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A genre, collocational, and constructional analysis of RISK

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Scholars of language have begun to explore the popular academic topic that is “risk” and to establish the viability of corpus linguistics for such analysis. We extend existing scholarship by analyzing the noun lemma RISK over the last two decades of contemporary American discourse with recourse to the Corpus of Contemporary American English. Using the corpus procedures of frequency analysis, concordance contextual analysis, collocational analysis, and a variation on distinctive-collexeme analysis, we revisit the often under-supported assertion that RISK is semantically negative, and then investigate the semantic potential for good risk, a phenomenon associated with economic and adventuring sectors. Data suggest that RISK is genre sensitive, predominantly negative, and heavily medical in shared meaning across genres, and further, that evidence for good risk is minimal. A phrase of interest in recent corpus work — RISK worth taking — is shown to be sensitive perhaps more to constructional constraints than to semantic prosody.
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Keywords: COCA; corpus linguistics; distinctive-collexeme analysis; lexical priming; risk; semantic prosody

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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