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Preposition + Postposition Phrase

Prepositions may combine with postpositional complements, as in the following example, in which the preposition is emphasised and the postpositional phrase bracketed:

Hy vat sommer die voetpad agter die huis teen [die rant uit].
he take simply the footpath behind the house against the ridge out
He simply takes the footpath behind the house to the top of the ridge

It will be shown how postpositions combine with various prepositions, thus forming circumpositions, depending on the verb type, and how reference is made to the end point in temporal reference by means of the postposition toe until.

[+]Postpositions and verb meanings

Two examples are given below, in which the postpositional phrase functioning as prepositional complement is bracketed. In this example, no preposition or postposition can be left out without causing a change in meaning.

Hulle het 'n loopgraaf gegrawe tot langs [die koppie verby].
they have.AUX a trench dig.PST to along the hillock past
They dug a trench along and past the hillock.

In the following adapted sentence, the postposition is left out:

Hulle het 'n loopgraaf gegrawe tot langs [die koppie].
they have.AUX a trench dig.PST to along the hillock
They dug a trench up to along the hillock.

As the translation indicates, the meaning has changed. However, there are also examples where the postposition can be left out without causing any apparent change in meaning, as in the following example:

a. Hulle het na die swembad toe gehardloop.
they have.AUX to the swimming.pool towards run.PST
They ran to the swimming pool
b. Hulle het na die swembad gehardloop.
they have.AUX to the swimming.pool run.PST
They ran to the swimming pool.

In his example above, if toe to is optional, it could either be interpreted as indicating motion towards, or motion up to, the swimming pool. If the first interpretation applies, the circumpositional phrase na die swembad toe towards the swimming.pool to would be synonymous with the PPin die rigting van die swembad in the direction of the swimming pool, in other words, a directional adverbial phrase. If the second applies, a synonymous PP would be tot by die swembad up to the swimming pool, in other words, an adverbial phrase indicating an end point. This ambiguity seems to apply in the case of verbs indicating motion, either spatial or temporal. In the case of verbs which do not denote such motion, the use of a postposition would be redundant or ungrammatical (also see Pilon 2017).

?Hulle kyk na die swembad toe.
they look at the swimming.pool towards
They are looking at the swimming pool.
To emphasise motion, two types of adpositions could be employed:
  1. either the preposition could be repeated as a postposition (see example (6)); or
  2. a separate postposition could be added (see example (7)).
Kom uit die water uit!
come out the water out
Come out of the water!
Spring van die dak af!
jump from the roof off
Jump off the roof!

This distinction between spatial change and non-change reflected by the relevant verb is comparable with the case distinction between accusative (8a) and dative (8b) in German.

a. Wirf den Baumstamm ins Wasser!
throw the.ACC tree.stump.M in.the.ACC water.NEUT
Gooi die boomstomp in die water (in)!
Throw the log into the water!
b. Der Baumstamm treibt im Wasser.
the.NOM tree.stump.M drift in.the.DAT water.NEUT
Die boomstomp dryf in die water.
The log is drifting in the water.

While this strategy to indicate change by means of the use of postpositions with Afrikaans verbs of motion is mostly optional, the opposite (i.e. use of postpositions with verbs not indicating motion) seems to be occurring as a regional or informal style marker, such as in these examples, in which the postposition is bracketed.

a. Hulle woon in die Kaap [in].
they live in the Cape in
They live in the Cape.
b. Sy skryf met 'n pen [saam].
she write with a pen together
She is writing with a pen.
[+]Reference to the end point in temporal reference

As in the case of spatial motion, the passage of time can also be stressed by means of a postposition toe until which indicates the end point, built on the preposition tot until. In fact, toe represents the postpositional equivalent of tot. In example (10) the optional postposition is indicated between square brackets.

Ons sal darem droog kan bly tot môre [toe].
we will.AUX.MOD fortunately dry can.AUX.MOD stay until tomorrow until
Fortunately, we will be able to stay dry until tomorrow.

Reference to the starting point, incidentally, is indicated by the same combination of pre- and postpositions (hence circumpositions) as in the case of spatial motion, namely van … af from … of. Compare the two structures in example (11).

a. Hy kom van Bloemfontein [af].
he come from Bloemfontein of
He comes from Bloemfontein.
b. Hulle is van verlede jaar [af] hier.
they be.PRS from last year of here
They have been here since last year.

In some cases, the members of a circumposition can combine to form a complex preposition, as in the sentence below.

a. van volgende jaar af
from next year of
from next year onwards
b. vanaf volgende jaar
from next year
as from next year

However, this is not always possible, as in this example, which expresses locality:

a. Ons het swaargekry langs die steiltes uit.
we have.AUX suffer.PST along the steep.rises out
We suffered going up die steep rises.
b. *Ons het swaargekry langsuit die steiltes.
we have.AUX suffer.PST along.out the steep rises
We suffered going up the steep rises.
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