed in corpora (samples) of “real world” text. Corpus linguistics proposes that reliable language analysis is more feasible with corpora collected in the field in its natural context (“realia”), and with minimal experimental-interference.)
Example: The words “powerful computer” co-occur better than “strong computer”.
The ability to use English effectively involves an awareness of a distinctive feature of the language known as collocation. Collocation is that behaviour of the language by which two or more words go together, in speech or writing.
Collocations are partly or fully fixed expressions that become established through repeated context-dependent use. Such terms as ‘crystal clear’, ‘middle management’, ‘nuclear family’, ‘classic example’ and ‘cosmetic surgery’ are examples of collocated pairs of words.
Knowledge of collocations is vital for the competent use of a language: a grammatically correct sentence will stand out as awkward if collocational preferences are violated. This makes collocation an interesting area for language teaching. Good writers use collocations.
1. Smadja F. A & McKeown, K. R. (1990): “Automatically extracting and representing collocations for language generation”, Proceedings of ACL’90, 252–259, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
2. Moon R. (1998): Fixed Expressions and Idioms, a Corpus-Based Approach. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
3. Gledhill C. (2000): Collocations in Science Writing, Narr, Tübingen