Tag Archives: Didactics

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.