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The changing role of “support” an “contiguity”: The hidden facet of the preposition “on” in Old English

The changing role of “support” an “contiguity”: The hidden facet of the preposition “on” in Old English

By Carmen Guarddon Anelo

Journal of English Studies, Vol. 4 (2003/4)

Abstract: The simple relations model pervades most semantic treatments of the topological prepositions in, on and at. Concerning the preposition on, the pertinent literature has established two features, support and contiguity, which allegedly applies to all its uses. However, in Old English the preposition on categorises location in large geographic entities, i.e., nations. In the current paper we claim that such spatial relationships cannot be described in terms of support and contact and, therefore, the simple relations model is not adequate for a diachronic description of the preposition on. We also demonstrate that the selection restrictions that ruled the distribution of the prepositions in and on in Old English, in the locative relations derived from cognitive maps, are still partially active in present-day English. Thus, we conclude that the single relations model has to be reconsidered as a valid theoretical device to account for the current uses of the topological prepositions.

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