Treatment of “from”


The ODE sense division is reasonably complete. In light of the FrameNet examples there were several places where, by slightly enlarging the conceptual grasp of the ODE def, sentences could be classified under existing senses. The representation of the ODE senses in FrameNet, as usual, is sometimes anomalous. Attention is called particularly to sense 11(8), “ThingPrevented.” There is a paper about this sense in the ACL-SIGSEM Proceedings from the Prepositions workshop, noting the many English verbs that fit this sense, yet FrameNet has somehow managed to note only one: discourage. I have squeezed abstain/abstention into this same sense, as it seems to fit. Other unrepresented senses are 5(3a), “CreationDate” (3 instances), 3(2) “TimeOrigin” (9 instances), and 7(4a), “RangeStart” (3 instances).


From, somewhat like through, is one of the prepositions that seems in essence to mean the same thing all the time — in this case, the notions of origin and separation being paramount — so the way dictionaries divide up the senses is sometimes a bit arbitrary. ODE, for example, has this as sense 5: “indicating the point at which an observer is placed.” This easily partakes partly the notion of provenance (mainly sense 3 in ODE), and of their “distance” sense (1a), and might easily have been lumped with one or the other. However, it is probably useful for our purposes to keep it separate, because as defined it is more or less limited to verbs of perception.


Similarly, various senses are assigned to the FrameElement Source (which exists in several frames), depending on which idea is more salient in the use of from: that of origin in space, origin out of which something results, or origin from which separation has occurred.



Two new senses were added.


Notes from the spreadsheet:


New sense added (Spreadsheet record 12). This is quite a specific sense, to which I’ve assigned the srType “FormerState.” It didn’t fit well into another ODE sense and is easily distinguishable: the use of from when it introduces the state or condition that one has just left, usually on account of awakening, or of healing. POAs are verbs and verbal nouns noting the transition from sleep to wakefulness, or illness to health. I classified it here (under “separation”) because the notion of separation for the former condition is present.


New sense added (Spreadsheet record 15). This sense, “Agent,” will I think be found to be consistent with “Agent,” in other preps. In nearly all cases, a substitution of “by” or “on the part of” would give the same meaning. The existing ODE inventory didn’t have a clear place to put an agent; I’ve put it under cause, though it might also have gone under Provenance.



Other instances of from  that may deserve idiomatic treatment

Though they are mostly classifiable under existing senses, a large class of expressions in English are of the formula from x to x, where an identical term complements both from and to in succession to indicate a generality of some kind. Some of these are fixed: from moment to moment, from time to time, from place to place, from day to day; some occur in fixed idioms as well: grin from ear to ear;  shuffle/shift from foot to foot. The formula is also productive, however, and under the right circumstances I suppose any noun might conceivably fill in the blank. I wonder though if it might be productive to isolate cases where sequential from and to phrases have identical complements to see if some helpful semantic pattern emerges.


Another productive variant of the formula is from one x to another: a cursory inspection of news stories on Google turns up “from one power/flooded area/state agency/job/lender/style/generation to another.” This pattern also shows up anaphorically as from one to another.