Combinatorial Potential Of A Word In Cross-Language Consideration (Based On Cognate Words)


The article gives the analysis of combinatory and semantic features of the English lexeme and its Turkish equivalent in cross-language consideration. The study is conducted in the framework of combinatorial linguistics that studies the linear relationship of language units and their combinatorial potential. To answer the research questions of the study, the most productive structural patterns of the collocations with the lexemes andare identified as well as semantic groups of words the given lexemes combine with. Then a comparative analysis of English and Turkish collocations with the given lexemes is performed. The research is based on the lexicographic sources, the national corpora of the given languages as well as collections of media texts compiled by the author. The main method used in this study is combinatorial analysis, which allows to establish both regular and possible syntagmatic connections of a word at the syntactic and lexical-semantic levels, due to various extralinguistic situations. The appeal to the media texts is explained by the fact that political discourse and media discourse are currently among the most popular areas of attention for linguists, since it is in political discourse that the processes associated with changes in the vocabulary of any language are most pronounced.

Keywords: Compatibility, combinatory linguistics, collocation, political collocation, combinatorial potential


Compatibility is an immanent property of lexical units, on the basis of which the potential of other lexical units is used to form a semantic unity capable of performing communicative functions. The problem of word compatibility as a semantic phenomenon is widely covered in works by J. R. Firth, S. Bartsch, B. K. Malinowsky, Y. D. Apresyan, I. A. Melchuk, M. Morkovkin, S. G. Ter-Minasova, M. M. Makovsky, D. N. Shmelev and others. Nowadays the theory of compatibility is studied within an actively developing linguistic field - combinatorial linguistics (Vlavatskaya, 2017, 2018). Among the key terms of combinatorial lexicology, which is one of the disciplines of combinatorial linguistics, are the terms “combinatorial potential” and “collocation”. Combinatorial potential can be defined as a set of all possible syntagmatic connections of a word, including both probable and realized in various extralinguistic situations (Onal, 2019). Combinatorial potential of a word can be found out by means of studying collocations of the given word. The term “collocation”, in its turn, is used to denote the most common combinations of words. The more collocations the word can enter, the larger combinatorial potential it possesses.

Problem Statement

According to scientists, the most complex and contradictory norms in language refer to the sphere of compatibility. Сollocations (Bartsch, 2004). They are characterized by the following features: 1) stability; 2) ability to be reproduced; 4) recurrency; 5) transparency (the meaning of collocation can be understood from the meanings of its components). According to Dobrovolsky (2005), combinatorial potential can be represented as a certain area, the nuclear part of which consists of normative, stylistically perfect combinations with a given word, and the periphery – phrases that are more or less doubtful from the point of view of usage. The degree of acceptability of peripheral combinations depends on a number of heterogeneous factors and is characterized by a lack of stability in diachrony. The scientist also notes that when diachronically considered, the compatibility of a word often turns out to be primary to its semantics, that is, a change in the compatibility of a word leads to corresponding shifts in its meaning. This study aims at considering the affinities and difference in the meanings and compatibility features of the cognate words.

Research Questions

3.1. The hypothesis of the study is the following: taking into account the fact that the lexemes andfunction in a special (namely, political) discourse, which in the last few decades has acquired a tendency to crosscultural integration, as well as considering the dominant role of English in today's political discourse, it can be assumed that, first, the lexemehas broader compatibility than its Turkish equivalent; second, the combinatorial characteristics of the lexeme is largely similar to the same properties of the English equivalent.

3.2. Thus, the following research questions are to be answered:

1) What are the most common structural patterns of the English and Turkish collocations with the lexemes and?

2) What semantic/thematic groups of words do the given lexemes tend to combine with?

3) To what extent does the combinability of the given lexemes correlate?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to analyze the combinatorial potential of the English lexeme and its Turkish equivalent. These units are cognate words, i.e., “words with similar form and meaning in two or more languages” (De Bot, 2004, p. 19). Cognates arise in the process of historical interaction of languages. Both English and Turkish lexemes originate from old French.

Research Methods

The main method used in this study is combinatorial analysis, which allows to establish both regular and possible syntagmatic connections of a word at the syntactic and lexical-semantic levels, due to various extralinguistic situations, that is, to identify its combinatorial potential.

The combinatorial analysis includes the following steps:

1.Extracting collocations from relevant sources (dictionaries, national corpora, collections of texts) by means of continuous sampling.

2. Identifying the main structural models of the collocations extracted. If the lexeme may act both as the main component (from the point of view of inner syntax) and as a dependent component of the collocation, it is necessary to distribute the units into appropriate groups, and then perform a structural analysis of the collocations of each of them.

3. Grouping collocates (lexemes that form collocations with the main word) by common semantic features.

Thus, the combinatorial analysis provides, first, a set of structural models for which this lexeme forms collocations, and, second, a set of groups of lexical units possessing common semantic features and forming collocations with a key lexeme. According to our assumption, this gives the idea of the existing andpotential combinability of the units under consideration, since the groups of lexemes united by common semes can expand due to other lexemes with similar semantics. It should be noted that the lexical units included in each of these groups have a different degree of cohesion with the key lexeme, which depends on a number of factors: 1) correlation of the received collocation with the certain concept; 2) fixation in the dictionary; 3) high frequency in a special discourse, which leads to stability. The more such factors are involved in the formation of a collocation, the stronger the relationship between its components.


Next, let us turn to the dictionary entries of the lexemes under consideration

Table 1 - The meanings of the lexemes “diplomacy” and “diplomasi”
See Full Size >

Thus, in both languages, the lexemes have the following meanings:

1) Activities of state officials or representatives in the implementation of the state's foreign policy.

2) A set of techniques and methods used in the process of such activities.

3) Art, ability to negotiate with people

The study of contexts shows that the first two meanings are most relevant for special (political) discourse; the latter is more typical of general discourse.

6.2. To assess the fixed combinability, we selected collocations of the lexemes and from lexicographic sources (Collin, 2004; Safire, 1993; Tuncay, 2017; Yıldız, 2013; Taegan Goddard’s Political Dictionary, n.d.; Türkçe Bilim Terimleri Sözlüğü, n.d.). From the point of view of structure, collocations with these lexemes extracted from dictionaries are nominal combinations of the type and, where these lexemes occupy the syntactically dominant position.

Dependent components were divided by semantic features into the following groups:

1. orientation:public diplomacy, bilateral diplomacy, multilateral diplomacy, track-two diplomacy'; ---

2. levelsummit diplomacy, shirt-sleeve diplomacy, coalition diplomacy; Tur. ---

3. degree of publicity:open diplomacy, quiet diplomacy, secret diplomacy;açık diplomasi – 'open diplomacy’, kapalı diplomasi –' closed diplomacy’, sessiz diplomasi – 'quiet diplomacy’;

4. ways of interaction/ influence:1):media diplomacy, ping-pong diplomacy, parliamentary diplomacy, preventive diplomacy, shuttle diplomacy;halı diplomasisi – ‘carpet diplomacy’, mekik diplomasisi – ‘shuttle diplomacy’; 2):gunboat diplomacy, checkbook diplomacy, dollar diplomacy, cooperative diplomacy, forced diplomacy’;. makyavelci diplomasi – 'Machiavelian diplomacy’;

5. the nature of relations between the parties:;. – 'frozen diplomacy’.

Turkish collocations seem to be significantly inferior to English units in terms of quantity. Many English collocations (, etc.) have their Turkish equivalents. At the same time, the presence of collocations in Turkish dictionaries that are not found in English lexicographic sources (e.g.,) does not mean the lack of these concepts as well as the collocations denoting them in the English language. Of all the above units, only the collocation does not seem to have an equivalent at the corresponding (collocational) level in English and thus can be counted as an ethnocultural one (Arkhipova & Vlavatskaya, 2019). Like most of the collocations of this group (related to ways to achieve diplomatic goals), the collocation has a precedent character, since its origin is associated with a specific event in the political life of society (the diplomatic initiative announced by Secretary of State M. Albright in 2000 – lifting the embargo on Iranian carpets – caused by the desire to break the ice between the US and Iranian administrations). The lack of this unit in English-language dictionaries and reference books may be explained by the greater significance of the described event for the Eastern countries rather than for Europe and America.

6.3. Next, we extracted collocations with the lexemes andfrom the NOW Corpus (News on the Web), Turkish National Corpus (Türkçe Ulusal Derlemi), Turkish Web 2012 (TrTenTen12) available at Sketch Engine digital platform and collections of media texts compiled by the author. The sample includes combinations that have the MI index of at least 4, which, according to a number of studies (Khokhlova, 2008; Yagunova & Pivovarova, 2010, etc.), may indicate the stability of these unitsallowing them to be attributed to collocations rather than free combinations of words. Other important prerequisites for the identification of set expressions are the frequency of co-occurrence and, in part, linear proximity (Rebrina et al., 2017). The total number of selected units is 53 for the English and 20 for the Turkish lexeme.

As shown by the analysis of the structure of the collocations obtained, most of them, as well as units from lexicographic sources, have the structure and with the lexemes and as key components. The distribution of collocates of the considered lexemes by semantic groups can be represented as follows:

For collocations with the structure:

1. orientation:public diplomacy, bilateral diplomacy, multilateral diplomacy, track-two diplomacy, shuttle diplomacy, face-to-face diplomacy, state-to-state diplomacy;mekik diplomasisi – ‘shuttle diplomacy’;

2. level:top level diplomacy, foreign diplomacy, global diplomacy, regional diplomacy, neighbourhood diplomacy, middle diplomacy, summit diplomacy;doruk diplomasisi – ‘summit diplomacy’,

3. degree of publicity: microphone diplomacy, megaphone diplomacy, bullhorn diplomacy, open diplomacy, quiet diplomacy, secret diplomacy, backroom (back-channel, back-door, behind-the-scenes diplomacy);açık diplomasi – ‘open diplomacy’, kapalı diplomasi – ‘closed diplomacy’, sessiz diplomasi– ‘quiet diplomacy’, megafon diplomasisi– ‘megaphone diplomasi’, gizli diplomasi – ‘secret diplomacy’;

4. ways of interaction/ influence 1): soft diplomacy, ping-pong diplomacy, parliamentary diplomacy, preventive diplomacy, golf (basketball, football) diplomacy, panda (koala) diplomacy, mango diplomacy, humanitarian diplomacy, mask diplomacy, culinary diplomacy, sartorial diplomacy;sauna diplomasisi – ‘sauna diplomacy’, futbol diplomasisi – ‘football diplomacy’, pinpon diplomasisi – ‘ping-pong diplomacy’, telefon diplomasisi – ‘telephone diplomasisi’; 2):gunboat diplomacy, checkbook diplomacy, dollar diplomacy, cooperative diplomacy;.; gambot diplomasisi – ‘gunboat diplomasi’, kovboy diplomasisi – ‘cowboy diplomacy’;

5. relations between the parties:;– ‘frozen diplomacy’, – ‘cold diplomasi’ ;

6. sphere of application:military diplomacy, commercial diplomacy, economic diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, sports diplomacy, nuclear diplomacy, climate diplomacy, naval diplomacy;. ticari diplomasi - ‘trade diplomacy’, kültürel diplomasi – ‘cultural diplomasi’, ekonomik diplomasi – ‘economic diplomacy’;

As the examples show, a fairly large group consists of collocates that indicate objects or products that are used to try to establish relations between the parties (see point 4). We believe that this group of words is mainly responsible for the expansion of the combinatorial potential of the lexeme. Recent examples include the collocations (1a, b) (MI=5,8) or (2) (MI=14,29), which are widely employed by the modern media:

1.а.China, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam are all net exporters of virus-related products and are engaged in by deploying cargos to favored nations.

1.b.Pekin’in Irak’a virüsle mücadele konusunda destek olması ve bunun bolca yayınlanması, Çin’instratejisinin bir parçası. Çin ekonomik bir felaketi, halkla ilişkiler zaferine dönüştürmeyi hedefliyor. / Beijing's support for Iraq in fighting the virus, and its lavish publication, is part of China's strategy. China aims to turn an economic disaster into a public relations triumph.

2. China's new, hardline is supposed to cement its dominance — but it's also uniting its rivals abroad and dividing people at home.

The second most frequent group consists of collocates that represent the sphere in which diplomatic interaction takes place: trade, economy, sports, etc. Structurally, collocations with words of this group do not differ from the previous collocations, which increases the differentiating role of the context, which makes it possible to understand that the collocate denotes a sphere, and not a means/ method of influence. Thus, (3) is diplomacy in the field of sports, and, for example, (4) is diplomacy carried out through basketball (exchange of athletes, invitation to championships, joint viewing of games, etc., leading to improved relations between the leaders of countries):

3.From the domestic public point of view, the sanctions and disarmament of might even have more significant consequences.

4. follows agreements to send combined teams to the Asian Games in August and hold temporary reunions of now-aging relatives separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

İki Kore arasında: Nitekim iki ülke taraftarlarının ilişkisini daha da pekiştirmek amacıyla, Güney Koreli kadın ve erkek basketbolcuların Kuzey’in oyuncularıyla maç yapmak için Pyongyang’a gittiği belirtildi. / between the two Koreas: to further strengthen the relationship between the two countries ' fans, South Korean male and female basketball players went to Pyongyang to play a match with the North's players.

Word combinations with the lexemes and corresponding to the structural pattern, are combinations of these lexemes with verbs that indicate 1) the implementation of the action:, 2) evaluation of actions (approval/ disapproval): however, as shown by low indexes in the corpora (MI = 3-4), these combinations do not seem to be stable enough and most often they are created in the process of speech.

Word combinations of the type, in which the lexemes “diplomacy” and “diplomasi” occupy syntactically dependent positions, are also represented by a small number of units:. – ‘diplomatic traffic’, – ‘path of diplomacy’, – ‘diplomatic experience’, – ‘diplomatic table’, – ‘diplomatic channels’,‘diplomatic experience’. All the given examples are combinations of “diplomacy” and “diplomasi” with the lexemes, most of which are characteristic of any noun denoting a kind of activity (cf. –,(diplomatic experience) –(management experience)); etc.

Word combinations specific for the given lexemes are – ‘diplomatic table’, – ‘diplomatic channels’ in which these lexemes appear in their first meaning ‘the activities of officers or representatives of the state to implement foreign policy’.


The combinatorial analysis showed that the number of collocations of the English lexeme exceeds significantly the number of collocations of its Turkish equivalent. At the same time, the English and Turkish lexemes mostly find their compatibility by similar patterns. Thus, the most productive structural model is a combination of typeThe most common meaning of the lexemes and used in collocations are the first two (See Table 01). The analysis of the semantics of the lexemes with which the units under consideration collocate makes it possible to divide them into 6 groups, the most productive being lexemes denoting ways of interaction/ influence and spheres in which diplomatic interaction takes place. Thus, the lexemes and have a rather large combinatorial potential, which is likely to expand due to these semantic groups. In addition, the study suggests that the representation of collocations in lexicographic sources is not complete and is highly subjective depending entirely on the choice of the dictionary compilers.


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Onal, I. O. (2021). Combinatorial Potential Of A Word In Cross-Language Consideration (Based On Cognate Words). In N. G. Bogachenko (Ed.), Amurcon 2020: International Scientific Conference, vol 111. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 685-692). European Publisher.