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1.3.1.3. Postpositions
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[+]  I.  Differences between pre- and postpositions

Spatial postpositions are always directional: they indicate that the located object is covering a path related to the reference object. In this respect postpositional phrases differ from prepositional phrases, which, with the exception of those headed by the directional prepositions in Table 16, just refer to a (change of) location. This difference accounts for the fact that, whereas prepositional phrases can occur as the complement of both locational verbs like liggen'to lie' and motion verbs like springen'to jump', postpositional phrases are not possible as the complement of locational verbs.

Example 246
a. Jan ligt/springt in het zwembad.
  Jan lies/jumps  in(to)  the swimming.pool
b. Jan springt/*ligt het zwembad in.
  Jan jumps/lies  the swimming.pool  into

      Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between the change of location reading of prepositional phrases and the directional reading of postpositional phrases: the two examples in (246) with the motion verb springen seem nearly synonymous. That only the postpositional phrase involves the notion of a path can be made clear, however, by means of the examples in (247).

Example 247
a. Jan is op de trap gesprongen (#naar zijn kamer).
  Jan is on the stairs  jumped     to his room
  'Jan has jumped onto the stairs (to his room).'
b. Jan is de trap op gesprongen/gerend (naar zijn kamer).
  Jan is the stairs  onto  jumped/run   to his room
  'Jan has jumped/run up the stairs (into his room).'

In the location constructions in (247a), it is expressed that Jan has been involved in a jumping event as a result of which he has obtained some position on the stairs. The construction in (247b), on the other hand, does not imply that, after finishing the activity, Jan is situated on the stairs; this may or may not be the case, which is clear from the fact that it is possible to add an adverbial phrase like naar zijn kamer'to his room', which refers to the endpoint of the path covered by Jan; with this adverbial phrase added, the perfect tense example in (247b) suggests that Jan is in his room. Adding this adverbial phrase to (247a), on the other hand, give rise to an unacceptable result. Note that the number sign in (247a) indicates that the naar-PP can marginally be construed as an attributive modifier of the noun trap.
      Another difference is that locational prepositional phrases cannot occur as the complement of verbs of traversing (verbs that denote movement along a certain path) like rijden'to drive', fietsen'to cycle', etc. In order to see this, we have to consider perfect-tense constructions, since a verb like rijden is actually ambiguous between a normal activity verb, in which case it takes the auxiliary hebben, and a verb of traversing, in which case it takes the auxiliary zijn. Thus, in (248a) we are dealing with the activity verb rijden, and it is expressed that the event of driving takes place on the mountain. In (248b), on the other hand, we are dealing with a verb of traversing, and it is expressed that Jan is moving along a path up the mountain.

Example 248
a. Jan heeft/*?is op de berg gereden.
  Jan has  on the mountain  driven
  'Jan has driven on the mountain.'
b. Jan is/*heeft de berg op gereden.
  Jan has  the mountain  onto  driven
  'Jan has driven up the mountain.'

Note in passing that the grammaticality of both (247a) and (247b) suggests that the unaccusative verb springen can be used both as a motion verb and as a verb of traversing. Note also that the intransitive version of springen, which takes the auxiliary hebben, just acts like an activity verb: Jan heeft op de trap gesprongen'Jan has jumped on the stairs' simply expresses that the activity of jumping takes place on the stairs.
      Related to this difference between the two examples in (248) is that example (249a) doesnʼt imply anything about the position of Jan after the activity has finished: it may be the case that he ends his activity at the same place that he started it. This is, however, impossible in the case of (249b): Jan must have traversed the path up the mountain for three kilometers, so that his end position is a position higher on the mountain than his starting position.

Example 249
a. Jan heeft drie kilometer op de berg gereden.
  Jan has  three kilometers  on the mountain  driven
  'Jan has driven three kilometers on the mountain.'
b. Jan is drie kilometer de berg op gereden.
  Jan has  three kilometers  the mountain  onto  driven
  'Jan has driven three kilometers onto the mountain.'
[+]  II.  A classification of postpositions

Having recapitulated the main semantic differences between pre- and postpositional phrases, we can now turn to the meaning of the individual spatial postpositions in Table 7, which is repeated here for convenience as Table 18 in a slightly different form. The conclusion to the discussion will be that, generally speaking, there is only one group of postpositions, which corresponds to the inherent prepositions in Table 17: the deictic and absolute prepositions in this table do not have postpositional counterparts.

Table 18: Spatial postpositions (repeated)
postposition example translation
af het veld af rennen to run from the field
binnen het huis binnen gaan to go into the house
door het hek door lopen to walk through the gate
in het huis in gaan to go into the house
langs de beek langs wandelen to walk along the brook
om de hoek om gaan to turn the corner
op het veld op rennen to run onto the field
over het grasveld over rennen to run across the lawn
rond ?het meer rond wandelen to walk around the lake
uit de auto uit stappen to step out of the car
voorbij het huis voorbij rijden to drive past the house

[+]  A.  Postpositions that correspond to deictic prepositions

When we compare the list of postpositions in Table 18 with the classification of spatial prepositions in Table 17, we see that there is no deictic preposition with a postpositional counterpart. This is remarkable since the deictic prepositions can also be used inherently and the vast majority of postpositions correspond to the inherent prepositions.

[+]  B.  Postpositions that correspond to absolute prepositions

Very few absolute prepositions in Table 17 have a postpositional counterpart. For the inherently directional ones like naar'to' this is not surprising given that they already denote a path. The only directional preposition that has a postpositional counterpart is voorbij'past', but this is not surprising either since this preposition can sometimes also be used as a locational preposition; see example (199 in Section 1.3.1.2.2, sub II).

Example 250
a. Goirle ligt even voorbij Tilburg.
locational reading
  Goirle lies  just  past  Tilburg
b. Jan reed Tilburg voorbij.
directional reading
  Jan drove  Tilburg  past

Of the non-directional absolute prepositions, only om'around' and rond'around' can be used as postpositions. The use of om is very restricted. It can actually only be used in the more or lesss fixed combinations in (251a&b); examples such as (251c) are unacceptable.

Example 251
a. Jan ging de hoek om.
  Jan went  the corner  around
  'Jan turned the corner.'
b. Jan ging een blokje om.
  Jan went  blokje  around
  'Jan took a walk.'
c. * Jan liep de tafel om.
  Jan walked  the table  around

The postposition rond is more common. In addition to more or lesss fixed combinations like (252a), it also occurs in (perhaps slightly marked) examples such as (252b).

Example 252
a. Jan reisde de wereld rond.
  Jan traveled  the world  around
b. (?) Jan wandelde het meer rond.
  Jan walked  the lake  around

      Perhaps the limited use of the postpositions om/rond is due to the fact, discussed in Section 1.3.1.2.2, that their prepositional counterparts can sometimes at least marginally be used directionally; cf. the discussion of (195c). That they have this ability is also supported by the fact that a prepositional phrase can be used in constructions such as (253), in which the PP denotes the extent of the road; as we have seen in examples (210) and (214) (in Section 1.3.1.2.2, sub II), the extent reading typically involves directional PPs.

Example 253
De weg loopt rond/om de stad.
  the road  walks  around the city
'The road goes around the city.'
[+]  C.  Postpositions that correspond to inherent prepositions

The vast majority of postpositions that can be productively used correspond to inherent prepositions. Three groups can be distinguished.

[+]  1.  In/binnen'into/inside', uit'out of' and door'through'

The first group of postpositions is characterized by the fact that the interior of the reference object is part of the implied path. The postpositional phrases headed by in and binnen in (254) express that the reference object is the endpoint of the path; the starting point is, however, exterior to the reference object. Note that binnen cannot be used if the postpositional phrase has an extent reading or functions as a modifier of a noun phrase.

Example 254
a. Jan liep de stad in/binnen.
  Jan walked  the town  into
  'Jan walked into the town.'
b. de weg loopt de stad in/*binnen
  the road  walks  the town  into
  'the road leads into town'
c. de weg de stad in/*binnen
  the road  the town  into
  'the road into the town'

The postpositional phrase headed by uit in (255) expresses that the reference object is the starting point of the path, but the endpoint is exterior to it. Observe that, whereas binnen in (254a) can be used as a postposition in predicatively used postpositional phrases, its antonym buiten in (255a) cannot.

Example 255
a. Jan liep de stad uit/*buiten.
  Jan walked  the town  out.of
  'Jan walked out of the town.'
b. de weg loopt de stad uit
  the road  walked  the town  out.of
  'the road leads out of town'
c. de weg de stad uit
  the road  the town  out.of
  'the road out of the town'

The postpositional phrase headed by door in (256), finally, expresses that the reference object is a subpart of the path: both the starting and the end points of the path are exterior to it. Note in passing that the preposition door can also be used in directional constructions; see the discussion of (235) and (236 (in Section 1.3.1.2.3)) for the difference between the two directional uses of door.

Example 256
a. Jan liep de tunnel door.
  Jan walked  the tunnel  through
  'Jan walked through the tunnel.'
b. de weg de tunnel door
  the road  the tunnel  through
  'the road through the tunnel'

      The claim that in and binnen take the interior of the reference object as the endpoint of the implied path is supported by the fact that we can infer from (254a) that Jan is in town after completion of the event. The claim that uit denotes a path with an endpoint exterior to the reference object is supported by the fact that we can infer from (254b) that Jan is put of town after completion of the event. Note in passing that we cannot substitute uit for buiten in (257b'), which indicates that after completion of the event there is no longer any contact between the located and the reference object; cf. the discussion of example (228).

Example 257
a. Jan liep de stad in/binnen. ⇒
a'. Jan bevindt zich in de stad.
  Jan is.situated  refl  in the town
  'Jan is in town.'
b. Jan liep de stad uit. ⇒
b'. Jan bevindt zich buiten de stad.
  Jan is.situated  refl  outside the town
  'Jan is outside (not in) the town.'

The postpositions in and binnen in (254a) seem to be more or lesss equivalent. They differ, however, in that the latter requires that the located object end up in a position in the interior of the reference object, whereas the former does not. This is clear from the fact that binnen cannot be used in (258a), where it is implied that some subpart of the nail has not entered the wall. Example (258b) shows that the postposition uit'out of' does not require that the located object be (fully) removed from the reference object. This shows that the postpositions behave in a way similar to the corresponding prepositions in this respect; cf. the discussion of Figure 23 and 25 (in Sub 1.3.1.2.3, sub II).

Example 258
a. Jan sloeg de spijker (slechts) één cm de muur in/*binnen.
  Jan hit  the nail  only  one cm  the wall  into
b. Jan trok de spijker (slechts) één cm de muur uit/*buiten.
  Jan drew  the nail  only  one cm  the wall  out.of
[+]  2.  Op'on', af'from' and over'over'.

The second group of postpositions is characterized by the fact that the path goes along the surface of the reference object. The postposition op'onto' indicates that the end but not the starting point of the path is situated on the reference object, while af'from' indicates that the starting but not the endpoint of the path is situated on the reference object. In the case of over neither the starting point nor the endpoint of the path is situated on the reference object but some subpart of the path is. The respective paths of the postpositional phrases in (257) are illustrated in Figure 30.

Example 259
a. De supporter rende het veld op.
  the fan  ran  the field  onto
  'The fan ran onto the field.'
b. De supporter rende het veld af.
  the fan  ran  the field  from
  'The fan ran from the field.'
c. De supporter rende het veld over.
  the fan  ran  the field  across
  'The fan ran across the field.'

Figure 30: Op'onto', af'from', over'across'

The claim that op implies that the endpoint of the implied path is situated on the surface of the reference object is supported by the fact that we can infer from (259a) that the fan is on the field after completion of the event. The claim that af denotes a path with an endpoint exterior to the reference is supported by the fact that we can infer from (254b) that the fan is not on the field after completion of the event.

Example 260
a. De supporter rende het veld op. ⇒
a'. De supporter bevindt zich op het veld.
  the fan  is.situated  refl on the field
  'The fan is on the field.'
b. De supporter rende het veld af. ⇒
b'. De supporter bevindt zich buiten het veld.
  the fan  is.situated  refl  outside the field
  'The fan isnʼt on the field.'

The precise interpretation of these postpositions also depends on the properties of the reference object: whereas in the case of a field the proper English translation of op and af are “onto” and “from”, the proper renderings would instead be “up” and “down” if we are dealing with, e.g., a mountain. Although intuitions are not as clear as they were for the examples in (260), the core semantics in Figure 30 also seems present in (261): example (261a) seems preferably interpreted in such a way that only the endpoint of the implied path is situated on the mountain; example (261b) seems preferably interpreted in such a way that only the starting point is situated on the mountain (although this implication is not as strong as in the case of the circumpositional phrase van de berg af).

Example 261
a. Jan reed de berg op.
  Jan  drove  the mountain  onto
  'Jan drove up the mountain.'
b. Jan reed de berg af.
  Jan drove  the mountain  from
  'Jan drove down the mountain.'
[+]  3.  Langs'along'

The third group has only one member, the adposition langs'along', and implies that the path is more or lesss parallel to the length dimension of the reference object. In this respect the pre- and postposition langs in (262) behave in a similar way, as will also be clear from a comparison of Figure 31A below with Figure 20 in Section 1.3.1.2.3.

Example 262
a. Jan wandelt vaak langs de rivier
preposition
  Jan walks often along the river
b. Jan wandelt vaak de rivier langs.
postposition
  Jan walks  often  the river along

The difference between the pre- and postposition langs is often not very clear, which may be due to the fact that the prepositional phrase in (262a) can also be used directionally. First, the examples in (263) show that the verb wandelen'to walk' can take either the auxiliary hebben or zijn in the perfect tense. As with other spatial PPs, we expect that in (263a) the PP is locational (the activity of walking takes place along the river), whereas (263b) has a change of location reading. On the latter reading, the implication should be that Jan is situated along the river as the result of the walking event, but this reading is not prominent, to say the least. The more prominent reading of (263b) is a directional one; Jan has to cover a path along the river. Note that this directional reading can also be found in example (263b'), in which the langs-PP functions as an (optional) adverbial phrase that characterizes the course and the predicative naar-PP expresses the endpoint of the path.

Example 263
a. Jan heeft langs de rivier gewandeld.
  Jan has  along the river  walked
b. Jan is langs de rivier gewandeld.
  Jan has  along the river  walked
b'. Jan is (langs de rivier) naar Breda gewandeld.
  Jan has  along the river  to Breda  walked

Second, the prepositional phrase can also be used in constructions such as (264), in which the langs-PP denotes the extent of the road: as we have seen in examples (210) and (214) in Section 1.3.1.2.2, sub II, the extent reading typically involves directional PPs.

Example 264
a. De weg loopt langs de rivier.
  the road  walks  along the river
  'The road extends along the river.'
b. de weg langs de rivier
  the road  along the river

      The discussion above strongly suggests that the preposition langs can sometimes also be used directionally. The difference between directional pre- and postpositional langs may be related to the dimensional properties of the reference object. If the reference object is very long, as in (262) and (263), the path denoted by langs may be either smaller or larger than the length of the reference object; if it is relatively short, as in (265), the default interpretation seems to be that the path is longer than the length of the object (see Figure 31B). Given the marked status of (265b), langs preferably surfaces as a preposition in the latter case.

Example 265
a. Jan fietst elke dag langs de kerk.
  Jan cycles  every day  along the church
  'Jan cycles everyday past the church.'
b. *? Jan fietst elke dag de kerk langs.

Figure 31: Langs'along'

      In (265), the paths extend along the horizontal dimension of the reference object. Example (266) shows that the path may also extend in the vertical dimension.

Example 266
dat Jan langs het touw/de muur geklommen is.
  that Jan  along the rope/the wall  climbed  is
'that Jan has climbed along the rope/wall.'

Superficially seen, it seems that the direction of the vertical path can be further specified by means of the elements omhoog/omlaag'upwards/downwards', as in (267a). This is not, however, the proper analysis of this example. The fact, illustrated in (267b), that the PP langs het touw/de muur is optional and can undergo PP-over-V shows that we are dealing with a particle verb, omhoog/omlaag klimmen, which may be modified by an adverbial locational PP headed by langs.

Example 267
a. dat Jan langs het touw/de muur omhoog/omlaag geklommen is.
  that Jan  along the rope/the wall  upwards/downwards  climbed  is
  'that Jan has climbed upwards/downwards along the rope/wall.'
b. dat Jan omhoog/omlaag geklommen is (langs het touw/de muur).

This shows that example (267a) must be analyzed like example (263b') above, which also involves an adverbial locational PP headed by langs. That this is indeed the case is also clear from (268), which shows that the particle omhoog/omlaag can be readily be replaced by the predicative PP naar boven.

Example 268
a. dat Jan (langs het touw/de muur) naar boven geklommen is.
  that Jan   along the rope/the wall  upwards  climbed  is
  'that Jan has climbed upwards along the rope/wall.'
b. dat Jan naar boven geklommen is langs het touw/de muur.
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