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Prepositional Aspect and the Algebra of Paths

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Abstract

The semantics of directional prepositions is investigated from the perspective of aspect. What distinguishes telic PPs (like to the house) from atelic PPs (like towards the house), taken as denoting sets of paths, is their algebraic structure: atelic PPs are cumulative, closed under the operation of concatenation, telic PPs are not. Not only does this allow for a natural and compositional account of how PPs contribute to the aspect of a sentence, but it also guides our understanding of the lexical semantics of prepositions in important ways. Semantically, prepositions turn out to be quite similar to nouns and verbs. Nominal distinctions (like singular and plural, mass and count) and verbal classes (like semelfactives and degree achievements) have their prepositional counterparts.

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Zwarts, J. Prepositional Aspect and the Algebra of Paths. Linguist Philos 28, 739–779 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-005-2466-y

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