Tag Archives: Research project

Project description

‘Limping’ chairs, ‘dancing’ teeth and ‘lost’ busses.
Compiling a learner's dictionary of the most important collocations in Italian for German-speaking learners of Italian as an L2.

Project aims: This project is funded by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen - South Tyrol (Division for the Promotion of Education, Universities and Research) and is carried out at the University of Innsbruck, Department of Romance Languages by Dr. Christine Konecny (project head) and Mag. Erica Autelli. The aim of the project is to compile and examine Italian collocations in comparison with their German-language equivalents. The lemmata used to search for collocations will initially be limited to some 900-1100 noun bases. The collocations are collected in a database and will be published in book form as a learner’s dictionary in 2017.

Theoretical background: The research project is based in large parts on the research and results of Christine Konecny's doctoral dissertation, which was published in 2010 by Martin Meidenbauer (Munich) and has received several prizes, including the prestigeous "Premio Giovanni Nencioni 2012” from the Accademia della Crusca and the "Preis der Landeshauptstadt Innsbruck für wissenschaftliche Forschung an der Universität Innsbruck 2008”. Over the past few years, the team members have given numerous talks and published various articles (see "Publications”). To find out more about the conception of collocation in this project, see "What we mean by collocation”.

Method: The 900-1100 noun bases we will use in our search for collocations are taken from the Italian basic vocabulary (vocabolario fondamentale) as found in the Dizionario di base della lingua italiana (DIB) by Tullio De Mauro and Gian Giuseppe Moroni (1996). 200 of these 1100 nouns can also be classed as other word types (e.g. they are both a noun and an adjective). In order to make our list of collocations as comprehensive as possible, we will be using three different methods: (1) consulting different existent monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, (2) introspection on the part of the team members (who are native speakers of German or Italian) and (3) consulting suitable linguistic corpora.

Use of illustrations: In order to bring certain collocations to life and make them easier to memorize, we intend to use graphic illustrations. Many of these drawings already exist; they were produced by children and young adults during various public relations events such as “Aktionstage Junge Uni” (Youth University Day) and the Long Night of Research, and in cooperation with several schools in Tyrol (students age 9-18).

Innovative potential: In the fields of language studies and didactics, many disciplines such as French, English and Spanish studies have long recognized the central importance of collocations, and combinatory and collocational dictionaries for these languages already exist. This is not the case in Italian lexicography and didactics, where interest in the phenomenon of collocations is a very recent development. While several general collections of Italian idioms and figures of speech do exist (they contain some collocations alongside other types of word combinations), there is as of yet no publication geared towards language learners that is based on a comparison between Italian and German. Our project will therefore fill a large gap in Italian language research, and is also an innovative first in the fields of lexicography, foreign language didactics and German/Italian contrastive linguistics in general.

Target audience: Our collection of collocations is aimed at both learners and teachers of German and Italian, as well as at translators and interpreters.  The publication will serve both as a teaching and a learning tool, and will hopefully contribute to an increase in awareness of the importance of language-specific collocations in language learning and in German/Italian learner lexicography.

Relevance for the regions of Tyrol and South Tyrol: With Innsbruck University and the Department for Romance Languages geographically situated where they are, at the "crossroads” of the German and Romance / Italian speaking world, the idea of contrastive language comparison in general and of collocations in particular practically suggests itself. Italy is right "on our doorstep” and many students of Italian come from South Tyrol, i.e. from a region where German-Italian bilingualism is a socio-political fact and factor. Those students coming from the Ladin-speaking valleys have even grown up in a de-facto trilingual setting, in which all three languages not only occur on an individual and social level, but are firmly anchored institutionally (trilingual schooling and three official languages). Findings from contrastive research into collocations will therefore also be a valuable addition to teaching at university, particularly as students already come to university with a certain level of awareness / sensitivity and interest. By treating both of the major languages spoken in South Tyrol (German and Italian) as equal, the planned learner’s dictionary will also send a signal promoting multilingualism as a socio-cultural value and contributing to the peaceful coexistence of the various language groups in South Tyrol.

Project funding

This research project is funded by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/Bozen - South Tyrol (Division for the Promotion of Education, Universities and Research) (project time frame: July 2011 - December 2012).  Funding was awarded in January 2011 as part of the 1. Wettbewerb für Projekte im Bereich der wissenschaftlichen Forschung der Autonomen Provinz Bozen - Südtirol (First Contest for Scientific Research Projects).

A smaller pilot project with the same title (June - July 2010; realized by Christine Konecny and Martina Bradl-Albrich), which laid the ground work for a larger follow-up project was supported and funded by the Tyrolean Science Fund TWF - Tiroler Wissenschaftsfonds (TWF).


Funding institution/s: Press and media: Project publications available online: Websites of the University of Innsbruck and of project team members: Cooperating schools: Further cooperating partners: Publisher (Book publication of the learner's dictionary): Scientific associations relevant to the project (selection): Other projects and initiatives on collocations and phraseologisms: Italian and German web corpora (selection): Online bibliographies on the topics of phraseology and lexicography: Selection of publications on collocations, phraseologisms and lexicography available online:


Italian collocations
Comparing word combinations in Italian and German
A research project

Welcome to our website!  Our homepage provides information on and examples of Italian collocations, compiled as part of a linguistic research project at the University of Innsbruck (Austria). The collection will be published in the form of a learner’s dictionary (Italian-German) in 2017.

What are collocations? Collocations are typical, “semi-fixed” word combinations that are very important in everyday speech, but can be very tricky for foreign language learners if they try to translate them word-for-word from their mother tongue. For instance, a learner of Italian should be aware that in Italian, you don’t pound or hammer a nail into the wall - you "plant" it there (piantare un chiodo nel muro). A lesson or course that is cancelled literally "jumps" (la lezione salta), and a blank CD or DVD is called "virginal" (un CD/DVD vergine).

Why learn collocations? Languages are full of collocations; they are essential for everyday communication. However, since they tend to be very different depending on the language, they are often a stumbling block for language learners. Even very advanced learners of foreign languages are often “unmasked” when they make mistakes because they are unsure in their use of collocations. Native speakers learn and memorize collocations as fixed units from early childhood on; they don’t perceive these word combinations as anything remarkable and intuitively use them correctly. Language learners, on the other hand, see these semi-fixed units as "special" instances of language use that have to be learned and practiced separately. For instance, did you know that when you set the table (American) or lay the table (British) in Italian, you have to say apparecchiare la tavola (literally "equip / prepare the table"), or that when you draw a number in a raffle (tombola) you literally "fish" it out of the barrel (pescare un numero)?