*En-phrases and Their Morphosyntactic and Semantic Particulars

  • Olga Thomason


Prepositions constitute a problematic category because they tend to have complex semantic and syntagmatic properties, vary in case governance and are frequently in variation with each other. Reflexes of the Indo-European *en are well attested and remain productive in Greek, Classical Armenian, Gothic and Old Church Slavic among other languages. Correspondences of Greek en/eis with Gothic in, Armenian i and Old Church Slavic vŭ occur in many instances in the canonical gospels of the New Testament. However, Greek en/eis is frequently translated with other constructions in these languages that range from prepositional phrases that contain prepositions non-cognate with *en and nominal constructions to clausal structures. This investigation examines such correlations and points out morphological, syntactic, semantic and pragmatic factors that promote these correspondences. Case syncretism and changes in the prepositional governance are among leading reasons that prompt translators to look for translational means other than the cognate constructions. As expected, differences in the inventory of prepositions available in the languages being examined and diversity in division of semantic space by the prepositional phrases also add to the variety of possible renditions of Greek en/eis. Among pragmatic factors that influence the translation are a compositional marking of a certain concept, complexity of an event/situation being marked, and pragmatic appropriateness of a certain formation.