"work construction" 'do construction work'

Mark Davies Mark_Davies at BYU.EDU
Sat Jan 3 14:58:41 UTC 2009

> yes, indeed.  here's one example of each.  more can be googled up.  so
> it looks like there's a small idiom pattern "work N", and people pick
> up specific Ns in the pattern one by one.

> I was wondering what kind of noun could fill the slot in 'work X'.
> otoh, these terms are hard to google).

As you've mentioned, the problem with Google is that it's not tagged for part of speech (nor are text archives), so part of speech based searches like this are difficult.

With a corpus like the Corpus of Contemporary American English [COCA] (www.americancorpus.org), however, you can do a query like:

worked [nn*]

This will find all cases of 'worked' followed by a noun (btw, set [#HITS] to 1000 or so). You might also try:

[work].[v*] [n*]

This will find all cases of any form of the lemma 'work' as a verb (works, working, worked, etc) followed by a noun. To clean up the display, choose [SORT BY] [LEMMAS]. Lots of these are other PoS for 'work' incorrectly tagged as verb, however (no tagger is 100% perfect). The first query will produce fewer results, but they'll be 'cleaner'.

To get a case like 'worked janitorial' or 'worked undercover', you'd do:

worked [j*]

You might also want to add a trailing preposition ( [i*] ) to any of these queries to give a better context and clean things up a bit more.

BTW, all of these queries will over-generate for what you're looking for (work construction / secretary, etc), but it's much, much cleaner than what you'd get with Google or a text archive. At the very least, it will provide you with a large number of exact strings (work + construction, cattle, security, freelance, pediatrics, etc) that you can then run (one by one) against Google.

Finally, it is interesting to see how cases like 'work' + [nights / weekends / summers / graveyard] (temporal) or [part-time / full-time] (degree / extent) might have provided a nice diachronic pathway to the 'work + secretary' type of construction that you're interested in.

Mark D.

Mark Davies
Professor of (Corpus) Linguistics
Brigham Young University
(phone) 801-422-9168 / (fax) 801-422-0906
Web: davies-linguistics.byu.edu

** Corpus design and use // Linguistic databases **
** Historical linguistics // Language variation **
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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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