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Two types of intransitive adpositions

Intransitive adpositions, or bare adpositions, do not take a complement, as in the case of prepositions, postpositions or circumpositions. Two types of intransitive adpositions can be distinguished, namely i) intransitive adpositions with an external argument, and ii) intransitive adpositions without an external argument (also see Pretorius 2017). Intransitive adpositions without an external argument are also commonly referred to as verbal particles.

The two sentences below illustrates the two distinguishable types of intransitive adpositions. In the first example, the adposition uit out take an external argument (namely the sentence subject die hond the dog), and in the second example, the adposition uit out, does not take an external argument:

Example 1

Die hond is uit.
the dog be.PRS out
The dog went outside.
Example 2

Hulle lag jou uit.
they laugh you out
They are laughing at you.

Intransitive adpositions have preposition counterparts, but could be said to lexicalise the nominal structure associated with the argument itself. An example of an intransitive adposition, contrasted by the preposition pendant, follows below.

Example 3

a. Die kinders slaap [onder] vanaand.
the children sleep below tonight
The children are sleeping downstairs tonight.
b. Die kinders slaap [onder die afdak].
the children sleep below the down.roof
The children are sleeping below the lean-to.
[+]Types of adpositions

Two types of intransitive adpositions can be distinguished. First, there are adpositions with an external argument. They may be predicated from their external argument. In the sentence below, the sentence subject ek I is the external argument of the adposition buite.

Example 4

a. Ek is buite.
I be.PRS outside
You are outside.

Intransitive adpositions with an external argument have meaning of their own. They need not be selected by the verb. The following example involves an adposition with an independent meaning. The adposition op up contains the meaning of 'to be depleted', and not the verb raak become.

Example 5

Die melk raak op.
the milk becomes up
We are running out of milk.

Second, there are intransitive adpositions without an external argument. They are selected by the verb (and also referred to as verbal particles), as exemplified below, with the adposition bracketed in each case.

Example 6

a. Hy tel die hamer [op].
he pick the hammer up
He picks up the hammer.
b. Hulle lag jou [uit].
they laugh you out
They are laughing at you

There are no intransitive adpositions of which the meaning is determined by an adjective, a noun or a preposition.

Verbal particles may derive from nouns, adjectives and postpositions, and may be stranded at the end of the clause in verb-second position, which is mainly the case in main clauses, as is illustrated by the pair of examples below.

Example 7

a. Anton sluit die gesprek af.
Anton close the conversation off
Anton is concluding the conversation.
b. Anton wil die gesprek af+sluit.
Anton want.to.AUX.MOD the conversation off.close
Anton wants to conclude the conversation.

Verbal particles may have an independent meaning, but their meaning usually depends on the verb which selects them, as is evident from the previous example.

[+]Intransitive spatial adpositions

The following intransitive spatial adpositions occur in Afrikaans, and an example of the usage of each is given in (6).

  • binne inside
  • buite outside
  • bo above, upstairs
  • onder below, downstairs
  • agter behind, in the back
  • voor front, in the front

Example 8

a. Willem werk binne.
Willem work inside
Willem is working inside.
b. Willem werk buite.
Willem work outside
Willem is working outside.
c. Willem werk bo.
Willem work above.
Willem is working upstairs.
d. Willem werk onder.
Willem work below
Willem is working downstairs.
e. Willem werk agter.
Willem work behind
Willem is working in the back.
f. Willem werk voor.
Willem work front.
Willem is working in the front.
[+]Relation between intransitive adpositions, prepositions and postpositions

Some adpositions have two forms, depending on whether they appear as a preposition or as a postposition. Thus the preposition met with has the postposition pendant mee, and tot until appears in postposition form as toe. Note that mee and toe may occur as an intransitive adposition in verbal forms such as meewerk contribute or toespreek, as illustrated by the following examples.

Example 9

a. Hulle sal mee+werk om die ideaal te bereik.
they will.AUX.MOD with+work for.COMP the ideal PTCL.INF achieve.INF
They will contribute to achieve the ideal.
b. Hulle werk graag mee om die ideaal te bereik.
they work gladly with for.COMP the ideal PTCL.INF achieve.INF
They like to work together to achieve the ideal.
Example 10

a. Hy sal more die joernaliste toe+spreek.
he will tomorrow the journalist until+address
He will.AUX.MOD be addressing the journalists tomorrow.
b. Hy spreek die joernaliste more toe.
he address the journalists tomorrow until
He will be addressing the journalist tomorrow.

However, the form tot never appears as an intransitive adposition. This could support an argument that intransitive postpositions do not derive from prepositions but from transitive postpositions.

There are also intransitive adpositions that are not homophonous to either prepositions or postpositions. A case in point is the adposition weg away, gone. This can be used as an adposition with an external argument, as in example (8).

Example 11

Hy is weg, maar ek weet nie waarheen nie.
he be.PRS away but I know not where.to PTCL.NEG
He is gone, but I don't know where.

An example of this adposition without an external argument occurs in separable complex verbs with weg as a verbal particle:

Example 12

a. Faf moet altyd die bal weg+skop.
Faf must.AUX.MOD always the ball away+kick
Faf always has to kick away the ball.
b. Faf skop die bal altyd weg.
Faf kick the ball always away
Faf is always kicking the ball away.
  • Pretorius, E2017The secret nominal life of Afrikaans intransitive adpositions.Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics48
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