Movable adposition

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Movable adposition

Postby nielsed » Sat 21 Nov 2015 9:51 pm

Are there any languages (natural or constructed) where the same word can be used as a preposition or a postposition to provide different meanings?

Here's a made-up example of what I mean (based on the English words 'to' and 'from') ...

trom the store - to the store

the store trom - from the store

tromo - under/over

tromf - behind/in front of

trome - west of/east of

trom the store tromf - to the store's front

the store trome trom - from the store's eastern side

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Joined: Wed 19 Sep 2012 10:13 am

Re: Movable adposition

Postby Khunjund » Fri 27 Nov 2015 6:00 am

I've never seen an adposition that works like that, but some adjectives in French do, more or less:

Femme sage means "wise woman"
Sage-femme means "midwife"

At some point, people just referred to midwives as "wise women", and word order was irrelevant to meaning, but then sage-femme became more popular when referring to midwives, and came to be used as a unit, which led to it having a different meaning from femme sage. This leads me to think it's more likely to be a feature that arises over the course of the evolution of a language: as the meanings of words change, a certain sequences might be recognized as a unit more or less unrelated to its components, which can allow it to develop, and its meaning to change, as though it were a completely different word. I don't think many (natural) languages would consciously give the same morpheme multiple meanings, as that could easily lead to ambiguity and confusion amongst its speakers (and it would be Hell for people trying to learn the language). In your example, morphemes have completely opposite meanings, which is probably the worst-case scenario, but it might just work of they have either similar (but still different) meanings, or completely unrelated meanings, which would be hard on memory but less ambiguous.

But anyhow, feel free to do as you wish.
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