Treatment of “behind”


The sense inventory in ODE has two fewer senses than NODE/DIMAP and has been considerably reworked. In essence, NODE subsenses of the first core sense have been swallowed and there is some change in order. I have followed ODE, as usual. The ODE sense inventory has some odd overlap and gaps, but despite that, four of its nine sense are not found in FrameNet. All those missing are to some degree figurative — that is, not involving physical space but instead metaphoric extensions of behind, as in “the reason behind something,” “leave behind a trail of broken hearts,” “be behind other countries economically,” and “10 points behind the tournament leader.” All common enough, so it is somewhat surprising that they don’t appear in FrameNet.


Notes from the spreadsheet:

ODE defines the core sense of behind rather awkwardly and narrowly, such that it is hard to get out of it the sense of “he was standing behind me,” but this common sense doesn’t really fit anywhere else so I’ve placed it here. ODE also defines sense 4(2a) very narrowly, seeming to apply only to the fact of a door being behind one after one goes through it; but I’ve put here most cases where motion is involved with reference to the space behind a person. The complement is nearly always a personal pronoun.


Other instances of behind that may deserve idiomatic treatment: There are no phrases in ODE. The phrase behind sb’s back (=furtively; deceptively) is problematic as it may also have literal meaning (holding his hand behind his back). I expect the best disambiguator here is the verb in the sentence, with verbs of movement and location perhaps suggesting a literal meaning.


Other Notes: