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Thread: come January

  1. #21
    corum is offline Banned
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    Default Re: come January

    I do not know anything about etymology, but I have looked up what Quirk et. al. has to say about the criteria that a word have to meet functionally for it to be classified into the group of prepositions.

    Syntactic functions of prepositional phrases
    9.1
    In the most general terms, a preposition expresses a relation between two
    entities, one being that represented by the prepositional complement, the
    other by another part of the sentence. The prepositional complement is
    characteristically a noun phrase, a nominal wh-clause, or a nominal -ing
    clause.
    Come January, we will have to pay more for petrol.
    Two entities are:
    1. January (prepositional complement)
    2. pay (verb)

    January = noun phrase (a bare Christmas tree; only the head)

    So far we seem to be on the safe side in arguing in favor of the prepositional status.

    Prepositional phrases have the following syntactic functions:

    (I) POSTMODIFIER in a noun phrase (cf 17.378):
    The people on the bus were singing.

    (II) ADVERBIAL
    (a) Adjunct (cf8.24ff):
    The people were singing on the bus.
    In the aBernoon, we went to Boston.


    (b) Subjunct (cf 8.88ff):
    From apersonalpoint of view, I find this a good solution to the problem.

    (C) Disjunct (cf8.121ff):
    In all fairness, she did try to phone the police.

    (d) Conjunct (cf 8.1348):
    On theother hand, he made no attempt to help her.

    (III) COMPLEMENTATION
    (a) Complementation of a verb (cf 9.60fl, also prepositional verbs, 16.3ff):
    We were looking at his awfulpaintings.

    (b) Complementation of an adjective (cf 9.60ff, 16.688):
    I'm sorryfor hisparents.
    The part in bold applies here: temporal adjunct.

    We will have to pay more. When? Come January.

    A definition of 'preposition'
    9.2
    There are several points of similarity between prepositions and other word
    classes and constructions in English grammar, in particular conjunctions and
    adverbs, but also participles and adjectives. Before discussing the marginal cases, it will be useful to try to define central prepositions.
    CENTRAL prepositions in English can be defined negatively with three
    criteria. They cannot have as a complement:
    (i) a that-clause

    (ii) an infinitive clause
    (iii) a subjective case form of a personal pronoun
    In certain cases, the same items can function both as prepositions and conjunctions, eg: after, as, before, since, until.

    the day before she arrived
    the day before her arrival

    One distinguishing criterion between the two word classes is that prepositions
    introduce complements which are nominal or nominalized, whereas the
    corresponding conjunctions (subordinators) introduce a subordinate clause.

    The situation is however complicated in the case of nonfinite clauses, since
    -ing clauses are permitted after a preposition in English:

    On arriving she took a taxi.

    Compare after, which can be used either as a conjunction or a preposition,
    with on the one hand when, which can only be a conjunction, and on the
    other by, which can only be a preposition

    when = conjunction only

    FINITE CLAUSE: when he comes
    NONFINITE: when speaking
    NOUN PHRASE: *when her speech

    after: conjunction or preposition

    FINITE CLAUSE: after he comes
    NONFINITE: after speaking
    NOUN PHRASE: after her speech

    by = preposition only

    FINITE CLAUSE: *by he comes
    NONFINITE: by speaking
    NOUN PHRASE: by her speech

    FINITE CLAUSE: *come he comes
    NONFINITE: come speaking
    NOUN PHRASE: come her speech
    'come', in terms of complementation, resembles 'by' (preposition only).

    Some -ing and -ed participial forms can function both as marginal
    prepositions as nonfinite verb forms, and as conjunctions, eg:
    considering and given :

    PREPOSITIONS :
    Considering his age, he has made excellent progress in his studies. ['If
    one considers his age . . .', 'In view of his age . . .'
    Given the present conditions, I think she's done rather well. ['If one takes
    into account . . .']
    Come January, we will have to pay more for petrol.

    PARTICIPLES :
    Considering the conditions in the office, she thought it wise not to apply
    for the job. ['When she considered the conditions. . .'l
    Given the chance, I'd do it again. ['If I were given the chance. . .'l
    Come (past participle form of "come") January, we will have to pay more for petrol. (When January comes...)

    CONJUNCTIONS :
    Considering that he is rather young, his parents have advised him not to
    apply.
    Given that this work was produced under particularly difficult circumstances, the result is better than could be expected.
    Come January, we will have to pay more for petrol.
    Come January, we will have to pay more for petrol.
    These look feasible to me:

    come = preposition form
    come = participle form
    come = subjunctive form
    Last edited by corum; 08-Dec-2010 at 03:24.

  2. #22
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
    Frank Antonson is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: come January

    Wow! That looks as if it took a bunch of research.

    In any case, sorry, I remain unconvinced. I say that "come" is not a preposition. You could say that it ACTS like one; but when you look into its past, I think future subjunctive is more likely. Now, how to explain how "(Should) January come" could turn into "come January" is an additional problem for someone arguing MY case. But I think simply to consider "come" as a preposition is a cop out. There are not any comparable precedents. "To OFF someone" or "to DOWN a plane" are instances of prepositions that can cross over into verbs. But "to come" for me is a verb and a verb only. (Well, I guess it can be a noun or act like an adjective). And, of course, ANY word can become an interjection. WERD!

  3. #23
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    Default Re: come January

    I was amused and rather dismissive when I first read the suggestion that 'come might be a preposition. However, the idea has its merits.

    An anthropologist/linguist examining English for the first time might well decide that 'come' in 'come January' was a preposition. Those in this thread arguing against this reading are perhaps too influenced by their knowledge of the probable subjunctive origin of this type of expression, as I have been. We are also perhaps influenced by our knowledge that prepositions, unlike some other word-classes are generally presented as a 'closed class', but there is no reason that this class should be closed. It has just happened that very few prepositions have been added to the language for centuries. Welcome prepositional 'come', perhaps.

  4. #24
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
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    Default Re: come January

    I know what you mean about the "closed classes". Conjunctions and pronouns as well.

    And, maybe you are right that a new preposition has been born. In a way it doesn't matter -- though it WOULD represent a rare event.

    Back to etymology. So what was the birthing of the preposition? Did it simply suddenly appear. Is there any evidence of some other preposition developing from a verb?

    I have been too lazy and busy to consult the OED, but I still say that it should offer a track record in its quoted contexts.

  5. #25
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    Default Re: come January

    As I noted in Post 17, The OED does not list ‘come’ as a preposition. Its citations in the type of construction we are talking about range from 1420 to 1888.

    Webster’s Third New International Dictionary interestingly cites a past tense form, “came Christmas and we had a merry time,” and a form ending in –s, “Comes the revolution we’ll all live, or hang, high”. There can be little doubt that these two forms are verbs.

    I don’t think that this verb-form suddenly ‘became’ a preposition. It is more a situation of people looking at and thinking “Hmm, it functions more like a preposition than a verb. Perhaps it is time to reclassify the word in this usage”.

    Once upon a time, ‘Farewell’, ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Welcome’ (interjection and noun – OED) might have been classed as imperative or subjunctive forms, had there been good dictionaries around. (It is true that ‘welcome’ is a verb today, but used differently.) Usage changes.

    The OED says of the preposition ‘past’, “The prepositional use seems to have arisen out of the perfect tenses of PASS v, formed with be instead of have…". So there is some evidence of some other preposition developing from a verb, in addition to Corum’s link to Cambridge’s definition of ‘including’ as a preposition.

  6. #26
    Frank Antonson's Avatar
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    Default Re: come January

    Nice work!

    As far as "including" being a preposition is concerned, Harmon and House call it one of a group of "derivational prepositions" derived from verbs by adding the inflection "-ing", much as derivational adverbs are derived from adjectives by adding "-ly". These last are opposed to "primary adverbs". "Come" by their terms would have to have made it into the group of "primary prepositions", a term, which, in fact, they use.

    Thanks for digging into the OED on this one.

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