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1.3.1.4. Circumpositions
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Circumpositional phrases are typically used in directional constructions, but many of these phrases can also be used in locational constructions. There is a conspicuous difference between these two uses: whereas the second part of the circumposition is mostly obligatorily present in the directional construction, it can generally be dropped in the locational construction without affecting the core meaning of the sentence. This casts some doubt on the assumption that we are dealing with constructions of a similar status. This section discusses the circumpositions from Table 10 and Table 12 from Section 1.2.5 and investigate (i) whether they can be used in the locational and/or the directional construction and (ii) whether the second part can be omitted. Our findings will be summarized in Table 19.

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[+]  I.  P... aan

Examples (269) and (270) illustrate the use of spatial circumpositions with aan as their second member, and show that the circumpositional phrase tegen de muur aan may indicate a (change of) location or a direction. This does not hold, however, for the circumpositional phrase achter de optocht aan in (270b), which can only be used to indicate a direction.

Example 269
a. Er stond een ladder tegen de muur (aan).
location
  there  stood  a ladder  against the wall  aan
  'A ladder stood against the wall.'
b. Jan zette de ladder tegen de muur (aan).
change of location
  Jan put  the ladder  against the wall  aan
  'Jan put a ladder against the wall.'
Example 270
a. Jan liep tegen de ladder *?(aan).
direction
  Jan walked  against  the ladder     aan
  'Jan ran into the ladder.'
b. Er liepen veel kinderen achter de optocht #(aan).
direction
  there  walked  many children  behind  the parade    aan
  'Masses of children followed the parade.'

The element aan in the locational examples in (269) can be dropped without a notable change in meaning; the presence of aan just seems to stress that there is physical contact between the located object and the reference object. In the directional examples in (270), on the other hand, aan must be present; without it the construction is either degraded or the directional meaning gets lost. The latter holds for (270b), which can be readily illustrated by considering its perfect tense counterparts in (271): if the verb lopen takes the auxiliary zijn it is a verb of traversing, which requires a directional complementive, and aan is compulsory; if the verb takes hebben it is an activity verb, which is compatible with a locational adverbial PP, and aan is preferably dropped.

Example 271
a. Er zijn horden kinderen achter de optocht *(aan) gelopen.
  there  are  masses children  behind  the parade     aan  walked
  'Masses of children have followed the parade.'
b. Er hebben horden kinderen achter de optocht (?aan) gelopen.
  there  have  masses children  behind  the parade    aan  walked
  'Masses of children have walked behind the parade.'

The locational and directional examples in (269) and (270) seem to differ in another respect as well. The examples in (272) show that the first differ from the latter in allowing the split pattern under a neutral intonation pattern; see also Section 1.2.5, sub IIIA.

Example 272
a. Tegen de muur stond een ladder aan.
location
a'. Tegen de muur zette Jan de ladder aan.
change of location
b. * Tegen de ladder liep Jan aan.
direction
b'. * Achter de optocht zijn horden kinderen aan gelopen.
direction

This suggests that achter ... aan is better not considered a circumposition in the locational construction. Making a distinction between the phrases in the directional and the locational constructions is also supported by the data in (273). In the (change of) locational constructions the element aan can occupy a position within the clause-final verb cluster, which is a typical property of particles, whereas this gives rise to a degraded result in the directional construction. We leave it to future research to investigate whether this suggestion is on the right track; see also Section 1.2.5, sub IIIA, for relevant information.

Example 273
a. dat de ladder tegen de muur heeft aan gestaan.
location
  that  the ladder  against the wall  has  aan  stood
a'. dat Jan de ladder tegen de muur heeft aan gezet.
change of location
  that  Jan the ladder  against the wall  has  aan  put
b. ?? dat Jan tegen de ladder is aan gelopen.
direction
  that  Jan against  the ladder  has  aan  walked
b'. ?? dat er veel kinderen achter de optocht zijn aan gelopen.
  that  there  many children  behind  the parade  are  aan  walked
[+]  II.  Van... af

There are two circumpositions with af as their second member: van ... af and op ... af. The examples in (274) show that the circumpositional phrase van ... af may indicate a (change of) location, although it should be noted that (274a) is unnatural. Similar constructions are not possible with op ... af. The examples in (275) show that the two circumpositional phrases can both be used directionally.

Example 274
a. ? Het boek lag van de tafel (af).
location
  the book  lay  from the table  af
  'The book was removed/had fallen from the table.'
b. Jan legde het boek van de tafel (af).
change of location
  Jan put  the book from the table  af
  'Jan removed the book from the table.'
Example 275
a. Jan reed van de berg ?(af).
direction
  Jan drove  from the mountain   af
  'Jan drove down from the mountain.'
b. Jan liep op zijn tegenstander *(af).
direction
  Jan walked  towards his opponent  af

In the locational examples in (274), the element af can be dropped without a clear change in meaning; the presence of af just seems to stress that the physical contact between the located object and the reference object has been broken. At first sight, it appears that af can also be dropped in the directional example in (275a), but this may be due to the fact that the preposition van can also be used as a directional preposition. In this respect, it is important to note that the absence or presence of af affects the meaning of the clause: if af is present, as in (276a), the implied path goes downward along the surface of the mountain, as depicted in Figure 32A; if af is absent, as in (276b), the clause can also express that Jan is withdrawing from the mountain, as in Figure 32B. In other words, only if af is present is it necessarily implied that the starting point of the implied part is situated on the mountain. Since the element af cannot be dropped in the case of (275b), it seems safe to conclude that it is actually obligatory in the directional construction, and that the case without af involves the directional prepositional phrase van de berg.

Example 276
a. Jan reed van de berg af.
  Jan drove  from the mountain  af
  'Jan drove down from the mountain.'
b. Jan reed van de berg ?(naar het meer).
  Jan drove  from the mountain    to the lake
  'Jan drove from the mountain to the lake.'

Figure 32: Van de berg (af)'(down) from the mountain'

[+]  III.  P... door

The (a)-examples in (277) show that the circumposition tussen ... door cannot be used to indicate a (change of) location. The grammatical use of the circumpositional phrase in (277b) is directional. The same thing holds for onder ... door, which we will not illustrate here.

Example 277
a. Het boek ligt tussen de andere spullen (*door).
location
  the book  lies  between the other things     door
a'. Jan legt het boek tussen de andere spullen (*door).
change of location
  Jan puts  the book  between the other things    door
b. Jan reed tussen de bomen #(door).
direction
  Jan drove  between the trees    door
  'Jan drove along a path that goes through the trees.'

In (277b), door must be present; without it the directional meaning is lost. This can be readily illustrated by considering the perfect-tense constructions in (278): if the verb rijden takes the auxiliary zijn it is a verb of traversing, which requires a directional complementive, and door is compulsory; if the verb takes hebben it is an activity verb, which is compatible with a locational adverbial PP, and door is preferably dropped.

Example 278
a. Jan is tussen de bomen *?(door) gereden.
  Jan is between the trees    door  driven
  'Jan has driven through in between the trees.'
b. Jan heeft tussen de bomen (?door) gereden.
  Jan has  between the trees    door  driven
  'Jan has driven along a path that goes through the trees.'
[+]  IV.  P... heen

The (a)-examples in (279) show that circumpositions with heen as their second member may indicate a (change of) location. The circumpositional phrase in (279b) is directional. In the (a)-examples, heen can be dropped without any clear effect on the meaning. This is also the case in (279b), which is not surprising since over can also be used as a directional preposition; the same thing holds at least marginally for langs'along' and om'around'.

Example 279
a. Over zijn schouder (heen) hing een kleurige das.
location
  over  his shoulder   heen  hung  a colorful scarf
  'A colorful scarf was hanging over his shoulder.'
a'. Over zijn schouder (heen) hing Jan een kleurige das.
change of location
  over  his shoulder   heen  hung  Jan a colorful scarf
  'Jan hung a colorful scarf over his shoulder.'
b. Jan reed over de brug (heen).
direction
  Jan drove  over the bridge  heen
  'Jan drove over the bridge.'

For completeness' sake we want to note that it is not particularly clear what semantic effect dropping heen has on the example in (279b). It has been suggested that heen indicates a movement directed away from the speaker (Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal; entry heenII) or some other anchoring point, but this certainly cannot be extended to the non-directional cases in (279). Furthermore, it does not seem to provide a correct characterization for directional examples such as (280) either.

Example 280
Jan is drie keer om mij heen gefietst.
  Jan is three time  around me  heen  cycled
'Jan has traversed the path around me three times on bicycle.'

It should be noted, however, that heen can be used as a verbal particle, and in that case it indeed has this implication of movement away from the speaker or some other anchoring point. However, these cases often have an archaic or idiomatic flavor. Some more or lesss idiomatic examples are given in (281).

Example 281
a. Jan is heen gegaan.
  Jan is away  gone
  'Jan has departed this life.'
b. Loop heen!
  go away
  'Go away!' or 'You're kidding.'
c. Ik ga er morgen heen.
  go  there  tomorrow  heen
  'Iʼll go there tomorrow' or 'Iʼll visit him/her/it/them tomorrow.'

That (281a) is idiomatic is beyond doubt. . Turning to (281b), in addition to its idiomatic meaning “youʼre kidding!”, the more literal meaning “go away!” is special in that in colloquial speech this combination only occurs in the imperative mood: Jan liep heen'Jan walked away' is very formal and perhaps even archaic. That (281c) is more or lesss idiomatic is perhaps less clear. The main reason for assuming this is that the locational pro-form er'there' cannot be replaced by a full PP; examples such as (282a) are completely ungrammatical if heen is present (the same thing holds for iets er heen brengen'to bring something to NP'). More idiomatic expressions with heen are given in (282b&c).

Example 282
a. Ik ga morgen naar oma/de bioscoop (*heen).
  go  tomorrow  to granny/the cinema     heen
  'Iʼll visit granny /go to the movies tomorrow.'
b. achter iets heen gaan
  after  something  heen  go
  'to chase/follow something up'
c. achter iets/iemand heen zitten
  after  something/someone  heen  sit
  'to keep onto something/someone'
[+]  V.  P... in

The (a)-examples in (283) show that the circumpositional phrase tussen de meisjes in may indicate a (change of) location; this is not easily possible, however, with tegen + NP + in. Both circumpositional phrases with in as their second member can be used directionally. This is illustrated in (283b) for tegen de stroom in: this example expresses that the speaker is traversing a path opposite to the direction of the current.

Example 283
a. Jan zit tussen de twee meisjes (in).
location
  Jan sits  between the two girls   in
  'Jan is sitting in between the two girls.'
a'. Marie zet Jan tussen de twee meisjes (in).
change of location
  Marie puts  Jan  between the two girls  in
  'Marie is putting Jan in between the two girls.'
b. Tegen de stroom *(in) zwem ik niet graag.
direction
  against  the current     in  swim  not  gladly
  'I don't like to swim against the current.'

The element in can be dropped without a notable difference in meaning in the non-directional (a)-examples; in just seems to function as an emphasizer. In the directional example in (283b), on the other hand, in must be present; without it, the directional meaning gets lost.

[+]  VI.  P... langs

The examples in (284) show that circumpositions with langs as their second member are only used as directional adpositions; the non-directional (a)-examples are only acceptable without the element langs.

Example 284
a. De bloemen liggen achter het huis (*langs).
location
  the flowers  lie  behind the house    langs
  'The flowers are lying behind the house.'
a'. Jan legt de bloemen achter het huis (*langs).
change of location
  Jan puts  the flowers  behind the house    langs
  'Jan is putting the flowers behind the house.'
b. Jan wandelt achter het huis #(langs).
direction
  Jan walks  behind  the house    langs
  'Jan is walking along the back of the house.'

In (284b), the element langs is obligatory; without it the directional meaning gets lost. This can be readily illustrated by considering the perfect-tense constructions in (285): if the verb wandelen takes the auxiliary zijn it is a verb of traversing, which requires a directional complementive, and langs is compulsory; if the verb takes hebben it is an activity verb, which is compatible with a locational adverbial PP, and langs is preferably dropped.

Example 285
a. Jan is achter het huis *(langs) gewandeld.
  Jan is behind  the house    langs  walked
  'Jan has walked along the back of the house.'
b. Jan heeft achter het huis (*?langs) gewandeld.
  Jan is behind  the house     langs  walked
  'Jan has walked behind the house.'
[+]  VII.  P... om

The examples in (286) show that circumpositions with om as their second member are only used as directional adpositions; the non-directional (a)-examples are only acceptable without the element om. In example (286c), we are dealing with a metaphorical use of the circumpositional phrase buiten de administratie om.

Example 286
a. De bloemen liggen achter het huis (*om).
location
  the flowers  lie  behind the house     om
  'The flowers are lying behind the house.'
a'. Jan legt de bloemen achter het huis (*om).
change of location
  Jan puts  the flowers  behind the house     om
  'Jan is putting the flowers behind the house.'
b. Jan liep achter het huis #(om).
direction
  Jan walked  behind  the house    om
  'Jan walked around the back of the house.'
c. Deze procedure loopt buiten de administratie *(om).
  this procedure  goes  outside  the administration     om
  'The administration is not involved in this procedure.'

In (286b&c), the element om is obligatory; without it the directional meaning of (286b) is lost, and (286c) becomes ungrammatical. The loss of the directional meaning of (b) can be readily illustrated by considering the perfect-tense constructions in (287): if the verb lopen takes the auxiliary zijn it is a verb of traversing, which requires a directional complementive, and om is compulsory; if the verb takes hebben it is an activity verb, which is compatible with a locational adverbial PP, and om is preferably dropped.

Example 287
a. Jan is achter het huis *(om) gewandeld.
  Jan is behind  the house     om  walked
  'Jan has walked around the back of the house.'
b. Jan heeft achter het huis (*?om) gewandeld.
  Jan has  behind  the house     om  walked
  'Jan has walked behind the house.'
[+]  VIII.  Tegen ... op

The examples in (288) show that the circumposition tegen ... op can only be used as a directional adposition; the non-directional (a)-examples are only acceptable without the element op. In example (288c), we are dealing with an idiomatic construction tegen de klippen op werken.

Example 288
a. De ladder stond tegen de muur (??op).
location
  the ladder  stood  against the wall     op
  'The ladder stood against the wall.'
a'. Marie zette de ladder tegen de muur (??op).
change of location
  Marie put  the ladder  against the wall     op
  'Marie put the ladder against the wall.'
b. Jan klimt tegen de muur #(op).
direction
  Jan climbs  against the wall    op
  'Jan is climbing up against the wall.'
c. Jan werkt tegen de klippen *(op).
  Jan works  against  the cliffs     up
  'Jan is working extremely hard.'

The element op is obligatory in the directional construction; without it the directional meaning of (288b) gets lost and (288c) becomes ungrammatical. For those people who accept (289b) without op, the verb acts as an activity verb, and the PP acts as an adverbial phrase.

Example 289
a. Jan is tegen de berg *(op) geklommen.
  Jan is  against the mountain     op  climbed
  'Jan has climbed up against the wall.'
b. Jan heeft tegen de berg ?(*?op) geklommen.
  Jan has  against the mountain       op  climbed
  'Jan has climbed up against the wall.'
[+]  IX.  P... toe

The examples in (290) show that the circumposition tot ... toe cannot readily be used to denote a (change of) location.

Example 290
a. De stenen liggen tot de heg (*?toe).
location
  the stones  lie  until the hedge     toe
  'The stones are lying up to the hedge.'
b. Jan legt de stenen tot de heg (*?toe).
change of location
  Jan lays  the stones  until the hedge     toe
  'Jan is laying the stones up to the hedge.'

The examples seem to improve slightly if we add a van-PP, as in (291). It is, however, doubtful whether the circumpositions refer to a (change of) location in these cases: the van-PP is directional (it indicates the starting point of the path) so we expect that the circumpositional phrase is also directional (it indicates the endpoint of the path). Therefore, the examples in (291) are directional, and have an extent reading comparable to Het pad loopt van hier tot aan de heg (toe)'The path extends from here to the hedge'.

Example 291
a. De stenen liggen van hier tot de heg (?toe).
  the stones  lie  from here  until the hedge   toe
b. Jan legt de stenen van hier tot de heg (?toe).
  Jan lays  the stones  from here  until the hedge  toe
  'Jan is laying the stones from here to the hedge.'

As is shown in (292), the examples in (290) become completely grammatical if the noun phrase de heg is preceded by the element aan. It has been suggested that tot aan ... toe is also a circumposition, albeit of a slightly more complex nature. There are, however, reasons to reject this suggestion: the preposition tot is able to take an adpositional complement (see Section 2.2.1, sub III, for more discussion), so we may be dealing with the circumposition tot ... toe, which takes a PP-complement.

Example 292
a. De stenen liggen tot aan de heg (toe).
  the stones  lie  until  at the hedge  toe
b. Jan legt de stenen tot aan de heg (toe).
  Jan lays  the stones  until  at the hedge  toe
  'Jan is laying the stones from here to the hedge.'

      From the discussion above, we can probably conclude that circumpositions with toe are directional only, as in (293). In these examples, toe seems to be optional, which is not really surprising given that the prepositions naar'to' and tot'until' are both directional themselves; the meaning contribution of toe seems to be mainly a case of adding emphasis. Note that (293b) can also be made more complex by adding the element aan; we will return to such examples in Section 2.2.1, sub III.

Example 293
a. Jan reed naar Peter (toe).
  Jan  drove  to Peter  toe
  'Jan drove to Peter.'
b. Jan reed tot <aan> de grens <aan> (toe).
  Jan drove  until   aan  the border  toe
  'Jan drove until the border.'
[+]  X.  P... uit

The circumpositions with uit as their second member can be used to refer to a location, as in (294a): the element uit must be present in order to obtain the “out from” reading. The corresponding construction involving a change of location in (294b) is infelicitous, which, in this case, may be due to the fact that it seems improbable that Marie would stick out her skirt on purpose.

Example 294
a. Haar rok hing onder haar jas #(uit).
location
  her skirt  hung  under her coat   uit
  'Her skirt was sticking out from under her coat.'
b. # Marie hing haar rok onder haar jas uit.
change of location
  Marie hung  her skirt  under her coat  uit

A verb that seems to combine rather easily with the sequence P + NP + uit is steken, but in this case, too, the change of location reading seems degraded, as is shown in (295a'). Sometimes, however, the change of location construction seems to be possible, as in (295b'), but whether we can conclude something from this is not clear because uit can also be used as a verbal particle, which is clear from the fact that the PP boven de menigte is optional in this example.

Example 295
a. Het formulier stak onder zijn papieren uit.
  the form  stuck  under his papers  uit
  'The form stuck out from under his papers.'
a'. * Jan stak het formulier onder zijn papieren uit.
  Jan stuck  the form  under his papers  uit
b. Jans hand stak (??boven de menigte) uit.
  Janʼs hand  stuck    above the crowd  uit
  'Janʼs hand was sticking out above the crowd.'
b'. Jan stak zijn hand (boven de menigte) uit.
  Jan stuck  his hand   above the crowd  uit
  'Jan stuck out his hand above the crowd.'

      Whatever the answer may be to the question as to whether circumpositions with uit can be used in constructions involving a change of location, it is clear that they can be used to refer to directions. One example is given in (296).

Example 296
De fanfare liep voor de optocht #(uit).
  the brass band  walked  before  the parade    uit
'The brass band walked in front of the parade.'

Example (296) shows that the element uit is obligatory in the directional construction; if it is absent the directional meaning is lost. This can be readily illustrated by considering the perfect-tense constructions in (297): if the verb lopen takes the auxiliary zijn it is a verb of traversing, which requires a directional complementive, and uit is compulsory; if the verb takes hebben it is an activity verb, which is compatible with a locational adverbial PP, and uit is preferably dropped.

Example 297
a. De fanfare is voor de optocht *(uit) gelopen.
  the brass band  is before  the parade     uit  walked
  'The brass band has walked in front of (= led) the parade.'
b. De fanfare heeft voor de optocht (??uit) gelopen.
  the brass band  has  before  the parade     uit  walked
  'The brass band has walked in front of (≠ led) the parade.'
[+]  XI.  P... vandaan

The examples in (298) show that circumpositions with vandaan as their second member are only used as directional adpositions. The non-directional (a)-examples are only acceptable without the element vandaan.

Example 298
a. De bloemen liggen achter het huis (*vandaan).
location
  the flowers  lie  behind the house   vandaan
  'The flowers are lying behind the house.'
a'. Jan legt de bloemen achter het huis (*vandaan).
change of location
  Jan puts  the flowers  behind the house   vandaan
  'Jan is putting the flowers behind the house.'
b. Jan reed achter de bomen #(vandaan).
direction
  Jan drove  behind the trees   vandaan
  'Jan drove from behind the trees.'

The element vandaan is obligatorily present in the directional construction in (298b); without it the directional meaning is lost. This can be readily illustrated by considering the perfect-tense constructions in (299): if the verb rijden takes the auxiliary zijn it is a verb of traversing, which requires a directional complementive, and vandaan is compulsory; if the verb takes hebben it is an activity verb, which is compatible with a locational adverbial PP, and vandaan must be dropped.

Example 299
a. Jan is achter de bomen *(vandaan) gereden.
  Jan is behind the trees    vandaan  driven
  'Jan has driven from behind the trees.'
b. Jan heeft achter de bomen (*vandaan) gereden.
  Jan has  behind the trees    vandaan  driven
  'Jan has driven behind the trees.'

Often, circumpositional phrases with vandaan can be preceded by the preposition van; cf. (300a). This element is not, however, part of the circumposition but a regular preposition, as will be clear from the fact that the circumpositional phrase can be replaced by the adpositional pro-form daar'there'; cf. (300b). We return to this in Section 2.2.1.

Example 300
a. Jan kwam van achter de bomen vandaan.
  Jan came  from  behind the trees vandaan
  'Jan can from behind the trees.'
b. Jan kwam van daar.
  Jan came  from there

      Finally, note that the construction in (301) seems to be the antonym of the idiomatic construction Ik ga er heen in (281c), and is therefore in all likelihood also an idiomatic expression.

Example 301
Ik kom er net vandaan.
  come  there  just  from
'I just come from there.' or 'Iʼve just visited him/her/it/them.'
[+]  XII.  Summary

Table 19 again gives the list of circumpositions and indicates whether they can be used to indicate a (change of) location or a direction. Further, we have indicated whether or not the second part of the circumposition must be present in order for the circumpositional phrase to express the locational/directional meaning.

Table 19: Spatial circumpositions
circumposition locational reading directional reading
  available particle available 2nd part
achter ... aan n.a. + obligatory
tegen ... aan + optional    
van ... af + optional + obligatory (but see (275a))
op ... af n.a.    
onder/tussen ... door n.a. + obligatory
door/langs/om/ over ... heen + optional + obligatory
tegen ... in n.a. + obligatory
tussen ... in + optional    
achter/boven/onder/voor ... langs n.a. + obligatory
achter/buiten/voor ... om n.a. + obligatory
tegen ... op n.a. + obligatory
naar/tot ... toe n.a. + optional
achter/boven/onder/ tussen/voor ... uit location: +
change of location: —
optional; meaning effect + obligatory
achter/bij/om/onder/ tussen/van ... vandaan n.a. + obligatory

It will be clear from this table that all circumpositions can have a directional meaning, and that the second part of the circumposition is generally obligatorily present then; it can only be dropped if the first part can also occur as a preposition with a directional meaning.
      The table also shows that only a small subset of the circumpositions can be used in a locational construction. Moreover, the second part generally has little impact on the meaning expressed. Perhaps it is therefore even legitimate to ask whether we are really dealing with circumpositions in these cases, or just with prepositional phrases that are somehow emphasized by some sort of particle. We will assume the latter option, although we will leave it to future research to investigate whether this suggestion is indeed on the right track.
      To conclude, note that most circumpositional phrases also allow an extent reading. The examples in (302) show that only the circumpositions ending in aan, uit and vandaan seem to resist this use.

Example 302
De weg loopt ...
a. *? tegen het bos aan
  against  the wood  aan
b. van de berg af
   from  the mountain  af
c. tussen de bomen door
  between  the trees  door
d. over de brug heen
   over  the bridge  heen
e. ? tussen de bomen in
  between  the trees  in
f. achter het huis langs
   behind  the house  langs
g. voor het huis om
  in.front.of  the house  om
h. tegen de berg op
   against  the mountain  op
i. naar het hek toe
  towards  the gate  toe
j. * achter het bos uit
   behind  the wood  uit
k. * achter het bos vandaan
  behind  the wood  vandaan
References:
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    A free Open Access publication of the corresponding volumes of the Syntax of Dutch is available at OAPEN.org.