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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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Chapter 3: Adpositions and Verbs


One perhaps might not think that adpositions could easily be confused with verbs, but the similarity between these classes has been noted by Roegiest (1977:420), who says, “Le rôle de la préposition est très proche de celui du verbe, qui indique aussi une relation”. Svorou (2007:739) says, “In a number of African and Asian languages, verbs in certain constructions, such as serial-verb constructions and participial con- structions, function as ‘coverbs,’ or ‘verbids,’ that is, as adpositions but with some verbal characteristics”. I will discuss coverbs and verbids later in this chapter. In the previous chapter we saw that some authors use the presence of inflec- tion to argue for nominal rather than adpositional status of some words. Pullum and Huddleston (2002:610), in their section “Prepositions vs. Verbs”, also bring up inflection, but mention a problem with it:1 “For the most part, verbs are clearly distinguishable from prepositions by their ability to occur as head of a main clause and to inflect for tense. There are, however, a number of prepositions that have arisen through the conversion of secondary, non-tensed, forms of verbs”. That is, in English some verb forms are (arguably) not marked for tense, and the criterion of bearing tense marking cannot be applied to them. Among the exam- ples which they then (ibid.) provide are the following: (1a) [Barring accidents], they should be back today. (1b) [Given his age], a shorter prison sentence is appropriate. The lack of an...

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