Learning Chinese political formulaic phraseology from a self-built bilingual United Nations Security Council corpus: A pilot study

Wu Baimei, Andrew K.F. Cheung, Xing Jie

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


This pilot study investigates the formulaic phraseology most frequently used in highly formulaic political documents by examining a self-built bilingual parallel corpus of 43 speeches delivered in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meetings by Chinese representatives. The study also probes corpus-based approaches to explore formulaic phraseology and demonstrates a method to retrieve Chinese formulaic phraseology from the UNSC corpus. Formulaic phraseology is often seen in political discourse. It can be defined as a sequence, continuous or discontinuous, of words or other meaning elements that are, or appear to be, prefabricated, stored and retrieved whole from memory at the time of use rather than being subject to generation or analysis by the language grammar. This study begins with a literature review of formulaic phraseology, including its features and significance in simultaneous interpreting. It then exhibits a four-step retrieval process with the Sketch Engine software program to acquire Chinese formulaic phraseology from the corpus to fill previous studies’ gap. Key functional units of the Sketch Engine, including Wordlist, N-grams, and Concordance, are used to extract formulaic phraseology from the UNSC corpus. Methodological issues involved in identifying formulaic phraseology, such as length of phraseology and quantitative criteria (frequency and dispersion thresholds), are also discussed in the study. Three types of formulaic phraseology are identified: (1) greeting representatives and other members and expressing appreciation; (2) expressing concerns about the topic of the meeting; (3) expressing China’s viewpoints about the topic of the meeting. The training of interpreters would be more effective if this categorization of formulaic phraseology is incorporated into the curriculum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)500-521
Number of pages22
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2021


  • Corpus
  • Formulaic phraseology
  • Simultaneous interpreting
  • United nations security council

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

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