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Every language has usage conventions that cannot be deducted from a basic dictionary. For example, to describe highly concentrated tea, English speakers will usually use "strong tea". Is there a scientific/linguistic term for such conventions/word pairings?

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The word you are looking for is collocation:

In corpus linguistics, a collocation is a sequence of words or terms that co-occur more often than would be expected by chance. In phraseology, collocation is a sub-type of phraseme. An example of a phraseological collocation, as propounded by Michael Halliday, is the expression strong tea.
Wikipedia: Collocation

The right dictionary to use in this case is a collocation dictionary, such as OZDIC. Alternatively, several Ngram tools can be used for this: searching *_ADJ tea in Google Ngrams or _j* tea in a BYU corpus will tell you which adjectives are used before tea.

  • Thanks, this helps. It seems to be related to statistical NLP. I was looking for something a little different: say I am looking for an ADJECTIVE to describe a NOUN. I am looking for a term that describes conventional ADJECTIVES that can be used for the NOUN... not sure if that makes sense :-) – Sleepster Sep 15 '18 at 17:06
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    @Sleepster It's still a collocation. See edit for more info. – Laurel Sep 15 '18 at 19:16

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