Focusing on the Literal and Metaphorical Patterns of Prepositions: Corpus and its Applications


English prepositional phrases are among the most easily confused patterns for learners of English. In this paper, we investigate eleven English prepositions in the fixed frame [PREP the NOUN of] retrieved from the British National Corpus. Then, we analyzed the NOUNs in this frame by first mapping to their senses and then categorizing them into literal and metaphorical meanings. Figure 1: Literal and Metaphorical Uses of Prepositions The meaning of [PREP the NOUN of] form a continuum in Figure 1: More literal meanings were found on the left than on the right. (‘Others' are such as proper nouns or NOUNs with a mild meaning such as use, meaning, which cannot be categorized.) When the PREPs are onto, at, beside, or down, more than half of the instances convey a literal meaning (e.g., onto the shoulder of, at the door of). Conversely, when the PREPs are for, against, or above, more than half of the instances convey a metaphorical meaning (e.g., for the improvement of, against the history of against the history of. Since metaphorical meanings could be ‘time' the period of or ‘non-time' (against the refusal of), we further analyzed the metaphorical uses into two groups. Figure 2: Time and Non-Time Uses of Metaphorical Meanings While contrasting both figures, several interesting observations could be made: Beside has a majority of literal meanings (Figure 1) while its metaphorical meanings are half ‘time' and half ‘non-time'. Onto has the higher percentage of literal meaning yet its metaphorical meaning shows no instance of time-related use. Among and above have high metaphorical uses but these metaphorical instances are also non-time related. As shown above, we could see that prepositions have many facets of meanings. The teaching of prepositions can also be multi-faceted by considering literal and metaphorical uses and authentic exemplification using corpus.

Author Information
Siaw-Fong Chung, National Chengchi University, Taiwan
Min-Chien Lee, National Chengchi University, Taiwan

Paper Information
Conference: ACSET2013
Stream: Education

This paper is part of the ACSET2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
Full Paper
View / Download the full paper in a new tab/window

Posted by amp21