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Prosody concord: new approach to semantic prosody analysis

Tang & Liu (2018)

Semantic prosody and semantic prosody analysis

Definition of semantic prosody

  • As basic linguistic forms, words certainly have evaluative meanings;
  • Some words (with evaluative polarities expressed) have inbuilt and inherent evaluative meanings;
  • All the types of modality are associated with evaluative meanings;
  • Some other words possess implicit evaluative meanings, which can be identified through semantic prosody analysis

Semantic prosody analysis (SPA)

Two conventional approaches to semantic prosody analysis

Criteria for the dichotomy: locus of the analysis

Collocation-based SPA

  • Locus: collocation

  • Main idea: “lexical item x occurs with negative items; ergo, it has negative evaluative meaning” (Bednarek, 2008: 131) –> collocates matter

  • Issue: contradictions in dealing with lemmas like ALLEVIATE, TACKLE and HEAL

  • Possible reasons: insufficient information for semantic prosody determination

Discourse-based SPA

  • Loci: ‘unit of meaning’ (Sinclair 2004); or ‘phraseology’ (Hunston 2007; Stubbs 2001 and among others); or ‘construction’ (Smith & Nordquist 2012)
  • Construction as the locus of semantic prosody in Smith & Nordquist (2012)
    • psychological evidence of SP
    • contrasting associative meanings for the constructions cause for/of NP prove that SP resides at the level of construction
    • speakers don not have access to negative semantics in rating the core meaning of CAUSE
  • Operational mechanism: unit of meaning model (Sinclair 2004)

    five categories of co-selection:

    • core
    • collocation
    • colligation
    • semantic preference
    • semantic prosody
  • Priming prosody (Hoey 2005: 165-168)

how the collocations, colligations, semantic associations, textual collocations, textual semantic associations and textual colligations of words chosen for a particular utterance harmonise to construct an utterance

at both the collocation level and discoursal level, words provide not only information such as the lexical items the word regularly co-occurs with and the “semantic sets it co-occurs with” and the “grammatical categories it co-occurs with or avoids” (Morley & Partington, 2009:146), but also the information of “particular semantic sets” or “semantic associations” they occur with (Hoey, 2005:13)

  • Problems: no concrete and operational form of locus for SPA; no explicit operational mechanism for the process of determination

Prosody concord

Locus of semantic prosody: collostruction


  • Syntagmatic and paradigmatic info –> determine SP
    • Syntagmatic info: collocates of the core, syntactic pattern (inner/outer), and semantic classes (preferences)
    • Paradigmatic info: collexemes, association strength

By regarding collostruction as a locus of semantic prosody, we are proposing that semantic prosody is a collostructional meaning associated with the core that emerges from the interactions of the core, word priming, collocation priming, colligation priming and the priming of semantic preference.

Mechanism for determining SP

  • Question: how different sources of info contribute to the determination of SP?

  • Presupposition: the semantic prosody of a dependency is primed by modal-like expressions, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verbs and other linguistic units that have inherent or explicit evaluative meanings;

  • Rule of Head-Argument Prosody:the semantic prosody of head-argument dependency is primed by the head in the dependency;

  • Rule of Head-Adjunct Prosody:the semantic prosody of head-adjunct dependency is primed by the adjunct in the dependency;

  • Rule of Prosody Priority:within a construction, the semantic prosody of head-argument dependency has priority over the prosodies of the dependencies wherein the argument is the head.

Case studies


  1. Search and collect sentence instantiation
  2. Parse the sentences by using the Stanford Parser
  3. Obtain the collostructions with DepCluster


The approach of prosody concord confirms earlier findings by providing explicit and detailed info –> feasibility for SPA


This word, along with other words, has both positive and negative prosodies.


Prosody concord provides a consistent approach to SPA; fixes the contradictions encountered in previous approaches