A Lexical Class as Construction: On the Origins of Cariban Postpositions (Douglas-Tavani & Gildea 2022)

Cadernos de Etnolingüística
volume 10, número 1, abril/2022, e100106

A Lexical Class as Construction: On the Origins of Cariban Postpositions

Jordan AG Douglas-Tavani & Spike Gildea

Most postpositions in modern Cariban languages are bipartite, composed of a stem that indicates properties of the ground with reference to which the object is located (e.g., liquid, open space, container, hand, back) plus a suffix that indicates the type of relation (e.g., static location, allative, ablative, perlative). While bipartite postpositions are ubiquitous in modern languages, surprisingly, very few are fully cognate: cognate stems often take a non-cognate suffix, or cognate suffixes often occur with noncognate stems. We conclude that the antecedent to modern bipartite postpositions was a syntactic phrasal construction in (Pre-)Proto-Cariban, in which modern stems were relational nouns, modern suffixes were cliticized postpositions, and different combinations lexicalized in different modern languages. We also track more recent innovations by which some older stems have become suffixes, some sequences of postpositions have become compound suffixes, and innovative stems have come from other parts of speech.

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