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TL;DR: What is the semantic field or the big picture behind the English 'of'?
I seek an explanation like this which exposes the underlying semantic field of ‘tally’.

Addendum: of (as a Functional Morpheme) is too polysemous for me to query each individual meaning. Does the Semantic Field derive from its etymology: PIE etymon is *apo = "off, away"; Proto-Germanic is *af = 'away from'?

PS: After my long tiresome enervated search, Google discovered a book that addresses my question briefly: pp 209-212, 235-236 of The Semantics of English Prepositions; Spatial Scenes, Embodied Meaning, and Cognition (Reprint ed, 2007) by Andrea Tyler, Vyvyan Evans.

  • Why the downvotes? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Dec 14 '15 at 23:30
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    You're requesting the impossible. A better question would be to ask what the syntactic distribution and function of "of" is. I could make up a semantic property, viz. "selecting a subset", but that would only get you 20% of the way to accounting for the facts of "of". Mentioning Indo-European and Proto-Germanic just confuses the issue, and I don't understand why you bring up etymologies. – user6726 Dec 14 '15 at 23:45
  • Is this question a mistake: did you post a revision and fail to delete this? – user6726 Dec 14 '15 at 23:47
  • @user6726 Please pardon any ignorance of mine; why is it impossible for 'of' to have a semantic field? Is this what you meant? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Dec 15 '15 at 1:37
  • @user6726 No; this question was not a mistake. Will you please rewrite my question? Being inexperienced in Historical Linguistics, I am not sure what you mean by A better question would be to ask what the syntactic distribution and function of "of" is. – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Dec 15 '15 at 1:37
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There really isn't a great deal of "big picture" left. Of is just a shadow of its former lexical self.

Originally, it came from the dual facts of separation -- A off B -- and relation -- A of B.
In Middle English, final /f/ and /v/ weren't distinguished, so the word had two meanings.
But the voiced of /əv/ reduced the vowel to shwa, while the voiceless off /ɔf/ retained its vowel.
So of sounds exactly like the -'ve contraction of have in should've, which leads to should of.
And like -'ve, of is now just a piece of the machinery, bleached of its semantics.

Semantically, of has been reduced to just a connector with two ends

  1. one end is attached to the object NP, and
  2. one end is attached to the NP or VP that of modifies

Thus: the walls of the room 'there is a relation between the walls and the room' walls room
The precise nature of the relation is unspecified and unclear except in context.

So, of -- rather like de in Romance languages -- isn't really a lexical item any more,
and has lost what little semantics it started with. Which wasn't much.

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In English "of" is used to mark Genitive semantic case (though English lacks Genitive morphological case). There is nothing more to it. So, the one-word answer: Genitive.

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