Functional Transposition of ‘ON’ from a Diachronic Perspective
Keywords:functional transposition, preposition, adverb, Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English, Late Modern English.
The paper represents a distinctive attempt to trace the development of the preposition and the adverb ‘on’ as the initial and transposed categories. The study focuses on their evolution throughout 16 historical time spans – since 850 and up to the present time. The research is based on 7 954 Old English, 2 368 Middle English, 4 251 Early Modern English examples, which have been obtained from the Helsinki Corpus of English Texts and analyzed without applying any corpus software; 174 581 examples of Late Modern English from the Corpus of Late Modern English Texts, which have been processed by means of the Lancsbox software tool; and the statistical data on 7 118 454 examples of Present-Day English retrieved from the Corpus of Historical American English and the British National Corpus. The paper attests that ‘on’ is formed at the first stage (before 850) of the Old English period as the preposition and at the next stage (850–950) is transposed into the category of the adverb, which is characterized by a further slight increase in the statistics and stabilization of its correlation with the preposition ‘on’. Correlation between the categories had remained stable up to the Early Modern English period, when the category of the adverb has started its sustainable growth, which is currently being observed in the English language. The paper proves that in Early Modern English the process of functional transposition is superseded by an utterly new stage of lexicalization which leads to formation of phrasal verbs.
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