Wednesday, March 1, 2017

ENGL 3663: Prepositional Phrases


Structure Class Words: Part II

So far in looking at structure class words, we have looked at
·        Determiners
·        Auxiliaries
·        Qualifiers
·        Pronouns
Now we’re going to look at the rest of the structure class words, which include
·        Prepositions
·        Conjunctions
·        Relatives
·        Interrogatives

As a review, unlike form class words, which can change their form – and sometimes their meaning – by accepting morphemes (so that chair becomes chairs or run becomes runner), structure class words do not usually accept morphemes.

Also, unlike form class words, which carry most of the semantic meaning of the sentence, the main purpose of structure class words is to carry the structural meaning of the sentence.

A final difference is that form class words are an open set. There are countless nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, and we add more almost daily. In contrast, the number of prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns in the language are relatively limited.



Prepostions

The job of a preposition is to connect a noun phrase to another word or phrase in a sentence.

                Sarah found the kitten on the table.

Here, the preposition on connects the table to kitten, telling the reader where the kitten was.

The entire prepositional phrase, thus, acts as a modifier, modifying some word or phrase. If the phrase modifies a noun, the prepositional phrase is acting as an adjective; otherwise, it is acting as an adverb.

Most prepositions are a single word; but some are phrases.

        The tree on the corner was struck by lightning during the storm.

On the corneron is the preposition; the corner is the noun phrase which acts as the object of the preposition. The prepositional phrase modifies tree, which means it is acting as an adjective.

By lightningby is the preposition; lightning is the noun phrase acting as the object of the preposition; the PP is modifying the main verb phrase, was struck, which means it is acting as an adverb.

During the storm during is the preposition, the storm is the noun phrase acting as the object of the preposition, and the PP is modifying the main verb phrase, which means it is acting as an adverb.

My friend Jack, according to the state of Texas, is a certified expert on pests of nut trees of the Southern lowlands.

According to the state of Texas according to is the preposition; the state of Texas is the noun phrase acting as the object of the preposition; the PP is modifying My friend Jack, a noun phrase, which means it is acting as an adjective.

On pests of nut trees of the Southern lowlands -- on is the preposition; pests of nut trees of the Southern lowlands is the noun phrase acting as the object of the preposition; the PP is modifying expert, which means it is acting as an adjective.

Notice that within this PP, we have yet another prepositional phrase – of the Southern lowlands. This can happen! A prepositional phrase is defined as the preposition + its object + any words that modify its object (like determiners, or adjectives, or other prepositional phrases).

Of the Southern lowlands -- of is the preposition; the Southern lowlands is the noun phrase acting as the object of the preposition; the PP is modifying trees, which means it is acting as an adjective.

There’s an incomplete list of prepositions on page 135 of your book, but in general they are words like in, of, after, on, besides, with, over, after, before, by, across… words that connect by indicating the relation of the noun phrase to some other word or phrase in the sentence.


Preposition used as Adverbs:

Prepositions used without noun phrases are usually functioning as adverbs:

        The dog swam over the river.
        The dog swam over.
        Outside the window, we saw a thunderstorm begin.
        We saw a thunderstorm begin outside.

Usage: One other issue connected to prepositional phrases is one we have already discussed in class. This has to do with the case of the pronoun used in prepositional phrases. Because the noun phrase in a prepositional phrase is always the object of the preposition, when that noun phrase is replaced by a pronoun, that pronoun should always be in the object case.

        The prize went to Elvis and (I/me)
        Ivy cooked dinner for Polly and (she/her).

In both of these examples, the object case of the pronoun is the correct one – Elvis and me, Polly and her – because in both cases, the noun phrase is the object of the preposition.

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