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2.1 Prepositions

The complement of a preposition can be of the following categories:

  1. a NP
  2. a clause
  3. a PP

Each of these categories is discussed. R-pronouns are briefly discussed with respect to their role as anticipatory pronouns connected to clause, but it is imperative for a proper understanding of the PP to also read: NP > R-pronouns.

[+]1. The complement to a preposition is a NP

The complement of a preposition can be a full NP, as in the following examples:

In dut Huus. Bie älke Treed.
in this house at each step
In this house.’‘With each step.

The complement of a preposition can also form an indiomatic combination with the preposition. In such cases, the article may be absent or present, depending on the idiom, but the NP complement is not expanded with APs or other phrases.

Hie gungt nu in Tjoonst.
he goes now in service
He now goes into military service.
Hie häd et in’e Moage.
he has it in.the stomach
He has pain in his stomach.

Idiomatic NP complements such as the above semantically behave like predicates rather than arguments. If they were truly arguments, then they would allow of determiners such as älke ‘each’. However, insertion of such a determiner yields weird expressions: * in älke Tjoonst gunge ‘go into each (military) service’. The idiomatic meanings tends to get lost in such cases, and the phrase is interpreted literally rather than idiomatically. Thus an idiomatic meaning is often accompanied by the absence of the determiner, as in (2) above, and in the example below:

Do Bäidene ap Bääd moakje.
the children on bed make
Put the children to bed.

This idiomatic example focuses not so much on the literal meaning (carrying children to a bed) but on a more abstract meaning (doing what is needed to get the children to bed and getting them to sleep, for example, by telling them to go to bed). The bed itself is a concrete thing and location by implication, but not by assertion. The focus is on the habitual act.

[+]2. The complement to a preposition is a clause

A preposition cannot be directly accompanied by a tensed clause nor by a to-infinitive. In such cases, the preposition must be accompanied by a pronoun, and the complement clause is found at the end of the sentence. An example illustrating this by means of three sentences is given below:

Du moast ap dusse Seke oachtje.
you must on this matter sure.make
You must make sure of this matter.
*Du moast ap oachtje [dät hie dät Brood meebrangt].
you must on sure.make that he the bread along.takes
You makes make sure that he brings the bread.
Du moast deer ap oachtje [dät hie dät Brood meebrangt].
you must on sure.make that he the bread along.takes
You makes make sure that he brings the bread.

What happens is that the adposition must be accompanied by a pronoun. However, adpositions have a class of pronouns all of their own. They are homophonous to locative pronouns but they receive the interpretation of a prepositional complement, of an argument. R-pronouns, however, have the property that they can only co-occur with postpositions. So what happens is that the adposition is not realised as a preposition, but as a postposition. Note that there are some prepositions which cannot be accompanied by R-pronouns, such as bit ‘until’. Complex prepositions such as mäd Hälpe fon ‘with help of’ do not or rarely occur with R-pronouns either. The negative preposition sunder ‘without’ seldom occurs with an R-pronoun.

Not only tensed clauses must be doubled by a pronoun, in case they function as adpositional complements. This also applies to to-infinitival clauses. An example is provided below:

Wezet altied deer-ap uut, [mäd alle Krääfte truch ju äänge Dore tou roakjen].
be always R-on out with all strengths through the narrow door to get
Strive always to enter in at the strait gate with all strength.

In some cases, the combination of R-pronoun and postposition is omitted, and the clause is directly joined to the verb. Both options are, for example, found with the verb (deerap) hoopje ‘hope (for it)’.

Jo hoopje deerap, alles wierume-tou-kriegen.
they hope R.on everything back-to-get
They hope (for it) to get everything back.
Iek hoopje, dät iek oankelde Tied bie jou blieuwe kon.
I hope that I some time with you stay can
I hope that I can stay some time with you.

The first example involves the presence of theR R-pronoun and the adposition whereas they are absent in the second example. There is also a subtle meaning difference between the two options, which is hard to put into words. Note that the remarks above apply only to tensed clauses and adpositions which occur in the subcategorisation domain of the verb. Doubling by R-pronouns does not occur in case the PP functions as an adverbial clause. In that case, the preposition directly combines with an embedded clause, from which the complementiser dät ‘that’ is absent.

Furthermore, it seems that prepositions do not combine with the complementiser dät ‘that’ to form complex complementisers. This does happen in West Frisian, as is clear from examples like foardat / foar’t ‘before’, neidat / nei’t ‘after’. In Saterland Frisian, clauses directly combine with prepositions to form adverbial clauses:

Iek wol nit teeuwe, bit dät Ieten koold wädt.
I want not wait until the food cold becomes
I don’t want to wait until the food becomes cold.

The embedded clause following the adposition is not introduced by the complementiser dät ‘that’.

[+]3. The complement to a preposition is a PP

A preposition can also take a PP as its complement. This applies to some prepositions only, such as bit ‘up to, until’. Here is a simple example:

Bit [tou do Älbogen].
until to the elbows
Up to the elbows.

The complement of the preposition is itself a PP, more specifically, a prepositional phrase. A complex example is given below:

Bit [an dusse Tied an-tou].
until to this time to-to
Until this time.

The complement of the preposition bit ‘until’ is itself a PP, of which the internal structure is not easy to specify, seeing that it involves one preposition and two postpositions. The simple example involves location, and the complex example involves time.

A PP built on the preposition bit ‘up to, until’ denotes a goal. It may occur together with another PP built on the preposition fon ‘from, of’, which denotes a starting point or a source. The source PP and the goal PP are bracketed in the two examples below:

Wie timmerden dät oolde Huus [fon dän Käller] [bit tou dät Täk] ap.
we renovated the old house from the cellar until to the roof up
We renovated the house from the cellar up to the roof.

The first PP denotes a location, which functions as the source to the second PP denoting the goal. This example involves space, but a similar example can be found involving time, which is given below:

Hie kon nit behoolde fon twelich bit tou dän Middai.
he can not preserve from twelve until to the noon
He can't remember anything from twelve to noon.

The pattern in the temporal example here is the same as in the spatial example earlier. First there is a PP (preposition + NP) denoting the beginning, and it is followed by a PP (preposition + preposition + NP) denoting the end. A comparable meaning can also be expressed by one preposition, twiske ‘between’, followed by a coordination of two NPs, instead of two PPs headed by fon ‘of’ and bit tou ‘until, up to’. An example is given below:

Do Kisten wege twiske 100 un 150 Kilo.
the chests weigh between 100 and 150 kilo
The chests weigh between 100 and 150 kilo.

Here a range is expressed, rather than a process. This ties in with the facts that the verb in this example is stative (the verb is copular), whereas the verb in the example (13) is dynamic (it expresses a change).

The preposition uum ‘around’ is used to denote an area around and including the location or time expressed in the prepositional complement. It is usually accompanied by a postposition. Consider the following example:

Uum Paasken umetou.
around Easter around.to
Around Easter.

The postposition has the effect of adding the time close to Easter to the time of Easter itself. Perhaps the meaning of the postposition is to express a direction away from Easter itself (either earlier or later). It is not clear when the preposition uum ‘around’ must be accompanied by the postposition umetou ‘around’, but the examples we saw point in the direction of the hypothesis that the preposition uum requires the postposition umetou in case a dynamic event, a change, is involved. Put differently, the preposition is static, whereas the postposition is dynamic.

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