Friday, October 31, 2014

Detail #115: Local Cases

This is basically an idea that takes what is sort of present already (to some extent) in Finnish and puts it on steroids.

Imagine a case system of about six local cases. In Finnish, these are conventionally arranged as {on/by, in} * {towards, at, from}. However, let us not give them all that clear names yet.

Let's rather go by {A, B} * {1, 2, 3}. Now, we have this set: {A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3}. And now for the fun: let directionality of the different numbers vary with the verb and its aspect!

Type 1 verbs have the perfect aspect cause the cases to map thus: 1 → origin, 2 → location, 3 → direction (and A vs. B maintain the distinction 'in' vs. 'at'/'by'/'on'). The imperfect aspect, however, gets A1 → entirely unused, B1 →direction, A2 → direction, B2 → location , A3 → location, B3 → origin ... and the 'in' vs 'at'/'by'/'on' distinction is only partially preserved, where i.e. B3 conflates origins at/by/on or in the noun thus marked, and so on.

Of course, these mappings may be specific to classes of verbs, even unique to some verb (and most mappings may actually ignore most of the cases entirely), and the mappings may conflate things in various ways - sometimes, location and origin, sometimes location and direction, sometimes in and on/at/by, sometimes maybe even part of the on/at/by gets transferred to in and vice versa.

In part this is an exaggeration of case and adposition usage differences in reality - in some languages, a painting hangs on the wall, in some it hangs in the wall. In some, the mail slot in your door is on the door, in some it is in the door.

In English, the phrasal verbs likewise form a complex of preposition-verb pairs where the meaning is not trivially related to the preposition's usual use, and we can find languages where aspect does change the sense of location/direction - if you were heading somewhere, perfect aspect sort of implies you've gotten there somehow, and if you are coming from somewhere, you have been there.

Grammaticalizing and having a bunch of complications with regards to this is no big stretch, I imagine.

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