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3.1.3. Locational PPs that refer to the null vector

It is to be expected that locational PPs that refer to the null vector cannot be modified by modifiers of orientation or distance; the magnitude of the null vector is zero, and, as a result, it does not have an orientation either. As is illustrated in (34) by means of the preposition binnen, this expectation is normally borne out.

Example 34
a. * Het huis staat recht/schuin binnen de stadsmuur.
  the house  stands  straight/diagonally  within the city walls
b. * Het huis staat twee kilometer binnen de stadsmuur.
  the house  stands  two kilometer  within the city wall

Subsection I will show, however, that there are a number of potential counterexamples to the claim that PPs referring to the null vector cannot be modified by modifiers of orientation and distance, subsection II discusses some other types of modification of these PPs.

[+]  I.  Modifiers of orientation and distance

This subsection discusses several examples that at first sight seem to involve modification for orientation or distance. We will show, however, that these examples do not involve true counterexamples to the claim that PPs referring to the null vector cannot be modified by modifiers of orientation or distance.

[+]  A.  A. Recht/schuin'straight/diagonal'

Example (35a) is fully acceptable, but the meaning of recht/schuin seems to differ from the intended modification meaning (viz. orientation); recht/schuin do not modify the position of the located object het schilderij with respect to the reference object de muur, but seem to refer to the way the painting is hanging on the wall, as in Figure 5. In other words, the adjectives recht/schuin are predicated of the noun phrase het schilderij'the painting' and must therefore be analyzed as supplementives, just like the adjectives in (35b). That recht and schuin do not act as a modifier of the PP is supported by the fact that they can also appear if the locational PP is dropped.

Example 35
a. Het schilderij hangt recht/schuin (aan de muur).
  the painting  hangs  straight/diagonal   on the wall
b. Het schilderij hangt netjes/scheef/slordig (aan de muur).
  the painting  hangs  properly/diagonal/untidy   on the wall

Figure 5: Supplementives recht and schuin/scheef

[+]  B.  Rechts/links'right/left', midden'middle', voor/achter'in front/behind', etc.

Rechts'right' and links'left' in (36a) also seem to lack the intended modification meaning: these prepositions just indicate the place of attachment of the flashing blue light, and do not modify the orientation of the (null) vector denoted by the preposition op'on'. In this respect, they resemble elements like midden'middle' and voor/achter'in front of/behind' in (36b).

Example 36
a. Het zwaailicht zit rechts/links op de auto.
  the blue light  sits  right/left  on the car
  'The flashing blue light is attached to the left/right side of the car.'
b. Het zwaailicht zit midden/voor/achter op de auto.
  the blue light  sits  middle/in.front.of/behind  on the car
  'The flashing blue light is attached to the center/front/back of the car.'

Other elements that can be used in a way similar to links/rechts, midden and achter/voor in (36) are boven/onder'above/under' which are in a paradigm with midden. Some examples are given in (37).

Example 37
a. Jan zit midden op de ladder.
  Jan sits  middle  on the stepladder.
  'Jan is sitting in the middle of the stepladder.'
b. Jan zit boven/onder op de ladder.
  Jan sits  above/under  on the stepladder
  'Jan is sitting on top/ at the bottom of the stepladder.'

The examples in (36) and (37) do, of course, involve some kind of modification of the locational PP op de ladder, which expresses the core meaning of the clause Jan zit op de ladder'Jan is sitting on the stepladder'. This is clearest in the cases of midden and onder, since the relevant examples in (37) become ungrammatical if the PP is dropped, as is shown in (38a). In the other cases, this is less clear because the resulting structures are acceptable; the meaning of the clauses, however, changes considerably. This is illustrated in (38b) for boven in (37b), which now receives the meaning “upstairs”.

Example 38
a. * Jan zit midden/onder.
  Jan sits  middle/under
b. Jan zit boven.
  'Jan is sitting upstairs.'

Note in passing that, in accordance with this, example (37b) with boven is actually ambiguous: it can be translated not only as “Jan is sitting on top of the stepladder” but also as “Jan is sitting upstairs on the stepladder”. In the latter case, it does not act as the antonym of onder, but as the antonym of beneden'downstairs'; see Section 3.5 for discussion.
      The question we want to address now is whether the examples in (36) and (37) involve adverbial modification of the locational PP or modification of some other sort. Although it is difficult to give a definite answer to this question, the following subsections will show that there are several reasons for assuming that we are not dealing with adverbial modification, but with compounding.

[+]  1.  R-pronominalization

The examples in (30), repeated here as (39), have shown that it is not the preposition itself that is modified by an adverbial phrase but the full PP. This is clear from the fact that in case of R-pronominalization, the R-word er can intervene between the modifier and the preposition.

Example 39
a. Dicht/Vlak bij het huis stond een boom.
  close  near the house  stood  a tree
  'A tree stood close to the house.'
b. [Dicht/Vlak [PP er bij]] stond een boom.
  close  there  near  stood  a tree

If we consider examples involving the elements links/rechts, midden, achter/voor and boven/onder, however, it turns out that the R-pronoun cannot intervene between most of these elements and the PP. This is shown in the primed examples in (40).

Example 40
a. Links/Rechts op de auto zit een zwaailicht.
  left/right  on the car  sits  a blue.light
a'. * Link/Rechts er op zit een zwaailicht.
b. Voor/Achter/Midden in de kerk staat een groot orgel.
  in.front.of/behind/middle  in the church  stands  a big organ
  'A big organ stands in the front/back/middle of the church.'
b'. * Voor/Achter/Midden er in staat een groot orgel.
c. Boven/Onder op het blikje staat de productiedatum.
  above/under  on the can  stands  the manufacturing.date
  'The manufacturing date can be found on top/the bottom of the can.'
c'. * Boven/Onder er op staat de productiedatum.

It is not entirely clear how conclusive the primed examples in (40a&b) are, given that (41a&b) show that the order in which the R-pronoun precedes the “modifier” is also bad/marked. In (41c), however, this order gives rise to a fully acceptable result.

Example 41
a. * Er links/recht op zit een zwaailicht.
  there  left/right  on sits  a blue.light
b. ? Er voor/achter/midden in staat een groot orgel.
  there  front.of/behind/middle  in  stands  a big organ
c. Er boven/onder op staat de productiedatum.
  there  above/under  on  stands  the manufacturing.date

The acceptability of (41c) thus shows that the cause of the unacceptability of the primed examples in (40) is not that R-pronominalization itself is impossible, and suggests that the sequence of the modifier and the preposition is impenetrable, which would be consistent with a compound analysis; cf. 1.2.1, sub II.

[+]  2.  Intransitive use

There are cases in which the complex forms can be used as intransitive adpositions, whereas the simple forms cannot. If achter acts as a modifier of the preposition op in (42a), the ungrammaticality of (42a') with an intransitive adposition would, of course, be highly surprising. In (42b), we give similar examples with bovenin.

Example 42
a. Jan zit achterop (de fiets).
  Jan sits  on.the.back.of   the bike
  'Jan is sitting on the back of the bike.'
a'. Jan zit op *(de fiets).
b. Het geld ligt bovenin (de kast).
  the money  lies  in.the.upper.part.of  the closet
b'. Het geld ligt in *(de kast).

If we are dealing with compounds, on the other hand, the difference in acceptability between the primeless and primed examples could simply be accounted for by claiming that the syntactic valence of the simple and complex prepositions differ.

[+]  3.  Permeation of the clause-final verb cluster

Section 3.1.6 has shown that modified intransitive adpositions cannot permeate the clause-final verb cluster. The complex forms under discussion, on the other hand, can, as is shown in (43). This again favors a compound analysis of the complex forms.

Example 43
a. dat Marie de hele tijd voorop heeft gelopen.
  that  Marie the whole time  in.front  has  walked
  'that Marie walked in front all the time.'
b. dat Marie de hele tijd heeft voorop gelopen.
[+]  4.  Concluding remarks

The discussion in the previous subsections suggests that elements like links/rechts, midden, voor/achter and boven/onder in (36) and (37) are not adverbial modifiers but the first members of a compound. Table 5 gives the possible combinations of these elements with prepositions that denote the null vector. The fact that there are so many question marks in this table indicates that more research is needed.

Table 5: Links/ rechts, midden, achter/ voor and boven/ onder
preposition links/rechts midden achter/voor boven/onder
in'in/into' + + + +
uit'out/out of' ? ? + +
door'through' ?
aan'on' ? ? + +
op'on' + + + +
over'over' ? ?
tegen'against' + +

Note that a “—” mark does not necessarily imply that the pertinent sequence cannot be found, but that the modification relation is not present. The examples in (44) are acceptable, but they do not involve modification of the PP by the elements achter/voor. This will be clear from the paraphrases; note also that in these cases voor and achter can be topicalized in isolation, which shows that they are independent constituents, comparable to the more common element boven with the meaning “upstairs”; cf. Section 3.5.

Example 44
a. De ladder stond achter tegen de muur.
  the ladder  stood  back  against the wall
  'At the back of the house, the ladder stood against the wall.'
a'. Achter stond de ladder tegen de muur.
b. Jan liep voor door de deur.
  Jan walked  front  through the door
  'Jan walked through the front door.'
b'. Voor liep Jan door de deur.
[+]  II.  Other kinds of modification

So far we have not encountered any clear cases of adverbial modification of locational PPs headed by a preposition denoting the null vector, so perhaps we should conclude that such modification is not possible. There are, however, several cases that may involve modification, which we will investigate in the following subsections.

[+]  A.  Precies'exactly' and bijna'nearly'

The elements precies'exactly' and bijna'nearly' seem common as modifiers of PPs headed by the prepositions in'in' and op'on'. Some examples are given in (45). We are not dealing with modifiers of orientation or distance in these examples, but with modification of the location of the located object: the use of precies emphasizes that the located object has actually reached the reference object, whereas bijna implies that this nearly was the case.

Example 45
a. Hij schoot de pijl precies/bijna in de roos.
  he  shot  the arrow  exactly/nearly  into  the bullʼs-eye
b. Zij gooide de bal precies/bijna op Peters neus.
  she  threw  the ball  exactly/nearly  on Peterʼs nose

That precies acts as a modifier of the PP is clear from the fact illustrated in the (a)-examples in (46) that the phrase precies in de roos must be topicalized as a whole. It is not so clear, however, whether bijna acts as a modifier of the PP: the (b)-examples show that topicalization of the phrase bijna in de roos gives rise to a degraded result, the option of moving bijna in isolation being much preferred.

Example 46
a. Precies in de roos schoot hij de pijl.
a'. * Precies schoot hij de pijl in de roos.
b. ?? Bijna in de roos schoot hij de pijl.
b'. Bijna schoot hij de pijl in de roos.

Although this suggests that bijna does not act as a modifier of the PP but of the clause, drawing such a conclusion may be premature since topicalization of bijna sometimes results in a change of meaning. This is perhaps not so clear in the case of the (b)-examples in (46), but the shift of meaning can be made more conspicuous by means of the examples in (47).

Example 47
a. Jan viel bijna in het water.
  Jan fell  nearly  into the water
b. Bijna viel Jan in het water.
  nearly  fell  Jan into the water

Example (47a) has two readings. The first reading involves modification of the event; it expresses that Jan was about to fall into the water, but succeeded in avoiding it. The second reading involves modification of the location: it is claimed that Jan actually fell, and that he ended up in a position close to the water as a result. Now, when we consider the topicalization construction in (47b), it turns out that only the first reading survives. This suggests that on its second reading, bijna does not act a modifier of the clause but of the PP. If this is indeed the case, the infelicitousness of topicalization constructions such as (46b) remains mysterious.

[+]  B.  Modification of in'in/into' and uit'out of'?

As the examples in (48) show, PPs headed by in and uit appear to constitute counterexamples to the claim that PPs referring to the null vector cannot be modified by modifiers of distance and orientation. At first sight, the adjectival and nominal phrases in the primeless examples seem to act as modifiers of distance, and the adjectives in the primed examples as modifiers of orientation. We will show in the following subsections, however, that it is not so clear whether we are really dealing with modifiers of the PP.

Example 48
a. De spijker zit diep/drie cm in de muur.
  the nail  sits  deep/three cm  in the wall
a'. De spijker zit schuin in de muur.
  the nail  sits  diagonally  in the wall
b. De spijker steekt drie cm uit de muur.
  the nail  sticks  three cm  out.of  the wall
b'. De spijker steekt schuin uit de muur.
  the nail  sticks  diagonally  out.of  the wall
[+]  1.  Meaning

The meaning expressed by the presumed modifiers in (48) is of a completely different nature than in the case of PPs denoting a set of vectors. This is clearest in the case of the alleged modifiers of distance. With PPs denoting a set of vectors, these modifiers indicate what the distance between the reference object and the located object is. In the case of in/uit, on the other hand, the modifier indicates to what extent the located object penetrates/protrudes from the wall; cf. Figure 6A&B. Similarly, schuin in the primed examples indicates in what way the nail penetrates or protrudes from the wall (cf. Figure 6A'&B').

Figure 6: Modification of in'into' and uit'out of'?

It has been suggested that PPs headed by in and uit do involve vectors, but that they are different from the vectors discussed earlier in that they are not necessarily outward oriented with respect to the reference object, but can also be inward oriented. Note, however, that the nominal measure phrases in (48a&b) are in a paradigm with gedeeltelijk'partly', helemaal'entirely', and voor de helft'half' (lit: for the half), which seem to modify or to be predicated of the located object rather than modifying the PP, so that it is not a priori clear whether we are really dealing with PP modification.

Example 49
a. De spijker zit gedeeltelijk/helemaal/voor de helft in de muur.
  the nail  sits  partly/entirely/half  in the wall
b. De spijker steekt gedeeltelijk/helemaal/voor de helft uit de muur.
  the nail  sticks  partly/entirely/half  out.of the wall

      The elements discussed above can be used not only in the locational constructions in (48), but also in constructions involving a change of location, as in (50). Observe further that uit differs from in in that it (marginally) takes the adjectival ver'far' as a modifier of distance, not diep'deep'.

Example 50
a. Jan sloeg de spijker drie cm/diep/helemaal in de muur.
  Jan hit  the nail  three cm/deep/entirely  into the wall
b. Jan trok de spijker drie cm/?ver/helemaal uit de muur.
  Jan pulled  the nail  three cm/far/entirely  out.of the wall

The ungrammaticality of the examples in (51) shows that these modifiers can only occur with PPs denoting the null vector if some physical contact between the reference and located object is implied. This is consistent with the suggestion above that the modifiers in question actually do not modify a(n inwardly oriented) vector but the located object itself; if there is no physical contact, the located object cannot penetrate/protrude from the reference object, and hence modification is excluded. If so, the notion of “inwardly oriented vector” can be dismissed, and we should conclude that modification of adpositional phrases denoting the null vector is not possible; example (51b) is given a number sign given that it (marginally) allows a reading in which schuin/recht refer to Janʼs posture.

Example 51
a. * Jan stond 3 meter/diep/ver binnen de muur.
  Jan stood  3 meters/deep/far  within the wall
b. # Jan stond schuin/recht binnen de muur.
  Jan stood  diagonally/straight  within the wall

Still, it should be noted that examples such as (52), in which the distance from the outer boundary of the reference object is measured, are acceptable. Perhaps this is due to the fact that these examples do not involve three-dimensional space. If the budget is one million Euros, example (52a) expresses that the estimate is less. If the time limit is two hours, (52b) expresses that it took the athlete less time to finish. And if the broadcasting station has a range of 100 km, (52c) expresses that Jan lives less than 100 km from it; so it is actually the distance between Janʼs house and the broadcasting station that is relevant in this example.

Example 52
a. De begroting bleef ruim/net binnen de grenzen van het budget.
  the estimate  remained  amply/just  within the boundaries  of the budget
b. De atleet kwam ruim/net binnen de gestelde tijd binnen.
  the athlete  came  amply/just  within the settled time  inside
  'The athlete remained amply/just within the time limit.'
c. Jan woont ruim/net binnen het bereik van de zender.
  Jan lives  amply/just  within  the range  of the broadcasting station
[+]  2.  Topicalization

A second reason to doubt that the examples in (48) involve modification of the PPs is that topicalization of the alleged modified PPs gives rise to a marked result. This is clearest with examples involving the preposition uit in the (b)-examples in (48): the examples in (53) seem unacceptable. This is suspect since in cases in which we are unambiguously dealing with modification, topicalization of the full modified PP is easily possible: Een meter boven de deur hangt een schilderij'A painting is hanging one meter above the door'.

Example 53
a. * Drie cm uit de muur steekt de spijker.
  three cm  out.of the wall  sticks  the nail
b. * Schuin uit de muur steekt de spijker.
  diagonally  out.of the wall  sticks  the nail

Leftward movement of the noun/adjective phrase in isolation gives rise to significantly better results: topicalization, as in the primeless examples in (54), is perhaps still somewhat marked but wh-movement, as in the primed examples, is perfectly acceptable. Unfortunately, however, this does not tell us much, since we have seen that extracting nominal and adjectival modifiers from the PP is possible as well.

Example 54
a. ? Drie cm steekt de spijker uit de muur.
  three cm  sticks  the nail  out.of the wall
a'. Hoeveel cm steekt de spijker uit de muur?
  how.many cm  sticks  the nail  out.of the wall
b. ?? Schuin steekt de spijker uit de muur.
  diagonally  sticks  the nail  out.of the wall
b'. ? Hoe steekt de spijker uit de muur?
  how  sticks  the nail  out.of the wall

      Example (55a) seems somewhat better than (53a). The interpretation of this example differs, however, from that of example (48a); it can no longer express the situation in Figure 6A, but suggests that the nail has completely entered the wall and is now situated on a distance of three centimeters from the surface of the wall. The other examples in (55) do not, however, receive such a divergent interpretation and the judgments are more or lesss similar to those in (53) and (54).

Example 55
a. ?? Drie cm in de muur zit de spijker.
  three cm  in the wall  sits  the nail
a'. ? Drie cm zit de spijker in de muur.
  three cm  sits  the nail  in the wall
a''. Hoeveel cm zit de spijker in de muur?
  how.many cm  sits  the nail  in the wall
b. * Schuin in de muur zit de spijker.
  diagonally  in the wall  sits  the nail
b'. ? Schuin zit de spijker in de muur.
  diagonally  sits  the nail  in the wall
b''. Hoe zit de spijker in de muur?
  how  sits  the nail  in the wall

The topicalization data discussed in this subsection at least suggest that example (48) does not involve modification of the PP. We will return to this issue when we discuss modification of directional adpositional phrases; cf. the discussion in Section 3.1.4, sub III.

[+]  C.  Conclusion

The previous subsections have shown that the modification possibilities of PPs referring to the null vector are very limited, possibly restricted to modifiers of the type precies'exactly' and bijna'nearly' discussed in Subsection A. In all likelihood, nominal measure phrases like drie cm'three cm' and the adjectives rechts/schuin'straight/diagonally' in the examples discussed in Subsection B do not function as modifiers of the PP.

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