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8.4. Modification of adpositional phrases
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Prepositional phrases are normally not readily eligible for adverbial modification. Still, Subsections I and II will show that this is possible with some locational, directional and temporal PPs, subsection III will discuss a set of idiomatic prepositional phrases that behave quite exceptionally with respect to adverbial modification.

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[+]  I.  Locational and directional adpositional phrases

Consider the locational phrases in (76). That the modifiers of the PPs, dicht'close' and hoog'high', are adjectives is clear from the fact that they can be modified by the intensifiers zeer'very' and vrij'rather', as shown in the primeless examples. The primed examples also support this claim by showing that these modifiers are also eligible for comparative and superlative formation.

Example 76
a. Peter woont (zeer/vrij) dicht bij het paleis.
  Peter lives  very/rather  close  to the palace
a'. Peter woont dichter bij het paleis dan Jan.
  Peter lives  closer  to the palace  than Jan
a''. Peter woont het dichtst bij het paleis.
  Peter lives  the closest  to the palace
b. Jan zag een vliegtuig (zeer/vrij) hoog in de lucht.
  Jan saw  an airplane  very/rather  high in the sky
b'. ? Jan zag een vliegtuig hoger in de lucht.
  Jan saw  an airplane  higher  in the sky
b''. ?? Jan zag een vliegtuig het hoogst in de lucht.
  Jan saw an airplane  the highest  in the sky

The modifying adjectives and PPs in (76) make up constituents, which is clear from the fact that they can be placed in clause-initial position together; cf. the constituency test. Some examples that correspond to the primeless examples in (76) are given in (77); note that we have replaced the proper noun Jan in (76a) by an indefinite noun phrase in order to facilitate topicalization of the modified PP.

Example 77
a. Dicht bij het paleis woonde een oude schoenmaker.
  close to the palace  lived  an old shoemaker
b. Hoog in de lucht zag Jan een vliegtuig.
  high in the sky  saw  Jan an airplane

The examples in (78) make clear that it is the adjective that modifies the PPs in the examples above, and not vice versa, by showing that omission of the adjective gives rise to an acceptable sentence, whereas omission of the PP is impossible.

Example 78
a. Peter woont bij het paleis.
a'. * Peter woont dicht.
b. Jan zag een vliegtuig in de lucht.
b'. * Jan zag een vliegtuig hoog.

Example (79a) provides another argument for the claim that it is the adjective that modifies the adpositional phrase, and not vice versa: postpositional phrases are normally only used as predicative complements (cf. P4.2.1), so there can be no doubt in these cases that the adjective functions as the modifier of the PP. The fact that (79b) has the same idiomatic reading as Jan zat in de put'Jan was down-hearted' can be considered as a final argument for this claim.

Example 79
a. Jan liep diep(er) het bos in.
  Jan walked  (more) deeply  the forest  into
  'Jan walked (more) deeply into the forest.'
b. Jan zat diep in de put.
  Jan sat  deeply  in the well
  'Jan was very depressed.'

      Occasionally, however, it is not so simple to determine the modification direction. In (80a), for example, neither the adjective ver nor the PP van de bewoonde wereld can be omitted, so we cannot determine in this way what functions as the modifier in the complex phrase ver van de bewoonde wereld; we can only conclude that it is the adjective ver that modifies the PP by appealing to analogous examples such as (80b).

Example 80
a. Ver van de bewoonde wereld leefde een wijze kluizenaar.
  far from the inhabited world  lived  a wise hermit
a'. * Van de bewoonde wereld leefde een wijze kluizenaar.
a''. * Ver leefde een wijze kluizenaar.
b. Ver achter de bergen leefde een wijze kluizenaar.
  far behind the mountains  lived  a wise hermit
b'. Achter de bergen leefde een wijze kluizenaar.
b''. * Ver leefde een wijze kluizenaar.

In (81a), it is even more difficult to determine the modification direction, given that the primed examples show that the adjective and the PP can both be omitted. One argument in favor of claiming that it is the adjective hoog that acts as the modifier of the PP boven de stoel is that (81b) shows that it can be replaced by a nominal measure phrase like twee meter'two meters'; the ungrammaticality of (81b') unambiguously shows that this nominal phrase must be analyzed as a modifier and therefore shows that an analysis of (81a) according to which the adjective acts as the modifier of the PP is at least possible. The question as to whether the alternative analysis is available as well must be left to future research.

Example 81
a. Het schilderij hangt hoog boven de stoel.
  the paining  hangs high  above the chair
a'. Het schilderij hangt hoog.
a''. Het schilderij hangt boven de stoel.
b. Het schilderij hangt twee meter boven de stoel.
  the paining  hangs  two meters  above the chair
b'. * Het schilderij hangt twee meter.

      Adjectives can modify not only full adpositional phrases, but are sometimes also able to modify particles, as in dichtbij'close', veraf'far away' and ver weg'far away'. That these cases involve adjectival modification is obscured by the fact that at least the first two combinations are normally orthographically represented as a single word, which may be related to the fact that the adjective is normally obligatory; if it is dropped in examples such as (82), the result is unacceptable.

Example 82
a. Jan woont *(dicht)bij.
  Jan lives     close
b. Jan woont *(ver)af.
  Jan lives     far away
c. Jan woont *(ver) weg.
  Jan lives     far away

Since we have seen in (80a) that the same thing occasionally holds for full adpositional phrases, the examples in (82) do not provide conclusive evidence in favor of compounding. That we are not dealing with compounding is clear from the examples in (83). Given the so-called Right-hand head rule, according to which the rightmost member determines the properties of the full compound, the compound analysis wrongly predicts that the modification possibilities of the complex forms in (83) reflect those of the particles; the fact that the complex forms can be modifier by heel/zeer instead reflects a property of the adjectival part.

Example 83
a. zeer dichtbij 'very close'
a'. ?zeer dicht
a''. *zeer bij
b. ?heel veraf 'very far away'
b'. heel ver
b''. *heel af
c. zeer ver weg 'very far away'
c'. zeer ver
c''. *zeer weg

That we are not dealing with compounding is also clear from the examples in (84): the primed examples show that the adjectives dicht and ver can undergo comparative and superlative formation, which would of course be impossible if the adjectives were part of compounds.

Example 84
a. dichtbij
  close
a'. dichterbij
  closer
a''. het dichtstbij
  the closest
b. veraf
  far away
b'. verderaf
  farther away
b''. het verstaf
  the farthest away
c. ver weg
  far away
c'. verder weg
  farther away
c''. het verst weg
  the farthest away

      The examples in (85) provide a number of modifiers for which adjectival status cannot readily be demonstrated, given that they categorically resist modification by means of an intensifier and comparative/superlative formation. The adverbs in (85b-d) may also occur in attributive and predicative position with related but not identical meanings.

Example 85
a. pal tegen de lat
  right  against  the lath
d. precies/nauwkeurig in de roos
  precisely  in the bullʼs.eye
b. vlak naast het doel
  just  beside  the goal
  'very close to the goal'
e. recht voor het huis
  straight  in.front.of  the house
  'right in front of the house'
c. rechtstreeks naar Parijs
  straight  to  Paris
[+]  II.  Temporal prepositional phrases

Consider the temporal phrases in (86). That the adjectives kort'short' and lang'long' and the PPs that follow them make up a constituent is clear from the fact, illustrated in the primed examples, that they can be placed in clause-initial position together; cf. the constituency test.

Example 86
a. Jan vertrok kort na de voorstelling.
  Jan left  shortly  after the performance
a'. Kort na de voorstelling vertrok Jan.
b. Jan voltooide zijn proefschrift lang voor de feitelijke verdediging.
  Jan completed  his thesis  long before the actual defense
b'. Lang voor de feitelijke verdediging voltooide Jan zijn proefschrift.

That the modifier is adjectival in nature is clear from the fact that it can be modified by means of an intensifier. Comparative and superlative formation, on the other hand, seem to give rise to marked results.

Example 87
a. Jan vertrok heel kort na de voorstelling.
  Jan left  very shortly  after the performance
a'. ?? Jan vertrok korter/het kortst na de voorstelling (dan Peter).
  Jan left  more/the most shortly  after the performance (than Peter)
b. Jan voltooide zijn dissertatie heel lang voor de feitelijke verdediging.
  Jan completed  his thesis  very long  before the actual defense
b'. ?? Jan voltooide zijn dissertatie langer/het langst voor de feitelijke verdediging.
  Jan completed his thesis  longer/the longest  before the actual defense

The complementizers voordat'before' and nadat'after' are compounds consisting of a temporal preposition and the complementizer dat'that'; cf. Section P2.4.1, sub II. The examples in (88) show that dependent clauses that are introduced by these complementizers can be modified in the same way as the PPs in (86). The primed examples show that the adjective and the dependent clause form a constituent.

Example 88
a. Jan vertrok kort nadat de voorstelling begon.
  Jan left  shortly  after  the performance  started
a'. Kort nadat de voorstelling begon, vertrok Jan.
b. Jan voltooide zijn proefschrift lang voordat hij het feitelijk moest verdedigen.
  Jan completed his thesis  long before  he  it  actually  had to defend
  'Jan completed his thesis long before he actually had to defend it.'
b'. Lang voordat hij het feitelijk moest verdedigen, voltooide Jan zijn proefschrift.

      The examples in (89) provide a number of modifiers for which adjectival status cannot readily be demonstrated, given that they categorically resist modification by means of an intensifier and comparative/superlative formation; cf. example (85).

Example 89
a. pal/direct na de voorstelling 'immediately after the performance'
b. vlak/net voor de voorstelling 'just before the performance'
c. precies tijdens het begin 'exactly at the beginning'
[+]  III.  Predicative PP idioms

Dutch has a large set of idiomatic prepositional expressions that can be used in complementive position; some examples are given in (90). That we are dealing with idioms is clear from the fact that the attributive modification of the noun in the PP is normally excluded; see Section P1.3.3, sub I for more discussion.

Example 90
a. op je gemak zijn 'to be at oneʼs ease'
b. in je knollentuin/nopjes/sas/schik zijn 'to be pleased'
c. van streek zijn 'to be upset'

The idiomatic PPs in (90) exhibit several similarities with scalar adjectives. First, they denote some (mental) property of the subject of the clause, just like adjectives such as gelukkig'happy' or tevreden'satisfied'. Second, the primeless examples in (91) show that these PPs can be modified by an intensifier; observe that the modifier may be the element zeer, which is generally assumed to co-occur with adjectives only. The primed examples are added to show that the adjectives and the PPs in the primeless examples form a constituent; cf. the constituency test.

Example 91
a. Jan is hier erg/zeer op zijn gemak.
  Jan is here very  at his ease
  'Jan is very at his ease here.'
a'. Erg op zijn gemak is Jan hier niet.
b. Jan is helemaal/zeer in zʼn knollentuin/nopjes/sas/schik.
  Jan is completely  in his vegetable garden/nopjes/sas/schik
  'Jan is very pleased.'
b'. Helemaal in zʼn knollentuin/nopjes/sas/schik is Jan niet.
c. Jan is erg/zeer van streek.
  Jan is very  of streek
  'Jan is very upset.'
c'. Zeer van streek is Jan niet.

Finally, the PPs in (90) seem to be eligible for comparative/superlative formation just like the scalar adjectives. This is shown in (92).

Example 92
a. Jan is hier meer op zijn gemak dan Peter.
  Jan is here more  at his ease  than Peter
a'. Jan is hier het meest op zijn gemak.
  Jan is here  the most  at his ease
b. Jan is meer in zʼn knollentuin/nopjes/sas/schik dan Peter.
  Jan is more  in his vegetable garden/nopjes/sas/schik  than Peter
  'Jan is more pleased than Peter.'
b'. Jan is het meest in zʼn knollentuin/nopjes/sas/schik.
  Jan is the most  in his vegetable garden/nopjes/sas/schik
c. Jan is meer van streek dan Peter.
  Jan is more  of streek  than Peter
  'Jan is more upset than Peter.'
c'. Jan is het meest van streek.
  Jan is the most  of streek
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