Tag Archives: Collocation types

What we mean by collocation

Broad vs. narrow definition: In the study of collocations, there have been many suggestions on how the term "collocation" should be defined. In general, we can differentiate between broad(er) and narrow(er) definitions. The broad definitions are primarily geared toward quantitative and statistical analysis and are most commonly found in fields such as computer linguistics or corpus linguistics. They see a collocation as the simple co-occurrence of words within a corpus, regardless of the semantic value of these combinations. The narrow definition, which is geared towards qualitative and semantic research, sees collocations as specific types of phrases that fall somewhere between free word combinations on the one side and idiomatic expressions (e.g. fixed idioms) on the other. Collocations are thus neither "freely" combinable, nor fully idiomaticized. This is why they are often referred to as "semi-fixed".

Collocation structure “base + collocator”: According to the narrow, semantic definition, collocations are hierarchically organized, binary word combinations that are made up of two parts: the so-called base and the so-called collocator. The base is hierarchically higher than the collocator (in other words, the choice of collocator is always dependent on the base). The base word is usually used in its literal sense, while the meaning of the collocator within the collocation can be different from the word's basic or literal meaning. The collocator is thus the "unpredictable" half of the pair, the part that may differ from language to language, and the part that foreign language learners often don't know, get wrong or have to look up. For instance, in the collocations piantare un chiodo (‘hammer/drive [lit. “plant”] a nail into a wall’), la lezione salta (‘the lesson is cancelled [lit. “jumps”]’), and un CD/DVD vergine (‘a blank [lit. “virginal”] CD/DVD’), the nouns chiodo, lezione and CD/DVD are the bases, and the verbs piantare and saltare and the adjective vergine are the collocators.

Types of collocations based on morpho-syntactical aspects:

  1. Noun (subject) + verb: la fiamma / la luce tremola / vacilla ‘the flame / the light flickers’, lo stomaco brontola ‘the stomach growls’, il tempo stringe ‘time is short / time's a-wasting / time is of the essence’
  2. Verb + noun (direct object): appuntire una matita ‘sharpen a pencil’, battere un record ‘break a record’, ingannare la fiducia (di qcn.) ‘abuse (someone's) trust’; stretched verb construction: dare un’occhiata (a qcs. / qcn.) ‘to have / take a look (at someone or sth.) / to keep an eye on sth.’, fare naufragio ‘to be shipwrecked’
  3. Verb + prepositional phrase: fumare / ribollire di rabbia ‘to be very angry / boiling mad’, morire / scoppiare di curiosità ‘to be dying of curiosity’; stretched verb construction: andare a fuoco ‘to burn / to catch fire’, mettere (qcs.) in moto ‘to put (sth.) in motion / to start e.g. a car’
  4. Verb + adverb / prepositional phrase (in the function of a modal adverb): ancorare saldamentefirmly anchor’, fallire miseramente ‘fail miserably’, pentirsi amaramente (di qcs.) ‘to regret (sth.) terribly / bitterly’
  5. Noun + adjective / prepositional phrase (in the function of an attribute): un argomento delicato / spinoso ‘a delicate topic / subject’, una sfacciataggine inaudita ‘colossal cheek / impudence’, uno scherzo da prete ‘a bad joke’
  6. Adjective / participle + adverb / prepositional phrase (in the function of an attribute): perdutamente innamorato ‘to be deeply / madly / head-over-heels in love’, ubriaco fradicio ‘dead drunk / drunk as a skunk’, nuovo di zecca / fiammante ‘brand (spanking) new’

Types of collocations based on semantic aspects:

  1. Collocations with a semantically very specific collocator that has a very large intension and a very restricted collocational range: il sole tramonta ‘the sun sets’, digrignare i denti ‘to bear one's teeth’, un naso camuso ‘a flat nose’
  2. Collocations with a polysemous collocator which, within the collocation, has taken on a different/modified meaning from its basic or literal meaning (usually in some metaphorical sense): la collera sbollisce / svanisce ‘the anger vanishes’, nutrire speranza ‘to entertain hopes’, una fiducia cieca ‘blind trust’
  3. Collocations with a semantically empty or vague collocator that has a very small intension and a very large collocational range (often a stretched verb construction): prendere una decisione ‘to make a decision’, mettere (qcs.) in rilievo ‘to emphasize sth. / to put in relief’, porre un freno (a qcs. / qcn.) ‘to put the brakes on sth./sb. / to rein sb. in’
  4. Elliptical collocations (rare): il cellulare non prende ‘the mobile phone has no signal’ (lit. “the phone won't take”), il rubinetto perde ‘the faucet / tap is leaky / dripping’ (lit. “is losing”; in this example the direct object acqua ‘water’ is omitted, giving the combination collocation status)
  5. Collocations bordering on free word combinations: these combinations only allow certain collocators while others (which should theoretically be possible) are not allowed or sound very odd: occhi storti ‘cross-eyed’ (not possible: ?occhi obliqui), levare / cavare / estirpare / estrarre / strappare / togliere un dente ‘too pull a tooth’ (not possible: ?tirare un dente)

Exceptions - semi-idiomatic collocations: Semi-idiomatic or partially idiomatic collocations have an idiomaticized collocator, as is the case in un numero verde ‘a (toll)free [lit. “green”] (phone) number’. However, since the base is not used idiomatically (numero = ‘(phone) number’), this type of lexical combination is only partially idiomatic, and thus cannot be considered a full idiom; it is still a collocation because at least one part of the combination is used in its literal sense and the overall meaning can still be derived from the meanings of its parts. Some semi-idioms show an “unusual collocational syntax”, as is the case with divertirsi un mondo (‘to be highly diverted / to have a wonderful time’, lit. “to be a world amused”). In this case, divertirsi is the base because it is the part that can be understood literally, while the modal adverb un mondo is an idiomatically used collocator.

Exceptions - compound words: Certain lexical combinations that are made up of a noun + adjective or prepositional phrase are rendered as compounds (i.e. a word made up of several individual words) in German; e.g. tetto apribile (‘sun roof, sliding roof, retractable roof’) = German Schiebedach / Hebedach. This is mostly the case when a word designates a specific type or subclass of something (tetto apribile = type / subclass of tetto). From a learner’s perspective, there is a collocation-like relationship between the parts of this combination (tetto can be identified as a base, while apribile can be seen as a kind of “unpredictable” collocator that is specific to each individual language). Phrases such as vicolo ciecodead end’ (lit. “blind street”), letto a castello (‘bunk bed’, lit. “castle bed”) and foresta vergine ‘primeval forest / jungle’ (lit. “virginal forest”) must be learned in the same manner as collocations. Therefore, this type of lexical combination will also be included in our learner's dictionary.


The following are examples of collocations that evoke very clear images, and are thus suited to being depicted in drawings and artwork. Depending on the collocation, the imagery for Italian and German can be different or - in a few cases - also similar or identical:

1) Noun (subject) + verb:
  • il dente balla (also: dondola, traballa) = der Zahn wackelt (lit.: "der Zahn tanzt”); the tooth is loose / wobbly / wiggly (lit.: "the tooth is dancing”)
  • mi si è addormentata la gamba = mir ist das Bein eingeschlafen (the same as in German); my leg has fallen asleep (the same as in English)
  • mi formicola la gamba = mir kribbelt das Bein, ich habe Ameisenlaufen im Bein (lit. [more or less]: “mir ameist das Bein / ich habe Ameisen im Bein”; cf. la formica = die Ameise); my leg is tingling (lit. [more or less]: “my legs are anting / I have ants in my leg”; cf. la formica = the ant)
  • la lezione salta = die (Unterrichts-)Stunde fällt aus / entfällt (lit.: "die (Unterrichts-)Stunde springt”); the lesson is cancelled (lit.: "the lesson jumps”)
  • la malattia esplode (also: scoppia) = die Krankheit bricht aus (lit.: "die Krankheit explodiert”); the illness / disease breaks out (lit.: "the illness / disease explodes”)
  • il malcontento serpeggia (nella popolazione) = Unzufriedenheit macht sich (in der Bevölkerung) breit (lit.: "Unzufriedenheit schlängelt sich (in der Bevölkerung)"; cf. il serpente = die Schlange); discontent is spreading (among the people) (lit.: "discontent slithers / moves like a snake (among the people)”; cf. il serpente = the snake)
  • il motore sfarfalla = der Motor flattert (similar to German; cf. la farfalla = der Schmetterling); the engine / motor is wobbling (lit.: "the engine / motor flutters like a butterfly”; cf. la farfalla = the butterfly)
  • la sedia zoppica (also: traballa) = der Stuhl wackelt (lit.: "der Stuhl hinkt”); the chair is rickety / wobbly (lit.: "the chair is limping”)
  • il sole tramonta = die Sonne geht unter (lit.: "die Sonne verschwindet jenseits der Berge”; cf. il monte = der Berg); the sun sets (lit.: “the sun disappears beyond the mountains”; cf. il monte = the mountain)
  • mi fuma la testa = mir raucht der Kopf (the same as in German); my head is spinning / my brains are fried [in the sense of ‘I am mentally exhausted’] (lit. "my head is smoking / smoldering”)
  • il treno fischia = der Zug pfeift (the same as in German); the train whistles (the same as in English)
2) Verb + noun (direct object):
  • cementare un’amicizia = eine Freundschaft festigen (lit.: "eine Freundschaft einzementieren”); to cement a friendship (the same as in English)
  • cotonare i capelli = die Haare toupieren (lit.: "die Haare mit Baumwolle polstern / zu Baumwollknäueln formen”; cf. il cotone = die Baumwolle); to backcomb / tease one’s hair (lit.: "to fill one's hair with cotton”; cf. cotone = cotton)
  • stirare (also: lisciare) i capelli = die Haare glätten (lit.: "die Haare bügeln”); to straighten one's hair (lit.: "to iron one's hair”)
  • congelare il capitale / i prezzi = das Kapital / die Preise einfrieren (the same as in German); to freeze funds / prices (the same as in English)
  • piantare un chiodo (in qcs.) = einen Nagel (in etw.) einschlagen (lit.: "einen Nagel (in etw.) (ein-)pflanzen”); to hammer / drive a nail (into sth.) (lit. “to plant a nail (into sth.)”)
  • accavallare le gambe = die Beine übereinander schlagen (lit. [more or less]: "die Beine verpferdern”; cf. il cavallo = das Pferd); to cross one's legs (lit. [more or less]: “to horse one’s legs”; cf. il cavallo = the horse)
  • sgranchirsi le gambe = sich die Beine vertreten, die Beine ausstrecken (lit.: "die Beine wie ein Krebs bewegen”; cf. il granchio = der Krebs [Tier]); to stretch one's legs (lit.: "to move one's legs like a crab”; cf. il granchio = the crab)
  • accarezzare un'idea = sich mit einem Gedanken tragenmit einem Gedanken spielen (lit.: "einen Gedanken / eine Idee streicheln / liebkosen”); to toy / tinker with the idea of doing sth. / to be thinking about doing sth. (lit.: "to caress an idea”)
  • inghiottire / ingoiare le lacrime = die Tränen hinunterschlucken (the same as in German); to swallow one's tears (the same as in English)
  • appianare una lite = einen Streit schlichten (lit.: "einen Streit einebnen”); to settle a dispute (lit.: "to plane a dispute”)
  • covare (also: incubare) una malattia = eine Krankheit ausbrüten (the same as in German); to incubate a disease / to be coming down with something (the same as in English, i.e. “to hatch / incubate a disease [like an egg]”)
  • spaccare il minuto = auf die Minute pünktlich sein (lit.: "die Minute spalten / zerschlagen / entzweischlagen”); to be dead on time / punctual to the minute (lit.: “to smash / split the minute into (two) pieces”)
  • pescare un numero = eine Nummer ziehen (lit.: "eine Nummer fischen”; cf. il pesce = der Fisch); to draw a number in a raffle (tombola) (lit.: “to fish a number out of the barrel”; cf. il pesce = the fish)
  • strizzare l’occhio (a qcn.) = das Auge zusammenkneifen, also: (jemandem) zuzwinkern / zublinzeln (lit.: "das Auge auswringen / auspressen”); to squint, also: to wink at sb. (lit.: "to wring one's eye out”)
  • allungare il passo = den Schritt beschleunigen,  schneller gehen (lit.: "den Schritt verlängern”); to quicken one's pace (lit.: "to lengthen the pace”)
  • abbracciare (also: intraprendere) una professione = einen Beruf ergreifen (lit.: "einen Beruf umarmen”); to take up a career / profession (lit. “to embrace / hug a career / profession”)
  • accendere la radio = das Radio einschalten (lit.: "das Radio anzünden”); to turn on the radio (lit.: "to set fire to the radio”)
  • ricucire (also: ricostituire) un rapporto = eine Beziehung wieder herstellen / wieder aufnehmen (lit.: "eine Beziehung wieder zunähen / zusammenflicken”); to re-establish / to mend a relationship (lit.: "to sew a relationship back together / to stitch it up”)
  • custodire un segreto = ein Geheimnis hüten / bewahren (lit.: "ein Geheimnis (wie ein Wächter) bewachen”; cf. il custode = der Wächter); to keep a secret (lit.: "to guard / sentinel a secret”; cf. il custode = the guard, sentinel)
  • ammazzare il tempo = die Zeit totschlagen (lit.: "die Zeit töten / umbringen”); to kill time (the same as in English; in German lit.: "to beat time to death”)
  • perdere il treno = den Zug verpassen / versäumen (lit.: "den Zug verlieren”); to miss the train (lit.: "to lose the train”)
3) Verb + prepositional object:
  • essere inchiodato al letto = ans Bett gefesselt sein (weil man krank ist) (lit.: "ans Bett (fest)genagelt sein”; cf. il chiodo = der Nagel); to be confined to bed [due to illness] (lit.: "to be nailed to the bed”; cf. il chiodo = the nail)
  • fumare (also: ribollire) di rabbia = vor Wut kochen (lit.: "vor Wut rauchen”; ribollire = "nochmals aufkochen" / “überkochen" => similar as in German); to boil / simmer with rage, to be boiling mad (lit.: "to fume with rage”)
  • abboccare a uno scherzo = auf einen Scherz hereinfallen (lit.: "an einen Scherz  anbeißen [wie ein Fisch an einen Köder]”; cf. la bocca = der Mund); to fall for a joke / be taken in by a joke (lit.: "to bite into a joke [like a fish swallowing bait]”)
4) Noun + adjective or prepositional phrase:
  • il caldo soffocante (also: asfissiante) = die brütende / drückende Hitze (lit.: "die erstickende Hitze”, "die Hitze, die einen zum Ersticken bringt"); soffocating heat (the same as in English)
  • un CD / DVD vergine = eine leere / unbespielte CD / DVD; ein CD- / DVD-Rohling (lit.: "eine jungfräuliche CD / DVD"); a blank CD / DVD (lit.: "a virginal CD / DVD”)
  • un cervello da gallina = ein Spatzenhirn (lit.: "ein Hennen- / Hühnerhirn"); a featherbrain / a bird brain [fig.] (lit.: "a chicken brain”)
  • una curva a gomito = eine scharfe Kurve (lit.: "eine Ellbogenkurve"); a sharp curve (lit.: "an elbow curve”)
  • una curva cieca = eine unübersichtliche / scharfe Kurve (lit.: "eine blinde Kurve"); a blind curve (the same as in English)
  • il dente canino = der Eckzahn (lit.: "der  Hundezahn"; cf. il cane = der Hund); canine tooth (the same as in English; lit. "corner tooth" in German)
  • il dente del giudizio = der Weisheitszahn (lit.: "der Zahn des Urteils"); wisdom tooth (lit.: "tooth of judgement”)
  • una domanda a bruciapelo = eine unvermittelte Frage / eine Frage, die jemanden eiskalt erwischt (lit.: "eine Frage zum Fellverbrennen”; cf. bruciare = (ver)brennen, il pelo = das Fell); a sudden / unexspected question (lit.: "a question to burn the pelt”; cf. bruciare = to burn, il pelo = the pelt)
  • una domanda innocente = eine harmlose Frage (lit.: "eine unschuldige" Frage); an innocent question (the same as in English)
  • un dottore in erba = ein angehender oder frisch gebackener Doktor (lit.: "ein Doktor im Gras”); a newly made / fledgeling / green doctor (lit.: "a doctor in the grass”)
  • un dolore martellante = ein hämmernder Schmerz (the same as in German; cf. il martello = der Hammer); pounding pain (lit.: "a hammering pain”)
  • una fantasia sfrenata = eine blühende / lebhafte / ausgeprägte / grenzenlose Phantasie (lit.: "eine ungebremste Phantasie"; cf. il freno = die Bremse); a fertile / vivid / unbridled imagination (lit.: "an unbraked imagination”)
  • una febbre da cavallo = hohes Fieber (lit.: "Pferdefieber"); raging fever (lit.: "horse fever”)
  • la foresta vergine = der Urwald (lit.: "jungfräulicher Wald"); primeval forest / jungle (lit.: “virginal forest”)
  • un freddo pungente = eine schneidende / beißende / eisige / klirrende Kälte (lit.: "eine stachelige / stechende Kälte"); severe / extreme cold (lit.: "spiny / thorny cold”)
  • una giornata storta = ein Tag, an dem alles schief läuft (lit.: "ein schiefer/ krummer Tag"); an off day / bad day [when everything goes wrong] (lit.: “a crooked day”)
  • il letto a castello = das Stockbett (lit.: "das  Schlossbett"); a bunk bed (lit. “castle bed”)
  • una memoria da elefante (also: una memoria di ferro) = ein Bombengedächtnis (lit.: "ein Gedächtnis wie ein Elefant"); an infallible memory (lit.: “to have the memory of an elephant”)
  • il motore truccato = der (auf)frisierte / getunte Motor (lit.: "der geschminkte Motor"; truccare = schminken); a tuned up / souped-up  engine (lit.: "an engine with make-up”)
  • (avere) il naso chiuso = eine verstopfte Nase (haben) (lit.: "eine geschlossene Nase (haben)"); (to have) stuffy nose (lit.: "a closed nose”)
  • un numero verde = eine kostenlose (Ruf-)Nummer (lit.: "eine grüne Nummer"); a (toll)free (phone) number (lit. “a green (phone) number”)
  • gli occhi a mandorla = Schlitzaugen (lit.: "Mandelaugen"); slitted [Asian] eyes (lit.: "almond eyes”)
  • gli occhi sbarrati (also: spalancati) = die (weit) aufgerissenen Augen (lit.: "die mit einem Schranken versperrten / aufgehaltenen Augen"); wide open eyes (lit.: "barred eyes”)
  • i pantaloni a zampa di elefante / a campana = die Schlaghose / Glockenhose (lit.: "die Hose mit Elefantenfüßen / -pranken"; a campana: the same as "Glockenhose" in German); bell-bottoms (lit.: "trousers with the feet / paws of an elephant”; a campana: similar to English)
  • i pantaloni gessati = die Nadelstreifenhose (lit.: "die mit [weißer] Kreide angemalte Hose"; cf. il gesso = die Kreide); pinstripe trousers (lit.: "chalked trousers”)
  • un parente acquisito = ein angeheirateter Verwandter (lit.: "ein erworbener Verwandter"); an in-law (relative) (lit.: "an acquired relative”)
  • prezzi salati gesalzene / gepfefferte Preise (similar to German); steep prices (lit.: "salted prices”)
  • la scala a chiocciola = die Wendeltreppe (lit.: "die Schneckentreppe / schnecken­förmige Treppe"); spiral stairs (lit.: "snail stairs”)
  • un sole da spaccare le pietre = eine gleißende / unbarmherzig brennende / stark brennende Sonne (lit.: "eine Sonne zum Steine Spalten”); a blazing / blistering sun (lit.: “a sun that smashes / splits the stones into pieces”)
  • l’uovo strapazzato = das Rührei (lit.: "das misshandelte / strapazierte Ei"); scrambled eggs (lit.: "a mistreated egg”)
  • il vicolo cieco = die Sackgasse (lit.: "die blinde Gasse"); a dead-end street (lit.: "a blind street”)
  • lo zucchero a velo = der Puderzucker (lit.: "der Schleierzucker"); icing sugar (British) / confectioners' sugar or powdered sugar (American) (lit.: "veil sugar”)

Learner’s dictionary

Book publication: The Italian collocations are being collected in a specially built database and will be published as a learner's dictionary in 2015 with the publisher Verlag Helmut Buske (Hamburg).

Selection of the lemmas and collocations: We have decided to base our choice of which Italian collocations to include in our learner's dictionary on structural criteria: only those collocations with a noun base will be included (i.e. syntactic types 1-4 listed under What we mean by collocation”). The number of bases (which is also the number of lemmas in our learner's dictionary) is currently limited to some 900-1100 nouns that can be found in the basic vocabulary in the Dizionario di base della lingua italiana (DIB) by De Mauro / Moroni (1996). The project team will decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not a lexical combination is to be classified as a collocation (though in general, in order to qualify a combination as a collocation it must fit into one of the 5 semantic collocation types listed under “What we mean by collocation”).

Reference work and learning tool: The learner's dictionary is meant to be used as a reference book, but is also intended for use as an L2 learning / teaching tool. Since the collocations will be laid out in two parallel columns (with Italian on the left and the German equivalents on the right), learners can use the book to test themselves by covering one half of the page to see what they have already learned / already know.

Illustrations: In order to bring certain collocations to life and make them easier to memorize, we will include drawings produced by children and young adults in the book. These images were drawn in Tyrol during various public relations events and in cooperation with several schools in Tyrol (see “Illustrations”).

Organization of the dictionary: Within an entry, collocations will be arranged by morpho-syntactical type (1-4); within these types, collocations will be sorted alphabetically by collocator. One particular focus is on raising learners' awareness of the differences between the German and Italian collocations, thus maximizing the learning effect:

  • To reinforce the mental image behind an Italian collocation (in the case of a polysemous collocator), a literal translation into German (based on the basic, literal meaning of the Italian collocator) will be included in brackets and quotation marks. This should underline how error-prone trying to translate collocations literally from Italian into German (and vice versa) can be; e.g. il dente balla ‘the tooth is loose / wiggly / wobbly’, lit. “the tooth is dancing”.
  • Each collocation will include an example sentence (with a German translation) to make its use in a concrete context clear. Great care will be taken to ensure that these examples are not artificial or contrived but common, and attractive in terms of content. Authentic examples will be found using Google, checked and modified if need be by our Italian native speaker Erica Autelli, and then translated into German by Christine Konecny.
  • If a collocation can occur in several structural types, these will be merged to form one entry, e.g. otturare (also: piombare) un dente / un dente otturato (also: piombato) ‘to get a filling’ / ‘a tooth with a filling’.
  • If there are several alternative collocators, these will be listed in brackets, e.g. levare un dente ‘to pull a tooth’, also: cavare, estirpare, estrarre, strappare, togliere un dente.
  • In a given entry, dictionary users will not only find the collocators of a specific base, but also references to other bases connected with a specific collocator; e.g. the entry piantare i denti (nella mano a/di qcn.) ‘to bite / to sink one's teeth into (sb.'s hand)’ will have a reference to the entry chiodo, where learners will find the collocation piantare un chiodo ‘to drive / hammer in a nail’.
  • If two (or more) collocators are antonyms (have opposite meanings), these will also be listed under a single entry (with the marker “VS.” for ‘versus’): e.g. il dente aguzzo (also: affilato) VS. il dente ottuso ‘sharp tooth’ VS. ‘blunt tooth’.
  • In certain cases, entries may also include information on the frequency and register of a collocation, e.g. if a certain collocation is rare [selten], particularly colloquial / slangy [ugs.], or used only in a pejorative / derogatory sense [pej.]. However, these annotations are by no means exhaustive or comprehensive.

Preview: Here is a preview of the entry for the lemma dente ('tooth') in our dictionary (click on the entry and zoom in for higher resolution):

Didactic background

Theoretical premises: In general, we can assume that it is easier to memorize and remember collocations if we have some form of visualization in addition to the purely “abstract” wording.  That is why we plan to include depictions of selected collocations in the learner's dictionary.

What kinds of collocations are suitable for graphic visualization? Not all collocations can be drawn, but it is sometimes possible with those whose collocator is polysemous (i.e. has several meanings) and is used in a metaphorical sense rather than in the literal, basic sense of the word. Moreover, the collocation has to create a clear mental image that can be depicted as a drawing, such as il dente balla (‘the tooth is loose / wobbly / wiggly’, literally “the tooth is dancing”).

Where do we get these images? The artwork depicting selected Italian collocations is created by students (primary school through high school). The drawings are/were made at various events (see below) and in cooperation with schools in Tyrol.

Number of drawings so far: To date, children and young adults from Tyrol have made more than 1000 drawings:

  • Aktionstag Junge Uni (= Youth University Day), November 2009: 157 drawings
  • Lange Nacht der Forschung (= Long Night of Research), November 2009: 71 drawings
  • Aktionstag Junge Uni (= Youth University Day)  November 2010: 209 drawings (incl. drawings of expressions / phraseologisms in other languages)
  • Primary school “Volkschule Innere Stadt Innsbruck”, October 2011: 12 drawings
  • Aktionstage Junge Uni (= Youth University Day), November 2011, pupils’ day: 199 drawings
  • Aktionstage Junge Uni (= Youth University Day), November 2011, family day: 59 drawings
  • Middle school “Neue Mittelschule Königsweg Reutte”, December 2011 (Italian group, art group): 48 drawings
  • Primary school “Volkschule Innere Stadt Innsbruck”, February 2012: 15 drawings
  • Middle school “Neue Mittelschule Dr. Fritz Prior (Innsbruck)”, March 2012: 7 drawings
  • Tiroler Nacht der Forschung, Bildung und Innovation (= Tyrolean Night of Research, Education and Innovation), April 2012: 45 drawings
  • Vocational high school “HLW Reutte”, June 2012: 24 drawings
  • Middle school “Neue Mittelschule Königsweg Reutte”, June 2012 (Italian group, art group): 33 drawings
  • High school "Bundesrealgymnasium Adolf-Pichler-Platz", January 2013: 26 drawings
  • Middle school "Neue Mittelschule Stams-Rietz", April 2013: 47 drawings
  • Aktionstage Junge Uni (= Youth University Day), November 2013, pupils’ day: 109 drawings
  • Aktionstage Junge Uni (= Youth University Day), November 2013, family day: 29 drawings

Method: The pictures are always based on the literal meaning of the collocator (e.g. il dente balla means ‘the tooth is loose / wobbly / wiggly’, but is literally “the tooth is dancing”). So far, the dancing (loose) tooth has been one of the most popular motives. Others include a nail being “planted” in the wall (i.e. being pounded or hammered in), or the radio that Italian speakers “set on fire” (i.e. switch it on).

Productive creation of illustrations in the learning process: In our cooperation with various schools, and during events such as the ones listed above, students create drawings in the process of learning the various collocations. We have found that this increases success in learning, and also generates motivation and interest.

Receptive use of illustrations in the learner’s dictionary: By integrating these illustrations in the learner’s dictionary, learners are provided with material they will use “receptively” in order to better memorize the expressions (though of course they may also create their own images, possibly under guidance of their teacher). No matter whether learners produce images ‘actively’ or use them ‘receptively’, the final result is the same: learners should “see” the image behind a collocation. First the concrete image is seen or visualized, then remembered, meaning that learners will later “recall” this mental image associated with the expression.