Semantic Prosody: Its Knowledge and Appropriate Selection of Equivalents

Document Type : Research Paper


Department of English, Quchan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Quchan, Iran


In translation, choosing appropriate equivalent is essential to convey the right message from source-text to target-text, and one of the issues that may have a determinative role in appropriate equivalent choice is the semantic prosody (SP) behavior of words and the relation existing between the SP of a word and semantic senses (i.e. negativity, positivity or neutrality) of its collocations in the context. This research explored the impact of Iranian translator trainees' semantic prosody knowledge on the appropriate selection of equivalents in translation. The probable influence of proficiency level or fields of study on the appropriate selection of equivalents with respect to SP was concentrated as well. To fulfill the aims of the study, a translation test including a number of near-synonym pairs with different SPs was administered among participants with different fields of study as well as different proficiency levels. Findings were analyzed based on Sinclair's (1996) hypothesis of SP as well as Stubbs' (1995) model of SP classification. The study showed where there is more than one equivalent of a word in another language, having the knowledge and being aware of the conditions of semantic prosody is necessary to select the appropriate, accurate equivalents and thus to convey the exact message from a source text to the target one. The results also revealed that proficiency level and field of study among language learners can have an influence on choosing appropriate equivalents with respect to SP. The findings of the present study can be beneficial for the instructors and learners in both fields of translation and Teaching English as a Foreign Language to improve equivalent choice appropriateness. Also, this study by highlighting the essential role of semantic prosody in selecting appropriate equivalents can be beneficial to dictionary compilers to include semantic prosody behaviors in the definition and information of words.


Ahmadian, M., Yazdani, H. & Darabi, A. (2011). Assessing English Learners’ Knowledge of Semantic Prosody through a Corpus-Driven Design of Semantic Prosody Test. EnglishLanguage Teaching. 4 (4), 288-298.
Bednarek, M. (2008). Semantic preference and semantic prosody re-examined. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, 4 (2), 113-139.
Biook, B. & Ahangaran, F. (2015). The Influence of Genre over the Semantic Prosody of the Word ‘Propose’. Advances in Asian Social Science, 6 (4), 1093-1098.
Bublitz, W. (1996). ‘Semantic prosody and cohesive company: somewhat predictable’. Leuvense Bijdragen: Tijdschrift voor Germaanse Filologie, 85(1–2), 1–32.
Carmen Campoy-Cubillo, M., Bellés-Fortuño, B., & Lluïsa Gea-Valor, M. (2010). Corpus based approaches to English language teaching. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Dam-Jensen, H. & Zethsen, K.K. (2008). “Translator awareness of semantic prosodies”. Target, 20 (2), 203–221.
Firth, J.R. (1957). Papers in Linguistics 1934–1951. London: Oxford University Press.
Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., &‎Hyams, N. (2003). An Introduction to Language (7th ed.). U.S.: Thomson.
Hashemnia, M., Hosseini-Maasoum, S.M.  & Yousefi, M. (2013) Semantic prosody of near synonyms from a cross-linguistic perspective. IJLLALW: InternationalJournal ofLanguage Learning and Applied Linguistics World, 4 (3), 323‐342.
Hosseini-Maasoum, S. M. (2012). "A Description of Semantic Prosody and Connotation in the Semantic Structure of Lexicon and Collocations in Persian Language". Journal ofLinguistics & Khorasan Dialects, 3 (2), 1-22 [In Persian].
Hosseini-Masoum, S. M., Ghiasian, M., Roshan, B., & Shahidi, A. (2016). The Transition Process of Semantic Prosody to Connotation in Persian; A Diachronic Analysis. Language Related Research, 7 (1), 17-38.
Hunston, S. (2002). Corpora in Applied Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Louw, B. (1993). Irony in the Text or Insincerity in the Writer: The diagnostic potential of semantic prosody. In M. Baker, G. Francis, & E. Tognini-Bonelli (Eds.), Text and Technology: In honor of John Sinclair (pp. 157–174). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publication Company.
Louw, B. (2000). Contextual prosodic theory: Bringing semantic prosodies to life. In C. Heffer & H. Saunston (Eds.), Words in Context. Discourse Analysis Monograph 18.  Birmingham: University of Birmingham.
Mansoory, N., & Jafarpour, M. (2014). Teaching semantic prosody of English verbs through the DDL approach and its effect on learners’ vocabulary choice appropriateness in a Persian EFL context. Advances in Language and Literary Studies, 5 (2), 149-161.
Partington, A. (1998). Patterns and Meaning: Using Corpora for English Language Research and Teaching. Amesterdam: John Benjomins Publishing Company.
Partington, A. (2004). “Utterly content in each other’s company”: semantic prosody and semantic preference’. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 9 (1), 131-156.
Philip, G. (2009). Why prosodies aren’t always present. Insights into the idiom principle. Proceedings of the Corpus Linguistics Conference, University of Liverpool, Liverpool.
Sardinha, T. (2000). Semantic Prosodies in English and Portugues: A contrastive Study. Cuadernos de filologia Inglesa, 9 (1), 93-110. 
Sinclair, J.M. (1987). Looking Up. London/Glasgow: Collins.
Sinclair, J.M. (1991). "Words and phrases". Corpus, Concordance, Collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sinclair, J.M. (1996). The Search for Units of Meaning. Textus, 9 (1), 75-106.
Sinclair, J.M. (2004). Trust the Text: Language, Corpus and Discourse. London/New York: Routledge.
Stewart, D. (2009). ‘Safeguarding the lexicogrammatical environment: translating semantic prosody’. In A. Beeby, P. Rodríguez-Inés, & P. Sánchez-Gijón (eds), Corpus Use and Translating: Corpus Use for Learning to Translate and Learning Corpus Use to Translate (pp. 29–46). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Stewart, D. (2010). Semantic Prosody: A Critical Evaluation. New York: Routledge.
Stubbs, M. (1995). ‘Collocations and semantic profiles: On the cause of the trouble with quantitative methods’. Function of Language, 2 (1), 1–33.
Stubbs, M. (2001). On inference theories and code theories: Corpus evidence for schemas.  Text, 21 (3), 437-65.
Stubbs, M. (2002). Two quantitative methods of studying phraseology in English. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 7 (2), 215-44.
Tognini-Bonelli, E. (2001). Corpus linguistics at work. Amsterdam/Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Wang, Q. (2004). A corpus-based study of semantic prosodies and bilingual dictionaries. Unpublished master’s thesis, Suzhou University, China.
Wei, N. (2006). A Corpus-based Contrastive Study of Semantic Prosodies in Learner English. Foreign Language Research, 132, 50-54.
Widdowson, H.G. (1989). Knowledge of language and ability for use. Applied linguistics,10 (2), 69.
Xiao, R., & McEnry, T. (2006). Collocation, Semantic Prosody, and Near Synonyms: A Cross-linguistic Perspective. Retrieved18th June, 2016 from: /fass/projects/corpus /ZJU/xpapers/ Xiao_collocation.pdf
Zhang, C., (2010a). An overview of corpus-based studies of semantic prosody. Asian Social Science, 6 (6), 190- 194.
Zhang, C., (2010b). A comparative corpus-based study of semantic prosody. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 1 (4), 451-456.
Zhang, W. (2009). Perspectives: Semantic prosody and ESL/ EFL vocabulary pedagogy. TESL Canada Journal, 26 (2), 1-12.
Volume 6, Issue 22 - Serial Number 22
September 2018
Pages 73-88
  • Receive Date: 01 November 2017
  • Revise Date: 08 January 2018
  • Accept Date: 11 May 2018
  • First Publish Date: 01 September 2018