Chapter 2: Adpositions and Nouns
One may perhaps get an idea of the complexity involved in distinguishing adpo- sitions from nouns from the following remarks by Suutari (2006:106): Langacker’s [(1999)] view that Mixtec locative expressions are compound nouns appears problematic because these expressions have separated themselves in meaning from purely nominal use ... On the other hand, a prepositional interpretation does not seem appropriate. This problem affects many different languages; for spatial expressions in Thai, for example, the terms region noun, locative noun, relator noun, relational noun and preposition (Zlatev 2003:[322-3]) are used. The problem is not simply a practical one, because different terms reflect differing interpretations of the degree of grammaticalization and of the whole nature of a category. An example of a complicated situation comes up in König and Heine’s (2003) paper on the Khoisan language !Xun; they state (p. 134) that some “locative distinctions … are encoded by means of elements that we tentatively call postpo- sitions”. Among these words are khùyā, which as a postposition means ‘at’ and as a noun means ‘place’, and ń!ŋ́ ‘in, inside [as a noun]; interior, burrow [as a postposition]’. Most !Xun postpositions can also have the function of nouns, but König and Heine (ibid.:135) say, “The reason for referring to these items never- theless as postpositions rather than as locative nouns is that, in some of their uses, they lack any nominal meaning;1 they may also lack locative meaning”. They later (ibid.:140) indicate that the classification of these words...
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