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1.3 Bare adpositions

Bare adpositions are adpositions which do not have a syntactic complement. Some bare adpositions may be used as adverbial phrases, but there are also bare adpositions which characteristically combine with a verb. Two kinds of bare adpositions are distinguished:

  • Static adpositions, as in: ‘He is down.’
  • Dynamic adpositions, as in: ‘Write it down.’

Static adpositions characteristically occur with copulas, whereas dynamic adpositions characteristically occur with non-copular verbs. Below we will further discuss the following properties of bare adpositions:

  • Their meaning
  • The mapping of their arguments onto syntactic structure
  • Their combinatorial properties

Static adpositions combine with copulas in a broad sense (such as: have, be, modals, evidentials). An example is given below:

Wie wieren noch ape, as wie dät heerden.
we were still up when we it heard
We were still awake (not in bed), when we heard it.

Static adpositions are associated with a clear meaning, which makes sense, seeing that the meaning contribution of the copula is minimal. In contrast, dynamic adpositions are more clearly selected by a non-copular verb. An example is given below:

Wieruum rakst du nu ap?
why give you now up
Why do you give up now?

Here the meaning of the selected adpositions is partially determined by the selecting verb, and as a result, it is hard to determine the meaning contribution of the adposition in isolation from the meaning contribution of the verb. So we may find unexpected meanings both with static (copular) adpositions and with dynamic (non-copular) adpositions, but in the former case the meaning will clearly be associated with the adposition whereas in the latter case it is not very well possible to determine the meaning of the dynamic adposition apart from the meaning of the verb.

The difference between copular adpositions and selected adpositions further involves the availability of a thematic role for the external argument. In (1) above, the subject receives its thematic role, its meaning, chiefly, from the adposition. In (2), in contrast, the subject receives its thematic role from the combination of the verb and the adposition, which is also referred to as a verbal particle in English linguistics. Selected adpositions, or verbal particles, contribute to the aspect of the clause. The presence of a particle renders a clause resultative (or telic), whereas the absence of a particle may result in an irresultative (or atelic) interpretation.

Bare adpositions do not have a complement, hence they do not have an internal argument, but they same to hae an external argument, to which they assign a thematic role in tandem with the verb. If the meaning contribution of the verb is minimal, as happens to be the case with copulas, then the adposition will by and large determine the thematic role of the subject. The meaning contribution of the adposition is also sensitive to the personhood of the subject. This is common with verbs, that their meaning contribution depends on whether their argument is a person or not. To illustrate, consider the following pair of sentences:

Iek bän ape.
I am up
I am awake (not in bed).
Dät Soalt is ape.
the salt is up
The salt is finished.

The meaning of the bare adposition varies depending on the nature of the subject. With persons, the adposition has a range of meanings that is different from the range of meanings which it has with non-persons.

It is clear from the examples above that the external argument to an adposition can be a NP. In rare cases, it can also be realised as a clause (which semantically always is a proposition). In such cases, the subject position is normally filled with the anticipatory pronoun dät ‘it’.

Below is a list of simplex adpositions which may function as bare adpositions, either with a copula or with a non-copular verb:

an to, on
ap up
bäte behind
bie at
deel down
foar for
hooch up
ien/inne in
juun against
loangs along
mee with
oer about
oun to, in
ou off
tou at
truch around
um around
uut out
wäch away
wai to

These adpositions are all able to function as Verbzusatz, as a verbal particle. The verbal particle is usually adjacent to the verb, except when the tensed verb is found in the first or second position of main clauses. For many processes, the verb and its particle behave as a unit.

We also note the German interference herum ‘around’, a verbal particle which is succesfully competing against uum / ume and umetou. Semantic differences between these particles should be further investigated.

Note that the class of verbal particles is wider than the class of bare adpositions. That is, not only bare adpositions may function as verbal particles, but also some members of other word categories. For example, the words wier ‘back’ and wieder ‘again, continuing’ also function as verbal particles. These words involve time and frequency, two closely related concepts. Verb particle combinations tend to be idiomatic, that is, a matter of lexical collocation, but there is always some room for innovation and new uses, indicating that the process is productive.

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