Vol. 28:1 (2004) ► pp.165–201
From local adpositions to approximative adnumerals, in German and wherever
When local adpositions, whatever their own sources, are metaphorically extended to the domain of numerical approximation (as in ‘around five bottles’), as they not uncommonly are, and when such expressions are then admitted to grammatical relations otherwise reserved for noun phrases, such as subject and direct object, as is only natural, a conflict is bound to arise: the internal structure of such expressions is that of an adpositional phrase, headed by the ex-local adposition, but their external distribution is that of a noun phrase. German and several other languages demonstrate that repair is inevitable in this dilemma, unless wholly different ways of expressing numerical approximation were to be resorted to. By necessity, such approximative numerical expressions will gradually be reanalysed from being adpositional phrases to being noun phrases for many, most, or indeed all external and internal purposes, such as subcategorization, verb agreement, case assignment, and determination. Instead of new grammar emerging as in grammaticalization, the old grammar of phrase types is reasserting itself in such reanalyses.
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