When speakers of American English make grammatical mistakes like saying *play a factor (instead of be/constitute a factor) and *ask a question to (instead of ask a question of), they are relying on the analogy between similar constructions, viz. play a role and direct a question to. These two departures from normative grammar in present-day speech are frequently heard in media language and point to the arbitrariness of the traditional syntax involved.

The mistakes arise, of course, via the establishment of an implicit dominance relation between the newer (mistaken) form and the older traditional one. The postposition of in the verb phrase ask of represents a use of the postposition that is no longer felt by speakers to have the meaning of directionality, since its contemporary predominant meaning is possessive, i. e., “belonging to” and not “directed at/toward.” Similarly, the word factor has been reconstrued as being identical in meaning to role, hence to be governed by the verb play.

Analogical leveling of this sort in language change always has a structure that reposes on a reconstrual of the meaning of the constituents involved in governing their syntax.