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3.2. Temporal adpositional phrases
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Section 1.3.2, sub IB, has shown that the vector approach to spatial adpositional phrases can be straightforwardly applied to temporal adpositional phrases. Due to the fact that the time line is only one-dimensional, an exhaustive description of the temporal relation requires only the three relations before, simultaneous, after, as in (79).

Example 79
Time line

The relations before and after involve vectors with opposite orientations; simultaneous can be assumed to denote the null vector. Given the conclusions in Section 3.1.7, we therefore expect that modification is possible in the case of before and after (which of course only involve the magnitude of the vector and not the orientation, due to the one-dimensional nature of the time line), but not in the case of simultaneous. The examples in (80) show that this expectation is indeed borne out.

Example 80
a. Dat gebeurde lang/vlak voor de tweede wereldoorlog.
  that happened  long/just  before World War II
b. * Dat gebeurde lang/vlak tijdens de tweede wereldoorlog.
  that happened  long/just  during World War II
c. Dat gebeurde lang/vlak na de tweede wereldoorlog.
  that happened  long/just  after World War II

Subsection I starts by discussing modification of temporal PPs that take a noun phrase as their complement, and Subsection II continues with temporal PPs that take a clause as their complement.

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[+]  I.  Temporal prepositions with a noun phrase as their complement

PPs headed by voor'before' and na'after' are the only temporal PPs that can be modified. As is illustrated in (81) and (82), the modifier can be an adjectival phrase or an adverb, a nominal phrase, and, in the case of na, a prepositional phrase headed by binnen'within'. These modifiers all indicate the “distance” on the time line between the position of the reference object and the position of the event expressed by the remainder of the clause.

Example 81
a. Jan vertrok lang/kort/vlak voor de voorstelling.
  Jan left  long/shortly/shortly  before the performance
b. Jan vertrok twee dagen voor de voorstelling.
  Jan left  two days  before the performance
c. * Jan vertrok binnen tien minuten voor de voorstelling.
  Jan left  within ten minutes  before the performance
Example 82
a. Het slachtoffer overleed lang/kort/vlak na het ongeluk.
  the victim  died  long/shortly/shortly  after the accident
b. Het slachtoffer overleed twee dagen na het ongeluk.
  the victim  died  two days  after the accident
c. Het slachtoffer overleed binnen tien minuten na het ongeluk.
  the victim died  within  ten minutes  after the accident

The following subsections discuss these three types of modifiers in more detail.

[+]  A.  Adjectival Modifiers and adverbs

The adjectival modifiers are mainly lang'long' and kort'shortly', although one may also finds the adjectives snel'quickly' or the adverb spoedig'soon' as modifiers of na-PPs. The adverbs are the same that are used for modification of spatial adpositional phrases: vlak/pal'shortly'.

Example 83
a. Jan vertrok (zeer) lang/kort voor de voorstelling.
  Jan left   very  shortly/long  before the performance
b. Jan vertrok (*zeer) vlak voor de voorstelling.
  Jan left     very  shortly  before the performance

It is important to note that lang and kort are antonymous expressions, which is rather special given that antonymous expressions cannot be used to modify spatial voor-PPs. The fact that lang and kort are antonyms accounts for the contrast found in (84a); these examples show that adjectival modifiers are gradable and can be extracted by wh-movement, but that, as always in the case of antonymous APs, the neutral form hoe lang'how long' is preferred over hoe kort'how shortly'; cf. Section A1.3.2.2, sub ID. Example (84b) is ungrammatical due to the earlier established fact that adverbs are not gradable.

Example 84
a. Hoe lang/?kort voor de voorstelling vertrok Jan?
  how long/shortly  before the performance  left  Jan
  'How long before the performance did Jan leave?'
b. * Hoe vlak voor de voorstelling vertrok Jan?
  how shortly  before the performance  left  Jan

Note that, as in the case of spatial PPs, the modifier does not modify the preposition but the full PP. This is clear from the fact that an R-pronoun can intervene between the modifier and the preposition, as is shown in (85).

Example 85
a. Kort daar voor/na vertrok hij.
  shortly  there  before/after  left  he
b. * Daar kort voor/na vertrok hij.
  there  shortly  before/after  left  he
[+]  B.  Nominal measure phrases

All nominal expressions that can be used to denote a stretch of time can be used as modifiers: twee dagen'two days', een jaar'one year', een tijdje'a while', etc. The nominal modifier can also be questioned.

Example 86
a. Jan vertrok twee dagen voor de voorstelling.
  Jan left  two days  before the performance
b. Hoeveel dagen voor de voorstelling vertrok Jan?
  how.many days  before the exhibition  left Jan

Like the adjectival modifiers, the nominal measure phrases modify the full PP, which is again clear from the fact that an R-pronoun can intervene between the modifier and the preposition, as is shown in (87).

Example 87
a. Twee dagen daar voor/na vertrok hij.
  two days  there  before/after  left  he
c. * Daar twee dagen voor/na vertrok hij.
  there  two days  before/after  left  he
[+]  C.  Adpositional phrases

The use of adpositional phrases as modifiers of temporal PPs is extremely restricted, the only possibility being PPs headed by binnen'within', which furthermore seems compatible only with temporal adpositional phrases headed by na'after'; cf. the unacceptability of (81c). Note that the modifier can also be questioned in this case.

Example 88
a. Het slachtoffer overleed binnen tien minuten na het ongeluk.
  the victim  died  within ten minutes  after the accident
b. Binnen hoeveel minuten na het ongeluk overleed het slachtoffer?
  within how many minutes  after the accident  died  the victim

In light of the examples in (85) and (87) it is remarkable that the presence of a PP modifier seems to block R-pronominalization of the temporal PP; whereas daar na overleed het slachtoffer'after that the victim died' is fully acceptable, the examples in (89) are both degraded. It is not clear to us what brings about this effect.

Example 89
a. * Binnen tien minuten daar na overleed het slachtoffer.
  within ten minutes  there  after  died  the victim
b. * Daar binnen tien minuten na overleed het slachtoffer.
  there within ten minutes  after  died  the victim
[+]  II.  Temporal prepositions with a clause as their complement

As is discussed in Section 2.4.1, sub IIA, adverbial clauses preceded by sequences like voordat'before' or nadat'after' can be analyzed either as involving a complex subordinator or as PPs headed by the preposition voor/na, which takes a finite clause as its complement. Whatever the right analysis may be, the examples in (90) and (91) show that such temporal adverbial clauses can be modified in the same way as PPs that take a noun phrase as their complement; cf. (81) and (82). Since the modifiers behave in the same way with respect to questioning, we will not illustrate this here.

Example 90
a. Jan vertrok lang/kort/vlak voor dat de voorstelling begon.
  Jan left  long/shortly/shortly  before  that  the performance  begun
b. Jan vertrok twee dagen voor dat de voorstelling begon.
  Jan left  two days  before  that  the performance  begun
c. * Jan vertrok binnen tien minuten voor dat de voorstelling begon.
  Jan left  within ten minutes  before  that  the performance  begun
Example 91
a. Het slachtoffer overleed lang/kort/vlak na dat hij aangereden was.
  the victim  died  long/shortly/shortly  after  that  he  over.run  was
  'The victim died long/shortly/just after he was run over.'
b. Het slachtoffer overleed twee dagen na dat hij aangereden was.
  the victim  died  two days  after  that  he  over.run  was
c. Het slachtoffer overleed binnen tien minuten na dat hij aangereden was.
  the victim  died  within ten minutes  after  that  he  over.run  was

The examples in (92) show, however, that in contrast to finite clauses, infinitival temporal clauses do not allow modification. Note that we cannot illustrate this for voor'before', given that it cannot be used to introduce infinitival clauses; the corresponding infinitival complementizer is alvorens; cf. Section 2.4.2, sub II.

Example 92
a. * Het slachtoffer overleed vlak na overreden te zijn.
  the victim  died  just  after  over.run  to be
  Intended reading: 'The victim died just after being overrun.'
b. * Vlak alvorens te gaan eten, dronken we een glas sherry.
  just  before  to go  eat,  drank  we a glass sherry
  Intended reading: 'Just before eating, we drank a glass of sherry.'
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