LINGUIST List 7.702

Thu May 16 1996

Sum: to

Editor for this issue: Anthony Rodrigues Aristar <>


  1. hiro-t, Summary: preposition "to"

Message 1: Summary: preposition "to"

Date: Mon, 13 May 1996 16:36:28 +0200
From: hiro-t <>
Subject: Summary: preposition "to"
Dear Linguists,
 I posted a query on behalf of my coleague 3 months ago. He e-mailed me
his summary today to post it. Here is his summary below.

- ------------------------------------------------------------------------

Almost three months ago, I asked my colleague, Hiroaki Tanaka, to post two
inquiries for me; (1) What is the meaning of the sentence You'd be so nice
to come home to ?, and (2) What is the difference between window to the
world and window on the world?

In the first place, however, I must apologize for my failure to write the
summary for such a long period of time, the blame for which, I hope, should
not be placed on Hiroaki, but solely on me.

I'd like to thank the following 47 individuals for their considerate,
insightful comments:

Robert A. Amsler, James Clark Baldwin, Robert Beard, John Beaven, Deborah
Milam Berkley, Glenn Bingham, Michael Castillo, Billy Clark, Virginia P.
Clark, Dara Connolly, Alan Cornell, Peter Daniels, Bethan Daultrey, Donald
T. Davis, Mark Dras, Marie Egan, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sue Felshin, Anthea
Fraser, Nancy Frishberg, Susanne Frohriep, Frank Y. Gladney, Marina &
Anthony Green, halasz, Mark Hansell, Larry Horn, James Kirchner, Mette
Kreutzmann, Julian Lloyd, Stuart Luppescu, Clodagh Lynam, Stavros Macrakis,
Louise Manga, Liz Mckeown, Guy Modica, Douglas S. Oliver, Kristina
Pfaff-Harris, Helen Rivas, Anton Sherwood, Marilyn Silva, Dan Slobin, John
David Stone, Larry Trask, B. Ulicny, Allan Wechsler, Wilfried, Sue Wotton.

Q1. What is the meaning of the sentence You'd be so nice to come home to ?

As for this question, the responses were almost unanimous in regarding this
sentence as a well-known 'tough' construction and giving it the paraphrase
'It would be so nice to come home to you.'

I was particularly intrigued by the observations made by Kristina
Pfaff-Harris, Michael Castillo, and Douglas S. Oliver that the phrase 'come
home to' is 'an idiomatic phrasal verb, meaning that something is waiting
(usually something pleasant, but sometimes not) at home when you arrive. '

Guy Modica, Virginia P. Clark and Mark Hansell were kind enough to let me
know the composer, Cole Porter, as well as the whole lines of the song.
The lyrics go:

You'd be so nice to come home to
You'd be so nice by the fire
While the breeze on high
Sang a lullabye
You'd be all that I would desire
Under stars chilled by the winter
Under an August moon burning above
You'd be so nice
You'd be paradise
To come home to and love

It was nearly thirty years ago that I heard this song on the radio for the
first time. At that time I was just too fascinated by the sexy voice of
Helen Merrill to do the semantic or syntactic analysis of the song. And
time passed. Early this year I happened to watch TV, and Helen Merrill was
there singing that sweet song. I, however, seem to have become too old and
too grammar conscious to be entranced by her song. The song only kindled
my grammatical curiosity.

Q2. What is the difference between 'window to the world' and 'window on
the world'?

I'd like to thank the 42 members who took the trouble to send me a reply to
this tricky question. The reaction patterns can be divided roughly into
two. Eighteen members regarded 'window on' as completely acceptable and
rejected 'window to' as unacceptable or questionable (Group A) (while one
rejected the use of 'on' and preferred 'to'). Remaining twenty-three
members judged both 'window on' and 'window to' as acceptable. In fact,
however, Group A and Group B should not be regarded as categorically
different as it might seem, for almost all (i.e., 41) the members in both
Group A and Group B accepted the use of 'on' and they all interpreted
'window on the world' in a visual sense, i.e., the phrase implies the
window out of which one looks on/at the world, both in its literal and
metaphorical senses.

On the other hand, among those who judged 'window to' as acceptable were
seventeen members who considered that the use of 'to' implies physical
movement (i.e., something goes out of the window onto the world) , while
two replied there is no semantic difference between 'on' and 'to', and the
remaining four were divided in half in their preference of the preposition.
 (These six people in the latter two sub-groups seem to have considered
that 'to' also implies a visual sense.)

So the point seems to be that the judgment depends on the interpretation of
the expression 'window to the world'. In my understanding, those who
rejected the use of 'to' (Group A) did so because, unlike a door (or a
'French window' for that matter), a window does not serve as a path way or
whatever which one goes or comes through in their ordinary daily life. On
the contrary, those seventeen members, who accepted the use of 'to',
considered that a window can be used as a physical access point.
Therefore, I could conclude that the use of 'to' in this construction is
rather pragmatically conditioned. At present, I have no idea why only the
use of 'to', rather than the use of 'on', is so closely associated with the
pragmatic factors, which has been my pertinent question for several years,
and will be.

Suzette Haden Elgin sent a noteworthy comment that 'window to the world'
would be possible 'if worlds had "inalienable" windows ... (as in "the leg
to that table" or "the door to that house."'

Finally, Peter Daniels, Larry Horn and Stavros Macrakis were kind enough to
let me know there is a restaurant of which name is 'Windows on the world'
on the top of the World Trade Center in New York, which I hope I could try

Finally, again, please accept my profound apology for the delay. I will
bear all the blame for it.

And thousand thanks for the help offered by Hiroaki and all the members of
the List.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------------

If you have any further comment on this matter, please e-mail me directly.

Hiroaki Tanaka, Tokushima University, Japan
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