Let’s make a language – Part 9b: Prepositional phrases (Conlangs)

Prepositional phrases, despite how important they are to expressing oneself in a language, don’t have all that much grammar. So we can combine both Isian and Ardari into one post, and we’ll even have time to add in a bit about adverbs while we’re at it.


Isian uses postpositions instead of prepositions, which is a change that might be hard to get used to. When they’re used to modify a noun, they usually follow it. If they’re supposed to modify a verb, then they’ll usually come at the end of a sentence, but not always. Sometimes, they’ll go right after the verb, and this signifies a greater emphasis on the phrase. It’s all in how you want to say it.

Simple nouns or noun phrases are easy to use with a postposition. Just put it after the phrase: e talar iin the house”; sir mi fofrom my heart”. (I’ll show a whole bunch more at the end of the post.)

If we want to add in a bit of action to our phrase, then we have a special verbal marker, cu, that indicates something like an infinitive (“to go”) or a gerund (“going”): cu oca anos “without asking”. It’s not only used with postpositions, and we’ll see it pop up a few times later on.

Adjectives, as we saw a few posts ago, usually can’t occur without a noun in Isian. Well, here’s one of the cases where they can. Using an adjective with the special postposition hi (and only this one; it doesn’t work with others) creates a kind of adverb: ichi “beautiful”, ichi hi “beautifully”.

The postposition hi works with nouns, too: sam hi “manly, like a man”. The English translation shows an article, but Isian doesn’t need (and can’t use) one in this situation.


As a head-final language, you’d expect Ardari to have postpositions, too, and you’d be right: tyèketö wiin the house”.

The grammar here isn’t that much different from Isian. Noun phrases in postpositionals work in largely the same way, with one major difference. Remember that Ardari has case for its nouns. What case do we use for a postpositional phrase?

Usually, the accusative is the right answer. But a few postpositions require their nouns to appear in the dative. Some even change meaning based on the case of the noun. For example, wi used with the accusative means “in”, as we in tyèketö wi above. But use it in the dative (tyèkètö wi, note the vowel change), and the meaning becomes “into the house”. It’s a subtle difference, both in form and meaning, but it is indeed a difference.

Using a verb in a postpositional phrase isn’t that hard. The particle ky goes after the (uninflected) verb, and then the postposition goes after that: brin ky vi “while walking”; chin ky nètya “after going”.

Making an adverb out of a noun or phrase uses this same little word, but with the copula verb èll-: kone èll ky “like a man”. (You could say that èll ky is the Ardari adverb marker, but it’s not that simple.) Simple adjectives, on the other hand, can be used directly, so ojet can mean “sweet” or “sweetly”, depending on whether it modifies a noun or a verb: ojeta obla “sweet water”; ojet ajang ky “singing sweetly”.

The list

As promised, here’s a brief list of some of the most common English prepositions and their closest equivalents in Isian and Ardari.

English Isian Ardari
above apay aj
across sos ori
after eb nètya
against ansir eka
around oto òs
at ni äl
before pane jo
behind biso ab
below didal ku
by hoy sy
for ir da
from fo tov
in i wi
in front of ihamo kulyi
into si wi +DAT
of o me
on od oj
onto ores oj +DAT
out of way zho +DAT
through aju tutwi
to/toward es lim
until nobes nyon
with was chès
without anos achèsu

Where “+DAT” appears after a word in the Ardari column, it means that postposition requires a dative noun. Other than that, there’s not much else to say about the table.

Next up

To close out the year, we’ll be looking at relative clauses. Once that’s done, we should have enough of the blanks filled in that 2016 can begin with a bang. Since I write these beforehand, I won’t be taking off for Christmas or New Year’s, because those posts will already be done and waiting.

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