From Case to Adposition

The development of configurational syntax in Indo-European languages

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In the historical development of many languages of the IE phylum the loss of inflectional morphology led to the development of a configurational syntax, where syntactic position marked syntactic role. The first of these configurations was the adposition (preposition or postposition), which developed out of the uninflected particle/preverbs in the older forms of IE, by forming fixed phrases with nominal elements, a pattern later followed in the development of a configurational NP (article + nominal) and VP (auxiliary + verbal). The authors follow this evolution through almost four thousand years of documentation in all twelve language families of the Indo-European phylum, noting the resemblances between the structure of the original IE case system and the systemic oppositions to be found in the sets of adpositions that replaced it.<br />Quite apart from its theoretical analyses and proposals which in themselves amount to a new look at many traditional problems, this study has a value in the collected store of information on cases, and on adpositions and their usage. There is also a considerable store of etymological information that is relevant to the description of the systemic development.

Subjects: Typology; Syntax; Historical linguistics

  • Affiliations: 1: Memorial University of Newfoundland

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