Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Actual Behaviors of Newly Observed Phraseological Units Comprising Two Prepositions

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Actual Behaviors of Newly Observed Phraseological Units Comprising Two Prepositions

Article excerpt


This paper describes, from a phraseological perspective, phrases created by combining two prepositions into a complex preposition (CP), defined as a word group that functions as a single preposition; for example, into, within, and upon. In particular, this work focuses on the newly observed CPs on against and in to and proposes that be on against and be in to are newly observed phraseological units in contemporary English, which have not yet been described in previous research or English dictionaries. A recent trend in English is to combine two prepositions into new CPs such as in at, and in for. In particular, two adverbial particles in and on co-occur with various prepositions and help establish new CPs. For example, MED^sup 2^ (Macmillan English Dictionary, 2nd edition) lists new CPs such as in at, in for, in on, on about, and on at. Data obtained from corpora of present-day English show that on against and in to mainly co-occur with be verbs, and be on against and be in to are also observed. However, an extensive literature review shows that previous research and English dictionaries do not address this trend. This research describes their polysemy in different contexts, their functions, formations, and stress patterns.

Keywords: be on against, be in to, complex preposition, contemporary English, corpora, phraseology, phraseological units

1. Introduction

Present-day English changes by the hour. Mair and Leech (2006) and Leech et al. (2009) summarized English grammatical changes observed in English over the last few decades by showing data obtained from corpora (Note 1). Research on the changes in present-day English, including Mair and Leech (2006) and Leech et al. (2009), mainly focus on describing English lexical changes and grammaticalization. However, little attention has been paid to showing the actual behavior of newly emerged phrases (generally defined as repeatedly used word-combinations consisting of at least two words). English dictionaries recently published in Europe and the United States attempt to keep current with newly observed phrases, but their descriptions cannot entirely document their actual behavior.

Phraseology, the study of phrases, is based on the idea that phrases play an essential role in the efficiency of language use. When we read a newspaper, we can easily find a large number of phrases consisting of already known and familiar phrases. However, we do not entirely understand their full meanings and such phrases are ubiquitous in language and constitute a significant resource for communication. Further, although such phrases help English as Foreign Language (EFL) learners sound as fluent as native speakers of English, such phrasal expressions can cause difficulties for EFL learners, who need to understand them to gain native-like proficiency in English. Hence, the study focuses on the distribution and behavior of phrases, which have been overlooked so far and not yet been correctly understood.

This study focuses on the following two points. First, it documents the actual behaviors of newly observed phrases such as on against and in to from corpus data, with the assumption that the meanings of phrases are closely related to their syntactic patterns. In addition, it describes these newly observed phrases as having their own grammatical function as complex prepositions and co-occurring with the be, as in be on against and be in to. In other words, the phrases comprise two function words that behave as a content word because sentences including these phrases do not make sense without them. This phenomenon is the opposite of grammaticalization-that is, they represent a form of degrammaticalization. Second, the study shows how the phrases functioning as complex prepositions are formed, referring to the general rules of word formations.

2. Phraseology

2.1 Definitions and Goals

2.1.1 What is Phraseology?

As a general word, phraseology is defined as "(A) choice of arrangement of words and phrases; style of expression; the particular form of this which characterizes a language, author, work, etc. …

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