* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
LINGUIST List logo Eastern Michigan University Wayne State University *
* People & Organizations * Jobs * Calls & Conferences * Publications * Language Resources * Text & Computer Tools * Teaching & Learning * Mailing Lists * Search *
* *
LINGUIST List 22.3288

Thu Aug 18 2011

Disc: Re: Prepositions: 'In' versus 'At'

Editor for this issue: Elyssa Winzeler <elyssalinguistlist.org>

To post to LINGUIST, use our convenient web form at http://linguistlist.org/LL/posttolinguist.cfm.
        1.     Richard Hallett , Re: Prepositions: 'In' versus 'At'

Message 1: Re: Prepositions: 'In' versus 'At'
Date: 18-Aug-2011
From: Richard Hallett <R-Hallettneiu.edu>
Subject: Re: Prepositions: 'In' versus 'At'
E-mail this message to a friend

I’m glad that Linguist List has started this discussion. This summer my
colleagues and I here at Northeastern Illinois University are teaching a group
of Korean teachers of English, and recently I tried to explain this difference.

Years ago in an MA class in pedagogical grammar George Yule taught us to
think of prepositions of motion as being three dimensional, i.e. specific
points, lines/surfaces, and areas/volumes. Accordingly, ‘to’ worked with
points, ‘on’ with lines, and ‘in’ with areas. (He was quick to point out that this
classification system doesn’t begin to account for all the quirky variation in
English.) Consider how addresses work.

We live AT 5500 North St. Louis Avenue.
We live ON St. Louis Avenue.
We live IN Chicago.

Whether we use ‘at’ or ‘in(to)’ depends largely on our conceptualization of a
place. Consider the following variation.

The train came to Chicago.
The train came into Chicago.

I would argue that in the first example Chicago is considered a point on a
map, while in the second, Chicago is considered an area. This explanation
may explain the variation between meeting someone ‘at the airport’ vs.
meeting someone ‘in the airport’.

Moreover, ‘at’ refers to the edges of things:

We sat at the table.
The player swung at the ball.
The man kicked at the dog.

Note in the last example, the man didn’t make contact with the dog. (That
would be cruel.)

Anyway, I just wanted to write in when a few examples while they were still
fresh in my mind at this point in time.

Rick Hallett

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis

Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Page Updated: 18-Aug-2011

Supported in part by the National Science Foundation       About LINGUIST    |   Contact Us       ILIT Logo
While the LINGUIST List makes every effort to ensure the linguistic relevance of sites listed on its pages, it cannot vouch for their contents.