Effectiveness of Corpus in Distinguishing Two Near-Synonymous Verbs: Damage and Destroy

  •  Qiuyuan Song    


This study aims to explore how corpus-based approaches can be used to address the distinctions of English near-synonyms effectively. Especially, it collected source data from the British National Corpus (BNC) and adopted Sketch Engine (SkE) as an analyzing tool to compare the near synonymous pair damage and destroy commonly misused by Chinese-speaking learners of English in terms of frequencies, genre distribution, colligation and collocation, differences in meanings and uses. It is found that damage and destroy are near-synonyms because they are relevant words and share most collocates but they are not fully intersubstitutable for certain contexts. Some words related to the human body or physical health are more collocated with damage and some such as military affairs and one’s thought or belief more with destroy. In addition, the core meaning of damage gives more emphasis on something that can be recovered but does not work well as before, while destroy offers more senses for something that no longer exists. Furthermore, the British tend to collocate the two near-synonyms with the same word to create a build-up, because destroy is endowed with a stronger degree of destruction than damage. The study ends by suggesting corpus-based analysis should be promoted in language teaching and learning to improve the accurate use of English vocabulary by language learners.

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