[Lingtyp] terminological question about local cases/adpositions

Greville Corbett g.corbett at surrey.ac.uk
Wed Mar 24 15:09:23 UTC 2021

One solution is to use the Latin APUD, SUB, SUPER and so on, where APUD generalises over apud-essive and apud-lative, and so on. I believe that was done by Aleksandr Kibrik (sorry I can’t find the right source at present). Compare Daniel & Ganenkov in their chapter on case marking in Dagestanian languages in the Handbook of Case (Malchukov & Spencer). This extracts the first part of your pairs of terms, and it gives enough distance to avoid the English problem.
Very best, Grev

On 24 Mar 2021, at 15:30, Christian Lehmann <christian.lehmann at uni-erfurt.de<mailto:christian.lehmann at uni-erfurt.de>> wrote:

May I briefly interrupt the epistemological debate with a much simpler question?

Several languages (notably, many Uralic languages) display a rich local case system which neatly distinguishes between spatial regions ('top', 'bottom', 'interior', exterior' etc.) and local relations ('rest, motion to/from/through') to these or to the object irrespective of its regions. The descriptive tradition for such languages has responded to the structure of such paradigms by reflecting it in a set of Latinate terms of the following structure:

adessive, allative, ablative
inessive, illative, elative
superessive, superlative (never mind the homonymy of this term), delative

and many others. It does not matter at the moment to what extent the case systems or the terminology are systematic and complete. My concern is the distinction between rest (essive) and motion (lative). Such a distinction is made in local cases or adpositions of many languages. Contrasting with these, there are (possibly equally many or more) languages whose adpositions only code the spatial region, leaving the local relation to other components of the clause. My question is how we can apply the terminological pattern mentioned to these languages in order to get appropriate grammatical category labels and abbreviations for the morphological glosses of such adpositions. Here are some such concepts and corresponding ponderous terms:

non-specific:    essive/lative
top:    superessive/-lative
bottom:    subessive/-lative
interior: inessive/illative
proximity: adessive/allative
vicinity: apudessive/-lative
and others.

These terms have at least two disadvantages:

  *   They are long-winded.
  *   The 'lative' member of each pair has commonly been applied specifically to the direction to(wards) the reference object, not generally to a motion relation.

The first pair in the list is often simply called 'locative'. But what about the others? Are there shorter, but equally systematic terms in use anywhere?

Some may prefer just using English words like 'on', 'under', 'beside' to designate and gloss such adpositions or cases. Such a solution is fraught with problems, too:

  1.  These are no technical terms in a grammatical description, so they don't imply a grammatical category and paradigm. (We can say such things as 'it is marked by the ablative', but hardly 'it is marked by "from"'.)
  2.  Some of these English prepositions (being SAE prepositions) do imply a local relation, like English in is incompatible with ablative directionality (must be out of).
  3.  Yet other spatial regions like vicinity are not matched by an English preposition (by is too ambiguous, other candidates are too specific).

Ignoring problems 2 and 3 would therefore evoke mistaken ideas in the recipient of the description.

Grateful for any useful hints,



Prof. em. Dr. Christian Lehmann
Rudolfstr. 4
99092 Erfurt

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