I really get a kick out of blurring the line between nouns and prepositions, especially using locative/dative/etc. forms of body parts. If you create a language with both noun case and possessive affixes, then you can do things like what Yandus -- Yet Another Nonce[ense] Language with Unusual Sandhi -- does:

(1) gwipt@
gwip -d@
house 1sg.AL
my house

(2) gwitS~u
gwip -y~u
house 2sg.AL
your house

(3) gwipr@d@
gwip -ra -d@
house LOC 1sg.AL
at my house

(4) gwipr~a
gwip -ra -y~u
house LOC 2sg.AL
at your house

(5) fub@N@St
fub@N -aSt
knee 1sg.INAL
my knee

(6) fub@N~u
fub@N -~o
knee 2sg.INAL
your knee

(7) fub@NgaSt
fub@N -ra -aSt
knee LOC 1sg.INAL
next to me (lit., 'at my knee')

(8) fub@Ng~o
fub@N -ra -~o
knee LOC 2sg.INAL
next to you (lit., 'at your knee')

(Note that Yandus makes an alienable vs. inalienable distinction in possessives: knees are inalienable -- they're an integral part of one -- but houses are alienable. I seem to remember that in some languages with this distinction, houses are inalienable. Whatever -- it's a feature of the lexicon and therefore doesn't concern us here...

Given this happy convergence of suffixes, you can do this:

(9) tSiSa gwipram
tSiSa gwip -ra -m
teacher house LOC 3sg.AL
at the teacher's house

(10) tSiSa fub@Ngo
tSiSa fub@N -ra -u
teacher knee LOC 3sg.INAL
next to the teacher (lit., 'at the teacher's knee')

(11) tSiSa fub@NgatSa
tSiSa fub@N -ra -@tSa
teacher knee LOC 3pl.INAL
next to the teachers (lit., 'at the teachers' knee')

(Yandus doesn't make a number distinction in borrowed nouns.)

This gives you what appear to be inflected postpositions, but which really aren't. Well, maybe. Things would look a little different if fub@N had been semantically depleted altogether and another word (say, akr~u) used for 'knee'. In fact, (*magic wand*) that's exactly what happened in Yandus' close relative, Yaplom. Then there's another language, Omol, where the alienable/inalienable distinction was lost and inalienable possessives only occur in constructions such as these -- thus it has a set of inflections that occur only on these "postpositions".

Another fun one is using nouns to form reflexive pronouns. In Japanese (someone correct me if I'm wrong) zibun '(my,your,...)self' has (or once had) the meaning 'body'. 'I hit [my] body' = 'I hit myself'. In some languages, the word for 'arse' ('ass' to Americans) is used this way. In others, 'head' is. I imagine still more body parts are used this way in other languages.

This segues very neatly into noun classifiers: a head of cattle, a piece of wood, a sheet of paper. If I'm not mistaken, in the great majority of languages which do this sort of thing the classifiers seem to have developed from nouns. This is something I've never used in a conlang (seeking to avoid the kitchen sink phenomenon), though.

Last modified Saturday, April 24, 2004 at 16:42:29 GMT -0500