Benjamin Fagard
(Université de Paris 3; CNRS, Lattice)
Grammaticalization of complex prepositions in French: a corpus study
The goal of this study is to explain the dynamics at work in the evolution from Latin, which had cases and simple adpositions, to Modern French, which has no case marking (except on pronouns) but has many adpositions, both simple and complex. We will focus on the emergence of complex adpositions in Old and Middle French, a period in which there the evolution is very clear, with the loss of the last remnants of nominal case marking and the appearance of many preposition-like constructions, both simple and complex. Our main research question will be twofold:
(a) we know that frequency is a key factor in language evolution (Diessel 2007, Bybee 2006, Hopper & Traugott 2003 [1993], a.o.), but what is its role in the emergence of complex patterns such as complex adpositions?
(b) what are the mechanisms at work? More precisely, what are the roles of lexicalization and grammaticalization, respectively (cf. Prévost & Fagard 2007)?
We will try to answer these questions with a qualitative study on the lexicalization/grammaticalization of a few constructions, and a quantitative study of all constructions following similar patterns. Both will be corpus-driven studies (cf. Cifuentes Honrubia (2003) for Spanish and Hoffmann (2005) for English), using the BFM, DMF and Frantext databases.
Bybee, J. 2006. From Usage to Grammar: The Mind’s Response to Repetition. Language 82(4), 711-733.
Diessel, H. 2007. Frequency effects in language acquisition, language use, and diachronic change. New Ideas in Psychology 25, 108-127.
Hopper, P. & E. Traugott. 2003 [1993]. Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cifuentes Honrubia J. L. 2003. Locuciones prepositivas – sobre la gramaticalización preposicional en español, Alicante: Universidad de Alicante.
Hoffman S. 2005. Grammaticalization and English Complex Prepositions. A corpus-based analysis, London/New York: Routledge.
Prévost, S. & Fagard B. 2007. Grammaticalisation et lexicalisation : la formation d’expressions complexes, Langue française 156, 3-8.
BFM: Base du français médiéval (“Database of Medieval French”), ENS Lyon & ICAR, http://bfm.ens-lyon.fr/.
DMF: Database of the Dictionnaire du moyen français (“Middle French Dictionary”), ATILF, CNRS, http://www.atilf.fr/dmf/.
Frantext database, ATILF, CNRS, http://www.frantext.fr.

Elena Smirnova
(Leibniz Universität Hannover)
Complex prepositions in German: The interplay of grammaticalization and other diachronic processes
German has a wide range of complex or so-called secondary prepositions which differ from each other according to their degree of grammaticalization (see e.g. Lindqvist 1994, Di Meola 2000). In case of anstatt ‘instead of’ and trotz ‘in spite of’, for example, one still can recognize the respective lexical source, though these prepositions display a very high degree of grammaticalization due to their morphosyntactic behavior and phonological shape. They resemble the core, or primary, prepositions in most respects. Im Anschluss an ‘after’ and im Rahmen von ‘within’, on the other hand, are fully compositional syntactic structures which may be located at the very beginning of a grammaticalization process towards prepositions. Sometimes it is even questionable if such compositional structures may be considered prepositions, as they do not show any clear formal signs of ongoing grammaticalization.
The aim of my presentation is twofold. First, I will be dealing with the question how different diachronic mechanisms relate and influence each other in the development of German prepositions. It is usually assumed that secondary prepositions emerge via grammaticalization. Often, however, it has been pointed out (e.g. Lehmann & Stolz 1992) that the development of prepositions equally involves lexicalization. Other mechanisms, such as analogy and reanalysis, have been said to play a role in the development of prepositions. I will examine the interplay of these and other diachronic processes using some German complex prepositions as examples.
Second, I will deal with the issue of productivity. In the history of German, there have been several different syntactic patterns, all being more or less productive at different periods of time. I will explore the issue how different productive patters may influence the shape of the target category. With respect to productivity, it will be asked whether the general grammaticalization path assumed for German prepositions, including changes such as postnominal position > prenominal position; genitive > dative, etc. should be better reconsidered as several grammaticalization paths, according to the source constructions and the pattern that is currently productive.
Both questions bear relevant insights for the investigation of grammaticalization of complex prepositions as well as for the grammaticalization research in general. Most importantly, the (universal) cross-linguistic tendencies and generalizations will be confronted with language-specific (question I) and with construction-specific (question II) factors.
Di Meola, C. 2000. Die Grammatikalisierung deutscher Präpositionen. Tübingen: Stauffenburg.
Lehmann, Ch., und Ch. Stolz, 1992, Bildung von Adpositionen im Deutschen. Erfurt: Seminar für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Erfurt (ASSidUE, 6).
Lindqvist, Ch. 1994. Zur Entstehung von Präpositionen im Deutschen und Schwedischen. Tübingen: Niemeyer.

José Luis Cifuentes Honrubia
(University of Alicante)

 Complex prepositions in Spanish: evidences and indicators
Preposiciones complexas en Español: evidencias y indicadores

Different tests for checking complex prepositions have been proposed. From the perspective adopted in this contribution, it is argued that all these tests constitute a maximum of features, not a set of necessary and sufficient characteristics. The classification of a certain schema as a complex preposition will thus depend on the result obtained from the global set of application, not from each test considered in isolation. Since the process of grammaticalization of prepositions constitutes a continuum, it does not exhibit precise limits. As a consequence, not all the structures will behave in the same way, and it will be so both for the (fixed) structures included within the inventory of prepositional schemas and for the (fixed) structures excluded from it. In fact, the degree of fixation will determine their combinatory possibilities.
In this paper the different tests for determining a complex preposition are revised, and their efficiency is statistically evaluated from a corpus conformed by 585 cases. As a result from the analysis, it is argued that whereas either the inclusion or exclusion of a schema within the category of complex prepositions will ultimately depend on the whole evaluation of the data obtained from the tests, there are two tests which seem especially useful: the interaction of the schema with an interrogative element and the replacement of its nucleus by a demonstrative.

José Pinto de Lima
(University of Lisbon; CECC)
On grammaticalized complex prepositions in Portuguese: deployment, shift, redundancy, complementation
Some complex prepositions have long stories of grammaticalization behind them. In Portuguese, such is the case of the complex prepositions that have started from simple elements such as ante or trás. In the present paper, I will observe the changes that have given rise to present-day Pt diante de, perante, atrás de, detrás de, among other complex formations. It will be seen that spatial signaling (place or direction) plays an important role on the development of these prepositions, but that a tendency to neutralization of semantic differences may lead more recent forms to convey meanings already expressed by older forms, which in turn may spur the emergence of even more complex formations (de diante de, por detrás de,…). Increased complexity, however, seems to bring redundancy with it, a fact that still calls for a satisfactory explanation. The complexification process is accompanied by context extension, from the spatial to the temporal, and from these to more abstract realms (cause, condition, circumstance,…). As is to be expected from prepositions that are frequently used, they compete with other units, with which they may at first be in a complementary relation, but whose affinities in distribution and meaning may cause their replacement in the long run (diante de versus em face de, face a). Finally, another important phenomenon concerning these formations is their capacity to expand beyond their category, giving rise to morphologically related nouns and verbs.

Maria Francisca Xavier
(Centro de Linguística da Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
On the structure, origin and variation of some complex prepositions in Portuguese, Spanish, French and English
On the basis of traditional views on complex prepositions (CPs), it is generally assumed that CPs are compound lexical items formed by two or more words, which are syntatically and semantically fixed and function as simple prepositions (cf. Quirk et al.; Cunha & Cintra; Raposo & Xavier, among others).
In this study, the so called CPs consisting of two words, particularly those formed by an adverb and a preposition – ADV+P – will be considered to constitute a distinct group from the most consistent group formed by a preposition, a noun (possibly preceded by determiner) and another preposition – P + (det) N + P.
In fact, it is justifiable to admit that CPs are learned as multi-word units since, in most cases across languages, they don’t admit internal variation in number and gender or any sort of modification. It is also evident that CPs include a preposition as the last element of their compound units, because they select a complement as simple prepositions do. This rightmost preposition in CPs varies, but it is, in many cases, a weak preposition like de in Portuguese, Spanish and French, and of in English, and it has a similar function as those introducing nominal complements selected by some nouns, adjectives and adverbs, since these lexical categories don’t atribute Case, being unable to license their complements, contrarily to transitive verbs and prepositions (cf. Rouveret & Vergnaud 1980; Chomsky 1981). Therefore, the surface sequence formed by an adverb and a preposition – ADV + P, for instance: ahead of [complement] can be considered a syntactic object, similar to other adverbs which select a complement headed by a preposition, as it is, for instance: independently [of complement].
A reflexion on the two PP structures advanced by Moortgat, Schuurman & der Wouden (2000) will be proposed on the basis of the observation, comparison and origin of some CPs with the form P + N de/of [complement] in Old and Contemporary Portuguese (PT) with cognate or similar items in Spanish (SP), French (FR) and English (EN) (for instance: PT por causa de [este problema]; SP a causa de [este problema]; FR à cause de [ce problème]; EN on account of [this problem]), through which variation and change both in formation and categorial status are found. Furthermore, those two structures can be adopted to show how CPs formed by P + N + P function as compound words resulting from a process of grammaticalization, differently from adverbs which may compose syntactic objects with their internal selected PP complements – ADVP –, in spite of having, frequently, at their origin and in different languages, similar content multiword units, which are true CPs or were grammaticalized as simple prepositions.
Bouma, G., and Villada, B. (2002). Corpus-based acquisition of collocational prepositional phrases. Alfa-Informatica Rijksuniversiteit, Groningen. http://www.let.rug.nl/gosse/papers/bouma_villada.pdf
Bouma, G., van Noord, G. and Malouf, R. (2001), Alpino: Wide-coverage computational analysis of Dutch, Computational Linguistics in The Netherlands 2000, Rodopi, Amsterdam.
Chomsky, N. (1981). Lectures on Government and Binding. The Pisa Lectures, Dordrecht, Foris.
Cunha, C. and Cintra, L. (1984). Nova Gramática do Português Contemporâneo. Lisboa, Edições João Sá da Costa.
Quirk, R. et al. (1972). A Grammar of Contemporary English. London, Logman.
Rouveret, A. and Vergnaud, J. (1980) Specifying reference to the subject. Linguistic Inquiry, 11 (1), pp. 97-202.
Raposo, E. and Xavier, M.F. (2013). Preposição e sintagma preposicional. In Raposo et al. (edts) Gramática do Português, 2nd vol., Lisboa, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, pp. 1497-1564.

Telmo Móia
(University of Lisbon)
Sequences of temporal and locative prepositions in Portuguese
This paper discusses the use of sequences of two or more temporal and locative prepositions in (mainly European) Portuguese. These range from grammaticalized concatenations interpreted as lexical units (such as até a, dentro de, ao longo de, junto a or a seguir a) to syntactic combinations, that allow for a standard compositional analysis (such as até depois de, desde antes de or de até há), with possibly some intermediate stages (e.g. para in para trás de maybe be analysed as an autonomous preposition or as part of a complex lexical unit). Data from electronic corpora available online will be used to assess the grammatical properties, and interpretation (to be expressed within the DRT framework devised in Kamp & Reyle 1993), of the discussed sequences of prepositions. The distinction made in Móia (2000, 2001) between heads of time (and space) denoting adjuncts and heads of temporal (and spatial) locating adjuncts will be further explored, by considering the various (im)possible combinations. Special attention will be paid to marginal or anomalous cases in corpora, which show these combinations to be a “critical area” (in the sense of Peres and Móia 1995) in the contemporary grammar of Portuguese (as shown in e.g. Móia 2010).
Kamp, Hans & Uwe Reyle (1993) From Discourse to Logic. Introduction to Modeltheoretic Semantics of Natural Language, Formal Logic and Discourse Representation Theory. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Peres, João A. & Telmo Móia: 1995, Áreas Críticas da Língua Portuguesa, Lisboa: Editorial Caminho (2.ª ed., revista, 2003).
Telmo Móia: 2010, “Expressões de Medição Temporal: Norma, Variação e Desvio”, in XXV Encontro Nacional da Associação Portuguesa de Linguística. Textos Seleccionados, Porto: APL, pp. 623-641.
, 2001, “Telling Apart Temporal Locating Adverbials and Time-denoting Expressions”, in 39th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics – Workshop Proceedings: Temporal and Spatial Information, Association for Computational Linguistics, pp. 41-48.
, 2000, Identifying and Computing Temporal Locating Adverbials with a Particular Focus on Portuguese and English, PhD Dissertation, Universidade de Lisboa. Available at


Walter De Mulder
(University of Antwerp)

The French way : an analysis of en route pour and en voie de

Expressions containing the noun way have been amongst the first ones used by Goldberg (1995), Israel (1996) and others in order to illustrate and discuss the notion of construction as it is used in construction grammar. Petré, Davidse & Van Rompaey (2012) point out that expressions such as on (the / his / ..) way / road / track to show different degrees of grammaticalization. At least at first sight, the degrees of grammaticalization distinguished by Petré et al. can also be illustrated by the French expression en route pour. Thus, firstly, this expression can be used with its spatial lexical meaning of “way” as in (1) (all examples are taken from Google):

  • Un bateau transportant plus de 250 clandestins en sa route pour l’Europe a fait naufrage au large de la Libye.


In Modern French, these uses are quite rare, though, probably because en can no longer mean ‘on’, as was the case in Old French. Secondly, in example (2), the expression être en route pour constitutes the whole VP, and means more or less the same as “go to” or “head for” :

  • Un Britannique contaminé par le virus Ebola est en route pour


However, être en route pour is not always followed by a spatial expression indicating the goal of the movement. In example (3), for instance, en route pour can still receive a spatial interpretation, as the mission to Afghanistan probably starts somewhere; it can, however, also take on a non-spatial interpretation, thus becoming a complex preposition.

  • Je suis en route pour une mission en Allemagne.

This third, non-spatial, interpretation is the only one that is possible in (4), where lune de miel is not used literally to refer to a honeymoon:

  • Juncker a déclaré que les EU et la Russie n’étaient pas encore en route pour leur lune de miel.


The fourth interpretation is illustrated by (5), where en route pour is followed by an infinitive and can be interpreted as expressing progressive aspect:

  • Laure est en route pour obtenir son ticket Olympique


In our talk, we will first analyse in more detail the uses of French en route pour in order to verify the extent to which it presents the interpretations and the corresponding degrees of grammaticalization distinguished by Petré, Davidse and Van Rompaey (2012: 230) for the English expression be on the road / way / track to. We will then look into another French expression containing a translation of way, to wit, en voie de, in order to verify to what extent this expression is also grammaticalized and has turned into an aspectual marker (cf. also Anscombre 2007; Do-Hurinville 2010). As the grammaticalization of these expressions implies a decategorialization of the component originally expressing the “way” meaning (to wit, the nouns route and voie), we will defend the idea that both expressions function as (part of) constructions, an idea that is confirmed by the fact that their meaning can no longer be derived compositionally from their parts. We will establish that the evolution of these expressions can also be seen partly as an example of lexicalisation (Brinton & Traugott 2005). This will lead us, in the end, to defend the conception of language as a “mental corpus” (Taylor 2012).


Anscombre, Jean-Claude (2007). Les indicateurs aspectuels de déroulement processif: “en cours de”, “en passe de”, “en train de”, “en voie de”. Cahiers de lexicologie 90, 41-74.

Brinton, Laurel & Traugott, Elisabeth Closs (2005). Lexicalization and Language Change. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

Danh Thành Do-Hurinville  (2010) Etude sémantique et syntaxique de en voie de. Le Français Moderne 78/2, 236-258.

Goldberg, Adèle (1995). Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to Argument Structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Israel, Michael (1996). The way constructions grow. In Adèle Goldberg, ed. Conceptual Structure, Discourse and Language. Stanford: CSLI, 217-230.

Petré, Peter, Davidse, Kristien & Van Rompaey, Tinne (2012). On ways of being on the way. Lexical, complex preposition and aspect marker uses. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 17:2, 22-258.

Taylor, John R. (2012). The Mental Corpus. How Language is Represented in the Mind. Oxford : Oxford University Press.


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