Semantic Structure of English Prepositions: An Analysis from a Grammaticalization Perspective

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Rhee, Seongha

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서울대학교 언어교육원
어학연구, Vol.40 No.2, pp. 397-427
semantic structureprepositionsgrammaticalizationsemantic changesemantic change mechanismssemantic change models
This paper aims to investigate the holistic semantic structure of 20 high frequency English prepositions from a grammaticalization perspective. Based on the lexicographic sense designations in Oxford English Dictionary and frequency literature, this paper analyzes them both at macro· and microstructure levels to determine the semantic network pattern A large number of these high frequency prepositions do not show recognizable lexical sources, but among those with lexical sources, spatial nouns constitute the major lexical source category. The notion LOCATION is the most central source meaning, followed by its closely related MOTION. From these central senses, meanings extend across psychological and temporal domains, then further across diverse subdomains, by way of semantic change mechanisms such as metaphor, frame-of-focus variation, and subjectification. Contrary to expectation, these three mechanisms account for majority of the attested semantic changes both at the macro-level and the micro-level; and while metonymy is normally expected to operate at the micro-level semantic change, the result shows otherwise. It is hypothesized, therefore, that metonymy is operative even below the level of lexicographic designations of word meanings. Of particular importance is that frame-of-focus variation accounts for a high percentage of semantic changes associated with these high frequency prepositions.
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Language Education Institute (언어교육원)Language Research (어학연구)Language Research (어학연구) Volume 40 Number 1/4 (2004)
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