From Academic Kids



While not a widely accepted linguistic term, the term preverb is used in both Northwest Caucasian and Caddoan linguistics to describe certain elements prefixed to verbs.

Theoretically, any prefix could be called a preverbal element. However, in practice, the term preverb applies more narrowly in both Northwest Caucasian and Caddoan linguistics, and refers to a prefixed element that is normally outside the premise of verbal morphology, such as locations of noun elements, or less often, noun elements themselves.

Northwest Caucasian

In the Northwest Caucasian family, such elements can include nouns, directional and locative preverbs (equivalents of prepositions), as in this example from Ubykh:

You were talking about me (lit. you were talking on me)


In Caddoan linguistics, preverbal elements are less well defined as a class, and often "preverb" designates a part of the verbal root which can be separated from the rest of the root by certain prefixes, as in this Wichita example:

taatíísaaskinna?as [ta.i.aa.tíísaas.kir.ri.?a.s]
He is bringing (liquid) medicine

Mandarin Chinese

In Mandarin Chinese and many other Chinese languages, the term preverb is used somewhat differently to describe certain words which carry the meanings of prepositions in English. These words are lexically verbs in Chinese, and appear before the noun in question. These words are more commonly referred to as coverbs.


In Georgian, the main function of a preverb is to distinguish between the present tenses and the future tenses. In order to make a present tense verb into a future tense, one has to add the preverb to the verb compound. In addition to this function, preverbs also have directional meanings in Georgian. Preverbs are directly attached to the beginning of the verb compound:

aketebs ("he does it") and gaaketebs ("he will do it")
vtser ("I am writing") and davtser ("I will write")

Note in the two examples that the meaning of the future tense is achieved only by adding the preverb; no other grammatical change occurs. Some examples where preverbs have directional meanings are:

modis ("he is coming")
midis ("he is going")
adis ("he is going up (the stairs)", "he is getting on (a bus)")
chamodis ("he is arriving")
shemodis ("he is entering")

Again, note that only the preverbs are changed in order to convey the meaning of various directional meanings. It should also be noted that preverbs add directional meanings not only to the verbs of motion, but to any kind of verbs. Compare the examples of the verb -tser- ("write"):

davtsere ("I wrote it")
mogtsere ("I wrote it to you")
mistsere ("I wrote it to them")
gadagtsere ("I wrote to you (from a place)")

As can be seen from the examples the preverb changes according to the indirect object (the person for (to) whom the verb is being done).

In Georgian many verbs have a common root. For example, "end" and "stay" have the same verb root, -rch-. The meanings of these verbs are rather distinguished through their preverbs and other elements of the verb compound:

rcheba ("he is staying"), darcheba ("he will stay")
rcheba ("it is ending"), morcheba ("it will end")

As one clearly notices, the verbs are identical in the present tense, but differ in the future tense, because of their preverbs.


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