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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 8: Conclusion


I have not reached firm conclusions on some of the matters discussed in this book, and I was not certain whether to have a concluding chapter in it. However, I will briefly summarize a few of my own views, sometimes reached after much study of previous work (and I might note that there is a considerable amount of relevant work that I have not mentioned here; this book could easily have been far longer). Determining the part of speech of some words can be quite difficult, as they may appear to have properties of more than one class. Perhaps because of this some authors have argued that parts of speech are not discrete categories. I would disagree; even classes with peripheral members can have non-fuzzy boun- daries. We have seen various criteria used for adpositional status, and perhaps the one which has come up most often here is the absence of inflection, e.g. nouns have case marking, adpositions do not. This criterion is problematic; for one thing, not all languages have inflection, so it will not be able to be applied un- iversally. Also, in many languages there are inflected words which seem to func- tion in the same way as adpositions; should they be denied adpositional status just because of the affixes which they contain? If we are looking for a universal, cross-linguistic means of determining adposi- tional status (which some authors might say is not possible), the absence of inflec- tion will not suffice, at least not on...

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