Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Language, Education, and Innovation 2018

The Semantics of Words that Denote Lower Places or Movements toward such Lower Places


Faculty of Computer and Information Sciences, Hosei University, Tokyo, Japan
School of General Education, Shinshu University Nagano, Japan


In the literature on the semantics of prepositions, there has been a long dispute as to whether prepositions depict only static relations between LM (landmark) and TR (trajectory) (eg. Tyler and Evans 2003), or static as well as dynamic relations between the two (eg. Dewell 1994). When you consider down and under, at first glance, under seems to correspond to the former in opposition to above, i.e., under denoting a static place that is underneath and above a static place that is above the LM, while down to the latter contrasting with up, i.e., down referring to a dynamic relation of going underneath while up to a movement going upward. However, such simple explanation cannot explain, for example, why going down the road does not mean to “go underneath” the road, and why shot the lion up / down does not simply mean that a lion goes through the movement of “going upwards / downwards”. Through collecting data form COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English) and other corpuses, and analyzing those data, this paper argues the following two points, namely, (1) linguistic context in which prepositions are used plays a great role in the semantics of prepositions, sometimes making it seem as if the word in question depicts only dynamic meaning, and (2) down and under are not completely synonymous but differ in the roles TR and LM play in their respective semantics.


semantics, preposition, cognitive linguistics, TESL