International Colloquium “Complex Prepositions – Emergence, Variation and Change”
21st November 2014 | Catholic University of Portugal, Lisbon
CECC – Research Centre for Communication and Culture

Complex prepositions are sequences such as Eng. in order to and in spite of, Ger. auf Grund von (‘on the basis of’, ‘due to’), zuliebe (‘for the sake of’), etc., in which an internal structure can be discerned, although they function like units, more precisely like prepositional units. This double character has led linguists to consider the existence of a category named ‘complex preposition’. But the very concept of a complex preposition is open to debate: it is well known that the two reference grammars of English defend different positions on the subject: while Quirk et al. (1985) consider that there is justification for such a category, Huddleston and Pullum (2002) dismiss the concept on the basis of the syntactic properties of these sequences, although acknowledging their semantic autonomy.

In the last years there has been significant research in the field, mainly under the heading of grammaticalization studies, as the work of Cifuentes Honrubia (2003) and Hoffmann (2005), among others, show. Indeed, from a diachronic perspective, complex prepositions often seem to be transient expressions that can be found on a path of grammaticalization. At the beginning of the path, we find sequences with syntactic structure, whose constituents evince syntagmatic and paradigmatic freedom; these sequences then tend to become rigid, undergo coalescence, lose phonetic substance; in this way, their internal structure becomes less and less visible, and they may even become simple prepositions at the other end of the grammaticalization path. The change undergone by the phrase in (the) stead of X, which has given rise to the complex preposition instead of (Schwenter and Traugott, 1995), is an example of this kind of grammaticalization. Complex prepositions may exhibit different stages in grammaticalization: thus, Ger. auf Grund von represents an earlier stage in comparison with aufgrund von. The emergence of a simple preposition out of a complex one can be seen in the change from Lat. de ex to Old Sp. and Pt. des, which – by addition of the preposition de – gave rise to the complex preposition des de, which later became the simple one desde (cf. Lehmann, 2002; Penny, 2014; Said Ali, 19717).

There is much to be studied on complex prepositions: the setting of plausible syntactic and semantic criteria for their definition, aspects of variation and paths of grammaticalization. Questions about the development of their polysemy from spatial to temporal and then to further meanings are also worth attention, as is the typological status of the category.
The present Colloquium is open to all of these questions and it is hoped that it will offer an interesting sample of current research in the field.

* Cifuentes Honrubia, José Luis (2003). Locuciones prepositivas. Sobre la gramaticalización preposicional en español. Alicante: Publicaciones de la Universidad de Alicante.
* Hoffmann, S. (2005). Grammaticalization and English Complex Prepositions. A corpus-based study. London and New York: Routledge.
* Huddleston, R. and G. K. Pullum (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
* Lehmann, C. (2002). “New reflections on grammaticalization and lexicalization”. In: I. Wischer and G. Diewald (2002), New Reflections on Grammaticalization. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 1-18.
* Penny, Ralph (2014). Gramática Histórica del Español. Barcelona: Ariel.
* Quirk, R., S. Greenbaum, G. Leech, J. Svartvik (1985). A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London: Longman.
* Said Ali, M. (1971). Gramática Histórica da Língua Portuguêsa. Rio de Janeiro: Livraria Acadêmica.
* Schwenter, S. A. and E. C. Traugott (1995). “The Semantic and Pragmatic Development of Substitutive Complex Prepositions in English”. In: A. H. Jucker (ed.) (1995), Historical Pragmatics. Pragmatic Developments in the History of English. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 243-273.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s