What Are Adpositions?
Posted: Feb 13, 2017
Adpositions are a unique set of words that are found virtually in every language in one way or another. Adpositions are different from nouns and adjective as they are not really the name of an object or a trait but they do not tell about an action either so they are not verbs. If you were to ask what exactly an adposition means, there would be no answer upon which every linguist could agree. Indeed, there is hardly any answer to be given if asked what exactly an adposition is. We can say, however, that an adposition is essentially a marker of relations between two words. An obvious example to a Persian adposition is RA that comes right after the definite direct object in a sentence. The job this particular adposition does is to tell us that the verb of this sentence is being applied on the word before RA in a sort of accusative manner. There are, of course other adpositions in the Persian Language and other Iranian Languages. Not all adpositions come after a noun. Some come before the noun. Those that come before are called prepositions and those that come after are postpositions. There is also a rare type of adposition called a circumposition, which consists of two or more words that come both before and after the noun. It is not uncommon for languages to have both prepositions and postpositions. For instance, although the Persian adposion we discussed above is really a postposition, all other adpositions in Persian come before the target noun so they are prepositions. That is why we say Persian is a prepositional language. At least, it has been so for the last milennium for such properties of languages are prone to unexpected changes. This is why some of the Iranian Languages that are close relatives of Persian are postpositional languages. Two examples would be Mazandarani and the Dmili Language. Pashto, that is another relative of Persian Language is mostly circumpositional, with lots of weird words coming both after and before nouns to create different meaning relations.
So, an interesting questin would be where did all these words come from. I mean, adposition do not refer to any object or action on their own, so there is nothing that could be named after an adpositional word when the languages were being created by whoever invented the languages. In the past, some linguists believed their creation had something to do with the inner working of human mind, like some certain sounds intrisically had grammatical or space-related meanings for humans. Yet, the current view is that all existing adpositions were grammaticalized from other parts of speech and we know that such is the case for adpositions in Iranian Languages.
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