The “Usual Language” - Open your Books (not Mouths) and Turn to Page 57
Dr. Abdulkhaliq Karim Alazzawi
Usage, at least frequency of usage, depends on what is being described or discussed and the parties involved. So, a daily cycle, habit, routine or activity would give rise to greater frequency of words used in connection with these frequent occurrences/practices, as is evident in the following examples:
brushing teeth, combing hair, getting dressed, setting/rising sun, shining moon/stars, crowing rooster, soccer/ hockey/football/piano/dance/choir practice), etc.
Each human endeavour involves a certain amount of timeworn language associated with a certain activity or event that people expect to use or hear.
Mothers Communicating with Children
In the case of mothers communicating with their children, this situation produces volumes of the most repetitive, collocational language on a daily basis, such as baby talk (Mama, Dada) nursery rhymes and verses (Old Mother Hubbard/Little Miss Muffet), children's songs (Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill), bedtime stories (Once Upon a Time...), and almost endless questions or orders, since children need to receive direction and supervision:
John, did you brush/clean your teeth? (not "spray them red" or "brush them upside down" or "angrily" ), complete/do your homework? (not "throw it out"), go to hockey practice? (not "exercise"), Did you practice the piano? (not "smash the piano to pieces")/ your songs/music? (not "burn them with your books"), set your alarm? (not "put it in the bathwater"), eat your breakfast? (not "put it in the freezer"), pack your lunch? (not "feed it to the birds"), tidy your room? (not "rent it out" or "paint it before you start studying"), call your friend back? (not "over and over all night long"),Turn off the TV and go to bed now! (not "Crank up the TV and stay up all night."), Go upstairs (not "Climb up on the chimney/roof/antenna." Or "Go up to the mountain.") and wake up Ted (not "yourself" or "the whole neighbourhood").
For little babies/children:
Go potty? Did you use the washroom? Put your toys away. Get away from there! (i.e, the stove, a light socket, a hot iron, the garbage, etc.) It's beddy-bye time.
Teachers Communicating with Children
Teachers, like mothers, need to communicate with children and the children need to learn, receive direction or guidance, and be supervised in school. So again, this situation of a teacher (adult in authority) with children also results in a lot of repeated, collocational language:
Jill, pay attention! (not "Pay me $10.") John, will you close/open the door/the window/the blinds please? (not "damn it" at the end of the sentence). Turn to page 17 (usually a reasonable number, not 10,000,003) now (not "sometime next year" or "in the future" for example), please and work on questions 1 to 10 (again some reasonable number). Kathy, stop talking to Karen (not "to the wall") and turn around (not "do 5 cartwheels"). Everyone, Turn around (not "dance around") and face me (not the floor/ceiling), please. Eyes up front (not "Eyes up and down"). Bob, are you chewing gum? (not "cud" because that is what cows do). Sit down in your seats (not "on the floor/on your books") right now! Take your seats (not pills), please. Listen, everyone. (not "Listen Jane, Tom, Jill and Chris but no one else.") This is what I want you to do for homework tonight (not "for your parents for the next two years.") Has everyone got a copy (not "coffee") now? Open your books (not mouths) and turn to page 57. Cindy, will you begin by reading the first paragraph? (not "last paragraph and go backwards from there?") Can you hear me at the back? (not "in the hallway?") George, can you erase the blackboard? (not "all traces of any writing on the board? or "your memory?"), please? Let's review the answers to the quiz. (not to "life's mysteries.") "Yes, you may go to the washroom (not "to hell", or "to the mall and play hookey.) That's enough!; go to the office (not the gym, cafeteria, or washroom if someone's causing trouble) right now! Jeff will you open the window, please? (not "Jump out the window you rascal." or "Please open the window Jeff and close it.")
Another thing to consider is that in everyday conversation, people usually use simple, common, easy-to-remember and spell words instead of more "difficult" ones, such as ebullient, exuberant, copious, effulgent, egregious, exiguous (adjectives.), or crapulence, expletiveness, indigents, detritus (nouns), etc., again affecting the frequency of usage of words or combination of words.
Cows have Milk, not Coke
The noun cow leads to the expectancy to hear milk since only cows have milk (not wine, tea, Coke, etc.) and people consume so much cow milk and cheese. So, cow-milk collocations are very common and usually expected. All these collocational patterns/common occurrences (or co-occurrences) lead to expectations. Cakes, pies, muffins, cookies, ice cream, and desserts in general contain a lot of sugar, so adjectives like:
sweet, yummy, scrumptious, delicious, fattening, decadent, to-die-for
will co-occur more frequently with the above "dessert nouns" than certain other adjectives, such as: sour, revolting, disgusting, terrible, awful, sickening, crappy, vile, gross, etc. .
So the essence or character of a noun can predetermine a certain frequency of usage in terms of collocation as well.
People, animals, or tables do not ring, but bells do. So, when you hear the word bell (school bell/church bell/hand bell/doorbell), there is a strong expectancy to hear certain words to occur in conjunction with it, such as ring, ting, ding, chime, tingling, or dingling, jingling
These examples below illustrate the co-dependency that exists between loud (adjective) and the noun that follows:
loud noise, loud bang, loud cry, loud shriek, loud echo, loud TV, loud radio, loud voice, loud fridge, loud bark, loud instrument
The adjective loud has to do with describing the volume of sound and the nouns that follow all have to do with sound and/or its production, something you can hear or something that produces noise (bang, cry, shriek, echo). This is appropriate, what one would expect. If loud precedes a noun, one anticipates hearing something that produces sound and not something like loud floor, or loud purse because these two nouns do not make noise.
A Quiet Peace Fell upon the Evening
Stinky has to do with smell, so you would not pair stinky noise together or ever hear stinky echo. Some things are silent as well. We would not see/hear loud peace or loud candle (maybe in literary works, perhaps), but you might hear/read a quiet peace fell upon the evening. We could say then that appropriate collocations complete our expectations and usually would not strike someone as off, as un maison or une maison blanc might to a native French speaker. It may seem a bit unusual, but a whisper may occur with either silent or loud because the volume of the whisper can be varied. Likewise, a bang may be described as quiet or soft because, again, the volume of sound produced may be varied.
What Impacts Collocation
In the preceding paragraphs, we see how senses can determine collocation, how adjectives can determine collocation, and how the essence or nature of the noun can determine collocation, and how the commonality of the language ("everyday speech") affects frequency of usage as well. If people did not usually use common expressions, words, and sentences in certain settings and circumstances, we would not be able to anticipate and predict so much of the language or type of language used in certain settings and circumstances.