A Corpus-Based Analysis of Eight English Synonymous Adjectives of Fear

Sa'ida Walid Sayyed, Rajai Rasheed Al-Khanji


This corpus-based study aims at investigating the similarities and differences that exist between afraid, scared, frightened, terrified, startled, fearful, horrified and petrified. Specifically, it compared and contrasted them in terms of dialectal differences, frequency of occurrence, distribution in different genres and core meanings. The data were collected from the British National Corpus (BNC), the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), the online Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE) and the online Merriam Webster’s Dictionary (MWD). The results of both corpora have revealed that the most frequent adjectives of fear are “afraid”, “scared” and “frightened”. Moreover, the findings of both corpora have shown that nearly all adjectives appear to be mostly used in fiction and spoken genres. Furthermore, the results also unveiled that both the Americans and the British tend to avoid using such adjectives of fear in academic contexts. As for the core meanings, the findings have uncovered that the core meanings of these adjectives in dictionaries have shown that LDOCE gives more emphasis on idiomatic meanings of words under investigation. Unlike MWD, LDOCE offers more senses for the words “afraid”, “scared” and “frightened”. Further, the meanings of these adjectives in COCA have revealed that this corpus gives more space for idiomatic expressions related to the adjectives under investigation if compared to the results of MWD. Therefore, it can be concluded that the data of the two corpora give extra meanings that are not found in these dictionaries. Also, the study concluded with some pedagogical implications.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v11i1.14297

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