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3.3.Non-spatial/temporal adpositional phrases

Generally speaking, modification is restricted to spatial and temporal adpositional phrases. There are, however, at least two exceptions to this general rule, which are discussed in the following subsections.

[+]  I.  Predicative PP idioms

Section 1.3.3, sub I, has discussed idiomatic PPs like in zʼn knollentuin'very happy' (lit.: in his vegetable garden) in copular constructions such as (93a). Such PPs do not express locational meaning, but generally refer to a mental state of the entity they are predicated of. In this respect, they behave like the adjective tevreden'satisfied' in (93b) and this similarity goes beyond this superficial semantic correlation; such PPs also behave syntactically more like adjectives than like “regular” PPs. For example, like tevreden in (93b), the idiomatic PPs in (93a) may take a PP-complement, which is certainly not a common feature of regular PPs.

a. Jan is in zʼn knollentuin/nopjes/sas/schik met dit boek.
  Jan is in zʼn knollentuin/nopjes/sas/schik  with this book
  'Jan is very happy with this book.'
b. Jan is tevreden met dit boek.
  Jan is satisfied with  this book

The idiomatic PPs in (93a) also behave more or less like adjectives with respect to modification; see example (372) in Section 1.3.3, sub I, for a larger sample of modification possibilities. Example (94a), for instance, shows that amplification by means of zeer/erg'very' gives rise to a perfect result. They differ from adjectives, however, in that downtoners like vrij in (94b) are not possible, which is perhaps due to the fact that these idiomatic PPs inherently express a relatively high degree.

a. Jan is erg/zeer in zʼn knollentuin/... met dit boek.
  Jan is very  in zʼn knollentuin/...  with this book
  'Jan is extremely happy with this book.'
b. *? Jan is vrij in zʼn knollentuin/... met dit boek.
  Jan is rather  in zʼn knollentuin/...  with this book

The examples in (95) show that the idiomatic PPs in (93a) also behave like adjectives in that they allow (periphrastic) comparative/superlative formation. Not all degrees of comparison give rise to an equally felicitous result, however; the majorative and maximative degree in (95a) are clearly better than the equative in (95b), and the minorative and minimative degree in (95c). Possibly this is due to the same reason why downtoners give rise to a marked result: insofar as the minorative degree is acceptable it feels like an understatement meaning “Jan is nothappy with this book”.

a. Jan is meer/het meest in zʼn knollentuin/... met dit boek.
  Jan is more/the most in zʼn knollentuin/...  with this book
  'Jan is happier/happiest with this book.'
b. * Jan is even in zʼn knollentuin/... met dit boek.
  Jan is as in zʼn knollentuin/...  with this book
  Intended reading: 'Jan is just as happy with this book.'
c. Jan is ?minder/??het minst in zʼn knollentuin/... met dit boek.
  Jan is less/the least  in zʼn knollentuin/...  with this book
  'Jan is less/the least happy with this book.'

      Observe that the modifiers modify the complete PP, which is clear from the fact, illustrated in (96a), that the PP-complement can (at least marginally) occupy the position between the modifier and the idiomatic PP. It is even more clearly shown by the fact that stranded prepositions of PP-complements may intervene between the modifier and the idiomatic PP, as is shown in (96b). In this respect these idiomatic PPs resemble the pseudo-participles discussed in Section A2.3.1, sub III.

a. ? dat Jan erg/zeer met dit boek in zʼn knollentuin is.
  that  Jan very  with this book  in zʼn knollentuin  is
b. dat Jan er erg/zeer <mee> in zʼn knollentuin <mee> is.
  that  Jan there  very   with  in zʼn knollentuin  is
[+]  II.  The “negative” preposition zonder'without'

The prepositions met'with' and zonder'without' function as antonyms. The first can be characterized as existential in the sense that it implies the existence of its complement, whereas the latter can be characterized as its “negative” counterpart in the sense that it denies the existence of its complement. This means that, in a sense, met and zonder differ in the same way as the indefinite articles een'a' and ∅ and their negative counterpart geen'no'. Given that the preposition met is existential, its nominal complement is compatible with a numeral: (97a) expresses that there are (two) exceptions. Being the negative counterpart of existential met, the preposition zonder is not compatible with a numeral on its nominal complement: (97b) can express that there are no exceptions, but not that two exceptions do not exist.

a. met (twee) uitzonderingen
  with   two  exceptions
b. zonder (*twee) uitzonderingen
  without     two  exceptions

The examples in (98) show that the “negative” preposition zonder and the “negative” indefinite article geen are also similar in that they can both be modified by means of approximative modifiers like vrijwel'virtually' and absolute modifiers like helemaal'completely', which indicate whether or not the implied negation is absolute.

a. vrijwel/helemaal geen uitzonderingen
  virtually/completely  no  exceptions
b. vrijwel/helemaal zonder uitzondering
  virtually/completely  without  exception
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