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3 Modification of PPs

PPs can be modified. An example is provided below:

Hie stjunkt [tjoon Meter] juun dän Wíend an.
he stinks ten meter against the wind to
He stinks ten meter upwind.

Here the PP is modified by a measure phrase of the category NP, bracketed in the example above. The phrase is part of an idiom denoting a high degree. Four types of modifiers are distinguished:

  • NPs
  • APs
  • PPs
  • Adverbs

Modifiers can combine with PPs depending on their semantic properties, which are not well understood. The position of the modifier may vary, although it is usually found in front of the PP which it modifies. The modifier may be questioned by means of an interrogative pronoun such as wo fuul ‘how much / many’. Modifiers characteristically indicate a degree or a measure.


The following examples involve a postpositional phrase that is modified by a NP denoting a measure.

Dät Skäin stoant [300 Meter [fon ju Sträite tourääch]].
the barn stands 300 meter of the street back
The barn stands 300 meters back from the road.
Hie woont [‘n Eende [fon ju Sträite ou]].
he lives a distance of the street off
His house is quite a distance away from the street.

The first example involves an exact measure, the second a vague measure. The following examples involve a prepositional phrase that is modified by a NP denoting a measure.

Die Houngst is [läip [in Ferfaal]].
the horse is quite in decay
The horse is in quite a bad shape.
Wie liegen [fjauerhundert Meter [unner dän Top]].
we laid 400 meter below the summit
We were lying 400 meter below the summit.

Here the first measure phrase is a high degree modifier of the category adjective or adverb, the second is an exact measure phrase of the category NP. Consider also the following interesting example:

Dät leter färre wai, bie still un kloor Weeder do Skippere do uur dän Dollert fierden, [wied un joop unner’t Woater] do touhope brekenen Huze un Tärpe tou sjoon wieren.
that later farther away at still and clear weather the boatmen who across the Dollart sailed far and deep under.the water the to.pieces broken houses and village to see were
That later, farther away, when the weather was still and clear, the boatmen sailing across the Dollart, far and deep under water were to be seen the broken down houses and villages.

The PP unner’t Woater ‘under Water’ is modified by a conjunction of two adjectives, wied un joop ‘far and deep’. Indicentally, the example is from spoken language, from the Kramer archive. Spoken language may display unfinished syntactic structures. This is the case in the example above, in which the subject do Skippere ‘the boatmen’ is left without a tensed verb, since the speaker subsequently shifts to an impersonal construction with passive interpretation, of which the subject is the bracketed NP, the houses and villages which could be seen under the water. Bare adpositions can also be modified:

Ju Foart ätter La Rochelle wai is wied ume.
the journey to La Rochelle to is far round
The journey to La Rochelle involves a major detour.
Dät Jeeld waas glääd wäch.
the money was smooth away
The money was completely gone.

The first measure phrase is a high degree phrase of the category (wied ‘far’), the second one is a universal degree modifier (glääd ‘completely’, like heel un aal ‘completely). Both are adjectives used as adverbs. Note that wied ‘far’ has a suppletive paradigm: wied, färe, wiedste ‘far, further, furthest’. In fact, the paradigm is a mix of the paradigms of the etymological equivalents of far and wide. Below are some further examples of high degree modification:

Zeküür liekuut.
precise same.out
Straight ahead.
Et roate sik goud, dät hie juust in dän Ogenblik bie uus koom.
it gave REF good that he just in that moment at us came
It was a good thing that he came to us at just that moment.

The first example is directional, the second example is temporal. Consider also the following examples, involving a prepositional phrase with a high degree modifier:

Hie siet stieuw an mie.
he sat stiff to me
He was sitting tight against me.
Hie ron stieuw an mie foarbie.
he walked stiff to me for.at
He passed very close to me.

Another high degree modifier nai ‘close’ appears in the following examples:

Nai bieëenuur.
close at.each.other
Close to each other.
Ju woont appenaite fon dät oolde Täärp.
she lives on.the.nearness of the old village
She lives near the old village.
Uus Muur is nai bie säkstich.
our mother is close at sixty
Our morther is close to sixty.

Almost synonymous is the word strom ‘close’:

Die Woain stoant strom an ju Sträite.
the car stands close to the street
The car is close to the street.

The modifier midde ‘in the middle of’ specifies a spatial distribution between the two arguments of a preposition, as in the following examples:

Wie kemen bie dän ekene Boom midden in’t Täärp touhope.
we came at the oak tree middle in.the village together
We came together at the oak tree in the middle of the village.

Here the preposition establishes a horizontal containment relation betwene the tree and the village, but the modifier further specifies that the tree is located in the middle. It is also possible that preposition and modifier combine into a complex preposition, which is followed by the default preposition fon ‘of’, as in the following example:

Ju Stoundbielde stuud inmidde fon uus Täärp.
the statue stood in.middle of our village
The statue stood in the middle of our village.

This modifier in general modifies prepositions denoting a containment relation, as in the following examples:

Hie lieg midde ap de Sträite.
he laid middle on the street
He was lying in the middle of the street.
Hie stuud midde twiske / moank do Bisäikere.
he stood middle between between the visitors
He stood in the middle of the visitors.
Do Geleerde moakeden ‘n Kring uum him tou, un Jesus siet deer midde oane tou pretenjen.
the scholars made a circle around him to and Jesus sat R middle in to preach
The scholars made a circle around him, and Jesus was preaching in the middle of them.

The last example above illustrates that the preposition in changes to the postposition oane in case its complement is realised as an R-pronoun. On this, see: Schwa as a marker of staticity on adpositions (6). The example also illustrates that R-pronouns may refer to persons (and their location).

Adpositions themselves may also function as modifiers of PPs. Some examples are discussed below:

Wie ronnen bäte an do Huze loangs.
we walked behind to the houses along
We walked behind the houses.

In this example, the modifier bäte seems to modify a complex PP, containing a postposition selecting a PP headed by an ‘to’. In other examples, the modifier bäte ‘behind’ is found sandwiched in between the prepositional phrase and the postposition:

Die grote Sträibalen fäl fon dän Woain bäte-deel.
the big straw.bale fell of the car behind-down
The big bale of straw fell off the back of the wagon.
So ‘n wöisten Wäänt mout ‘n poor Haue bäte-foar häbe.
such a naughty boy must a couple blows behind-for have
Such a naughty boy must have a few punches on his behind.
Hie ron in dän Tuun bäte-loangs.
he walked in the garden behind-along
He walked in the garden along the back of it.
Hie is fon dän Woain bäte-ou falen.
he is of the car behind-off fallen
He fell off the back of the car.
Iek waas bienaist bäte-uur falen.
I was almost behind.over fallen
I almost fell backwards

Note that examples (22) and (25) involve modification of a bare adposition. The other examples involve modification of a complex PP. Now, in West Frisian, the modifier would have to precede the complex PP as a whole.

PPs can also be modified by the adjectives for the concepts left and right, which refer to body orientation with respect to a location, as in the following example:

Gjuchts un links fon de Seelter Ai.
right and left of the Saterland Ai
To the right and to the left of the river, the Saterland Ai.

However, the question arises whether the adjectives truly modify the PPs or whether the PPs modify the adjectives. Semantically, it seems more appropriate to analyse the adjectives as heads of APs with the PPs functioning as modifiers.

To summarise, PP modifiers are mostly of the categories adposition, adjective or noun. In some cases, modifiers are adverbs of which the word category cannot be further determined. Exact modifiers tend to be of the category NP.

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