I lately lost a preposition

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Feb 18 16:18:05 UTC 2008

On Feb 15, 2008, at 4:51 PM, Alison Murie wrote:

> Another prepositional oddity....or so it seems to me.  I realize
> this usage
> has been around for a long time, but somehow I just *heard* it.
> "Listeners
> of" such & such a radio station.  It probably arises from the need for
> "public" radio to solicit funds from their listeners to stay afloat,
> who
> then become "members"  of the station.

"listener to" is what you'd predict from the the argument structure of
"listen" ("listen to").  "listener of" has "of", the default
preposition for complements of nouns.  so both should be possible.

in fact, i think they are both possible, and have somewhat different
usage.  "to" is pretty much obligatory in a context like
   Listeners to KQED this morning heard a terrible story.
while "of" is pretty much obligatory in a context like
   The listeners of KQED give generously to the station.

i don't have an actual analysis here, but it looks pretty clearly like
yet another case where alternatives have somewhat different semantics/
discourse functions.


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