On 9 February 2014 05:56, Gary Shannon <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I've never studied a language that uses postpositions instead of
> prepositions. I can't quite warp my head around how that must work I take
> the sentence fragment: "IN a cottage ON the edge OF a great forest" and if
> I use postpositions I come up with "a cottage the edge a great forest OF ON
> IN" That just looks like RPN, and I'm sure that's not how it's done in a
> real natlang.
Well, I wouldn't be so quick in dismissing that word order. As incredible
as it may sound, it's basically how Old Sumerian did things! Basically, in
Sumerian case suffixes were added at the end of the noun *phrase*, rather
than at the end of the noun. Since in Sumerian noun adjectives and noun
phrases *followed* the noun they completed, the result was often a big
pile-up of case suffixes at the end of a complex noun phrase (the plural
marker also appeared just before the case suffix, meaning that between a
plural marker and the noun it marked the plural of, there could be quite a
lot happening, including relative subclauses!).
It's really weird, and it's the only language we know that works this way
(the only languages I know of that are group marking like that tend to have
modifier phrases *preceding* the noun they complete rather than following
it), but it's very well attested.

> So can somebody help me out with what word order you would find for a
> sentence like "She lived in a cottage on the edge of a great forest." using
> postpositions?

As others have indicated, languages with postpositions will usually have a
different word order than the one you showed, with modifier phrases
*before* the modified noun rather than after it. Japanese is a textbook
example of this.

> The only postposition I can think of in English is "ago".
> (If it were a preposition then "ago three years" would be a perfectly good
> prepositional phrase, so I'm assuming it's a postposition. Or am I wrong
> about that?)
I have seen it described as a postposition. Some people think it's some
kind of adverb. There was a discussion not so long ago about how
adpositions often came from adverbs that become bound to the noun phrase
they describe, and depending on the position they end up taking create
prepositions or postpositions. I believe "ago" is a typical example of that
Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets
President of the Language Creation Society (

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