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Postpositions with simple complements

Postpositions do not take complements that are clauses or noun phrases (NPs), unless the postposition combines with an NP which denotes a direction. Complements to postpositions are either prepositional phrases or postpositional phrases. The following example involves a complement to a postposition which is a prepositional phrase and which is bracketed in the example below:

Example 1

[onder die brug] deur
beneath the bridge through
beneath and past the bridge

As far as meaning is concerned, postpositions generally denote a direction, and generally imply or entail motion. Most postpositions are homophonous to prepositions.

[+]NPs as complements to postpositions

Postpositions only select NP complements that denote a direction. Such complements generally involve some notion of directionality, either locatively or temporally. See the following example:

Example 2

Hulle het die berg uit gestrompel.
they have.AUX the mountain out stumble.PST
They stumbled out the mountain.

If a pronoun replaces the NP, the result is an R-pronoun plus postposition.

Example 3

Ons het met moeite daar uit gestrompel.
we have.AUX with difficulty R out stumble.PST
We stumbled out of there with difficulty.

This adposition is optionally present, and does not function as a verb particle, which is clear when a full NP is used instead of a pronoun, as in the following example:

Example 4

a. Hulle het by die berg op geloop.
they have.AUX at the mountain up walk.PST
They walked up the mountain.
b. Waarheen het hulle geloop? By die berg op.
where.to have.AUX they walk.PST at the mountain up
Where did they walk to? Up the mountain.

The same preposition is used with the antonymous postposition.

Example 5

Hulle het by die berg af geloop.
they have.AUX at the mountain down walk.PST
They walked down the mountain.

On the other hand, in the case of a circumposition which results from the combination of the preposition and postposition, as in the example with an NP above, the postposition cannot be omitted without a change in the meaning of directionality conveyed by the circumposition.

Example 6

a. Hulle het bydie berg af geloop.
they have.AUX at the mountain down walk.PST
They walked down the mountain.
b. Hulle het die berg af geloop.
they have.AUX the mountain down walk.PST
They walked down the mountain.
c. *Hulle het bydie berg geloop.
they have.AUX at the mountain walk.PST
They walked at the mountain.
[+]Postposition + prepositional phrase complement

Except for NPs that denote a direction, the complement of a postposition must be a PP. Constructions which require the presence of a preposition often involve the postpositions toe to, in in, uit out and deur through, in combination with a verb denoting motion in space or time, and prepositions such as met with, teen against and langs along, as in the following examples:

Example 7

Die hond het die kat [teen die boom] uit gejaag.
the dog have.AUX the cat against the tree out chase.PST
The dog chased the cat up the tree.
Example 8

Die motor het [teen die opdraande] uit gaan staan.
the car have.AUX against the incline out go stand
The car broke down going up against the incline.

The postposition uit out does not seem to make a significant semantic contribution in these examples. In contrast, the postposition deur through makes a clear semantic contribution to the following utterance, which has featured before:

Example 9

[onder die huis] deur
beneath the house through
beneath and past the house

The prepositional phrase can be topicalised if the postpositional phrase containing it is selected by the verb, which in this case requires toe as a directional adposition. This is clear from the following contrast:

Example 10

a. Hulle het hom na Babel toe geneem.
they have.AUX him to Babel to take.PST
The took him along to Babel.
b. Na Babel toe het hulle hom geneem.
to Babel to have.AUX they him take.PST
To Babel did they take him along.

Note that the interrogative R-pronoun must be glossed and translated as a locative pronoun in the following example, and not as a prepositional object, even though it functions as a prepositional complement.

Example 11

Waarheen het hulle hom geneem?
where.to (= to what place) have.AUX they him take.PST
Where did they take him to?
[+]Meaning of postpositions

Postpositions generally denote a direction, and they tend to imply or entail the idea of motion.

Example 12

Hulle het vertrek en is die berge in.
they have.AUX left and are the mountains in
They left and went into the mountains.

In the example above, the direction is given by the phrase functioning as the postpositional complement, die berge the mountains. It is pragmatically implied that the starting point is the location of the speaker, and that the end point of the direction is somewhere in the mountains. Thus the direction entails a path.

The postposition uit out may also denote a path of which the goal is not pragmatically implied but specified in a separate PP. In the example below, the bracketed PP specifies the goal of the path specified by the complement of the postposition uit.

Example 13

Toe sy weer sien, het hulle die hawe uit [oor die horison] gevaar om te gaan visvang.
when she again look.PST have.AUX they the harbour out over the horizon sail.PST for.COMP PTCL.INF go fish.INF
When she looked again, they had sailed out the harbour over the horizon to go fishing.

Postpositions often refer to space, but they may also refer to the passage of time or activity, in combination with a prepositional phrase, as shown by the example below.

Example 14

[Tussen al die geskerts] deur was daar ook 'n element van erns.
among all the joking through be.PRT there also an element of seriousness
Amidst all the joking, there was also an element of earnest.
[+]Relation between prepositions and postpositions

Postpositions are often homophonous to prepositions which are related to them in meaning. For example, alongside the locative use of in in (example (16)) as a preposition, we have the directional use of in in(to) as a postposition (example (17)).

Example 15

Hy het in die sitkamer gedans.
he have.AUX in the lounge dance.PST
He danced in(side) the lounge.
Example 16

Hy het (in) die sitkamer in gedans.
he have.AUX (in) the lounge in dance.PST
He danced into the lounge.

Exceptions are the prepositions tot to (postposition toe), met with (postposition mee), and the circumposition na … toe to … to, which can be replaced by the “pure” postposition heen. The postpositional form occurs most often in conjunction with the R-pronounshier here, daar there and waar where, each of which is used for different syntactic functions. Examples relating to the preposition/postposition pairs tot/toe and met/mee are given below.

Example 17

a. Die minister het ingestem tot die vermindering van mynbedrywighede.
the minister have.AUX agree.PST to the reduction of mine.activities
The minister agreed to the reduction of mining activities.
b. Die minister het daartoe ingestem.
the minister have.AUX R.to agree.PST
The ministers agreed to this
Example 18

a. onbekwaam tot enige goed en geneig tot alle kwaad
incapable to any good and inclined to all evil
incapable of any good and inclined to do evil
b. Leerlinge wat al gedruip het, was meer hiertoe geneig.
pupils that.REL already fail.PST have.AUX were more R.to inclined
Pupils who failed already were more inclined to do so.
Example 19

a. Hulle sal graag help met die versorging van die kinders.
they will gladly help with the care.taking of the children
They will gladly help in taking care of the children.
b. Hulle sal graag daarmee help.
they will gladly.AUX.MOD R.with help
They will gladly help with it.

The combination of the preposition na and its substitution by die postpositions toe and heen are illustrated in examples (10) and (11) above. However, these the use of these adpositions (na … toe to … to and heen to/towards) in conjunction with each other is somewhat more complicated. While na and toe may either occur separately or form a circumposition, as in these examples:

Example 20

a. Hulle het haar na Wellington geneem.
they have.AUX her to Wellington take.PST
They took her to Wellington.
b. Hulle het haar Wellington toe geneem.
they have.AUX her Wellington to take.PST
They took her to Wellington.
c. Hulle het haar na Wellington toe geneem.
they have.AUX her to Wellington to take.PST
They took her to Wellington.

The use of any R-pronoun (hier, daar and waar) brings about different combinatory structures. The circumposition na … toe is conflated to a single postposition, natoe to, and may be replaced by heen, which only functions as a postposition in such a case.

Example 21

a. Hulle kom hiernatoe.
they come hither
They are coming here.
b. Hulle kom hierheen.
they come hither
They are coming here.
c. Hy was op pad daarnatoe.
he be.PRT on road there.to
He was on this way there.
d. Hy was op pad daarheen
hy be.PRT on road thither
He was ons his way there.

In combination with the R-pronoun waar where, whether as interrogative pronoun or relative pronoun, both na toe and heen may be used disjunctively, as in waar gaan jy na toe? Where are you going to?, or Waar gaan jy heen? Where are you going to?.

In vernacular speech, waarnatoe where to is often contracted to waantoe.
As regards heen: In addition to the function of postposition, as in the expression deur die jare heen through the years over down the years, or daarheen that way, thither, to that place, heen can form part of different constructions, mostly with an adverbial function, as can be seen below.

Example 22

heen en weer
thither and again
back and forth
Example 23

om iewers heen te reis
for.COMP somewhere thither PTCL.INF travel.INF
to travel somewhere

In the case of ominfinitive verbs, the preposition is syntactically shifted to the post-NP position (Kempen 1984). In the following example, the indicative version of the verb leef live, linked to the object by means of the preposition van from, is contrasted with the infinitive form.

Example 24

a. Hulle leef van 'n skrale inkomste.
they live from a meager income
They live on a meager income.
b. Hulle het geen inkomste om van te leef nie.
they have no income for.COMP from PTCL.INF live.INF PTCL.NEG
They have no income to live on.

Another syntactic contrast can be found between the existential verb form daar is there is/are and a subject with the indicative verbhet has/have, as exemplified in this example:

Example 25

a. Daar is rafels aan die rok.
there be.PRS threads on the dress
There are threads on the dress.
b. Die rok het rafels aan.
The dress has threads on.
  • Kempen, W1984Voorsetselverbindinge in Afrikaans.Nasou
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