On the CONLANG mailing list, someone once suggested having an affix that converts prepositions into postpositions, adding that this would free up word order. This led to the creation of Klabud, which has a morpheme (i) that allows a case suffix to be detached from its noun head.

What follows is the text of my e-mail, converted to HTML and edited for clarity.

Noun case detachment

This brings to mind some ideas I've had in the past. I have a penchant for this sort of thing; maybe the following will give others some ideas, too. My examples are in Klabud, a nonce language made up for this posting. (I hope the sandhi isn't too distracting; I threw it in to liven things up a bit.)

The morpheme i is used to construct a stand-alone, "detached" preposition from a postposition. The postpositional form (perhaps better analyzed as a postclitic) is obligatory with pronouns; the detached prepositional construct is preferred (but not obligatory) with nouns. There could well be some (slight) difference in meaning between (2) and (4): say, (4) is more "completive" -- 'She threw it to Otsi' -- when compared to (2) 'She threw it toward Otsi'.

(1) Ma kanudut teppa.
ma k- anud -ur tet -pa
she PAST throw it they DATIVE
She threw it to them.

(2) Ma kanudut ipay Otsi.
ma k- anud -ur i -pa Otsi
she PAST throw it DETACH DATIVE Otsi
She threw it to Otsi.

As mentioned above, this construction is ungrammatical with pronouns:

(3) *Ma kanudut ipa tet.
She threw it to them.

And it's optional with nouns:

(4) Ma kanudur Otsipa.
She threw it to Otsi.

Noun incorporation

It's interesting (to me, anyhow) to compare this phenomenon with noun incorporation and so-called verb "satellites".

For example, say Klabud has noun incorporation. You could have this:

(5) Te sinuyab anir.
te s- inuyap ani -ur
I OBJPRES deer eat it
I eat venison / I eat a deer / I eat the deer.

(6) Te nubyeini.
te nubye i ani
I deer PRES eat
I eat venison / I eat a deer / *I eat the deer.

The lexeme inuyap in (5) is diachronically related, but definitely not equivalent, to nubye in (6); nubye is not a "reduced" form regularly derivable from inuyap (nor vice-versa).

Then look at verb satellites and "transitive" adverbs:

(7) Dyain ekaklatseppe.
Dyain e- ka- klas teppe
John MOTION PAST down fall
John fell down.

(Note: The MOTION lexeme is there because _klas_ is adverbial, not nominal.)

(8) Dyain kateppe iklas adbud.
Dyain ka- teppe i klas adbud
John PAST fall DETACH down hill
John fell down the hill.

(9) Dyain kateppy edbutlas.
Dyain ka- teppe adbud klas
John PAST fall hill down
John fell down the hill.

There could well be the same sort of difference in meaning between (8) and (9) as there is between (2) and (4): say, (8) 'John fell down the hill [for a distance]' vs. (9) 'John fell [all the way] down the hill.'

("Verb satellite" here means, roughly, an adverbial or aspectual (or both) element that is closely tied to a verb. Contrast this with an incorporated noun, which is a *nominal* element closely tied to a verb.)


This is a lot like what happened with prepositions in Latin (speaking historically), e.g., per 'through, along, over' + specio 'look at' => perspicio 'see through, examine, ascertain'. Not to mention similar phenomena in German, Russian, et al. Once again I find myself plugging an article by Leonard Talmy which I think is very helpful for language designers, and very readable by non-linguists:

Talmy, Leonard. 1985. Lexicalization patterns: semantic structure in lexical forms. In Timothy Shopen, ed. Language typology and syntactic description. Volume III, Grammatical categories and the lexicon: Cambridge Univ. Press, ISBN 0-521-26859-1 (hard cover), 0-521-31899-8 (paperback).

In summary, here are some language design principles I often find useful for creating "esthetic" or "naturalistic" languages:

Food for thought...

Last modified Saturday, April 24, 2004 at 16:42:40 GMT -0500