English is general considered to be the global language, a lingua franca, in terms of the population and wide-spread of its users. According to The World Factbook (2009), researched by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of USA, English is accepted as the official language in approximately 60 countries and regions. With the wide range of use in the world and its long history, English borrowed certain amount of vocabulary from other languages. As a result, an extremely common language feature can be detected in the large amount of English words which is synonyms. Synonyms are pairs of words sharing similar meaning or semantic features (Jackson & Amvela, 2007). Nevertheless, as ...view middle of the document...
With this principle, Harley (2006) thinks, strict synonyms are extremely rare while the other type of synonyms is more common. Loose synonyms are the words which have similar meaning in certain context; however, with the differences of combinations and contexts, they may have very disparate connotations (Jackson & Amvela, 2007). These theories of relational meanings of words are applied and applied by many scholars such as Phoocharoensil (2010) who researched on English synonyms ask, beg, plead, request and appeal. He examined these five words, which has highly similar meaning of trying to acquire things from others, are of great variation in dialects, connotation and syntactic usage. Meanwhile, the study of Liu (n. d.) on verbs of doubt also found same result in 猜 and 怀疑. Therefore, it is more than reasonable to conclude that synonyms used in very different part of sentences can result in certain differences of connotations.
As mentioned in the Introduction, this research essay examines synonyms to identify the similarity and differences in them. To conduct the research systematically, the three steps of corpus-based research suggested by Dalbera (n.d.; Kawaguchi et al, 2007) are adopted, which are:
1. Understanding the background and knowledge of research objects
2. Using suitable tool to collect reliable data
3. Discussing the findings and acknowledge possible flaws in the analysis
At the first stage of research, certain numbers of readings are done to create a clear understanding of the definition and past study of synonyms. At the same time, with the reference of Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 3rd Edition (2008), claim and state are chosen as the study objects. In the verb form, they are a pair of synonyms frequently used to describe the motion of expressing opinions (CALD, 2008). Then, to systematically examine the data of this pair of words, an online corpus, British National Corpus (BNC), is employed. It is used to collect the data of the concordance, formality of context and collocation of these two words. As can be found in the data, claim and state can be used in multiple parts of speech, that is----they can be both noun and verb, according to the context. Moreover, the verb form of claim has two complete irrelevant meanings which are to say something and to demand something through court or other legal measures. Therefore, to assure the accuracy of the research, only verb form of claim and state ([claim].[v*], [state].[v*]) is searched through the corpora; and, the results of searching claim are manually examined to remove the ones with irrelevant meaning to state. After that, the data retrieved from BNC are quantified into tables in order to demonstrate the differences of claim and state. In the third step as well as the next section of this essay, the comparisons between the two words will be made mainly according to their formality of contexts, connotation and collocation detected by BNC. ...