Generalized notion of a part, feature/property/attribute name or value, qualitative state/condition, possession, or the contents or composition of something, understood with respect to that thing (the Gestalt).

Labels Possession, PartPortion, and its subtype Stuff, OrgMember, and QuantityValue and its subtype Approximator are defined for some important subclasses.

Characteristic applies directly to:

1. A property value:#

2. Role of a complex framal Gestalt that has no obvious decomposition into parts:#

  • the restaurant with a convenient location/an extensive menu 006

  • a party with great music 007

3. That which is located in a container denoted by the governor:#

  • a room with 2 beds [beds are among the things in the room] 008

  • CharacteristicStuff where the object of the preposition is construed as describing the contents in their entirety:

    • a shelf of rare books 009

    • a cardboard box of snacks 010

4. With a transitive verb like search, examine, or test, the attribute of the Theme that is being examined:#

  • He examined the vase for damage. 012

  • He searched the room for his laser pistol. [contrast intransitive Theme, Theme#010] 013

  • He was tested for low blood sugar. 014

5. The scale or dimension by which items are compared:#

  • The children are sorted/screened by height 015

  • She exceeds him in height 016

  • There is no difference in height 017

6. The form or shape that an entity takes, or in which elements are arranged. This includes language of communication within an information source, and unit of measure (only the unit, not a full measurement) in relation to the attribute measured:#

7. An adverbial depictive characterizing a participant of an event:#

8. Anything that is borderline between the Possession and PartPortion subcategories#

9. The state or condition that something is in#

The PP or intransitive preposition is used (especially predicatively) to describe a qualitative state or condition of an entity that is not simply a relation of location, time, possession, quantity, causation, etc. between governor and object. For example:

  1. With the noun state, condition, etc.:

  2. Bodily/medical conditions presented as applying to the governor:

  3. Miscellaneous qualitative senses of specific prepositions used statively:

  4. Idiomatic PPs expressing states, for example:1

  5. Intransitive prepositions expressing a qualitative state (not location, time, etc.):

Contrast intransitive predicative prepositions describing an event:

A few observations about these state PPs are in order.

  1. In a reversal of the usual asymmetry between governor and adpositional object, semantically, the PP defines the kind of scene that the governor participates in. To an extent, this may be true of all predicative PPs, but the state PPs are often such that the object of the preposition is neither an event nor a referential entity. I.e., John is in a hurry does not exactly express a relation between the entities John and a hurry; rather, it expresses something qualitative about the entity John’s condition.

  2. The most idiomatic of the state PPs seem to resist questions of the form What?+NP-supercategory with a stranded preposition:

  3. Typically these states are binary: something is either on fire/on time, or not. For some, the negation may be expressed by substituting a contrasting preposition: an orchestra that is not in tune is out_of tune.

State PPs with complements.

The CharacteristicLocus construal is also used when there is effectively a preposition+NP+preposition combination that links two arguments:

Change-of-state PPs.

Note that Characteristic does not apply to an initial or result state, where Source and Goal are the respective scene roles (collapsing the usual state/location distinction):

For some usages but not all, one of “Gestalt {HAS, CONTAINS} Characteristic” is entailed. This does not help to distinguish subtypes.

Versus Circumstance#

State PPs like at odds and on medication, which receive the construal CharacteristicLocus, are similar to situating events like at the party and on vacation, which are analyzed as CircumstanceLocus. What matters for the scene role is whether the object of the preposition is an event or not.

Versus Manner#

If a property pertains to an entity—whether that entity is the syntactic governor or not—then Characteristic. Manner is limited to descriptors of events.

  1. Often the object of the preposition is determinerless (in business) (Baldwin et al., 2006) or has a fixed determiner (in a hurry). 

  2. Or, colloquially, with a suspected mind-altering substance: What is John on?! 

  3. What condition/state is John in? does work, but is quite vague. 

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Supercategory: Configuration