Benson, Morton, Benson, Evelyn, Ilson, Robert (compiled by)(2009).
The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English. Your Guide to Collocations and Grammar.
Third edition revised by Robert Ilson. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 41 pp. + 462 pp. Hardback 978 90 272 3260 1 EUR 60.00 / USD 90.00 Paperback EUR 24.00 / USD 27.95. ISBN: 978 90 272 3261 8.
The book at hand is a third edition of the BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English, first published in 1986. In the present edition, the original dictionary has been expanded not only by increasing the amount of words, but also by using data from such timely corpuses as the Internet.
BBI is a dictionary of word combinations that occur recurrently between words and words and grammatical patterns. For example, there are two entries for the word want: as a noun, it collocates with badly, and as a verb, itcan take the pattern to + infinitive. The former type of combination is called 'lexical collocation' and the latter 'grammatical collocation'. The two types are accounted for in the entries throughout the dictionary.
The book starts with an introductory part of about 40 pages. These include a general introduction to the product, instructions for use and a detailed description of grammatical and lexical collocation types. A list of abbreviations and a visual guide assist the reading and decoding of the entries. Particularly helpful is the part that explains—with examples—the different types of grammatical collocations (8 types) and lexical collocations (7). There is also a workbook supplement with exercises to be found in the Internet, to which a link is provided.
The main purpose of the dictionary is to provide guidance to how English words are and can be combined to form semi-fixed, grammatical expressions. In addition, it offers information regarding these combinations: synonymous and non-synonymous expressions, definitions, paraphrases, illustrative phrases, usage notes, and style (British or American English; colloquial, formal, slang, etc.).
Particularly positive about BBI is its didactic grip on the contents. The explanatory instructions at the beginning are easy to follow; examples for use are given, illustrated by the visual guide. Furthermore, the instructions provide a structured basis for consultation when entries are examined. For example, when consulting the entry for the verb want, letters such as "d" and "E" mark the grammatical collocation which can then be studied in the introductory part.
Though a dictionary in paper format may seem old-fashioned and unpractical in the era of rapid online searches, an important advantage of this book is certainly its didactic quality: it teaches not only how to combine words grammatically but also explains meanings of these collocations. In addition, BBI annotates differences between the British and American English—often found as separate corpora online—and styles—information that is rarely included in (free) online dictionaries. The disadvantage of any paper dictionary is, of course, that it is slower in keeping to changes in form and meaning that occur over time. However, whether one wishes to use the dictionary as studying aid, improve their English skills, or enquire into the usage of the language, BBI comes across as useful. (The dictionary has been tested in the course of writing this review.)
Maija Hirvonen, University of Helsinki (Finland), TransMedia Catalonia (Spain)