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Show full table of contents alternative means of expressing spatial relations

The expression of spatial relations typically involves the use of adpositional phrases or prepositional pro-forms like daar'there'. It should be noted, however, that there are alternative ways of expressing such notions: Subsection I first discusses alternative ways of expressing a change of location, after which Subsection II discusses alternative ways of expressing a direction.

[+]  I.  Change of location

The examples in (329) involve a change of location: in (329a) the located object planten'plants' is located in the reference object de tuin'the garden', in (329b) the located object boter'butter' is located on the reference object het brood'the bread', and in (329c) the located object de posters is located on the reference object de muur'the wall'. The subsections below will show that there are several alternative ways of expressing similar relations. Most cases involve verbs derived by means of the prefixes be-, ver- and ont-, which will be discussed more extensively in Section V3.

Example 329
a. Jan zet planten in de tuin.
  Jan puts  plants  in the garden
b. Jan smeert boter op het brood.
  Jan smears  butter  on the bread
c. Jan plakt de posters op de muur.
  Jan pastes  the posters  on the wall
[+]  A.  Denominal verbs prefixed with be-

The primeless examples in (330) are alternative ways of expressing the same assertions as in (329a&b). In a sense, the located object has become an inherent part of the verb, and the function of the preposition has been taken over by the prefix be-. The reference object from (329) now acts as the direct object of the verb, which is clear from the fact that it becomes the subject of the clause in the passive construction in the primed examples.

Example 330
a. Jan be-plant de tuin (met rozen).
  Jan be-plants  his garden   with roses
a'. De tuin wordt beplant (met rozen).
  the garden  is  planted   with roses
b. Jan be-botert het brood (met margarine).
  Jan be-butters  the bread  with margarine
b'. Het brood wordt beboterd (met margarine).
  the bread  is  buttered  with margarine

Although the constructions in (329a&b) and (330) are more or less synonymous, there is a conspicuous difference between them: whereas the assertions in the primeless examples in (330) can be made more specific by adding a met-PP, the addition of such a PP leads to ungrammaticality in the constructions in (329a&b), as is shown in the primeless examples in (331). In order to express the more specific assertions, we have to substitute the noun phrase rozen/margarine for the direct object planten/boter, as in the primed examples of (331).

Example 331
a. Jan zet planten in zijn tuin (*met rozen).
  Jan puts  plants  in his garden     with roses
a'. Jan zet rozen in zijn tuin.
b. Jan smeert boter op zijn brood (*met margarine).
  Jan smears  butter  on his bread    with margarine
b'. Jan smeert margarine op zijn brood.

      The examples in (332) show that the formation of be-verbs is not fully productive. The nouns in the primeless examples cannot act as the stem of be-verbs, which suggests that the attested denominal be-verbs are listed in the lexicon.

Example 332
a. Jan zet rozen in zijn tuin.
  Jan puts  roses  in his garden
a'. * Jan beroost zijn tuin.
b. Jan smeert jam op zijn brood.
  Jan smears  jam  on  his bread
b'. * Jan bejamt zijn brood.

      A small sample of be-verbs of the type in (330) is given in Table 20. The first column provides the stem of the verb and its English translation, the second column gives the derived verb, and the third column gives a translation or paraphrase in English.

Table 20: Denominal verbs prefixed with be- expressing a location
stem verb translation
bos'wood' bebossen to afforest
dijk'dike' bedijken to put dikes around/next to
mest 'manure' bemesten to manure
modder 'mud' bemodderen to put mud on
schaduw'shadow' beschaduwen to cast shadow on
vracht'load' bevrachten to put a load on
water'water' bewateren to water
[+]  B.  Deverbal verbs prefixed with be-

      Another way of expressing a similar contention to those in (329b&c) is given in the primeless examples in (333): the verb is prefixed with be-, the preposition op'on' is dropped, and the passive constructions in the primed examples show that the reference object has become the direct object of the construction. The located object can but need not be overtly expressed by means of a met-PP. If the located object is not overtly realized, it is semantically implied in the sense that, without the PP, the examples in (333) imply a located object that is, respectively, “smearable” and “pastable”.

Example 333
a. Jan be-smeert het brood (met boter).
  Jan be-smears  the bread  with butter
  'Jan butters the bread.'
a'. Het brood wordt be-smeerd (met boter).
  the bread  is  be-smeared  with butter
b. Jan be-plakt de muur (met posters).
  Jan be-pastes  the wall  with posters
b'. De muur wordt be-plakt (met posters).
  the wall  is  be-pasted  with posters

There is, however, a meaning difference between the examples in (329b&c) and (333): whereas the former are compatible with a reading in which the located object covers only part of the reference object, the latter imply that the reference object is fully (or at least to a very large extent) covered by the located object. This can be made clear relatively easily by comparing the singular counterparts of (329c) and (333b) in (334). Replacement of this plural noun phrase de posters'the posters' by a singular one is easily possible in the former case but not in the latter.

Example 334
a. Jan plakt de poster op de muur.
  Jan pastes  the poster  on the wall
  'Jan is pasting the poster on the wall.'
b. # Jan be-plakt de muur met de poster.
  Jan be-pastes  the wall  with the poster

Example (334b) is only possible in (the improbable) case that the poster completely covers the wall. In other words, the deverbal be-verb has a sense of “completiveness” or “even distribution”; the wall must end up fully covered with posters, or with posters more or less evenly distributed on it. That this is the case is perhaps also supported by the fact that whereas the examples in (329) alternate with the primeless constructions in (335) in which the notion of “total affectedness” is expressed by means of the adjective vol'full', this adjective is not compatible with the deverbal be-verbs. This could be accounted for by claiming that the primed examples are tautologous: vol and the prefix -be in a sense perform the same semantic function.

Example 335
a. Jan plant de tuin vol (met rozen).
  Jan plants  the garden  full  with roses
a'. * Jan be-plant de tuin vol (met rozen).
b. Jan smeert het brood vol (met boter).
  Jan smears  the bread  full with butter
b'. * Jan be-smeert het brood vol (met boter).
c. Jan plakt de muur vol (met posters).
  Jan pastes  the wall  full with posters
c'. * Jan be-plakt de muur vol (met posters).

Table 21 provides a small sample of verbs of the type in (334). Observe that it is sometimes not clear whether we are dealing with a denominal or a deverbal verb. Beplanten, for example may be denominal (cf. Jan zet planten in de tuin in (329a)) or deverbal (cf. Jan plant rozen in de tuin'Jan plants roses in the garden').

Table 21: Deverbal verbs prefixed with be- expressing a change of location
stem verb translation
hangen'to hang' behangen met to paper with
planten'to plant' beplanten met to plant with
sproeien'to spray' besproeien met to spray with
strooien'to strew' bestrooien met to strew with
[+]  C.  Denominal verbs prefixed with ont-

Denominal verbs prefixed with ont-, such as ontharen'to depilate' and ontkurken'to uncork' in (336), are in a sense the opposite of the denominal verbs prefixed with be-. Whereas the latter are related to change of location constructions where the reference object is the new position of the located object, the former is related to change of location constructions such as (337) where the reference object is the original position. As in the case of the denominal be-verbs, the reference object acts as the direct object of the verb prefixed by ont-, which is clear from the fact that it becomes the subject of the clause in the passive construction. In Table 22, some more examples of denominal verbs prefixed by ont- are given.

Example 336
a. Jan ont-haart zijn benen.
  Jan ont-hair-s  his legs
  'Jan depilates his legs.'
a'. Zijn benen worden ont-haard.
  his legs  are  ont-hair-ed
b. Marie ont-kurkt de fles.
  Marie ont-cork-s  the bottle
  'Jan uncorks the bottle.'
b'. De fles wordt ont-kurkt.
  the bottle  is  ont-cork-ed
Example 337
a. Jan haalt de haren van zijn benen.
  Jan removes  the hairs  from his legs
b. Jan haalt de kurk uit de fles.
  Jan removes  the cork  out.of  the bottle
Table 22: Denominal verbs prefixed with ont- expressing a location
stem verb translation
bos'forest' ontbossen to deforest
grond'soil/basis' ontgronden to take away the soil/basis
hoofd'head' onthoofden to decapitate
kalk'lime' ontkalken to decalcify
volk'people' ontvolken depopulate

Sometimes denominal be- and ont-verbs are in true opposition, as in bebossen and ontbossen, but in many other cases there are no antonym pairs. This shows again that the formation of be- and ont-verbs is not a productive process and that the attested cases must therefore be part of the lexicon.

[+]  D.  Simple verbs

In a very limited number of cases, a simple verb can also express a change of location. The clearest example is zadelen'to saddle' in example (338b), which can be paraphrased by means of the construction in (338a). In Dutch, this process is certainly not as productive as in English: verbs like to shelve, to box or to file cannot be translated by means of simple verbs in Dutch.

Example 338
a. Jan legt het zadel op zijn paard.
  Jan puts  the saddle  on his horse
b. Jan zadelt zijn paard.
  Jan saddles  his horse
[+]  II.  Direction (path)

The examples in (339) involve a path: in (339a), the referent of the noun phrase Jan covers a path that has its endpoint within the reference object “the hall”, and in (339b) the referent of the noun phrase Jan covers a path that goes to the top of the mountain. The subsections below will show that there are alternative ways of expressing similar relations.

Example 339
a. Jan treedt de zaal binnen.
  Jan steps  the hall  inside
  'Jan steps into the hall.'
b. Jan klimt de berg op.
  Jan climbs  the mountain  onto
  'Jan climbs onto the mountain.'
[+]  A.  Deverbal be-verbs

The examples in (340) are alternative ways to express the same assertions as in (339). The verb is prefixed with be-, and the postposition is dropped. The stem of these directional be-verbs typically belongs to the class of unaccusative verbs. Some other examples are given in Table 23.

Example 340
a. Jan be-treedt de zaal.
  Jan be-steps  the hall
  'Jan enters the hall.'
b. Jan be-klimt de berg
  Jan be-climbs  the mountain
  'Jan climbs onto the mountain.'
Table 23: Deverbal directional verbs prefixed with be-
stem verb translation
naderen'approach' benaderen to approach (something)
springen'to jump' bespringen to jump on
stijgen'to rise' bestijgen to mount/ascent

The examples in (341) illustrate the inability of “transitive” verbs (verbs with a complementive that is predicated of the accusative argument) to act as the stem of a directional be-verb.

Example 341
a. Jan duwt de autoʼs de berg op.
  Jan pushes  the cars  the mountain  onto
  'Jan pushes the cars onto the mountain.'
a'. * Jan be-duwt de berg (met de autoʼs).
b. De politie slaat de demonstranten het ziekenhuis in.
  the police  hits  the demonstrators  the hospital  into
  'The police are hitting the demonstrators into the hospital.'
b'. * De politie be-slaat het ziekenhuis (met demonstranten).

The directional be-verbs differ in this respect from the be-verbs denoting a change of location, as will be clear from the difference between the (b)-examples in (341) and the examples in (342). In fact, the stems of the deverbal be-verbs discussed in Section, sub I, are typically “transitive”.

Example 342
a. Jan slaat de platen op de muur.
  Jan hits  the slabs  onto the wall
b. Jan be-slaat de muur met platen.
[+]  B.  Denominal ver-verbs

Section 1.3.3, sub I, will discuss that the notion of path is also applicable to non-spatial/temporal semantic fields. The examples in (343), for instance, denote a metaphorical “path” from one state of affairs into another. The referent of the noun phrase Krakas (a character from a Dutch series of childrenʼs books) changes from a state in which it has the form of an unappetizing looking bird into a state in which it looks like a tasty duck that can be used as an ingredient for soup.

Example 343
a. De heks verandert Krakras in een smakelijke soepeend.
  the witch  changes  Krakras  into a tasty soup.duck
b. Krakras verandert in een smakelijke soepeend.
  Krakras  changes  into a tasty soup-duck

Constructions such as (343) often alternate with constructions involving denominal ver-verbs. Some examples are given in (344); transitive examples, like (344a'), are sometimes a bit cumbersome.

Example 344
a. De hitte veranderde het water in damp.
  the heat  changed  the water  into vapor
a'. ? De hitte verdampte het water.
  the heat  evaporated  the water
b. Het water veranderde in damp.
  the water  changed  into vapor
b'. Het water verdampte.
  the water  evaporated

More examples are given in Table 24. Sometimes the meaning of the ver-verb has narrowed to the paraphrase given after the sign “⇒”.

Table 24: Denominal change of state verbs prefixed with ver-
stem verb translation
film'movie' verfilmen change into a movie adapt (a story) for the screen
gas'gas' vergassen change into gas
gras'grass' vergrassen change into grassland
kool'coal' verkolen carbonize
snoep 'sweets' versnoepen change into sweets spend money on sweets
water'water' verwateren change into water dilute

Note in passing that the deadjectival verbs prefixed by ver- in (345) express a meaning aspect similar to those in Table 24, but are related to inchoative copular or resultative constructions.

Example 345
a. De lakens worden geel.
  the sheets  become  yellow
a'. De lakens vergelen.
  the sheets get.yellow
b. Deze zeep maakt de was zachter.
  this soap  makes  the laundry  softer
b'. Deze zeep verzacht de was.
  this soap  softens  the laundry
[+]  C.  Simple verbs

Occasionally, simple verbs inherently express the notion of a path. This is clear from the fact that the primeless and primed examples in (346) are virtually synonymous; the only difference between the two sets of examples is that in the primeless examples the manner of motion is made explicit.

Example 346
a. Jan loopt voorbij de winkel.
  Jan walks  past  the shop
a'. Jan passeert de winkel.
  Jan passes  the shop
b. Jan loopt de zaal uit.
  Jan walks  the hall  out-of
b'. Jan verlaat de zaal.
  Jan leaves  the hall
[+]  III.  Summary

This section has shown that various types of spatial relations can be expressed without an adpositional phrase by means of verbs prefixed with be-, ver- and ont-, and a small set of simplex verbs. Note that such derived verbs are not only used to express spatial notions, but can be used for other purposes as well. For a more comprehensive discussion of these verbs, we refer the reader to De Haas & Trommelen (1993: chapter 2, sub 4,2).

  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij