Treatment of “on”


The sense inventory in ODE has one fewer sense than NODE. DIMAP sense 12, formerly a subsense of NODE core 5, is eliminated in ODE and absorbed into the core sense. This is a sensible move since the original sense was only hair-splitting, and I have followed ODE. Since I have added a new core sense (see below), there are still 23, as in NODE. A handful of the ODE senses are not represented in FrameNet, as has proved usual with other polysemous prepositions.


Notes from the spreadsheet:


New sense added: (Spreadsheet record 11) Phrases such as "a tax on tea," "a price on their heads," "charge them on the defective widgets" could conceivably be considered under the Basis sense, but since all of these involve the notion of money, it seemed sensible to separate them. Definition: having (the thing mentioned) as the basis for monetary value. FrameNet sometimes identifies the verb as the POA for this sense, but usually a noun intervenes before the PP: charge a levy on each package, charge interest on the loan, charge carriage on the shipment, charge tolls on the road.


New sense added: (Spreadsheet record 14) There was no obvious place to put phrases of this sort represented by "it's hard on her to stay up late," "it's not fair on us to pay all the cost," etc. In both cases, "for" is a reasonable substitute, and I've used the same srType as for sense 2(2)-1 of for. Definition: denoting the party or object affected by or experiencing a state or feeling.


New sense added: (Spreadsheet record 26) This is a new core sense, numbered 23(13). There was no obvious place to put phrases of this sort represented by "cook it on medium for ten minutes" "she's on the lowest pay scale" etc. These represent a setting or level on a grade or scale, and have some affinity with the Level sense of at; I've used the same SRtype. Definition: denoting a particular level on a scale or range.


Other instances of at that may deserve idiomatic treatment

The phrases in ODE deserve looking at; most are easily isolatable and not directly slottable into an existing on sense. Three of them are British only. Also consider:

on + possessive pronoun + own (e.g., on your own). There is a FrameNet instance of this in element Depictive; I've put it in 9(3a), "Basis," as the closest match. on + possessive pronoun + part (e.g., carelessness on your part) can be inherited by on the part of, which is a separate preposition.

on fire This is an invariable idiom and bears no relation to an existing ODE sense, though some other dictionaries find a place for it (see, e.g., M-W 11th, sense 6a).


Other Notes:

I. This may have happened before but I note here for the first time a correspondence between minor distinctions in FrameNet and in ODE having to do with the completive aspects of some sentences. Two pairs of ODE defs are essentially identical to each other except for distinguishing between a state and the action that achieves that state: The core senses 1(1) is more or less the ur-sense of on: "physically in contact with and supported by (a surface). A subsense, 5(1d), is defined as "on to" with the example "put it on the table." Instances of on PPs in Frames "Being_attached" (denoting the state) are more accurately assigned to sense 1(1); those in Frame "Attaching" (denoting the action) are more accurately assigned to sense 5(1d). It is a minor distinction, and is not consistently mirrored in other ODE prepositions, though there does seem to have been an attempt in FrameNet to distinguish between actions and states (e.g., Posture and Change_Posture, Location_of_Light and Light_Movement; there are many other such pairs, such as those beginning "Cause" and those without it).


In the case of Attaching and Being_Attached, "Goal" is the pertinent frame element. I use the same srType for both 1(1) and 5(1d): the distinction is not really carried by the preposition, but by other parts of the sentence, usually the verb. Nor is the distinction really that clear-cut, because some verbs denoting action of this sort seem to reject the notion of "to" after "on" (e.g., crouch, hang, lean, piss, sprawl, and any verbs denoting movement of light as opposed to some physical entity).


In ODE, a similar relationship exists between senses 15(7a) and 16(7b), which distinguish being on a vehicle, and getting on a vehicle. This is not reflected symmetrically in FrameNet, which shows vary few examples of the "on to" (as opposed to the "on" sense) in transportation.


II. There is some overlap between sense 8(3) SubjectConsidered and 11(5) Target. Consider the examples given in ODE for the former (the debate on the budget) and the latter (an attack on the bar council). Other examples given at each sense have less in common than these two do, but it is arguable that for these to sentences anyway, the sense is the same. In the tagged sentences, the ambiguous cases are those where the complement of on is both a subject or topic, and the focus of a particular action. In tagging I have chosen the sense that seemed closest to the spirit of the sentence, and where I really couldn't decide I've assigned both senses.


III. upon is an elegant/poetic/formal variation for most (but not all) of the senses of on, and on can fairly be said to inherit all of upon's uses; ODE does not provide senses for upon but simply refers to on with a usage note.


IV. FrameNet errors:


1. The following record in the instances file is mislabeled in FrameNet:


Text     Author  handbook.n      (mislabeled)      N-250-s20-ppon         856627-12


The sentence is "A handbook on Christianity in India will be published in early 1994." Clearly, the element Topic rather than Author is the one featured in the on PP.


2. The following record has clearly misidentified the POA as "starvation." The POA in the sentence is "effect": "They are, indeed, reported by people who have been brought back from the edge of death — though mundane scientists tend to attribute them to the effects of oxygen starvation on a failing brain."


Death   Protagonist       starvation.n       11(5)*  N-250-ppon    216625-178


3. The following sentence mislabels the PP "on his rounds" as denoting "Time": "Out walking this morning I noticed Dr Greenslade on his rounds."


Becoming_aware          Time     notice.v            (mislabeled)      V-570-np-ppon           332939-50


4. The following record is misidentified in every way as fulfilling Frame "Cogitation" for the sentence "VAT on equality monies paid when properties are exchanged is also capable of being treated as consideration on which stamp duty is payable ." Consideration here clearly denotes a financial sense, not a "cogitation" sense.


Cogitation         Topic   consideration.n (mislabeled)      N-ppon            349725-109