A Corpus-Based Investigation of English Synonyms: Disadvantage, Downside, and Drawback

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Piyaboot Sumonsriworakun


The study compares three synonymous nouns, disadvantage, downside, and drawback, in terms of their frequency, distribution patterns, and collocations, using data from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). The findings show that the frequency of disadvantage is the highest, followed by that of downside and drawback, respectively. Regarding their distribution across eight registers in COCA, disadvantage prevails in academic texts, whereas downside and drawback seem to be less formal as they are most often found in magazines. An analysis of semantic preferences of the verb collocates of the three synonyms revealed two common themes: CONSIDER and DEAL WITH. As for their adjective collocates, the three synonyms frequently co-occur with adjectives under the theme EXTENT. Disadvantage is more often preceded by adjectives subscribed to the theme ASPECT than drawback is, and while downside regularly combines with some adjectives representing counter-expectations, drawback tends to be accompanied by more adjective collocates organized into the theme PROMINENCE than the other two synonyms. It is advisable that English language teachers utilize these valuable insights to develop lessons and materials.

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Sumonsriworakun, P. (2022). A Corpus-Based Investigation of English Synonyms: Disadvantage, Downside, and Drawback. LEARN Journal: Language Education and Acquisition Research Network, 15(2), 649–678. Retrieved from https://so04.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/LEARN/article/view/259944
Research Articles
Author Biography

Piyaboot Sumonsriworakun, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

An English language lecturer at Chulalongkorn University Language Institute, Thailand. His research interests include corpus linguistics, second language acquisition, and English language teaching.


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