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Prepositions and Grammaticalization

In this article, we hope to explain what grammaticalization is and how it works when it comes to creating new prepositions in a language. Although some of you might find this very surprising, preposit...

In this article, we hope to explain what grammaticalization is and how it works when it comes to creating new prepositions in a language. Although some of you might find this very surprising, prepositions that we use in our every day speech have not always been there. Languages change and it time, they completely transform into something that would be unintelligible to the people of past epochs. One of the important changes in languages that keep happening is the emergence and atrophy of prepositions and postpositions. Old prepositions in languages are usually short words with one or two letters. They are in the final phases or phonetic erosion. In time, they will be reduced to a single sound and finally, they will be ignored altogether and will be lost. Some of luckiest prepositions and postpositions can go into the next stage in grammaticalization and become things like case affixes and suffixes. So, what is grammaticalization? It is time to explain that.

As said above, languages change and one of the things that change in a language is the grammar. New grammar rules require new grammar structures and the emergence of thes new grammatical structures is called grammaticalization. Grammaticalization usually involves a verb or a noun i.e. a word with a specific meaning. When there is a need for a new grammar rule but there is no morpheme to meet that need, people employ some noun or verb to explain that grammatical meaning literally. For example, you can create future tense by telling that you are going to do something. This is the first step in grammaticalization. However, better examples of grammaticalization can be seen in prepositions in various languages. Let us take a look at English.

The English preposition “below” presents an obvious example of grammaticalization and one very interesting, too. I would love to explain this to you in more detail but I neither have the space to write an essay nor time to look up in the etymological dictionary so I will go straight into explaining the apparent way “below” was grammaticalized. Below refers to the lower part of something and that should give us a clue. Obviously, the adjective “low” was combined with some other word we no longer use and a new preposition was born. Now, this is a great example of grammaticalization but we can also find more in other languages.

Iranian Languages have many prepositions that provide ample material for the linguists who want to study instance of grammaticalization. IndeedPsychology Articles, the many examples of adpositions derived from nouns in Iranian Languages are great to observe the slow process of grammaticalization of prepositions in language.

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Language is one of the strangest mysteries in the universe.



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