Lexical priming (continued)

We have arrived at chapter 6 of Michael Hoey’s book Lexical Priming. In earlier chapters he showed how each word is related to others by semantic patterning, grammatical usage (“colligation”), lexical connections (such as synonymy, antonymy etc.) and textual co-occurrence.

Chapter 6 is entitled Two claims:

The first claim is that words are patterned over a larger stretch of text than the context of up to seven words either side by the mechanisms of cohesion.

The second is that words are patterned together in order to make the major meanings of discourse structure: problem / solution, general / particular, compare / contrast, time order. (These structures, first propounded in Hoey’s early book On the Surface of Discourse, are taught in Book 3 of Breakthrough to Learning.)

We look forward to seeing if, by the end of the book, Hoey has justified his claim that his theory will make linguists re-evaluate the primacy of grammar as against a semantic description of English.



Lexical priming

With some friends I have been working through Michael Hoey’s Lexical Priming (2007).

Priming is a psychological term for experiments in which subjects are presented with lists of words, one of which is primed to trigger a response in another word later. For example, the word table is given in the earlier list of words, and this primes a later response in which subjects are asked to give a word beginning TAB. More than chance numbers of subjects offer table, as a result, the psychologists argue, of the earlier priming.

Hoey “tweaks” this meaning of priming for his own purposes. Lexical priming becomes a property of the word. Each word in his analysis is primed to collocate* with other words. This information is only accessible because of the power of computers to process enormous databases and yield hundreds of examples of any word in its contexts. Continue reading