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Show full table of contents Intransitive adpositions and verbal particles

Section 1.2.4 has shown that there is a gradient scale by which (the syntactic use or meaning of) intransitive adpositions are related to their corresponding prepositions. In some cases the relation is quite close whereas in other cases the relation is rather loose or, perhaps, even nonexistent. As a result, the distinction between intransitive adpositions and verbal particles is often not clear-cut. Nevertheless, we will discuss the two groups in separate subsections. The main purpose of the following sunsections is to make a distinction between intransitive adpositions, which have retained their original (spatial) meaning and can appear in the same environment as predicative PPs, and verbal particles, which have lost this meaning to at least a certain extent and often cannot be replaced by predicative PPs without affecting the core meaning of the construction.

[+]  I.  Intransitive adpositions

There are at least three cases that are typically eligible for an analysis involving an intransitive adposition, that is, three cases in which the adpositional element has retained its original meaning and behaves both semantically and syntactically like a predicative (locational) PP.

[+]  A.  Dressing and personal hygiene

Constructions involving dressing typically involve intransitive adpositions. The examples in (303) are self-explanatory in this respect.

Example 303
a. Jan zet een hoed op (zijn hoofd).
  Jan puts  a hat  on   his head
b. Jan doet een das om (zijn nek).
  Jan puts  a scarf  around   his neck
c. Jan doet een jas aan (?zijn lijf).
  Jan puts  a coat  on    his body

This does not seem to hold, however, for constructions involving undressing. The element af in (304a&b) does not occur as a preposition in colloquial speech, so it can at best be related to the circumposition van .. af in (304a'&b'). This option is not even available in the case of uit in (304c), as will be clear from the ungrammaticality of (304c').

Example 304
a. Jan zet zijn hoed <af> (*zijn hoofd) <af>.
  Jan puts  his hat   off     his head
a'. Jan zet zijn hoed van zijn hoofd af.
b. Jan doet zijn das <af> (*zijn nek) <af>.
  Jan puts  his scarf   off     his neck
b'. ? Jan doet zijn das van zijn nek af.
c. Jan doet zijn jas <uit> (*zijn lijf) <uit>.
  Jan takes  his coat   off    his body
c'. * Jan doet zijn jas van zijn lijf uit.

      That the intransitive prepositions in (303) may have an implicit complement is supported by the fact that examples like these may contain a possessive dative, which refers to the inalienable possessor of the (implicit) complement of the preposition.

Example 305
a. Jan zet haar een hoed op (het hoofd).
  Jan puts  her  a hat  on the head
b. Jan doet haar een das om (de nek).
  Jan puts  her  a scarf  around the neck
c. Jan doet haar een jas aan (?het lijf).
  Jan puts  her  a coat  on the body

The possessive dative cannot be used with the elements af and uit in (304). This supports our earlier conclusion that there is no implicit complement and therefore strongly suggests that af and uit are verbal particles.

Example 306
a. * Jan zet haar een hoed af.
  Jan puts  her  a hat  off
b. * Jan doet haar een das af.
  Jan puts  her  a scarf  off
c. * Jan doet haar een jas uit.
  Jan takes  her  a coat  off

      The adpositional elements in (303) and (304) also differ in that the former can be used in the absolute met-construction, whereas this does not seem easily possible with the latter. This again supports the suggested analysis: intransitive prepositions may function as independent predicates whereas verbal particles only occur in combination with a verb.

Example 307
a. [Met zijn hoed op/*?af] kwam Jan de kamer binnen.
  with his hat on/off  came  Jan the room  inside
  'Jan entered the room with his hat on.'
b. [Met zijn das om/*?af] kwam Jan de kamer binnen.
  with his scarf around/off  came  Jan the room  inside
  'Jan entered the room with his scarf around his neck.'
c. [Met zijn jas aan/??uit] kwam Jan de kamer binnen.
  with his coat on/off  came  Jan the room  inside
  'Jan entered the room with his coat on.'

      Note that the verbs in (303) have very little semantic content. This holds especially for the verb doen'to do', the semantic contribution of which is mainly restricted to the indication that some activity is taking place. The examples in (308a&b) show that the use of a full PP is impossible if we use more contentful verbs like kleden'to dress'. This suggests that the adpositional elements in these examples are probably verbal particles, which would also fit in with the fact that they are in a paradigm with the undisputed particle verb om kleden'to change oneʼs clothes' in (308c). For completenesssake, note that the object in the primed examples is not a possessive dative but a regular direct object, which is clear from the fact that it is promoted to subject in the passive construction: Het kind werd aan/uit/om gekleed'The child was dressed/undressed/changed clothes.'

Example 308
a. Jan kleedt zich aan (*zijn lijf).
  Jan dresses  refl  on his body
  'Jan is dressing.'
a'. Jan kleedt het kind aan
  Jan dresses  the child  on
  'Jan is dressing the child.'
b. Jan kleedt zich uit (*zijn lijf).
  Jan dresses  refl  out his body
  'Jan is undressing.'
b'. Jan kleedt het kind uit.
  Jan  dresses  the child  out
  'Jan is undressing the child.'
c. Jan kleedt zich om.
  Jan dresses  refl  om.
  'Jan is changing his clothes.'
c'. Jan kleedt het kind om.
  Jan  dresses  the child  om
  'Jan is changing the childʼs clothes.'

      Other constructions that may contain intransitive adpositions involve verbs of personal hygiene. Two examples are given in (309).

Example 309
a. Jan smeert zonnebrandolie op (zijn lichaam).
  Jan smears suntan oil  on   his body
b. Jan doet ogenschaduw op (zijn oogleden).
  Jan puts eye shadow  on   his eyelids

Example (310a) is similar to those in (308) in the sense that a full PP is not possible; perhaps it would be justified to speak of a particle verb in this case, especially since (310b) shows that the resulting location of the makeup can be expressed by means of an accusatively marked noun phrase.

Example 310
a. Jan maakt zich op (*zijn gezicht).
  Jan makes refl  on     his face
  'Jan is making up.'
b. Jan maakt alleen zijn ogen op.
  Jan makes  only his eyes  up
  'Jan only makes up his eyes.'
[+]  B.  Contextually determinable locations

The examples in Subsection A involve body parts that are identifiable from the context. Intransitive adpositions may also arise if a location is involved which can be identified given the context. When (311a) is uttered without the noun phrase mijn huis the relevant location is taken to be the speakerʼs. And the two alternatives in (311b) are synonymous when Jan is participating in a wrestling match.

Example 311
a. Het postkantoor is dicht bij (mijn huis).
  the post office  is close to   my house
b. Jan ligt onder (zijn tegenstander).
  Jan lies under   his opponent

The elements binnen'inside', buiten'outside', beneden'downstairs', boven'upstairs' are also used in predicative position. Some examples are given in (312). In the contexts of these examples, these elements do not readily take a nominal complement. This is clearest in the case of beneden, where the addition of a noun phrase leads to full ungrammaticality (but see the remark below Table 5 on page ). If we want to analyze these elements as adpositions, we should conclude that they can only be used intransitively in these constructions.

Example 312
a. Marie zit binnen (??het huis).
  Marie sits  inside    the house
b. Marie zit buiten (?het huis).
  Marie sits  outside    the house
c. Marie zit beneden (*het huis).
  Marie sits  downstairs    the house
d. Marie zit boven (#het huis).
  Marie sits  upstairs    the house

Note that, in contrast to the elements discussed in the previous subsection, the four adpositions in (312) can also be used as adverbial phrases. This is clear from the fact that the examples in (313) can be paraphrases by means of the adverbial ... en doet dat PP'... and does it PP' test. This shows that these adpositions are in fact full PPs; verbal particles are never used adverbially.

Example 313
a. De hond speelt binnen/buiten/beneden/boven.
  the dog  plays  inside/outside/downstairs/upstairs
b. De hond speelt en hij doet dat binnen/buiten/beneden/boven.
  the dog  plays  and  he  does  that  inside/outside/downstairs/upstairs

      Something similar to what was found for the elements in (312) holds for the elements in (314). These elements can be used in the same environments as predicative adpositional phrases, but differ from those in (312) in expressing a directional meaning. This is clear from the fact that they can be used as the complement of verbs of traversing. If we want to analyze these elements as adpositions, we should conclude that they can only be used intransitively, since they cannot take a noun phrase as a complement.

Example 314
a. Het vliegtuig vliegt omhoog/omlaag.
  the airplanes  flies  up/down
b. De auto rijdt vooruit/achteruit.
  the car  drives forwards/backwards
c. De auto rijdt/slaat linksaf/rechtsaf.
also: afslaan 'to turn the corner'
  the car  drives/goes  to the left/right
d. De auto rijdt opzij.
  the car  drives  out.of.the.way

Note in passing that some speakers can also use examples such as (315), as is clear from the fact that similar examples occasionally occur on the internet. This means that for those speakers omhoog and omlaag can also be used as postpositions.

Example 315
a. % Jan liep de berg omhoog/omlaag.
  Jan  walked  the mountain  up/down
  'Jan traversed the mountain up/downward.'
b. % De gids trok de auto de berg omhoog.
  the guide  pulled  the car  the mountain  up
  'The guide pulled the car up/down the mountain.'
[+]  C.  Material composition

Adposition-like elements eligible for an analysis as intransitive adpositions also occur in constructions that involve material composition like (316).

Example 316
a. Jan naait de knopen aan (zijn shirt).
  Jan sews  the buttons  on   his shirt
b. Marie plakt de fotoʼs in (het boek).
  Marie pastes  the pictures  in   the book
c. Marie sluit de luidsprekers aan (??de versterker).
  Marie connects  the speakers  to     the amplifier

Note, however, that these examples come very close to particle verb constructions. This is clear from the fact that aan cannot be used intransitively in examples such as (317a); the particle op is used in that case instead.

Example 317
a. Jan hangt het schilderij aan *(de muur).
  Jan hangs  the painting  on     the wall
b. Jan hangt het schilderij op (*?de muur).
  Jan hangs  the painting  prt.     the wall
[+]  II.  Verbal particles

In contrast to the intransitive adpositions discussed in Subsection I, verbal particles need not express a spatial meaning. Often, their meaning is more or less aspectual in nature. The particle op'up' in (318a), for example, transforms the stative verbs staan'to stand' into an activity verb, and weg'away' in (318b) changes the stative verb drijven'to float' into a process verb.

Example 318
a. staan[+state]
  to stand
a'. opstaan[+activity]
  to stand up
b. drijven[+state]
  to float 
b'. wegdrijven[+process]
  to float away

In addition, these verbal particles normally make the event telic: the particle verb is inherently bounded in time and results in a new location of the located object. That the particle verb is telic is also clear from the fact that it selects the time auxiliary zijn'to be' in the perfect tense, whereas the stative verbs staan and drijven take the auxiliary hebben'to have'.

Example 319
a. Jan heeft/*is daar gestaan.
  Jan has/is  there  stood
a'. Jan is/*heeft op gestaan.
  Jan is/has  up  stood
b. De bal/man heeft/*is op het water gedreven.
  the ball/man  has/is  on the water  floated
b'. De bal/man is/*heeft weg gedreven.
  the ball/man  is/has  away  driven

Exceptions are the particles door and mee in particle verbs like doorwerken'to continue to work' and meewerken'to cooperate/work along', which are atelic and take the auxiliary hebben'to have' in the perfect tense; cf. Van Hout (1996:96).
      The fact that most monadic particle verbs select the auxiliary zijn clearly shows that they are unaccusative verbs; As is illustrated for weg drijven in (320), they also satisfy the other criteria for unaccusativity; the past participle can be used attributively (which is excluded in the case of op staan, due to a general prohibition involving contraction verbs, which is discussed in Section A9.2.1, sub II2), and passivization is excluded.

Example 320
a. de weg gedreven bal
  the away floated ball
b. * Er wordt (door de man) weg gedreven.
  there  is  by the man  away  floated

      Particles of monadic particle verbs are predicative elements that function as a complementive. The examples in (321) illustrate this by showing that, like resultatives, particles have the ability to introduce an additional argument in the clause that is not selected by the verb. This means that the noun phrase het meisje'the girl' in (321b) is semantically licensed by the particle uit, which implies that the latter must be a predicate of some sort.

Example 321
a. Jan lacht (*het meisje).
  Jan laughs     the girl
b. Jan lacht *(het meisje) uit.
  Jan laughs     the girl  uit

The hypothesis that particles are complementives is also supported by the fact, illustrated in (322a&b), that both resultatives and particles must be left-adjacent to the verbs in clause-final position. Since a clause can contain at most one complementive, this hypothesis also correctly predicts that examples such as (322c), in which a verbal particle co-occurs with a resultative phrase, are ungrammatical.

Example 322
a. dat Jan de deur <*kapot> gisteren <kapot> trapte <*kapot>.
  that  Jan the door      broken  yesterday  kicked
  'that Jan damaged the door yesterday by kicking it.'
b. dat Jan de deur <*in> gisteren <in> trapte <*in>.
  that  Jan the door      in  yesterday  kicked
  'that Jan kicked in the door yesterday.'
c. * dat Jan de deur gisteren kapot in trapte.
  that  Jan the door  yesterday  broken  in kicked

      There are, however, some apparent counterexamples to the claim that verbal particles and complementives are in complementary distribution. Consider (323). The verb leggen'to put' requires a complementive, and therefore (b) confirms our hypothesis that the particle neer is a complementive, just like the PP op de tafel in (323a). However, the PP and the particle can simultaneously appear in constructions such as (323c). It should be noted, however, that the PP in (323c) need not precede the clause-final verb, but can also follow it. This strongly suggests that the PP does not function as the complementive of the verb in this example.

Example 323
a. dat Jan het boek <op de tafel> legde <*op de tafel>.
  that  Jan the book    on the table  put
  'that Jan put the book on the table.'
b. dat Jan het boek <neer> legde <*neer>.
  that  Jan the book down  put
  'that Jan put down the book.'
c. dat Jan het boek <op de tafel> neer legde <op de tafel>.
  that  Jan the book   on the table  down  put
  'that Jan put down the book on the table.'

The precise syntactic function of the PP in (323c) is unclear. Den Dikken (1995), for example, claims that the PP is actually a complement of the particle (cf. Section, and that its logical subject, the noun phrase het boek, is raised to the subject position of the particle. In Broekhuis (1992), it is argued that the PP actually has an ambiguous status: it sometimes acts as the complement of the particle, as claimed by Den Dikken, and sometimes as an independent adverbial phrase. The behavior of the PP in (323c) is part of a more general pattern, which will be discussed in Section, sub IIC.
      Another potential example of this sort, which involves the adjectival complementive groen'green' and the particle af, is given in (324). However, given that adjectives never undergo extraposition, it cannot be shown that the adjective does not function as a complementive of the verb in the somewhat marked but passable example in (324c).

Example 324
a. dat Jan de deur groen verfde.
  that  Jan the door  green  painted
  'that Jan painted the door green.'
b. dat Jan de deur af verfde.
  that  Jan the door  af  painted
  'that Jan finished painting the door.'
c. ? dat Jan de deur groen af verfde.
  that  Jan the door  green af  painted

      Particle verbs are often involved in verb alternations. In (325a), we are dealing with a simple predicative construction involving change of location. The constructions in (325b&c) shows that not only the located object de kleren but also the reference object de koffer may surface as the object of the clause. The primed examples further show that the object is assigned accusative case in both cases. The fact that the reference object from (325a) surfaces as an accusative object in (325c) unmistakably shows that the element in in the latter example is not a postposition but a verbal particle.

Example 325
a. Jan pakte zijn kleren in de koffer.
  Jan packed  his clothes  into his suitcase
b. Jan pakte zijn kleren in.
  Jan packed  his clothes  prt.
b'. Zijn kleren werden (door zijn moeder) ingepakt.
  his clothes  were   by his mother  prt.-packed
c. Jan pakte de koffer in.
  Jan packed  the suitcase  prt.
c'. Zijn koffer werd (door zijn moeder) ingepakt.
  his suitcase  was    by his mother  prt.-packed

      Giving a general description of the meaning contribution of verbal particles seems impossible. It can be aspectual in nature, as in (318), or express a location, as in (325). It may also add a more or lesss systematic meaning aspect, as in the primed examples in (326), which also allow a periphrastic indirect object with aan'to'; see Jan gaf het boek aan Marie (door) and Jan vertelde het geheim aan Els (door).

Example 326
a. Jan gaf Els het boek.
  Jan gave  Els the book
a'. Jan gaf Els het boek door.
  Jan gave  Els the book  door
  'Jan passed Els the book.'
b. Jan vertelde Els het geheim.
  Jan told  Els the secret
b'. Jan vertelde Els het geheim door.
  Jan told  Els the secret  door
  'Jan passed on (betrayed) the secret to Els.'

The meaning of the particle can also be more or lesss lexicalized, as in (327a&b). Example (327b) is especially telling in this respect, given that the particle verb overhalen'to persuade' subcategorizes for a PP headed by tot (which has the form of an anticipatory pronominal PP er toe here), which can be selected neither by the verb nor by the particle.

Example 327
a. De VPRO zendt die documentaire morgen uit.
  the VPRO sends  that documentary  tomorrow  prt.
  'The VPRO broadcasts this documentary tomorrow.'
b. Jan haalde Peter er toe over om te vertrekken.
  Jan fetched  Peter there  toe  prt.  to  to leave
  'Jan persuaded Peter to leave.'

The examples in (328) show that particles also occur in completely idiomatic constructions.

Example 328
a. Dat is bij het zwarte af.
  that  is with the black  af
  'That is nearly black.'
b. Dat is bij de beesten af.
  that  is with the beast  af
  'That is beastly.'

This all suggests that the best place to account for the meaning contribution of particles is the lexicon, and hence that it is best to describe the meaning of particle verbs not in a grammar but in a dictionary. We will therefore not try to provide any more details here.

  • Broekhuis, Hans1992Chain-government: issues in Dutch syntaxThe Hague, Holland Academic GraphicsUniversity of Amsterdam/HILThesis
  • Dikken, Marcel den1995Particles: on the syntax of verb-particle, triadic, and causative constructionsOxford studies in comparative syntaxNew York/OxfordOxford University Press
  • Hout, Angeliek van1996Event semantics of verb frame alternations: a case study of Dutch and its acquisitionTilburgTilburg UniversityThesis
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