In Italian if I were to say, "sopra l'albero" (albero = tree) you might rightly ask: "Yes but where, exactly?"
But "sopra" is a great word to learn in Italian, not only is it a very flexible preposition of place, you can create a new word by simply tagging a noun, which explains perfectly its meaning. No guess work necessary.
Soprabito means something you put over your clothes. A coat.
Sopracciglio means something above your eyelashes. Eyebrows.
Soprammobile something which you put on top of a piece of furniture. An ornament.
However, an English person might justify the use of so many different prepositions with similar meanings and top1 by saying they indicate precisely where an object is positioned. In the case of "sopra l'albero" the argument is defeated as soon as anyone mentions what and what it is doing in connection to the tree. (I hope I have explained myself clearly.) A bird is "sopra l'albero"? Then it must be on a tree. A bird is flying "sopra l'albero"? Then it must be over the tree. A bird is perched "sopra l'albero"? Then it has to be at the top, etc.
My questions are:
- What is the etymology and history behind above, on, over and top.
- Why was there a need to have these words when as shown above, within a specific context, ambiguity in meaning is eliminated.
- Which English words, if any, contain the preposition, on, coupled with a concrete noun to form one word.