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

Abstract

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

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