The semantics of the Spanish prepositions en, a, and de: A cognitive approach
Huerta, Beth Lynn
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Prepositions are a source of error for English-speakers learning Spanish throughout many years of study. Other than contrasts of por and para , very little emphasis is given to the semantics of prepositions in current SLA practices. However, a preposition in either Spanish or English may have several meanings associated with it which a native speaker would know and use. Since prepositions in both languages have multiple meanings which do not entirely equate to the most similar preposition in the other language, at times there is a match (equivalency) and at other times there is a mismatch between the two languages. English-speaking learners of Spanish may attempt to equate the prepositions across languages if unaware of the differences in spatial relations coded by the prepositions in the two languages. This dissertation examines the prepositions en, a , and de in consideration of the subset of spatial relations that they form within the Spanish language, their primary meanings, and the semantic network of meanings associated with them. By using illustrations and explanations of spatial relations for the three Spanish prepositions as determined by Whitley, explanations of the system provided by Bull, semantic descriptions provided by the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española and the Diccionario de Construcción y Régimen de la Lengua Castellana , and by applying the model of principled polysemy for analyzing English prepositions proposed by Tyler and Evans, the current work provides a thorough description of e n, a , and de from a cognitive perspective, that is, in terms of the concepts they convey. In order to provide a more complete analysis for the learner and educator, this work also includes a very brief description of grammaticalized usages of these prepositions. From the detailed examination of en, a , and de , this work concludes with a summary of the various potential spatial configurations of the entities (trajector and landmark) in a relation conveyed by these prepositions, a summary of their network of senses, and some suggestions for application of this knowledge in the classroom. While approaches to vocabulary acquisition are many and varied, knowledge of the potential spatial configurations conveyed by en, a , and de may facilitate and hasten what is often a lengthy process of acquisition.