Formulaic language and the relater category &#8211; the case of <i>about</i>

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Relaters in English are words that are traditionally referred to as prepositions, particles, or adverbs, such as: <i>in, for, with, at, about</i>. They are highly decategorialized and polysemous. Furthermore, with few word forms which occur very frequently, they are problematic for linguists and learners alike. In our data (naturally occurring conversation in the BNC), we find many formulaic patterns around these words, providing new insights into the meanings created through and around them. In this paper we report on a study of the relater <i>about</i>. We find that the greater proportion of the occurrences can be adequately described as part of substantive or schematic constructions, and that they to a large extent pattern with meanings with a negative or generally unfavourable orientation.


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