Collocational features of China English: A corpus-based contrastive study

Jianli LIANG

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


Research has shown that the form of English used by people in Mainland China (referred to as China English in this thesis; hereafter CE) is characterised by many distinctive features, both explicit and implicit, some of which are categorised as grammatical errors or non-standard English, while others as lexical items distinct to Chinese cultures, both of which are, of course, to be expected. However, deviations that emerge in the form of co-occurrence of words or word categories are independent of these two groups. They often involve features at a structural level, i.e. collocation, colligation, semantic preference and semantic prosody (Sinclair, 2004, p. 39), which are broadly referred to as ‘collocational features’ in this thesis. Such collocational features play a central role in the description of CE features, since they are integral to the language (rather than errors which are in need of correction), but also because CE users’ L1 identity and ownership of English should both be respected. The goal of this study is to present the findings of a systematic empirical investigation of CE features in contra-distinction to other varieties of English in terms of collocations, words that co-occur and co-select in a distinctively Chinese way. The corpus used as a reference for contrast is British National Corpus, which represents British English. Departing from a World Englishes (hereafter WE) perspective, this study is a corpus-based contrastive analysis of some selected collocational features of CE and standard varieties of English in the inner circle. CE collocational features that are statistically salient and yet frequently dismissed as resilient acquisitional problems may pose a challenge to mutual understanding in a ‘world village’ where English is increasingly used as a lingua franca. Furthermore, since CE is predicted to play a more important role in the foreseeable future (Lo Bianco, Orton & Gao, 2009; Xu, 2010), the cultural identity embedded in it should be respected and accepted (Y. Gao, 2004; D. C. S. Li, 2010). In view of such predictions, this thesis aims to provide an adequate, data-driven description of the CE phenomena, followed by conceptualisation and explanation through contrastive studies. The following research questions will be addressed: 1. Are there distinctive collocational features in the English used by Chinese? 2. Are there colligational preferences in CE? 3. Are there semantic and prosodic preferences in CE? 4. Is it feasible to formulate a theoretically sound framework for analyzing collocational features of China English based on the answers to (1)-(3)? Taking advantage of statistical information to help identify and prioritise the corpus-derived collocational items, a process which is traditionally toocumbersome to handle by manual examination, this study analyses and provides a descriptive account of the use of CE in terms of collocation (Sinclair, 2004). The results reveal that while CE-specific collocational patterns constitute an important type of collocational innovations in CE, they also allow us to look into the important process whereby CE is evolving into a new variety of English. Collocational features constitute a significant type of evidence and argument when assessing to what extent a new variety of English is emerging. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Hong Kong Institute of Education
  • LI, Chor Shing David, Supervisor
  • WANG, Lixun 王立勛, Supervisor
  • MA, Qing 馬清, Supervisor
Award date14 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • English language -- China
  • English language -- Variation
  • Corpora (Linguistics)
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Hong Kong Institute of Education, 2015
  • 中國英語搭配特點 : 基於語料庫的對比研究


Dive into the research topics of 'Collocational features of China English: A corpus-based contrastive study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.