Analysis of Collocations and Semantic Preference of the Near-synonyms: Blank, Empty, and Vacant

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Pallapa Lertcharoenwanich


For English language learners, mastering the use of near-synonyms can be challenging. Despite the semantic similarities of English synonyms, they are not interchangeable in all contexts. The objectives of this corpus-based study are to examine differences between the near-synonymous adjectives blank, empty and vacant based on the degree of formality from their distribution across genres and to analyze the noun collocates in relation to semantic preference drawn from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). The findings indicate that these synonyms are uncommon in formal English, i.e., academic texts and they tend to have quite different occurrences and distributions across genres (i.e., blank and empty most frequently occur in fiction whereas vacant mostly occurs in newspaper) despite a similar degree of formality. For the noun collocates and semantic preference, these three adjectives have a weak near-synonymous status as they share only one noun collocate and one similar theme of semantic preference. Thus, despite their similarity in meanings, these synonyms co-occur with specific noun collocates in a particular context.


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Lertcharoenwanich, P. (2023). Analysis of Collocations and Semantic Preference of the Near-synonyms: Blank, Empty, and Vacant. LEARN Journal: Language Education and Acquisition Research Network, 16(1), 365–383. Retrieved from
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Author Biography

Pallapa Lertcharoenwanich, Business English Department, Buriram Rajabhat University, Thailand

A lecturer at Business English Department, Buriram Rajabhat University, Thailand. She is currently pursuing a PhD in English Language Teaching at Language Institute, Thammasat University. Her research interests include ELT pedagogy, corpus linguistics and second language acquisition of syntax.


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