• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
2.2 Postpositions

Postpositions do not take complements that are clauses. The basic meaning of postpositions is directional. Thus they take a location as their argument, not a proposition, and, correspondingly, postpositions do not take clauses as their complement. Minimal pairs like the following nicely illustrate that a location is characteristically expressed by a prepositional phrase, and that the postposition specifies a direction:

Bie de Bierich hooch un deel.
at the hill up and down
Up and down the hill.

A direction makes no sense without a location, hence the postposition takes a prepositional phrase as its complement.


In West Frisian, a postposition can be directly combined with a NP, provided that the noun denotes a direction. A noun denoting direction in Saterland Frisian is, for example, Siede ‘side’, but we did not find examples of this noun functioning as the complement to a postposition. All examples involved either a preposition, or a preposition and a postposition. The complement of a postposition can thus be any of the following two categories:

  1. Prepositional phrase
  2. Postpositional phrase

Note that it is not always easy to determine the internal structure of an adpositional phrase containing more than one adposition.

[+]1. The complement to a postposition is a prepositional phrase

Postpositions frequently take a PP as their complement. This is clear from the examples in (1) above, repeated below as (1), followed by another example:

[Bie de Bierich] hooch un deel.
at the hill up and down
Up and down the hill.
Hie ron ätter Huus wai/tou
he walked after house to
He walked home.

These examples are well behaved, with a preposition and a postposition. But there are also directional sentences in which only a preposition is present, like the following:

Die Pot kumt ap’t Fjuur.
the pot comes on.the fire
The pot is put on the fire.

Perhaps the focus here is not on the location and the direction but on the process of cooking which has been initiated. For more examples of postposition having a PP complement, see: PP > Characteristics and classification of PPs >Postpositions > The listing of postpositions (1.2.1.).

[+]2. The complement to a postposition is a postpositional phrase

The head of the complement of a postposition can also be another postposition. Some examples are given below:

Fon mien Bäidenstied ap an.
of my childhood up to
Since my childhood.
Do Jungere lieten dän Paulus an ju Stäädmure biedeel.
the disciples let the Paul to the city.wall at.down
The disciples lowered Paul down the city wall.

However, it is not clear what the internal structure of these PPs is. It could be that the string of two adjacent postpositions has been reanalysed as a complex postposition. Note that (5) can also be produced with bie ‘at’ as a preposition, and without the preposition an ‘to’:

Bie ju Stäädmure deel.
to the town.wall down
Down the city wall.

Consider also the following example:

Ju gungt dän Sloot bieloangs.
she goes the ditch at.along
She walks along the ditch.

Here the postposition, complex or not, seems to take a complement of the category NP. It can be appreciated that the NP denotes a location. It could be argued that this is just an example of a postposition taking a prepositional phrase as its complement, with the preposition being incorporated into the postposition, a process comparable to noun incorporation, verb raising, and similar processes.

    printreport errorcite