I am wondering if there is a distinction in any natural language between a preposition or postposition with the meaning "lower than" and a different preposition or postposition with the meaning "covered by" such that it would be incorrect to say that my muscle is under my skin etc. You have to use the preposition or postposition with the meaning "covered by".

I also wonder if there are any natural languages with unique prepositions or postpositions or other unique distinctions. One thing I was thinking about for one of my conlangs would be to have some prepositions with fairly unique meanings such as "nearer to the center" or "along the top of something" or a distinction like being on the west, east, north, south side of something or proceeding in that direction. That would be if the speakers know the cardinal directions at all times, similar to the Aboriginal Australians.

Well, this is my question and I hope someone would know something unique about this. I am thinking about this presently and I have investigated the grammars of some languages, but I don't know where to look. I also want to know if someone else might have an idea for a preposition which would mean something more unique or distinct, or if some other distinction can be made such as that the hypothetical language would use two or more prepositions with separate meanings where we would use just one word.

1 Answer 1


Scandinavian languages have the preposition you look for. I'll use Swedish as an example.

The word "nedanför" means "below", but strictly in the sense you ask for. It could not be used if you mean "muscles below your skin". Similarly, "ovanför" means "above". There are also Swedish words "under" and "över" with the same dual meanings as in Eglish.

As you ask for further examples of prepositions, I could mention that most of the basic Swedish prepostions come in pairs: one that concerns locality and one that concerns direction or movement. As an example, where English has the prepostion "here", Swedish has "här" and "hit". "We are here" translates to "vi är HÄR", while "we came here" translates to "vi kom HIT". Similarly, while English uses the same word "in" in both "we came IN" and "we are IN a house", a Swede would say "vi kom IN" but "vi är I ett hus". And so on.

Some prepositions come in groups larger than 2. The just mentioned "här" ("here") and "hit" ("to here") are accompanied by "häråt" ("in the direction towards here"), and to further complicate things "hitåt" means approximately the same thing. (If you like to mess with people and make them confused, try asking the next Swede you meet about the difference between "häråt" and "hitåt"!)

  • 1
    NIce example. Minor nitpick: här, hit & Co. are adverbs, not prepositions. The example of the two translations of "in" involves prepositions again.
    – Sir Cornflakes
    Dec 4, 2023 at 9:56

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