The use of French ‘à travers (de)’ and ‘au travers de’ for describing a movement along a curved surface: peripheral membership or anomaly?

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Abstract

Prototype theory describes categories as open classes with indefinite margins, in that the different members of a category bear a varying resemblance to the prototypical 'core'. It follows that so-called 'peripheral members' have little in common with the core. In some cases, though, the term 'anomaly' seems to be more appropriate for characterizing a clearly marginal use.
When studying the history of the French prepositions 'à travers (de)' and 'au travers de', I noticed that they were used, on very rare occasions, for describing the movement of an entity (the 'figure') along the surface of a curved reference entity (the 'ground'). This particular use (I only found examples dating back to the 16th Century) shares features with the very frequent case where the figure moves along a flat ground. Since the exceptional use became almost immediately obsolescent, one may wonder whether prototype theory offers a plausible explanation for its emergence. By comparing the relevant attestations with the semantically closest ones from the same period, I show that they should be viewed as anomalous side steps that did not involve any real extension of the category.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-15
Number of pages1
Journal19th International Postgraduate Linguistics Conference on Language Variation and Change (16-17 September 2010). Conference Abstracts,
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2010

Keywords

  • Historical Linguistics

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