[Corpora-List] 'behind'

Marc FRYD marc.fryd at univ-poitiers.Fr
Sun May 30 15:54:23 CEST 2010


Dear all, Barbara Need suggested that I post a query on the ADS list, which prompted me first to do what I should have done intially, that is, check the 'behind' entry in the Dictionary of American Regional English. Here is a selection of the various examples given for each sense:

1) Before "Good luck if I don't see you behind your wedding day"

2) Following, after, in pursuit of (chiefly Sth) "He's a hawk behind money"

3) Concerning, with regard to, about "'No, that ain't none of her stepfather. That's just her natural daddy, just a doggish old nigger, that's all.' I just didn't know what to say behind that."

4) By reason of, because of "Behind them tearing up the street, we couldn't drive to his house."

Sense #1 is new to me. In terms of spatial orientation, it is interesting to note that the 'hind' position can either precede a targeted point of destination (e.g. 1), or follow a point of origin (e.g. 3-4). Interestingly, "following" and "after" in sense #2 do not denote succession but conation towards a targeted point. Reference to a preceding position must be the original sense, and that of succession a tentative later development. This reminds me of the development of 'after'. Etymologically a comparative in Gk. 'apotero', it implied a movement away from a point of origin, but later came to denote a centripetal movement towards a targeted point (e.g. 'to be after s.o.'s money'). A comparison may be drawn with the preposition 'après' in French, from Lat. 'adpressum', which initially denoted a tension towards a point of close proximity, with the initial phase of movement denoted by the preposition 'ad' being liable to fade into a purely stative meaning. This is still marginally extant in modern usage, e.g. "La clef est après la porte" / "the key is on the door". I do not exactly know the details of the development of the other (now dominant) centrifugal meaning of 'après.' My own preoccupations led me rather to concentrate on the "être après faire" imperfective periphrasis, which very marginally survives in rural areas, but thrives in an Haitian Creole cognate (e.g. 'li ap mange' = 'he is eating'). But I digress...

Marc

-- *Dr. Marc FRYD* Faculté des Lettres et des Langues Université de Poitiers 95 avenue du Recteur Pineau 86022, Poitiers, France

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