• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents
1.2.5. Circumpositions
readmore
[+]  I.  General introduction

Circumpositions are complex adpositions that may occur discontinuously, that is, of which some part precedes and some part follows the complement of the adpositional phrase. Some examples are given in (105), in which the two parts of the circumposition are given in italics. The first part of the circumposition is an element that can also be used as a regular adposition. This can but need not be the case for the second part; whereas door in (105b) can also be used as an adposition, this is not the case for heen in (105a).

Example 105
Circumpositions
a. dat Jan over het hek heen sprong.
  that  Jan over  the gate  heen  jumped
  'that Jan jumped over the gate.'
b. dat Marie Peter tussen twee lessen door belde.
  that  Marie  Peter  between  two lessons  through  called
  'that Marie called Peter in between two lessons.'

Generally speaking, circumpositions have a spatial meaning, as in (105a), but (105b) shows that there are also temporal instances; cf. Section 1.3.2, sub III, for more discussion. Below we restrict ourselves to spatial circumpositional phrases, which can be used to indicate both a (change of) location and a direction; see Section 1.1.2.2 for these notions. This is clear from the fact that they can occur as the complement of both locational verbs and verbs of motion, as in (106a&b), and as the complements of verbs of traversing, as in (106c); see Section 1.3.1.4 for more discussion. See Claessen & Zwart (2010) for a detailed discussion of the semantics of circumpositions with heen.

Example 106
a. Het kleed ligt over de tafel heen.
location
  the tablecloth  lies over the table  heen
  'The tablecloth is lying over the table.'
b. Jan legt het kleed over de tafel heen.
change of location
  Jan lays  the tablecloth  over the table  heen
  'Jan is putting the tablecloth over the table.'
c. Jan is over de brug heen gereden.
direction
  Jan is over the bridge  heen  driven
  'Jan has driven over the bridge.'

Another special case that we will not discuss here is the phrase op XP na in (107) with the specialized meaning “apart from XP”, which is only used if some universally quantified or negative noun phrase is present in the clause.

Example 107
a. Ik heb alles gelezen op de inleiding na.
  have  everything  read  op  the introduction  na
  'Iʼve read everything apart from the introduction.'
b. Ik heb op Peter na niemand gezien.
  have  op from na  nobody  seen
  'Apart from Peter Iʼve seen nobody.'

Table 10 provides a list of elements that are traditionally assumed to be circumpositions, classified by means of their second part, and provides an example of each case. The discussion of circumpositions in this chapter will take this table as its point of departure.

Table 10: Circumpositions classified according to their second member
2nd part circumposition example
aan achter .. aan achter de optocht aan lopen
'to walk after the parade'
  tegen .. aan tegen de deur aan lopen
'to walk/bump into the door'
af van .. af van het dak af springen
'to jump from the roof'
  op .. af op iemand af lopen
'to walk towards someone'
door onder .. door onder de brug door lopen
'to walk under the bridge'
  tussen .. door tussen de bomen door lopen
'to walk between the trees'
heen door .. heen door het stof heen lopen
'to run through the dust'
  ?langs .. heen ?langs de jongen heen lopen
'to walk past the boy'
  om .. heen om het huis heen lopen
'to walk around the house'
  over .. heen over het heen springen
'to jump over the gate'
in tegen .. in tegen de stroom in lopen
'to walk against the current'
  tussen .. in tussen twee meisjes in zitten
'to sit between two girls'
langs achter .. langs achter het huis langs lopen
'to walk along the back of the house'
  boven .. langs boven de brug langs lopen
'to walk above (along) the bridge'
  onder ..langs onder de brug langs lopen
'to walk down (along) the bridge'
  voor .. langs voor het huis langs lopen
'to walk along the front of the house'
om achter .. om achter het huis om lopen
'to walk around the back of the house'
  buiten .. om buiten het huis om lopen
'to walk around the exterior of the house'
  voor .. om voor het huis om lopen
'to walk around the front of the house'
op tegen .. op tegen de muur op klimmen
'to climb up against the wall'
toe naar .. toe naar Peter toe lopen
'to walk towards Peter'
  op .. toe op Peter toe lopen
'to walk towards Peter'
  tot aan .. toe tot aan de grens toe lopen
'to walk up to the border'
uit achter .. uit achter de kast uit halen
'to get out from behind the closet'
  boven .. uit boven de bomen uit steken
'to stick out above the trees'
  onder .. uit onder haar jas uit steken
'to stick out from under her coat'
  tussen .. uit tussen de papieren uit steken
'to stick out from between the papers'
  voor .. uit voor de optocht uit lopen
'to walk in front of the parade'
vandaan achter .. vandaan achter de boom vandaan komen
'to come from behind the trees'
  bij .. vandaan bij de buren vandaan komen
'to come from the neighbors'
  om .. vandaan om de hoek vandaan komen
'to come from around the corner'
  onder .. vandaan onder de kast vandaan halen
'to get from under the closet'
  tussen .. vandaan tussen de troep vandaan halen
'to get out of the middle of the mess'
  uit .. vandaan uit de kast vandaan halen
'to take out of the closet'
  van .. vandaan van de kapper vandaan komen
'to come from the hairdresser'
  voor .. vandaan voor de auto vandaan trekken
'to pull away from in front of the car'

For completeness' sake, example (108) provides the same set, but now classified according to their first part.

Example 108
Spatial circumpositions classified according to their first part
a. achter .. aan/langs/om/uit/vandaan
j. op .. af/toe
b. bij .. vandaan
k. over .. heen
c. boven .. langs/uit
l. tegen .. aan/in/op
d. buiten .. om
m. tot (aan) .. toe
e. door .. heen
n. tussen .. door/in/uit/vandaan
f. ? langs .. heen
o. uit .. vandaan
g. naar .. toe
p. van .. af/uit/vandaan
h. om .. heen/vandaan
q. voor .. langs/om/uit/vandaan
i. onder .. door/langs/uit/vandaan

It is important to note that not all complex adpositions are part of the set of circumpositions: the complex adpositions tegenover and voorbij in (109a&b) act as prepositions, and the complex adposition voorbij in (b') acts as a postposition.

Example 109
a. Jan zat tegen-over de koningin.
  Jan sat opposite  the queen
  'Jan was sitting opposite the queen.'
b. Jan liep voor-bij het huis.
  Jan walked  past  the house
b'. Jan liep het huis voor-bij.
  Jan walked  the house  past
  'Jan was walking past the house.'
[+]  II.  Circumpositions versus PP + particle combinations: five tests

It is sometimes difficult to decide whether we are dealing with a circumposition or with a verbal particle preceded by a prepositional phrase. This is due to the fact that many of the elements in the first column of Table 10 can also be used as verbal particles, which will become clear by comparing this table with Table 9 in Section 1.2.4, sub II. Therefore, it is useful to design some tests that can be used to establish whether we are dealing with a circumposition or with a construction in which a verbal particle is preceded by some PP. In order to do that, we will compare the syntactic behavior of the two examples in (110). The phrase achter de optocht aan in (110a) is a prototypical case of a circumpositional phrase, whereas neerleggen'to put down' is a typical case of a particle verb.

Example 110
a. dat de kinderen achter de optocht aan renden.
  that  the children  after the parade  AAN  ran
  'that the children ran after the parade.'
b. dat Jan het boek op de tafel neer legde.
  that  Jan the book  on the table  down  put
  'that Jan put the book down on the table.'
[+]  A.  Omission of the sequence P + NP

The sequence P + NP is an inherent part of the circumpositional phrase, and, consequently, omitting this sequence will result in ungrammaticality. This is illustrated in (111a). When we are dealing with a particle verb, on the other hand, there is no a priori reason for assuming that omission of the PP is impossible, and, as is shown in (111b), dropping the PP indeed gives rise to a grammatical result.

Example 111
a. * dat de kinderen aan renden.
  that  the children  AAN  ran
b. dat Jan het boek neer legde.
  that  Jan the book  down  put
  'that Jan put the book down.'
[+]  B.  Pronominalization of the sequence P + NP

The examples in (112) show that locational prepositional phrases can often be replaced by an R-word like daar'there', hier'here', etc.

Example 112
a. De kinderen spelen in de tuin.
  the children  play  in the garden
  'The children are playing in the garden.'
b. De kinderen spelen daar/hier.
  the children  play  there/here

Given that the sequence P + NP is an inherent part of the circumpositional phrase, we do not expect pronominalization of this part to be possible. In the case of a particle verb, on the other hand, the sequence P + NP is an independent PP, and pronominalization is expected to be possible. The examples in (113) show that these expectations are indeed borne out.

Example 113
a. * dat de kinderen daar/hier aan renden
  that  the children  there/here  aan  ran
b. dat Jan het boek daar/hier neer legde.
  that  Jan the book  there/here  down  put

For completeness' sake, observe that R-pronominalization of the nominal complement of the circumposition is possible. The same thing holds, of course, for the complement of the preposition. This is shown in (114), in which the parts of the discontinuous pronominal PPs are given in italics.

Example 114
a. de optocht waar de kinderen achter aan renden
  the parade  where  the children  after  aan  run
  'the parade that the children ran after'
b. de tafel waar Jan het boek op neer legde
  the table  where  Jan  the book  on  down  put
  'the table that Jan put the book down on'
[+]  C.  PP-over-V of the sequence P + NP

The examples in (115) show that the two parts of the circumposition appear in a fixed order. It cannot be changed by PP-over-V of the sequence P + NP. The order of the verbal particle and the PP, on the other hand, can be changed.

Example 115
a. dat de kinderen <achter de optocht> aan renden <*achter de optocht>.
  that  the children     after the parade  AAN  ran
b. dat Jan het boek < op de tafel> neer legde <op de tafel>.
  that  Jan the book    on the table  down  put
[+]  D.  Topicalization

Since circumpositional phrases are constituents, we expect that they can be topicalized, that is, be placed in clause-initial position, as in (116a). If we are dealing with a particle verb, on the other hand, the PP and the particle do not constitute a constituent and we therefore correctly expect it to be impossible to simultaneously topicalize the PP and the verbal particle; (116b) is marginal at best.

Example 116
a. ? Achter de optocht aan renden de kinderen.
  after  the parade  AAN  ran  the children
b. * Op de tafel neer legde Jan het boek.
  on the table  down  put  Jan the book

The contrast between the examples in (116a) and (116b) is perhaps not as sharp as one would desire, given that examples such as (116a) often sound marked as well; it requires contrastive accent on the topicalized phrase, which suggests that topicalization of circumpositional phrases is only possible in contrastive contexts. The markedness of (116a) may therefore be due to the fact that the circumpositional phrase is not explicitly contrasted with another adpositional phrase. A relatively good example is given in (117).

Example 117
Over het hek heen moet je springen, maar onder het hek door moet je kruipen.
  over the gate heen must you jump,  but under the gate door must you crawl
'You have to jump over the gate, but to crawl under it.'

      Since the PP is an independent constituent in the case of a particle verb, we correctly expect it to be able to topicalize if the particle remains in clause-final position, as in (118b). It would appear from example (118a) that circumpositional phrases cannot readily be split under topicalization.

Example 118
a. ?? Achter de optocht renden de kinderen aan.
  after the parade  ran  the children  aan
b. Op de tafel legde Jan het boek neer.
  on the table  put  Jan  the book  down

It is probably not the case, however, that the degraded status of (118a) is due to a syntactic constraint on preposing of the sequence P + NP, given that wh-movement of this sequence is fully acceptable. This shows that splitting circumpositional phrases is in principle possible: the markedness of (118a) is therefore somewhat mysterious.

Example 119
a. Achter welke optocht renden de kinderen aan?
  after which parade  ran  the children  aan
  'After which parade did the children run?'
b. Op welke tafel legde Jan het boek neer?
  on which table  put  Jan  the book  down
  'On which table did Jan put the book?'
[+]  E.  Adnominal use

Since circumpositional phrases are constituents, they can be used adnominally, just like other adpositional phrases. The PP + particle combinations do not form a constituent, and, as a result, they cannot be used in this way.

Example 120
a. het geren achter de optocht aan
  the running  after the parade  aan
  'the running after the parade'
b. de plaatsing op de tafel (*neer)
  the  placement  on the table    down
[+]  F.  Absolute met construction

In principle, the distribution of the P + NP + P sequences in absolute met constructions like (121a&b) could also be used as a test: the circumpositional phrase can be used as the predicate in this construction, whereas the PP + particle normally cannot.

Example 121
a. met de kinderen achter de optocht aan
  with  the children  after the parade aan
b. met de boeken op de tafel (*neer)
  with  the books  on the table  down

This test is less reliable, however, due to the fact that some particles, like aan in (122a), can also be used as the predicative part of the absolute met construction. As a result, we cannot conclude from the acceptability of (122b) that over zijn kleren aan is a circumpositional phrase; see Subsection IIIA, for more evidence. For this reason, we will not use the distribution of the P + NP + P sequences in absolute met constructions as a test to distinguish circumpositional phrases from verbal particles preceded by a prepositional phrase.

Example 122
a. met zijn toga aan
  with  his gown  on
b. met zijn toga (over zijn kleren) aan
  with  his gown  over his clothes  on
  'with his gown on over his clothes'
[+]  G.  Conclusion

Table 11 summarizes the findings with respect to the five tests we have developed in the previous subsections to distinguish circumpositional phrases from verbal particles preceded by a prepositional phrase. The first row indicates whether the sequence P + NP can be omitted, the second row whether this sequence can be replaced by an R-word, and the third row whether it can undergo PP-over-V, that is, whether the word order is fixed or not. The fourth row indicates whether the sequence P + ... + P can be topicalized in full and the final row indicates whether it can be used adnominally.

Table 11: Circumpositions vs. PP + Particle combinations
  circumposition PP + particle
omission of P + NP +
pronominalization of P +NP +
PP-over-V of P + NP +
topicalization of P + NP + P + *?
adnominal use of P + NP + P +

The five tests must be applied with care. More specifically, it is not the case that all PPs preceding a particle verb can be omitted, pronominalized and undergo PP-over-V; there may be independent reasons why these options are blocked. The PP + particle sequence in (123), for example, is fairly well behaved in that it gives a positive result to four of the five tests for assuming that we are dealing with a particle verb; it is only the pronominalization test in (123b) that fails, but this can, of course, be readily explained given that we are dealing not with a locational PP but with a comitative met-PP in (123a), which can never be pronominalized by daar'there'. Note in passing that the number sign in (123b) indicates that this example is acceptable if daar ... mee is interpreted as an instrumental pronominal PP meaning “with it”.

Example 123
a. dat Jan graag (met Marie) mee reed.
omission of P + NP
  that  Jan gladly with Marie  mee  drove
  'that Jan drove gladly along with Marie.'
b. # dat Jan daar graag mee reed.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. Met Marie <??mee> reed Jan graag <mee>.
topicalization
d. dat Jan graag mee reed met Marie.
PP-over-V
e. de reis met Marie (*?mee)
adnominal use
  the journey  with Marie      mee

The PP + particle sequence in (124) gives a positive result to only three of the five tests for assuming that we are dealing with a particle verb: the omission and pronominalization tests in (124a&b) fail. One might use this as evidence for claiming that we are dealing with a circumpositional phrase, which would imply that positive results for the other tests are not sufficient for arguing against a circumpositional phrase. It seems more plausible, however, to assume that the negative results in (124a&b) are due to the fact that the particle verb toe zijn obligatorily selects an aan-PP; the failure of the pronominalization test would then be in line with the fact that PP-complements of verbs cannot be pronominalized either. This means that we should take the data in (124c&e) as sufficient evidence for claiming that we are dealing with a particle verb.

Example 124
a. dat ik wel *(aan een borrel) toe ben.
omission of P + NP
  that  aff     to a drink  toe  am
  'that I could use a drink.'
b. * dat ik daar wel toe ben.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. Aan een borrel <??toe> ben ik wel <toe>.
topicalization
d. dat ik wel toe ben aan een borrel.
PP-over-V
e. de behoefte aan een borrel (*toe)
adnominal use
  the need  for  a drink    toe

The sequence aan mij voorbij gaan in (125), finally, satisfies just a single test in favor of assuming that we are dealing with a particle verb. The first two tests give a negative result in the sense that omission or pronominalization of the PP results in the loss of the idiomatic reading, which may again be related to the fact that the PP is selected by the particle verb. The fourth test gives a negative result in that PP-over-V of aan mij is highly marked. Since adnominal use is excluded regardless of whether voorbij is present or not, we cannot draw any firm conclusion from that either. Therefore, the decision as to whether we are dealing with a circumposition or a particle verb that takes a PP as its complement completely depends on the weight one would like to assign to the topicalization test.

Example 125
a. dat de lol #(aan mij) voorbij ging.
omission of P + NP
  that  the fun    to me  past  went
  'that I couldnʼt see the fun.'
b. # dat de lol daar voorbij ging.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. Aan mij <*voorbij> ging de lol <voorbij>.
topicalization
d. ?? dat de lol voorbij ging aan mij.
PP-over-V
e. * het gaan aan mij (voorbij)
adnominal use
[+]  III.  Application of the tests

This subsection applies the tests discussed in Subsection II the discontinuous sequences in Table 10 in order to establish whether they are indeed circumpositions. The tests will be applied in the order discussed in Subsection II.

[+]  A.  The sequence P ... aan

The examples in (126) show that the sequence achter de optocht aan behaves like a circumpositional phrase: omission and pronominalization of the sequence achter de optocht are impossible, topicalization of achter de optocht aan is somewhat marked but seems possible, and PP-over-V is excluded. Finally, adnominal use of achter de optocht aan is possible.

Example 126
a. dat de kinderen *(achter de optocht) aan liepen.
omission of P + NP
  that the children     after the parade  aan  walked
  'that the children followed the parade.'
b. * dat de kinderen daar aan liepen.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. ? Achter de optocht aan liepen de kinderen.
topicalization
d. * dat de kinderen aan liepen achter de optocht.
PP-over-V
e. het geren achter de optocht aan
adnominal use
  the running  after the parade  aan

The sequence tegen de ladder aan in (127) behaves essentially the same way, and we are again justified in assuming that we are dealing with a circumposition.

Example 127
a. dat Jan *(tegen de ladder) aan liep.
omission of P + NP
  that  Jan    against the ladder  aan  walked
  'that Jan ran into the ladder.'
b. * dat Jan daar aan liep.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. (?) Tegen de ladder aan liep Jan.
topicalization
d. * dat Jan aan liep tegen de ladder.
PP-over-V
e. de schop tegen de ladder aan
adnominal use
  the kick against the ladder aan

The primeless examples in (128) show that the sequence P + NP cannot readily be topicalized, but the primed examples show that wh-movement seems to gives rise to a completely acceptable result.

Example 128
a. *? Achter de optocht liepen de kinderen aan.
a'. Achter welke optocht liepen de kinderen aan?
  after which parade  walked  the children  aan
b. *? Tegen de ladder liep Jan aan.
b'. Tegen welke ladder liep Jan aan?
  against which ladder  walked  Jan aan

This shows again that the ban on topicalization of the P + NP sequence is not of a syntactic nature. This conclusion is supported by the examples in (129), which show that the verb of location staan'to stand' and the verb of change of location zetten'to put' do allow topicalization of the P + NP sequence. It is not clear what causes the contrasts between the primeless examples in (128) and the examples in (129).

Example 129
a. Tegen de muur staat een ladder aan.
  against the wall  stands  a ladder  aan
  'The ladder is standing against the wall.'
b. Tegen de muur zette Jan een oude ladder aan.
  against the wall  put  Jan an old ladder  aan
  'Jan put an old ladder against the wall.'

      Not all sequences of the form P + NP + aan must be analyzed as circumpositional phrases. Consider the examples in (130a) and (131a), which clearly do not involve circumpositions but the particle verb aan trekken'to put on', which is preceded by the prepositional phrases over zijn kleren'over his clothes' and onder zijn toga'underneath his gown'. There are several indications that support this. First, aan can be used as a verbal particle; the (a)-examples show that dropping the sequence P + NP does not affect the core meaning of the clause. Second, the sequence P + NP + aan cannot be topicalized as a whole, that is, the phrases over zijn kleren and onder zijn toga cannot be pied-piped by topicalization of the element aan. Third, the phrases over zijn kleren and onder zijn toga can be placed in clause-final position as the result of PP-over-V. Finally, the sequence P + NP + aan cannot be used in adnominal position.

Example 130
a. dat hij zijn toga (over zijn kleren) aan trok.
omission of P + NP
  that  he  his gown   over his clothes  on  put
  'He put on his gown over his clothes.'
b. * Over zijn kleren aan trok hij zijn toga.
topicalization
b'. Over zijn kleren trok hij zijn toga aan.
c. dat hij zijn toga aan trok over zijn kleren.
PP-over-V
d. de toga over zijn kleren (*aan)
adnominal use
  the gown  over his clothes    aan
Example 131
a. dat hij een spijkerbroek (onder zijn toga) aan trok.
omission of P + NP
  that  he  a jean   under his gown  on  put
  'He put on jeans under his gown.'
b. * Onder zijn toga aan trok hij een spijkerbroek.
topicalization
b'. Onder zijn toga trok hij een spijkerbroek aan.
c. dat hij een spijkerbroek aan trok onder zijn toga.
PP-over-V
d. de spijkerbroek onder zijn toga (*aan)
adnominal use
  the jean  under his gown    aan

Note in passing that Helmantel (2002: appendix) includes examples like (132a&b) as grammatical. For these cases, we cannot assume that aan is a particle, because the verb dragen'to wear' cannot be combined with the particle aan under the intended reading. According to us, however, the examples in (132a&b) are only acceptable without the particle. For completeness' sake, note that Helmantel also gives example (132c) as acceptable; according to us, it is the circumposition voor ... uit that would normally be used in this case.

Example 132
a. Hij droeg een toga over zijn kleren %(aan).
  he  wore  a gown  over his clothes     aan
b. Hij droeg een spijkerbroek onder zijn toga %(aan).
  he  wore  jeans  under his gown     aan
c. % Voor de optocht aan liep de fanfare.
  in.front.of  the parade  aan  walked  the brass-band
[+]  B.  The sequence P ... af

The sequences van ... af and op ... af are the only circumpositions with af as their second member. Example (133) shows that the sequence van ... af satisfies all the tests for circumpositionhood, although the result of the pronominalization test is perhaps not as unequivocal as one might hope; (133b) is perhaps slightly marked. The (c)-examples show that topicalization of the P + NP sequence is degraded, but that wh-movement is allowed.

Example 133
a. dat Jan *(van het dak) af sprong.
omission of P + NP
  that  Jan   from the roof  af  jumped
b. ? dat Jan daar af sprong.
pronominalization of + NP
  that  Jan there  af  jumped
c. ? Van het dak af sprong Jan.
topicalization
c'. ? Van het dak sprong Jan af.
c''. Van welk dak sprong Jan af?
wh-movement
  from which roof  jumped  Jan af
  'From which roof did Jan jump?'
d. * dat Jan af sprong van het dak.
PP-over-V
e. de sprong van het dak af
adnominal use
  the jump  from the roof  af

In (134), we give similar examples for the sequence op ... af. Example (134b) is acceptable, but not with the intended meaning.

Example 134
a. dat de tijger *(op het hert) af sprong.
omission of P + NP
  that  the tiger  towards the deer  af  jumped
  'that the tiger jumped towards the deer.'
b. # dat de tijger daar af sprong.
pronominalization of P + NP
  that  the tiger there  af  jumped
c. ? Op het hert af sprong de tijger.
topicalization
c'. ? Op het hert sprong de tijger af.
c''. Op welk hert sprong de tijger af?
wh-movement
  towards which deer  jumped  the tiger  af
  'Towards which deer did the tiger jump?'
d. * dat de tijger af sprong op het hert.
PP-over-V
e. de sprong op het hert af
adnominal use
  the jump  towards the deer  af

      Again, the results in (133) do not imply that the sequence van + NP + af is always a circumpositional phrase. In (135), we are clearly dealing with the particle verb aftrekken'to deduct' preceded by an (optional) van-PP: the sequence van het loon af cannot be placed in clause-initial position, whereas the van-PP can be topicalized in isolation without any difficulty and can also be placed after the particle verb by means of PP-over-V.

Example 135
a. De baas heeft drie euro (van het loon) af getrokken.
  the boss  has  three Euros  from  the wage  prt.  deducted
  'The boss deducted three Euros from the wages.'
b. * Van het loon af heeft de baas drie euro getrokken.
b'. Van het loon heeft de baas drie euro af getrokken.
c. De baas heeft drie euro afgetrokken van het loon.
[+]  C.  The sequence P ... door

Sequences of the type P + NP + door in (136a) and (137a) seem to act as well-behaved circumpositional phrases, although some discussion is needed. The (a)-examples show that the sequence P + NP can be dropped, but only at the expense of a change of meaning; the (a)-examples then receive the meaning “to continue to drive”. The (b)-examples are also acceptable, but involve R-extraction from a prepositional door-phrase, not pronominalization of the onder-PP. Topicalization of the full sequence P + NP + door is somewhat marked but seems possible. In contrast, topicalization of the sequence P + NP is unacceptable (the c'-examples are only marginally possible with the meaning “to continue to drive” and with the topicalized phrase acting as an adverbial PP of place), but wh-movement is fully acceptable. As expected, PP-over-V is excluded and the sequence P + NP + door can be used adnominally.

Example 136
a. dat Jan #(onder de brug) door reed.
omission of P + NP
  that  Jan   under the bridge  door  drove
  'that Jan drove underneath the bridge.'
b. # dat Jan daar door reed.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. ? Onder de brug door reed Jan.
topicalization
c'. *? Onder de brug reed Jan door.
c''. Onder welke brug reed Jan door?
wh-movement
  under which bridge  drove  Jan  door
  'Under which bridge did Jan drive?'
d. * dat Jan door reed onder de brug.
PP-over-V
e. de weg onder de brug door
adnominal use
  the road  under the bridge  door
Example 137
a. dat Jan #(tussen de bomen) door reed.
omission of P + NP
  that  Jan   between the trees  door  drove
  'that Jan drove through the trees.'
b. # dat Jan daar door reed.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. ? Tussen de bomen door reed Jan.
topicalization
c'. *? Tussen de bomen reed Jan door.
c''. Tussen welke bomen reed Jan door?
wh-movement
  between which trees  drove  Jan door
  'Through which trees did Jan drive?'
d. * dat Jan door reed tussen de bomen.
PP-over-V
e. de weg tussen de bomen door
adnominal use
  the road  between the trees  door
[+]  D.  The sequence P ... heen

The sequence om de boom heen in (138a) seems to act as a well-behaved circumpositional phrase. The sequence om de boom can marginally be dropped, but this changes the meaning of the example: heen must then be interpreted as “away” and the marginal status of the resulting sentence is due to the fact that this use of heen has an archaic flavor. Example (138b) is acceptable too, but again this has an effect on the meaning: ergens heen rijden receives the interpretation “to go somewhere/to someone”; see the discussion in Section 1.3.1.4, sub IV. The (c)-examples show that topicalization of the full sequence om de boom heen is marked but acceptable. Topicalization of the sequence om de boom, on the other hand, leads to a degraded result, but wh-movement is fully acceptable. Examples (138d&e), finally, show that PP-over-V is excluded and that adnominal use of the sequence om de boom heen is possible. Other sequences of the form P + NP + heen behave in the same way.

Example 138
a. dat Jan #(om de boom) heen reed.
omission of P + NP
  that  Jan    around the tree  heen  drove
  'that Jan drove around the tree.'
b. # dat Jan daar heen reed.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. ? Om de boom heen reed Jan.
topicalization
c'. *? Om de boom reed Jan heen.
c''. Om welke boom reed Jan heen?
wh-movement
  around which tree  drove  Jan heen
  'Around which tree did Jan drive?'
d. * dat Jan heen reed om de boom.
PP-over-V
e. het paadje om de boom heen
adnominal use
  the path  around the tree  heen
[+]  E.  The sequence P ... in

The sequence tussen die twee meisjes in in (139) also behaves like a circumpositional phrase. Example (139a) shows that omission of the P + NP sequence is impossible. Example (139b) is grammatical but is clearly derived from a prepositional phrase headed by in: Jan is claimed to be inside some object. Topicalization of the sequence tussen die twee meisjes in is acceptable, whereas topicalization of tussen die twee meisjes is degraded; as always, wh-movement of the sequence P + NP is fully acceptable. Further, PP-over-V is excluded and adnominal use of the sequence tussen die meisjes in is fully acceptable. The sequence tegen + NP + in behaves in a similar way.

Example 139
a. dat Jan *(tussen die twee meisjes) in zit.
omission of P + NP
  that  Jan    between those two girls  in  sits
  'that Jan is sitting between those two girls.'
b. #dat Jan daar in zit.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. ? Tussen die twee meisjes in zit Jan.
topicalization
c'. *? Tussen die twee meisjes zit Jan in.
c''. Tussen welke twee meisjes zit Jan in?
wh-movement
  between which two girls  sits  Jan in
d. * dat Jan in zit tussen twee meisjes.
PP-over-V
e. de jongen tussen die twee meisjes in
adnominal use
  the boy  between  those two girls  in
[+]  F.  The sequence P ... langs

The sequence achter het huis langs in (140a) behaves like a circumpositional phrase. Example (140a) is excluded without the sequence P + NP. Example (140b) is grammatical, but only if it is derived from a prepositional phrase headed by langs as in dat de muur langs het huis loopt'that the wall goes along the side of the house'. The status of the examples in (140c&c') is as expected, but, surprisingly, the wh-construction in (140c'') is degraded as well. As expected, PP-over-V is excluded and adnominal use of the sequence achter het huis langs is possible. The other circumpositions with langs as their second member behave in a similar way.

Example 140
a. dat het muurtje *(achter het huis) langs loopt.
omission of P + NP
  that  the small wall  behind the house  langs  extends
  'that a wall extends along the back of the house.'
b. # dat het muurtje daar langs loopt.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. Achter het huis langs loopt het muurtje.
topicalization
c'. * Achter het huis loopt het muurtje langs.
c''. *? Achter welk huis loopt het muurtje langs?
wh-movement
  behind which house  extends  a little wall  langs
d. * dat het muurtje langs loopt achter het huis.
PP-over-V
e. het muurtje achter het huis langs
adnominal use
  the little wall  behind the house  langs

The examples in (141) show that langs can also be used as a verbal particle. Examples like these involve the verbs komen'to come' and gaan'to go', or verbs of traversing like rijden'to drive'. The meaning of the particle verb is approximately “to drop by/to pay a visit”. These particle verbs optionally take a bij-PP that expresses the goal of the visit. That examples such as (141a) do not involve a circumposition, but rather the particle langs preceded by a bij-PP, is clear from the following facts. Examples (141a&b) show that the bij-PP can be omitted and pronominalized without changing the core meaning of the sentence. The (c)-examples in (141) show that topicalization of the sequence bij + NP must strand langs. Example (141d), finally, shows that the bij-PP can be placed after the particle langs by means of PP-over-V.

Example 141
a. dat ik morgen toch (bij hem) langs kom/ga.
omission of P + NP
  that  tomorrow  anyway  with him  along come/go
  'that Iʼll pay him a visit tomorrow anyway.'
b. dat ik daar morgen toch langs kom/ga.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. *? Bij hem langs kom/ga ik morgen toch.
topicalization
c'. Bij hem kom/ga ik morgen toch langs.
d. (?) dat ik morgen toch langs kom/ga bij hem.
PP-over-V
[+]  G.  The sequence P ... om

The sequence achter het huis om in (142a) also behaves like a circumpositional phrase. The string achter het huis can be omitted, but this gives rise to a change of meaning into “to make a detour”. Example (142b) is perhaps marginally acceptable, but then it is clearly related to a construction involving an adpositional phrase headed by the preposition om. The judgments on the examples in (142c) are again as expected, although the wh-question in (142c'') is somewhat marked. Examples (142d&e), finally, show that PP-over-V is excluded and that the sequence achter het huis om can be used adnominally. The other circumpositions with om as their second member behave in a way similar to achter ... om.

Example 142
a. dat Jan #(achter het huis) om liep.
omission of P + NP
  that  Jan   around the house  om  walked
  'that Jan walked around the back of the house.'
b. # dat Jan daar om liep.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. ? Achter het huis om liep Jan.
topicalization
c'. * Achter het huis liep Jan om.
c''. ? Achter welk huis liep Jan om?
wh-movement
  behind which house  walked  Jan om
  'Around the back of which house did Jan walk?'
d. * dat Jan om liep achter het huis.
PP-over-V
e. het paadje achter het huis om
adnominal use
  the path  around  the back of the house  om
[+]  H.  The sequence tegen ... op

The sequence tegen de muur op in (143) acts as a well-behaved circumpositional phrase. The string tegen de muur can be dropped but this gives rise to a different (idiomatic) meaning: “to climbed the corporate ladder”. The construction in (143b) is acceptable but is clearly related to a construction involving a prepositional phrase headed by op: it is expressed that Jan climbed onto some object. The judgments on the topicalization and wh-constructions in (143c) are as usual. PP-over-V is excluded, and adnominal use of the sequence tegen de muur op is possible.

Example 143
a. dat Marie #(tegen de muur) op klom.
omission of P + NP
  that  Marie   against the wall  op  climbed
  'that Marie climbed up against the wall.'
b. # dat Marie daar op klom.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. ? Tegen de muur op klom Marie.
topicalization
c'. *? Tegen de muur klom Marie op.
c''. Tegen welke muur klom Marie op?
wh-movement
  against which wall  climbed  Marie op
  'Against which wall did Marie climb?'
d. * dat Marie op klom tegen de muur.
PP-over-V
e. de sprong tegen de muur op
adnominal use
  the jump  against the wall  op

      The results in (143) do not imply that the sequence tegen + NP + op is always a circumpositional phrase. In (144), we are clearly dealing with a particle verb op zien that takes a tegen-PP as an obligatory complement. The PP tegen de ontmoeting cannot be pronominalized, but this is due to the fact that it is not locational. The facts that the particle op must be stranded under topicalization and can be followed by the sequence tegen de ontmoeting op as a result of PP-over-V clearly show that we are not dealing with a circumposition.

Example 144
a. dat Marie *(tegen de ontmoeting) op zag.
omission of P + NP
  that  Marie    against the meeting  op  saw
  'that Marie didnʼt like the idea of the meeting.'
b. dat Marie daar *(tegen) op zag.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. * Tegen de ontmoeting op zag Marie niet.
Topicalization
c'. Tegen de ontmoeting zag Marie niet op.
d. dat Marie op zag tegen de ontmoeting.
PP-over-V
[+]  I.  The sequence P ... toe

The sequence naar oma toe in (145) behaves in all respects like a circumpositional phrase. The same thing holds for the sequence tot (aan) ... toe, which will not be illustrated here.

Example 145
a. dat Marie *(naar oma) toe gaat.
omission of P + NP
  that  Marie   to granny  toe  goes
  'that Marie goes to granny.'
b. dat Marie daar *(naar) toe gaat.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. ? Naar oma toe gaat Marie.
topicalization
c'. *? Naar oma gaat Marie toe.
c''. Naar wie gaat Marie toe?
wh-movement
  to whom  goes  Marie  toe
  'To whom is Marie going?'
d. * dat Marie toe gaat naar oma.
PP-over-V
e. de wandeling naar oma toe
adnominal use
  the walk  to granny  toe

The examples in (124), however, have already shown that not all sequences of the form P ... toe can be considered a circumposition: the string aan een borrel toe in Ik ben aan een borrel toe'I need a drink' must be analyzed as a PP followed by a verbal particle.

[+]  J.  The sequence P ... uit

The sequence onder haar jas uit in (146a) seems to behave like a circumpositional phrase. First the sequence onder haar jas cannot be omitted. Example (146b) without onder is acceptable, but is clearly related to a construction with an adpositional phrase headed by the preposition uit: it is simply expressed that the border of her skirt sticks out of something. The topicalization and wh-examples are all somewhat marked, but exhibit the generally attested contrasts. The impossibility of PP-over-V is expected. The adnominal use of the sequence onder haar jas uit is, however, somewhat marked. The other circumpositions with uit as their second member behave in a way similar to onder ... uit.

Example 146
a. dat de voering *(onder haar jas) uit hing/stak.
omission of P + NP
  that  the lining     under her coat  uit  hung/stuck
  'that the lining was sticking out from under her coat.'
b. # dat de voering daar uit hing/stak.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. ? Onder haar jas uit hing/stak de voering.
topicalization
c'. * Onder haar jas hing/stak de voering uit.
c''. (?) Onder welke jas hing/stak de voering uit?
wh-movement
  under which coat  hung/stuck  the lining  uit
d. * dat de voering uit hing/stak onder haar rok.
PP-over-V
e. ?? de voering onder haar jas uit
adnominal use
  the lining  under her coat  uit

It should be noted that uit hangen/steken can also be used as a particle verb. This is illustrated in (147a). This means that (147b) is ambiguous between a reading that involves a particle verb and an adverbially used PP, and a reading involving a predicatively used circumpositional phrase.

Example 147
a. De vlag hangt/steekt uit.
  the flag  hangs/sticks  out
  'The flag is hanging/sticking out.'
b. De vlag hangt/steekt boven de huizen uit.
  the flag  hangs/sticks  above the houses  out
[+]  K.  The sequence P ... vandaan

The examples in (148) show that the sequence achter de bomen vandaan seems to behave as a circumpositional phrase in most respects. The only anomalous fact is that pronominalization of the PP seems to be possible. It should be noted, however, that daar vandaan komen acts as the antonym of daar heen gaan, which is shown to be an idiomatic expression in Section 1.3.1.4, sub IV. Therefore, it seems plausible that daar vandaan komen is an idiomatic expression, too.

Example 148
a. dat Marie achter de bomen vandaan kwam.
omission of P + NP
  that  Marie behind the trees  vandaan  came
  'that Marie came from behind the trees.'
b. dat Jan daar vandaan kwam.
pronominalization of P + NP
c. Achter de bomen vandaan kwam Marie.
topicalization
c'. *? Achter de bomen kwam Marie vandaan.
c''. Achter welke boom kwam Marie vandaan?
wh-movement
  behind which tree  came  Marie vandaan
  'From behind which tree did Marie come?'
d. * dat Marie vandaan kwam achter de bomen.
PP-over-V
e. de sprong achter de boom vandaan
adnominal use
  the jump  behind the tree  vandaan
  'the jump from behind the tree'
[+]  L.  Summary

This subsection has applied the five tests from Subsection II to the formations in Table 10, which are traditionally analyzed as circumpositional phrases. The results are summarized in Table 12 by means of the grammaticality judgments given earlier. The second column shows that in many cases, omission of the P + NP sequence is acceptable, although this invariantly results in a shift of meaning; the resulting structure involves a particle verb. The third column shows that replacement of the P + NP sequence by an R-word is often possible as well, but again this results in a shift of meaning; the resulting structures are generally derived by R-extraction from a prepositional phrase, and do not involve pronominalization of the P + NP sequence; in two cases the resulting structure involves an idiomatic expression. Topicalization of the circumpositional phrase is normally somewhat marked, but this seems to be related to non-syntactic factors; the table does not show that topicalization of the string P + NP generally seems to be blocked whereas wh-movement of the same string is generally possible. The tests involving PP-over-V and adnominal use of the sequence P + NP provide the clearest evidence in favor of the claim that the investigated sequences are circumpositional: PP-over-V of the sequence P + NP is excluded in all cases and adnominal use of the circumpositional phrase is virtually always possible.

Table 12: Results of the circumposition tests
2nd member omission
of P + NP
pronominalization
of P +NP
topicalization
of P + .. + P
PP-over-V
of P + NP
adnominal
use of P + .. + P
aan * * ? * +
af * ? ? * +
door # # ? * +
heen # # (idiomatic) ? * +
in * # ? * +
langs # # + * +
om # # ? * +
op # # ? * +
toe * * ? * +
uit */# # ? * ??
vandaan * # (idiomatic) ? * +

The results therefore show that the traditional view is close to the mark. We should repeat again, however, that even if we can shown that a certain string of the form Px ... Py is a circumpositional phrase, this does not imply that all other strings of the form Px ... Py involve circumpositional phrases as well; each construction must be investigated in its own right, and we have discussed several cases, in which superficially similar strings of words had to be analyzed differently.

References:
  • Claessen, Charlie & Zwarts, Joost2010On the directional particle <i>heen</i>Kamper, Jacqueline van & Nouwen, Rick (eds.)Linguistics in the Netherlands 2010Amsterdam/PhiladelphiaJohn Benjamins
  • Helmantel, Marjon2002Interactions in the Dutch adpositional domainUniversity of LeidenThesis
Suggestions for further reading ▼
phonology
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
morphology
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
  • Cardinal numbers
    [89%] Frisian > Morphology > Inflection > Numerals
  • In prenominal position
    [89%] Frisian > Morphology > Inflection > Adjectives
  • -s
    [88%] Frisian > Morphology > Word formation > Derivation > Suffixation > Adverbial suffixes > Noun as base
  • Weak verbs
    [88%] Frisian > Morphology > Inflection > Verbs
  • Ellipsis
    [88%] Frisian > Morphology > Inflection > Adjectives
Show more ▼
syntax
  • Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show more ▼
cite
print
This topic is the result of an automatic conversion from Word and may therefore contain errors.
A free Open Access publication of the corresponding volumes of the Syntax of Dutch is available at OAPEN.org.