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Friday, February 9 • 2:45pm - 4:00pm
Spatial and Temporal Preposition Comparison

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Spatial and Temporal Preposition Comparison
Alexander J. Cipro

Prepositions are hard to define and often have multiple definitions, which are fairly abstract. In short, a preposition describes the relationship of a phrase or element to another phrase or element in a sentence. A phrase is a group of words working as a single unit in a sentence, such as “a man” or “running fast”. In the sentence “The cat is in the yard.” The preposition ‘in’ describes the relation between “the cat” and “the yard”. The two prepositions I will be looking at are ‘in’ and ‘within’. I will be using the definitions from Merriam-Webster’s 11th collegiate edition. Spatially, ‘in’ and ‘within’ are defined: ‘in’ (a function word to indicate inclusion, location or position within limits) and ‘within’ (used as a function word to indicate enclosure or containment). With prepositions having such similar definitions and uses is there an environmental reason we don't have just one of these preposition or is it purely a stylistic difference?

Thus far I have found the 'in' seems to be generally acceptable when dealing with full or partial containment, while 'within' seems to only be acceptable under certain conditions. 'In' appears to be generally accepted as long as the container is supporting the object in some way. Example: "The apple is in the bowl" sounds much better than "the apple is within the bowl", but imagine if the apple I was mentioning was atop other apples and sitting above the lip of the bowl. 'In' is still an acceptable description, while 'within' goes from a marked sentence to an ungrammatical one. Depending on which of them is used with plural nouns, they can redefine the scope of the sentence. Example: "There is unrest in the tribe" vs "There is unrest within the tribe". The use of 'in' has a unifying connotation as if the tribe in a state of unrest due to an outside entity. While the use of 'within' gives a sense that the unrest is coming from the tribe itself. Using BYU's Corpus of Contemporary American English, I found both 'in' and 'within' dropped in frequency after 1994. While 'in' seemed to level off between 1995-2009, 'within' continued to decline until 2010 where it rose 19% in frequency, compared to 'in' which only had a 17% increase. Data analysis will be added after publishing the survey. The survey is pending IRB approval


Friday February 9, 2018 2:45pm - 4:00pm
Great Hall Conference Center

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