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The contextual factors of big, large and great in contemporary written and spoken texts: a corpus based analysis

Author Affiliations

  • 1University Science High School, Central Luzon State University, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, Philippines

Res. J. Language and Literature Sci., Volume 5, Issue (3), Pages 1-6, July,19 (2018)


Presumably, humans in general and not only language learners in classroom tend to choose words that are easily and readily retrievable in their minds whenever they do oral communication. This is relatively common in their second or foreign language. In the Philippine context, this has become the case in the use of the English language; hence some common synonyms have the tendency and are likely to be overused in communicating ideas. This paper evaluated the extent to which commonly used synonymous words of English were used in contemporary written and spoken texts, and it found out what context the difference in usage occurred. The Collins Word banks Online English corpus sampler and Web Concordancer were used. To get the linguistic data from the corpus, the researcher typed in the synonymous words big, large and great one by one and got a display of concordance lines. The output generated from the concordancer was made limited to 40 lines of concordance, with a maximum width of 250 characters. The sampled lines were selected at random. The demo facility provided and restricted the display to around 100 of collocates. These were the collocates that were found statistically most significant according to T score calculation. The study showed that most occurrences or appearances as per use of the word big in the native corpora were used to refer to physical size of objects, specifically following concrete nouns: big brother, big ears, big teeth, big tax, big boxers, big wall and the like. Large was preferred for abstract nouns: large quantity, large payments, large extent, large range, large discrepancy, large explosion, and large amounts. Great was preferred when ideas or concepts were intensified, hence the use of greater and greatest: greater power, greater press freedom, greater insights, greatest incentive, greatest business successes, greatest of all politicians. These outputs were taken from collocates that were statistically most significant according to T score calculation. Big, large and great were classified by their function in sentences. From among the three synonymous words, great, large, and big, large was used more often than big and great. Anent the observed phenomenon that some collocations with big happened when more specific and concrete meanings were conveyed and that they were likely to occur on cases where more concise expressions were preferred, hence the attribution of more concrete nouns, while abstract ones went with large and intensity was better shown by contemporary writers and speakers using great. But among the three, great as a modifier appeared to be more descriptive. It is inflected to show varying degrees, as in: greater than its minimum, greatest allocation, greatest of all, among others. Since limited analysis was done on the context of the three synonymous words, the specific function of synonymous words and the patterns of sentences into which they occurred were not examined. Further studies could be facilitated to augment the investigation on this part for more reliable findings and accurate descriptions on the use of language.


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