AT, ON and IN

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AT, ON and IN

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jul 4, 2012, 8:15am

Can anyone point me in the right direction about the change of usages of AT, ON and IN? I'm looking for sources, preferably academic ones.

Much appreciated.

jul 21, 2012, 7:19pm

That depends on how far back you want to go. 19th century? Old English? Indo-European? The further back you go, the more relevant other Germanic languages become (Gothic, Old Saxon).

Off the top of my head, check Bruce Mitchell's Old English Syntax (I believe volume 2 is the one that has the sections on prepositions. IIRC it has a longish section on how in and on seem to conflate into the single word on for like a century. Ive also used The Cambridge History of the English Language for the general picture and for pointers to more papers. Disclaimer: I've only ever used the first two volumes for prepositions, but I can't imagine those sections are missing from the later volumes, which deal with successive stages in the English language.

If you're looking into contemporary English, then I suggest you start with Tyler & Evans' The semantics of English prepositions: Spatial Scenes, Embodied Meaning, and Cognition. That ought to contain references to diachronic changes.

Perhaps you could have a look at Elizabeth O'Dowd's Prepositions and particles in English, too, though, again, I'll add that I have not read this book. A quick skim of the table of contents and the introduction tells me that it deals with the set of words that can be used as both prepositions and particles -- it talks among others about in and on though not about at. Chapter 9 is called 'The Historical Picture'.

jul 23, 2012, 4:38am

Thanks for your respeonse.

The Bruce Mitchell sounds like what I need.

I have read The Semantics of English Prepositions. It wasn't helpful at all for my three prepositions (only 'in' was extensively studied).

And the Elizabeth O'Dowd I need to look at again. I don't think I was looking at OE when I went throught book so I missed the Historical Picture chapter.

jun 5, 2013, 8:52am

In case you're still looking for literature tips, how about these:
  • Iglesias-Rábade, Luis (2010) Semantic Erosion of Middle English Prepositions. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

  • Lundskær-Nielsen, Tom (1993) Prepositions in Old and Middle English. Odense: Odense University Press.

The second book specifically deals with at, on and in, apparently.

Someone called David Weber also wrote a 2012 MA thesis with the title English Prepositions: A Historical Survey (pdf and .doc formats available here; it's the file called diploma_thesis). You're sure to find lots of references in there.

jun 16, 2013, 5:00am

> 4

Thanks. These are useful references.