Treatment of “towards”


DIMAP/NODE contains 6 preposition senses for towards; ODE contains only 5. The sense in DIMAP/NODE that has been eliminated, “paying homage to, especially in a superficial or insincere way” was a subsense of sense 2, and is now presumably lumped into it — without harm, as far as I am concerned, and I have followed ODE’s numbering. ODE treats “toward” (mainly N American) as synonymous with “towards” (typically British). I have integrated the few FrameNet instances of “toward” into the “towards” instances spreadsheet, and thrown away all of the “no instances.” All of the genuine instances of “toward” were for one sense, 1(1).


Notes from the spreadsheet:


New sense added: (Spreadsheet record 6) ODE does not subdivide its sense 2 but defines it in a compound way that lends itself to division; FrameNet also seems to distinguish between attitudes and behavior, which is the compounded thing here, so I have split the sense. The ODE definition is “expressing the relation between behaviour or an attitude and the person or thing at which it is directed or with which it is concerned.” I have subdivided this, making behavior towards a person the main sense 4(2), and making attitude towards a subject or person the subsense 4(2)-1. If you find that the distinction is not that useful, then simply delete the new sense, and retag all instances of it as 4(2).


Other instances of towards that may deserve idiomatic treatment:

There are no phrases in ODE. The common expression go a long way towards +gerund is sense 2(1a).


Other Notes:

I. Two senses of towards suggest the idea of progress without completion, and contrast with two separate prepositions that have roughly the same meaning, except that they imply completion. This suggests that the use of towards is sometimes a marker of progress rather than completion. Contrast the following two pairs:


We drove to Philadelphia.

We drove toward Philadelphia.


We received a grant for the research project.

We received a grant towards the research project.