Towards an understanding of -ward(s) prepositions: a sociohistorical exploration of the distribution of near-identical variants

Mary Bisbee


English has a peculiar class of prepositions that exist in two nearly identical forms, one form with a zero ending () and the other with an s (-s), all of them containing the Old English suffix -ward. Examples include toward(s), forward(s), onward(s), inward(s), and homeward(s). As language is, by its nature, systematic, it seems unlikely that the occurrence of one form instead of another is totally arbitrary. This project uses sociolinguistic and historical methods to explore some of the conditioning factors in the preference of one form over another, proposing that younger speakers will prefer the zero-ending form as it gradually replaces the other variant, and that the two forms will occur in distinctive environments (phonological, syntactic, or semantic) in issues of media publications. 

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ISSN 2333-6552

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