Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dairwueh: Prepositions and the Preprepositional

Dairwueh has ten very commonly used prepositions, and about a handful of less common ones. They are:

at, in, on
to, at
as, than, like, of
from, of
for, by
along, through
under, inside
with, for, by, in response to
around, across, along, near to, before
against, in opposition to, in response to, after
about, like, made from, consisting of, during

I've previously given a very short sketch of the Dairwueh Preprepositional construction. This particular detail of the language requires some more elucidation, as it is quite a common structure.

Structure: a noun phrase in the genitive precedes a prepositional phrase.
[[NP1] [PP [NP2]]]
with a coat
on(his/her) shoulder
Prepositions in this construction differ slightly from regular prepositions - whereas in other positions, prepositions come in one form, and parsing for whether it codes for location or direction is based on the semantics of the verb rather than the case of the noun or any inflection on the preposition. However, the preprepositional construction has two forms for most prepositions.

A few prepositions can appear in intransitive forms in the preprepositional construction; these then have a special form that appears for this. Generally, the preposition then ends in -s.
vərxira mas – "with a coat on"
kamrin dis – "(more) mushrooms than (you'd believe)"
ustira yis – "in the meantime, there was peace"
kavat nis – "and thus (appeared) the squirrel"
sparagedin pris – "and so, the farmers have been dealt with (basically 'buried' or covered)"
There's also a dynamic form, -(ə)bi. (Since the number of prepositions is fairly limited, we can just as well give the full set: mabi, ibi, dəbi, lobi, ərəbi, girvi, prəbi, avəbi, vesvi, nisvi, yilvi.) Since the verb is less closely tied to the preprepositional construction than to prepositional phrases in general, the semantics of the verb phrase do not inform us of whether the preposition is one encoding direction or location; this is in fact a retention from a previous stage of the language that got lost in the regular prepositional phrase due to its superfluousness with regards to the way the verb started coding for the same things.
vərxira mabi bunerŋa – a coat onto his/her shoulders
vaŋra  dəbi kumana – the ship, like a stone
ustira yilvi Erhana Makisna – peace, appearing in king Maki's days
sordara nisvi sarkarir – rain replaced by drought
Example number two could fit into a sentence like:
as parune vaŋra dəbi kumana - it sank, the ship like a stone.
The last example is from an invocation in times of drought:
viskar purkeb sordara nisvi sarkarir – you have closed the heavens, rain has become drought

Most of these preprepositional constructions have rather idiomatic uses, which can be hard to acquire. A systematic description is difficult to present. Sometimes, the preprepositional noun seems to be an almost-subject of some transition or observation, sometimes it seems a mere afterthought. Oftentimes, the dynamic forms are used with dynamic, telic verbs - thus implying that the change expressed by the preprepositional phrase was the result of the verb. However, sometimes such changes are linked to non-telic, static verbs. Sometimes, they may be the main content of a sentence - a throwaway semantically vague verb without subject or anything, and a preprepositional coding for most of the information.

In some registers, nominal verbs tend to appear - both as part of the prepositional phrase, and as the preprepositional noun. The syntax and semantics of these constructions get even more complicated.

Oftentimes, there's no 'obvious' non-clunky way of integrating the preprepositional nouns as arguments of the main verb - they're in complicated relations to the nouns in the verb phrase or to the verb phrase itself, and thus the "separation" into main clause and preprepositional tail helps indicate to the listener that some (culturally deduceable) complicated relation holds.

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