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Adpositions and Other Parts of Speech

Alan Libert

It has often proven difficult to classify certain words as adpositions or nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. This book looks at the distinctions between adpositions, i.e. prepositions and postpositions, and other word classes with respect to a wide range of languages. In particular, it focuses on how these distinctions have been treated by previous authors and the terminology used to describe items on or close to the adpositional border, e.g. pseudo-postpositions and auxiliary nouns. Chapters are devoted to adpositions as opposed to most of the other traditional parts of speech. Among the criteria for (non-)adpositional status brought up are the presence or absence of inflection on putative adpositions and genitive case marking on complements of such words. Definitive conclusions on how to determine whether words are adpositions seem elusive, but some formal criteria, such as absence of inflection, are problematic; possibly a solution will involve a notion of adpositional function.


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Some of my research has been on adpositions and in doing this work I have en- countered the issue of whether certain words belong to the class of adpositions or to some other class. Since some of my research has also been concerned with Turkic languages, several years ago I had the idea to look at this question specif- ically with respect to Turkish languages; this resulted in the paper Libert (2008). It is a natural step from there to taking a cross-linguistic perspective on the mat- ter, and that is what I intend to do in this book. As may become clear, I am interested in (and occasionally critical of) the wording of descriptions of relevant situations, and the thinking behind that word- ing. I was uncertain about how this book should be organized below the chapter level: should discussions be divided by language (or language family), or by phenomenon, or in some other way? Doing it by language did not seem good, as we might find the same phenomena in different languages, and we might then miss some generalizations. Doing it by phenomenon appears better, but how do we define these phenomena? I have chosen, with some misgivings, to organize the book largely by the terms that are used to refer to the words involved. To a very large extent what this book has ended up as is a study on how different scholars refer to words which are on or close to the border between adpositions and...

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