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0 Introduction to the PP

The Adposition Phrase (PP) is a syntactic structure built around an adposition. The Adposition Phrase is abbreviated as PP, since both prepositions and postpositions are subsumed within adpositions. A preposition precedes its complement whereas an adposition follows its complement. If an adposition doesn’t have a complement, it cannot be determined whether a preposition or a postposition is involved. This is for example the case with bare adpositions used in copular predications, as in ‘The doctor is in’, and with bare adpositions selected by the verb, which are also called verb particle constructions, such as ‘phone up’, ‘hope for’, and so on. We will refer to bare adpositions as postpositions. Circumpositions are combinations of a preposition and a postposition. Not all phrases built on circumpositions have the same internal structure, though it is common for a postposition to select a prepositional phrase.

The abbreviation PP for ‘Adpositional Phrase’ generalises over prepositions and postpositions and it has the advantage that confusion with the Adjective Phrase (AP) is avoided. Prepositions and postpositions are taken together in one category of adpositions because they are closely related semantically, syntactically and lexically. Thus the class of prepositions shows a strong overlap with the class of postpositions. For example, the word truch ‘through’ is found to function both as a preposition and as a postposition. In other cases, preposition and postposition show a strong similarity: thus the preposition in ‘in’ corresponds to the postposition oun ‘(in)to’.

Adpositions can be classified by a number of characteristics. Adpositions can have complements. If an adposition takes a complement on its right, it belongs to the adpositional subclass of prepositions, as in (1) below. Complement arguments to adpositions are bracketed in the following two examples. The first example below involves a complement of the category Noun Phrase (NP), the second one involves a complement of the category PP:

In [Skäddel].
in Skäddel
In Skäddel.
[In dän Sloot] oun.
in the ditch to
Into the ditch.

The adposition oun ‘to’ takes a complement to its left. Hence it may be classified as a postposition. PPs can be modified by, for example, PPs, APs and NPs, which consequently function as adverbials (See: 3. Modification of PPs). In the examples below, the modifier has been bracketed:

[Fjauerhundert Meter] unner dän Top.
four hundred meter below the summit
Four hundred meter below the summit.
Iek waas [heel un aal] ove.
I was whole and all off
I was completely exhausted.

Bare adpositions, also termed preverbs or verbal particles, are adpositions without a complement of their own (See: 4. Intransitive adpositions). They are bracketed in the examples below:

Iek waas heel un aal [ove].
I was whole and all off
I was completely exhausted.
Wie häbe dät hele Huus näi [ap]moaked.
we have the whole house new up.made
We renovated the whole house.

The behaviour of adpositions is quite complex in Germanic languages.


PPs show up in various types of predication. They may be predicated of the subject, as in the first sentence below, or of the proposition as a whole, as in the second example.

Hie is in Skäddel.
he is in Skäddel
He is in Skäddel.
In dut Huus hälpt dät Wucht hiere Mäme bie’t Boaken.
in this house helps the girl her mother at.the baking
In this house, the daughter helps her mother with baking.

Semantically, the PP serves various purposes. An adposition characteristically denotes a relation between two elements, such as the relation between the two NPs in the examples below:

Hie is in Skäddel.
he is in Skäddel
He is in Skäddel.
Hie is in dien Oaler.
he is in your age
He is about as old as you.

The first example illustrates the basic use of adpositions. They express a locative relation between a locatee and a location. Here the locatee is a person, and the preposition indicates that the locatee is at the location. The second example illustrates the abstract use of adpositions. They can also express a relation of abstract predication between the subject and the prepositional complement. In the second example, the phrase dien Oaler ‘your age’ is predicated of the subject. In these examples, the adposition is realised as a preposition, so preceding its complement.

An adposition can also be realised as a postposition, so following its complement. In their basic use, postpositions denote a directional relation between a locatee and a location.

Die oolde Rom statte mie in dän Sloot oun.
the old ram kicked me in the ditch to
The old ram kicked me into the ditch.

In the example above, the preposition in ‘in’ expresses location, and the postposition oun ‘to’ expresses direction. In a sense, preposition and postposition form a complex predicate expressing movement towards a location, as is neatly expressed by the English complex preposition into, consisting of the locative element in and the directional element to. However, location and direction are not always so neatly distinguished. In the following example, the preposition expresses both location and direction:

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

Here the locational aspect is less important, as the focus is on the cooking which is the result of the action of putting the pan on the location. Postpositions can also be used with an abstract meaning, for example, when they are used to refer to time, as in the following example:

Dän hele Dai oun.
the whole day to
The whole day through > constantly.

It can be observed that the postposition is associated with non-nominative case.

Adpositions can also be realised as preverbs or verbal particles. In such cases, the adposition doesn’t have a complement. We will refer to adpositions without a complement as bare adpositions. If such bare adpositions can refer on their own, they can be combined with copulas to be predicated pf the subject. An example is given below:

Wie wieren noch ape, as wie dät heerden.
we were still up. E when we it heard
We were still up (> awake), when we heard it.

Here the bare adposition has developed the meaning ‘awake’. Note that the bare adposition is marked with a schwa (see: Schwa as a marker of permanence on adpositions (4)). However, bare adpositions may also combine with non-copular verb and develop into idiomatic combinations. An example is given below:

Hie häd sien hele Fermugen apmoaked.
he has his whole wealth up.made
He used up all his wealth.

Here the combination of verb and adposition have a specialised meaning of spending or depleting. Semantically verb and adposition may thus form a complex predicate.

Below is an overview of the main topics which will be dealt with:

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