On the borders of neglected word classes

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This paper proposes a functional word class called “path satellites” that includes adverbs, particles, verbal prefixes, and preverbs expressing direction or orientation of motion. The starting point of the analysis is Hungarian, which has a specific set of morphemes considered in different grammars either as a subclass of adverbs or as a specific word class called “preverb”. A detailed description of the semantic and syntactic properties of spatial preverbs in Hungarian and a comparison with adverbs enables two separate classes to be established in this language. However, as many examples presented here show, several other items in different languages have important functional similarities with Hungarian preverbs, e.g. particles or verbal prefixes in German, Italian, Polish, Ancient Greek or in Mayan languages. Moving beyond the traditional semantic, morphological and syntactic criteria that have been used in identifying word classes enables us to demonstrate the functional commonalities of the elements discussed, which are labeled differently in the grammars of individual languages. Adopting the term “satellite” proposed by Talmy is useful for the description of this class of grammatical items moving in the verbal sphere.


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