The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Huddleston & Pullum), which was published in 2002, expanded the scope of the part of speech "preposition" to such a great extent that a significant number of words formerly labeled as "adverbs" and "subordinating conjunctions" in the traditional grammar were subsumed under "preposition".

Huddleston claimed in the book that such a dramatic re-analysis of parts of speech resulted from many years of research in the field of linguistics by many linguists. When I first read the book, it almost sounded like a majority of linguists, if not all, would agree with such a re-analysis. And I thought that the rationale behind the re-analysis was robust at least logically.

Now it's been more than a decade since the book was first published. And it still seems that non-linguists have yet to embrace the re-analysis. (I don't know about linguists in general.) No dictionary that I know of has reflected the re-analysis, when many are quick to update such newly-minted words as "selfie" in their entry.

Is it because the linguists actually don't agree that the re-analysis is necessary, or simply because the learning curve of non-linguists is not steep enough to bring about the change even in a decade, or because the re-analysis was not really accepted at all among linguists?

  • 1
    I think the answer to all the questions in your last paragraph is yes ;)
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 25 '14 at 8:38
  • Thanks, curiousdannii, are you a linguist?
    – JK2
    Nov 25 '14 at 9:56
  • Yes, though not one with a lot of knowledge!
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 25 '14 at 12:13
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    I agree the reanalysis is necessary, and I agree with most of what they say. Certainly the Classic Eight are past retirement age. As for prepositions vs conjunctions, that's no difference at all; clauses can be and often are nouns (or noun adjuncts, like relative clauses). If one considers subordinating conjunctions as merely prepositions with clausal noun objects, the distinction goes away and we can explain a lot of other phenomena, like treating the "particle" in phrasal verbs as merely being an intransitive preposition. Some of the other terms I don't care for, though.
    – jlawler
    Nov 25 '14 at 18:50

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