Summary of Question: Many popular books only suggest memorisation (useless for many) and do not explain adpositions and their uses. Beyond memorisation, how else can a language learner master the acquisition of adpositions? Though adpositions are Functional Morphemes, the failure of memorisation forces me to pursue more effective methods, such as Googling 'semantics of [insert language here] prepositions' and trying to understand the resulting linguistics papers.
Optional Supplement: The omittable following is published in 2 sources identically:
p 2, Applying Cognitive Linguistics to Learning the Semantics of English to, for and at: An Experimental Investigation, also by Prof Andrea Tyler, C Mueller, V Ho.
pp 130-131, Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language Learning: Theoretical Basics and Experimental Evidence.
Language teachers and researchers have long recognized that the acquisition
of prepositions poses major challenges for second language learners (e.g., Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman, 1999).
One reason for this is that the semantics of prepositions are notoriously difficult to characterize. [...] Additionally, prepositions tend to develop a complex set of extended meanings, for instance, over has developed at least 16 meanings, many of which do not appear to be systematically related. Although linguists have long been aware that prepositions develop complex polysemy networks, the meaning networks surrounding spatial markers (and the systematic processes of meaning extension from which they result) have only become the foci of linguistic inquiry
in the last 20 years. Even the best descriptive grammars and dictionaries present
the multiple meanings of spatial language as largely arbitrary. Traditional accounts have represented the semantics of English prepositions as arbitrary (Bloomfield, 1933; Frank, 1972; Chomsky, 1995). Consequently, pedagogical treatments have often suggested memorization as the best strategy. Studies show that accurate use of spatial language is one of the last elements learned and many highly proficient L2 speakers never attain native speaker-like use (e.g., Lam, 2009). Indeed, Lam found that L2 Spanish learners made virtually no gains in their mastery of the prepositions por and para over the course of four years of college Spanish.