School of Social Sciences

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Helen Renwick


Start date

Aug 2009

Submission date

Dec 2013

Helen Renwick


The ties that bind us: a comparative study of the uses of non-predictable multiword expressions in three text types.


This thesis examined the use of non-predictable multiword expressions through comparative quantitative and qualitative analyses across three datasets made up of letters to the editor, personal narratives, and information texts.

Differences in usage were considered in relation to the situational characteristics of the text types and also the more fluid discourse space created and negotiated between writers and readers. The work showed how usage of non-predictable multiword expressions in the texts studied was driven not only by the predisposing requirements of the text types, but also by the needs, wants and expectations of writers negotiating their way through different discourse spaces. Usage of non-predictable multiword expressions was clearly linked to the management of bonding and affiliation (see Bednarek and Martin 2010) in the written texts studied.

Why my research is important

The work is important to studies of phraseology and discourse analysis/critical discourse analysis.

The work contributes to the study of phraseology in general but also complements research into formulaic language and lexical bundles. The focus of the work was non-predictable multiword expressions, described in the first part of Goldberg's (2006) description of a construction. The primary characteristic of these constructions is that they are in some way non-decomposable. They are structurally or semantically constrained in unpredictable ways, or package encyclopaedic or socially and interpersonally significant information that is not apparent from the words that make them up. They carry "meanings beyond the words". These constructions are especially significant to the linguistic community. They are retained in community consciousness whether they are used very frequently or relatively rarely and continue to emerge and consolidate in written and spoken discourse. Although traditional idioms are included in the category, most non-predictable multiword expressions would pass unnoticed by native speakers – the "just because ... doesn't mean" construction being a case in point.