Postpositional to Prespositional: Side-Effects? Even Possible?

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GoshDiggityDangit
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Postpositional to Prespositional: Side-Effects? Even Possible?

Post by GoshDiggityDangit »

Man, it’s been a while since I’ve been here.

Welp, it’s as the title says. P.I.P is postpositional, but I want its descendant Kaleršan to be prepositional. Is this possible? If it is, what are some of the side effects?
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Salmoneus
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Re: Postpositional to Prespositional: Side-Effects? Even Possible?

Post by Salmoneus »

The existence of English (and all Germanic languages, and Romance languages, and...) demonstrates that it is possible.
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Re: Postpositional to Prespositional: Side-Effects? Even Possible?

Post by Salmoneus »

Since nobody's been more helpful than that, I'll also add: while switching from postpositional to prepositional isn't that unusual, that doesn't mean you'll simply move the adposition from one place to another.

That can happen - you can have adpositions that can either precede or postcede the noun, so you could have them go from one tendency to the other. In English, for instance, some prepositions can sometimes follow the noun, like "through" - although we'd normally say "I slept through the whole night", it's also grammatical to say "I slept the whole night through". Theoretically, English could shift so that the latter became more common than the former.


But mostly, adpositions are fairly robustly assigned to a given position. So if you lose postpositions, you may find yourself gaining new prepositions from other word forms.

One way to do this is via cicumpositional combinations. Famously, French began by negating with "ne X", reinforced that to "ne X pas" (the final word being adverbial in sense, "(one) step"), and then abbreviated that to "X pas". Similarly, we could imagine this working with adpositions: "through X" > "through X completely" > "X completely".

Another way to do it is by bringing in other parts of speech with a relation to the noun, sometimes with compounding with existing adpositions. What I mean here is that even if adposition position is fixed, that still leaves relationships like verb+noun and noun+genitive.

With nouns, for instance, you could replace postpositions with new prepositions formed from locational nouns that have the main noun as their possessor. Let's do this the opposite way with English: instead of saying "before the house" (prep+noun), we can say "at the house's front" (prep+noun+gen+locational); the "at" and "'s" can then easily wear down to something like "house front" (indeed, this DOES happen in specialised English expressions like "exit stage right").

Similarly, you can do this with verbs. English occasionally does this too - consider a verb like "except", which often acts as, in essence, a postposition: "present company excepted" (subject+verb acting as oblique+postposition). [of course, it can also be a genuine preposition!]


Finally, you can also do this by bringing in parts of speech with no original syntactic relation to the noun. This is what happened in indo-european languages, in which huge numbers of prepositions are derived from adverbs. A very easy way to do this would be to have adverbs follow the verb. Thus:
"I [flew above] [the fields-LOC (at)]" ('above' as an adverb, the role of the fields just marked by a case, with optional postposition for clarity)
>
"I flew [above the fields]" (case lost, optional postposition lost, now suddenly 'above' looks like a preposition...)

This can particularly happen when word order changes.
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Sequor
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Re: Postpositional to Prespositional: Side-Effects? Even Possible?

Post by Sequor »

Salmoneus listed many good things, but one thing he didn't mention is the ability of transitive verbs to become adpositions (although he gave a similar example with passive participles).

For example, in Classical Chinese, 在 was used as a full verb meaning 'to be [somewhere, at a place]'. In modern Mandarin, besides retaining its ancient meaning, it is also used as a preposition meaning 'in' in some specific situations (most typically being in a large mass of flat land: "in London", "in China", "in South America"). It is also now used to reinforce locative postpositions in general, creating circumpositions, e.g. "on [sth]" can be simply the postposition 上 shàng, but also the circumposition 在...上 zài...shàng. In the dynamic meaning "onto [sth]", 在...上 zài...shàng is in fact the main choice. In general, Chinese has a long history of deriving prepositions from transitive verbs, through its entire three millennia and a half of history as a written language. This is largely thanks to its use of serial verb constructions, where verbs are concatenated while sharing the same subject to produce a single clause.

In fact, this goes further back than the earliest written Chinese. Already in the late 2nd millennium BC, 為 (Old Chinese *ɢʷaj, Baxter-Sagart reconstruction) appears as a verb meaning 'to do/make sth' and 'to act as sth, be sth', and, with some sort of fricative suffix (Old Chinese *ɢʷaj-s), it was also a benefactive preposition meaning 'for [somebody]'. At the same time, 于 (Old Chinese *wa) meant both 'to go [somewhere]' and 'to sth, toward sth, onto sth, into sth', and 於 (Old Chinese *ʔa) also meant both 'to be [somewhere]' and, more commonly, 'in, at, on' (for stative locations).*

* 于 and 於 are considered the same character nowadays due to the similarity of their ancient meanings and the similarity of their pronunciation in early modern Mandarin (于 is now the "simplified" form, and 於 is the "traditional" one). However, these characters were considered different and pronounced differently as recently as the 14th century during the Yuan dynasty, even if only as a matter of tone with 于 having a lower sort of tone than 於. The modern Mandarin pronunciation in fact descends from the sound of 于, as, by regular sound changes, the two characters should still be pronounced differently today, with 于 = yú and 於 = "yū". Interestingly, in Cantonese the opposite happened, and the pronunciation of 於 yu1 is the one that survived, as we'd expect 于 to be pronounced "yu4" in Cantonese.
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Re: Postpositional to Prespositional: Side-Effects? Even Possible?

Post by Curlyjimsam »

A consequence of the shift from postpositional to prepositional order may be that a limited class of elements continue to be postpositions even in a language which is generally prepositional (e.g. English ago, or the postpositional use of through Salmoneus gives).

Something it's also worth being aware of is that cross-linguistically adposition/noun order shows some pretty strong correlations with the order of other elements, e.g verb/object (see https://wals.info/combinations/83A_85A#2/15.0/153.0 for example). So the postpositional to prepositional shift will likely correlate to other word order changes in the language.
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