The present scheme emerged out of extensive descriptive work with corpus data. Given the abundance of rare preposition usages, this document does not claim to cover every possible role/function combination for English, let alone other languages. Below are the few categorical restrictions that seem warranted for English.

Supersenses that are purely abstract#

Participant and Configuration are intended only to organize subtrees of the hierarchy, and not to be used directly.

Supersenses that are never used in English#

Content is not expected to apply to English prepositions or possessives as either role or function. It is included in the hierarchy for use by other languages.

Supersenses that cannot serve as functions#

For English prepositions and possessives, Experiencer, Stimulus, Originator, Recipient, SocialRel, Org, OrgMember, Ensemble, and QuantityValue can only serve as scene roles, not functions. Though scenes of perception, transfer, and interpersonal/organizational relationships are fundamental in language, they always seem to exploit construals from other domains (motion, causation, possession, and so forth). (They may be marked more canonically by other English constructions, or by adpositional and case constructions in other languages.)

For example, #001 is clearly Recipient at the scene level—Sam acquires possession of the box—but also fits the criteria for Goal because Sam is an endpoint of motion (and to frequently marks Goals that are not Recipients). #002 and #003 reflect RecipientAgent and RecipientGestalt construals, respectively.

Though the Goal construal is arguably the most canonical expression of Recipient, there is no preposition with a primary meaning of Recipient independent of one of these other domains.

Additional constraints on functions arise in the context of specific constructions. For instance,

1. the s-genitive requires either Possessor or Gestalt as its function (Genitives/Possessives)#

2. passive by requires Agent or Causer as its function (Passives)#

Supersenses that cannot serve as roles#

In the present scheme, there are no supersenses that are restricted to serving as functions.

No temporal-locational construals#

Temporal prepositions never occur with a function of Locus, Path, or Extent.

Languages routinely borrow from spatial language to describe time, and spatial cognition may underlie temporal cognition (e.g., Lakoff and Johnson, 1980, Núñez and Sweetser, 2006, Casasanto and Boroditsky, 2008). A liberal use of construal would treat arriving in the afternoon as TimeLocus, sleeping through the night as DurationPath, running for 20 minutes as DurationExtent, and so forth. However, for simplicity and practicality, we elect not to annotate Locus, Path, or Extent construals on ordinary temporal adpositions. Thus:

TimeDirection is possible, however, as are other atemporal functions:

Note that the above is qualified to ‘ordinary temporal adpositions’. When the first argument of a comparative construction is marked with as, the function is always Extent, even if the scene role is temporal. See Comparatives and Superlatives.

Construals where the function supersense is an ancestor or descendant of the role supersense#

Ordinarily, if a construal holds between two (distinct) supersenses, these are from different branches of the hierarchy. In a few cases, however, one is the ancestor of the other.

Role is ancestor of function#

  1. Setting events or situations with a salient spatial metaphor are CircumstanceLocus or CircumstancePath.

  2. Fictive motion (the extension of a normally dynamic preposition to a static spatial scene) can warrant LocusGoal or LocusSource, as discussed under Locus.

  3. Complete contents of containers are CharacteristicStuff.

Function is ancestor of role#

  1. Some s-genitives are annotated as WholeGestalt: see Genitives/Possessives.

  2. When an organization is framed via a genitive construction in relation to its members, OrgGestalt is used.

  3. For amount/number/etc. + of + ITEM, QuantityItemGestalt is used.

  4. When a locative PP is coerced to a goal, as with put, GoalLocus is used.