Treatment of “like”


DIMAP/NODE contain one sense not found in ODE: “used to emphasize that someone or something has nothing in common with someone or something else.” In other words, constructions with “nothing like.” ODE has not treated this separately but subsumed it via example under core sense 1. I have followed ODE’s numbering as usual. The last two core senses in ODE, despite being quite frequent, are only illustrated in FN with a couple of examples each.


Notes from the spreadsheet:

No new senses were added.


Concerning sense 5(1d), which ODE has as “used in questions to ask about the characteristics or nature of something or someone.” This is a prima facie syntactic, as opposed to a semantic definition, and these have elsewhere been noted as being somewhat problematic. It is, however, correctly classified here, since, like all other subsenses under this core, it is involved with similies. I classified here all cases where like was the final word in a question, and also cases where like was the final word in a subordinate clause beginning with a wh- word; these are all related. For example: What does she look like? and No one will tell me what she looks like.



Other instances of like that may deserve idiomatic treatment

The many fixed idioms that begin with like (like a house on fire, like greased lightning, like a fish out of water) are mainly sense 2(1a), a Model sense, in which the complement serves as a (usually exaggerated) comparison of manner. There are a handful of fixed informal expressions, not likely to be encountered in formal writing, in which like is followed by a single word, with the entire expression being a generalized intensive: “like mad/hell/damn/heck/,” etc.


Nothing/Anything like, formerly identified (in NODE) as a separate sense, nearly always follows a copula and is classifiable under sense 1(1) or perhaps rarely under 2(1a).


The fixed word order like that of is a formalization of like in sense 1(1). I can’t think of a case where it cannot be assigned to this sense, and in many cases it is possible to eliminate the that of and end up with an equivalent, of somewhat more informal sentence.



Other Notes:

In general the ODE sense division synchs very well with Framenet: nearly every instance of element Manner in FN is sense 2(1a); nearly all verbs of perception followed by like (most of these are element Characterization) slot into sense 1(1). It is also noteworthy that sense 2(1a) is nearly always attached to intransitive verbs. This is partly due to the fact that constructions using “like,” and corresponding to element Manner, very often introduce similes to describe behavior, and verbs indicating undirected behavior are intransitive. When a transitive behavior verb is used with a “like” comparison, sense 3(1b) is indicated, because of the way ODE words the definitions. Compare, for example:


  1. He was grinning like a Chesire cat. (=in the way a Chesire cat grins) (sense 2(1a)
  2. He was kneading her like dough. (=in a way appropriate to dough) (sense 3(1b)


Note, however, that B is somewhat eliptical, and more fully expressed would be something like


He was kneading her like a baker kneads dough.


In which case, we’re back to sense 2(1a) again. The upshot: not really that much to choose between the two. In fact, there’s not a great deal to choose among the first core sense and all its subsenses: they all correspond to what we normally think of as similes.



Framenet misdentifies the POA in this sentence (though the sense assignment is not affected):


If , however , like Bilinda from My Bloody Valentine you 're singing tender entreaties to your partner or questioning the nature of love, then you 're saying something universal and good.



The POA is identified as “entreaty” by FN; in fact I think “sing” is more accurate; I changed it in the spreadsheet for the sake of your data, but it will mean that the spreadsheet is anomalous with FN in this spot.