Adjectives play a particular role in the language of tourism and often contribute to the formation of recurrent phraseologies (Manca, 2008). The combination of adjectives bearing negative and positive connotation is widely reported in the literature (Dann, 1996; and Edo Marzá, 2011, 2012). Durán-Muñoz (2019) focuses on the “ADJ but ADJ” pattern in a corpus of texts in English dealing with Adventure Tourism, finding it to be statistically significant with respect to both the BNC and COCA. The study was based on a corpus of texts published by bodies whose raison d’etre is that of promoting locations. This contribution, on the contrary, examines the same pattern in an adjacent, but distinct text type: Travel journalism. This is a genre that, while dealing with similar subject matter to tourist boards, tourist agencies etc., does not have a vested interest in the locations described, and hence purports to be more objective. The current study examines examples in English, but also extends the analysis to two other European languages, Italian and Polish, in an attempt to determine whether the pattern is limited to one language, or whether it is widely used as a discourse strategy within the same register, regardless of the code adopted.
In order to answer this research question, three 1M-token comparable corpora of travel journalism were compiled comprising articles from The Guardian, La Repubblica and Gazeta, for English, Italian, and Polish, respectively. The corpora were then tagged for Part-of-speech and lemma using TreeTagger. The corpora were then searched for the patterns JJ (PUNC) but JJ, ADJ (PUNC) ma ADJ, ADJ (PUNC) ale ADJ. The Polish corpus was also searched for patterns featuring an alternative opposition marker, lecz. The results obtained display the presence of the pattern in all three languages, with it being most common in English, and least frequent in Italian. Both adjectives in each token were categorised, where possible, as being positive or negative in terms of evaluation. In this way the tokens could be assigned to one of four patterns: 1) positive but positive 2) positive but negative 3) negative but positive 4) negative but negative. In all three languages, 2) was by far the most common. One recurrent use of the “negative but positive” pattern concerns the evaluation of accommodation, which is welcoming despite being of modest dimensions (basic but comfortable; piccole ma comode; niewielki, ale sympatyczny). Of interest is the fact that its occurrence varies across languages, with it being most frequent in English and least frequent in Italian. Another use contrasts an entity’s lack of fame with its being worthy of attention. Examples of this can be found in Italian (poco nota ma splendida) and Polish (mniej znane, ale ciekawe), but not in English. The corpus in the latter language and the one in Polish, however, features the pattern being used to evaluate food (simple but delicious; aromatyczne, ale proste), which does not occur in the Italian corpus.
Similarly, another use of the pattern is frequent in Italian, but absent from the English and Polish corpora. This is one that concerns holiday experiences, which despite being short, are nevertheless, lived to the full (breve ma intensa).