Semantic properties of prepositions: The distinction between causal min ‘from’ and be ‘in’
Camil Staps, Martijn Beukenhorst
November 2023

In Biblical Hebrew, both /min/ ‘from’ and /bə/ ‘in’ are used to mark causing arguments (Agents, Instruments, Reasons, ...). Reference works list the thematic roles each preposition can mark, but do not address the differences between the two. We argue that the contrast is one of ‘dominance’: /min/-causers are more dominant than /bə/-causers. They can fully determine the effect, whereas the effect of a /bə/-causer can be altered or prevented. This distinction derives from the spatial meanings of these prepositions based on an abstract spatial representation of the causal domain. The object of /min/ is a Source or Origin, which is interpreted as being the instigator of a causal chain, and thus having dominance over that chain from instigation to effect. By contrast, the Locative preposition /bə/ describes a location close to a Ground, which is interpreted as being able to cause an effect, but not necessarily in a dominant way.
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Reference: lingbuzz/007716
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: causation; spatial prepositions; thematic roles; causal models; preposition min; preposition be, semantics
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