CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
1.1 Research Background
In vocabulary study, the phenomenon of synonymy has been of great interest for both language learners and language teachers. For the former, a lot of evidence has shown that language learners can effectively acquire vocabulary by analogy; in other words, they associate the strange words with the previously acquired items which are similar in meaning (Rudska et al. 1982, 1985). For the latter, it is a popular practice in pedagogy to explain the strange words in terms of so-called synonyms. Besides, it has been found that a dominant feature shared by most dictionary texts is “definition through synonyms” (Ilson 1991:294-6). Both non-native learners and translators often resort to dictionaries to find lexical alternatives for expressing a particular concept for the purpose of stylistic variation. However, in view of the misuse of synonyms by non-native learners and translators, it should be of priority to figure out which of the particular synonyms offered by dictionaries is the most suitable one for a given context. Therefore, studies conducted to reveal more information about synonym discrimination from the perspective of semantic features are of great significance. The traditional ways of synonym discrimination mainly rely on intuition and subjective deduction. They are inefficient in uncovering the collocational or pragmatic information which according to Sinclair (2004), are the “obligatory components” for mastering a lexical word. With the development of corpus linguistics, now it is possible to observe the actual collocational behaviour of synonyms by using large corpora, which, to a large extent, eliminates the subjective factors of traditional methods. The corpus-based synonym discrimination can provide lots of quantitative data that the traditional ways cannot provide. And the qualitative analysis based on these quantitative features can thus bring us a more reliable research result.
Firstly, as an important language phenomenon discovered