[Lingtyp] terminological question about local cases/adpositions

Jussi Ylikoski jussi.ylikoski at oulu.fi
Sat Mar 27 14:30:19 UTC 2021

Dear all,

I feel I ought to change the subject line, but won't do that since the substance of my question is related to and inspired by the one discussed in this thread.

To shortly comment on Christian's original query, I'd like to point out that there are actually not that many Uralic languages with a rich local case systems - instead, they are found in Hungarian and the Finnic branch of the family (including Finnish and Estonian), but barely in the seven less know branches of Uralic (certain dialects of Permic languages being the exception). Even then, only "external" and "vicinal" (Gilles' superlocative and apudlocative) series exist, whereas the "internal" local cases can be regarded as unmarked default local cases. Instead, languages of Caucasus are those that display truly rich local case systems, as far as they can be regarded as case systems (Comrie & Polinsky 1998).

My own question today: While many "Super", "superlocative" or 'top' cases can indeed be found in Uralic and in the languages of Caucasus (Ossetic (Indo-European) included), are there any other corners of the world with such specialized cases? In other words, I'm looking for morphological case distinctions as seen in the following Finnish word pairs:

lipasto-ssa 'in the drawer' vs. lipasto-lla 'on the drawer'
tule-ssa 'in the fire' vs. tule-lla 'on the fire'
mere-ssä 'in the sea' vs. mere-llä 'on the sea'

I'd be happy to locate similar morphological distinctions outside the Uralic family and the Causasus region.

Best regards,


Frá: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> fyrir hönd Gilles Authier <gilles.authier at gmail.com>
Sent: miðvikudagur, 24. mars 2021 16:40
Til: Christian Lehmann <christian.lehmann at uni-erfurt.de>
Afrit: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org <lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
Efni: Re: [Lingtyp] terminological question about local cases/adpositions

For "languages whose adpositions only code the spatial region, leaving the local relation to other components of the clause"

I use

non-specific:    locative
top:    superlocative
bottom:    sublocative
interior: inlocative
proximity: adlocative
vicinity: apudlocative

which are shorter and still transparent.


On Wed, Mar 24, 2021 at 3:31 PM 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

Tel.:   +49/361/2113417
E-Post: christianw_lehmann at arcor.de<mailto:christianw_lehmann at arcor.de>
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