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Is is acceptable to use "different" as a preposition, as you would use "unlike" or "in contrast to", like in the following example?

Thus, different from previous work, we aim to answer those questions.

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I would for sure use unlike or in contrast to there – mplungjan Mar 20 '14 at 7:38
you might be misguided on what a preposition is: "different from previous work" - "from" is the preposition, it governs the noun "work" in relation to the adjective "different" – msam Mar 20 '14 at 7:42
Ah, I was describing "different" as a preposition here following the analogy with "unlike". What is the right way to call this kind of use of an adjective to introduce a noun phrase? – a3nm Mar 20 '14 at 8:17
Different from is a compound preposition, if you need to call it a preposition for some reason. What different is, though, is a predicate. Normally a predicate adjective, and a transitive one, since it distinguishes at least two things, which must both be clear, and may both be mentioned. When both are mentioned, the preposition from is normally used for one of them. – John Lawler Mar 20 '14 at 15:49
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Thus, different from previous work, we aim to answer those questions.

In this sentence, "from" is the preposition:

from — (used to express discrimination or distinction): "to be excluded from membership; to differ from one's father."

If you wanted to use "different" as a preposition it would look like:

Thus, different previous work, we aim to answer those questions.

This is completely ungrammatical.

So, no, you cannot use "different" as a preposition.

Your example does have one issue, however. Rearranging the clauses to remove the commas:

We aim to answer those questions different from previous work.

The more correct form would be:

We aim to answer those questions differently from previous work.

This has nothing to do with the preposition and everything to do with the relationship between "answer" and "differently".

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@TimLymington: Yes, you are correct. I noticed that as soon as I hit submit and have already updated the post. Good eye. – MrHen Mar 31 '14 at 15:26

"different" was, is and will always be adjective.

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