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Predication of the PP

A predication involves a syntactic phrase that is predicated of another phrase. The adposition phrase (PP) is characteristically used as the predicate of a predication, although it may in rare cases be used as the argument of a predication. In the following example, the PP is the predicate of a complementive predication:

Example 1

Die rower was half in 'n beswyming.
the robber be.PRT half in a swoon
The robber was in some kind of a swoon

In the following (relatively rare) example, the PP is the subject (thus the external argument) of a predication:

Example 2

Sonder klere is nie die beste manier om daar op te daag nie.
without clothes be.PRS not the best manner for.COMP there up PTCL.INF show.INF PTCL.NEG
Without clothes is not the best way to show up there.
[+]Intransitive complementive predication

Intransitive complementive predication involves the copular use of an intransitive verb with a PP. The intransitive verb may be:

  • an aspectual verb of being (or, in other words, a state verb) such as wees to be, to lie
  • an aspectual verb of becoming (or, in other words, a change-of-state verb) such as word to become, raak to get
  • a modal verb such as moet must
  • a motional verb used as a resultative such as dans to dance
  • an evidential verb such as lyk to appear

Aspectual verbs of being

State verbs, or aspectual verbs of being include wees to be, and bly to stay. They are traditionally referred to as copulas. These also includes posture verbs such as sit sit, lie, staan stand and hang hang. They may combine with adposition phrases, postposition phrases and intransitive adposition phrases. A few examples are given below.

Example 3

a. Die fiets is in die skuur.
the bicycle be.PRS in the barn
The bicycle is in the barn
b. Die fiets staan in die skuur.
the bicycle stand in the barn
The bicycle is in the barn
c. Louis het lank in 'n beswyming gebly.
Louis have.AUX long in a swoon stay.PST
Louis remained in a swoon for a long time.

The PP may impose collocational restrictions on the aspectual verb that is allowed. The verb wees to be, which is used as a past-tense form to indicate motion, may combine with postposition phrases to denote an absentive interpretation.

Example 4

a. Joos is Kaap toe.
Joos go.PST Cape to
Joos has gone away to Cape Town.
b. Die kinders is daardie kant toe uit.
the children go.PST that side out
The children went out that way.

Other verbs of being cannot be used in this way, as illustrated by the following examples.

Example 5

a. *Joos het Kaap toe gestaan.
Joos have.AUX Cape to stand.PST
Joos has gone away standing to Cape Town.
b. *Joos het Kaap toe gebly.
Joos have.AUX Cape to stay.PST
Joos has gone away staying to Cape Town

The absentive interpretation can be made explicit by the intransitive adpositions vort or weg away, as is illustrated below.

Example 6

a. Joos is al vort/weg.
Joos go.PST already away
Joos has gone already
b. Die bottels kan maar weg.
the bottles can.AUX.MOD but away
The bottles can be thrown away.

Spatial prepositions characteristically combine with posture verbs, as can be seen from the examples below.

Example 7

a. Die kar staan in die garage.
the car stand in the garage
The car is in the garage
b. Al haar klere lê op 'n hopie.
all her clothes lie on a little.heap
All her clothes are on a heap.
c. Ruan lê in 'n beswyming.
Ruan lie in a swoon
Ruan is lying in a swoon

Aspectual verbs of becoming

Change-of-state verbs (also reffered to as aspectual verbs of becoming) include raak to get, kom to come, and gaan to go. In a locative context, these verbs are used to denote a change of location.

The normal verb of becoming for adjectival predicates is word to become, but this is hardly ever used with PPs:

Example 8

a. *Bennie word aan die slaap.
Bennie become to the sleep
Bennie becomes asleep.
b. Bennie raak aan die slaap.
Bennie become to the sleep
Bennie is falling asleep.

The verb raak to get characteristically combines with preposition phrases which do not have a locational interpretation, as illustrated by the example below:

Example 9

Geleidelik het hy aan die slaap geraak.
gradually have.AUX he to the sleep touch.PST
Gradually he fell asleep.

The verb raak to get entails a non-volitional perspective. If it combines with a PP, then the suggestion is that the event happened without the subject consciously planning it. This is illustrated in the sentence example below.

Example 10

Soois het met die spul lawaaimakers aan die gesels geraak.
Soois have.AUX with the lot noise.makers to the chat got.PST
Soois started getting into a conversation with the rowdy lot

Prototypical motional verbs are kom to come (compare the first example below) and gaan to go (compare the second example below). Spatial PPs characteristically combine with these verbs and together they have a change of location as their result.

Example 11

Hy gaan bed toe.
he go bed to
Hoe goes to bed.
Example 12

Hy kom uit die kamer.
he come out the room
He comes out of the room.

Modal verbs

Modal verbs include moet must, mag may, kan can, and wil want (to). They can be used as intransitive copulas.

Modal verbs combine with PPs when a motional interpretation is applicable, as illustrated with the example below with the modal verb moet must:

Example 13

a. Ek moet by die steilte op.
I must.AUX.MOD at the slope up
I must go up the slope.

Resultative verbs of motion

Motional verbs obviously result in a change of location, such as ry to ride. Activity verbs can be used as verbs of motion, which result in a change of location, as illustrated by these examples with motional verbs that combine with a preposition, a postposition or a circumposition phrase:

Example 14

Die water vloei deur die kanaal.
the water flow through the canal
The water flows through the canal.
Example 15

Frikkie ry (na) Plettenbergbaai toe.
Frikkie ride (to) Plettenberg.bay to
Frikkie rides to Plettenberg Bay.
Example 16

Jeanette dans by die kamer in.
Jeanette dance at the room in
Jeanette dances into the room.

Evidential verbs

Traditionally, the copulas lyk to seem; look like; resemble and skyn to appear are evaluative verbs. They may also be referred to as evidential verbs.

Firstly, the evidential verb lyk to seem subcategorises for a PP which is predicated of its subject argument.

Example 17

a. Dit lyk tog na rugstekery.
that seem really to backstabbing
That does look like backstabbing.
b. Dit lyk na niks nie.
it seem to nothing PTCL.NEG
It looks like nothing

The copula skyn to appear is normally followed by an infinitival clause, as illustrated below with the infinitive verb wees to be:

Example 18

Is hulle werklik wat hulle skyn te wees?
Are they really that.REL they appear to be?

It can also be followed by a finite clause. In the sentence below, the finite clause is indicated in brackets:

Example 19

Dit skyn [dat die mense in hoë poste nie die rimpeleffek besef op hierdie mense se lewens nie].
it appears that people in high posts not the ripple.effect realise on these people PTCL.GEN lives PTCL.NEG
It appears that people in high positions do no realise the ripple effect on the lives of these people.

It should also be noted that lyk to seem and skyn to appear do not function as copulas to locativePPs:

Example 20

a. *Die motor skyn in die garage
the car appear in the garage
The car appeared to be in the garage
b. *Ruan lyk in sy kamer.
Ruan seem in his room
Ruan seemed to be in his room.

Note, however, that PPs which reflect a property may appear in idiomatic constructions such as the following:

Example 21

Richard lyk op sy stukke.
Richard look on his pieces,
Richard seems to be in form.

Idiomatic phrases like daar+uit sien R+out look to look combine with AP predicates but not with PP predicates.

Example 22

a. Zander sien daar goed uit.
Zander look R good out
Zander looks well.
b. *Zander sien daar in orde uit.
Zander look R in order out
Zander looks okay.
[+]Transitive complementive predication

Transitive complementive predication involves the copular use of a transitive verb with a PP. The transitive verb may be:

  • an aspectual verb of being (or, in other words, state verbs)
  • an aspectual verb of becoming (or, in other words, change-of-state verbs)
  • a resultative verb of motion
  • an evidential verb

Aspectual verbs of being

The transitive verb to have is able to provide a complementive structure for a direct object and a PP predicated of it. This verb involves a relation of being between its direct object and the PP predicate. Prototypical transitive verbs of caused motion, such as sit to put and trek to pull; put (as in phrasal verbs like aan·trek to put on) involve a change of location initiated by a cause or an agent. They can be considered the motional-locational equivalent of the concept of becoming.

The following example involves the verb to have; the argument and predicate are bracketed.

Example 23

As dit goed afloop, het ons [hulle] gou-gou [in die knyp].
if it good off.run have we them quick-quick in the squeeze
If it pans out well, we will have them quickly in a tight corner.

Some examples with prototypical verbs of caused motion are given below:

Example 24

a. Ek neem die glas en sit [dit] [op die tafel].
I take the glass and put it on the table.
b. Ek trek skoon onderklere en 'n kortbroek aan.
I put clean underwear and a short.trousers on
I put on clean underwear and short trousers.

Aspectual verbs of becoming

The transitive verb kry to get is able to provide a complementive structure for a direct object and a PP predicated of it. This verb involves a relation of becoming between its direct object and the PP predicate.

The following two examples involve the verb kry to get; the argument and predicate are bracketed.

Example 25

a. Ons kry [al die lammers] [in die kraal] bymekaar.
we get all the lambs in the corral together
We gather all the lambs in the corral.
b. Ek het [die hond] [by die trap op] gekry.
I have.AUX the dog at the staircase up get.PST
I got the dog up the staircase.

Locative examples seem to be subject to aspectual restrictions. The verb kry to get also combines with PPs which do not have a locative interpretation but an idiomatic interpretation. Some examples follow.

Example 26

a. Die kind kan dit in haar kop kry om alleen op straat te gaan.
the child can.AUX.MOD it in her head get for.COMP alone on street PTCL.INF go.INF
The child might get it into her head to go onto the street alone.
b. Gys kry dit van alle kante af oor sy onverantwoordelikheid.
Gys get it from all sides off over his irresponsibility
Gys is being lambasted from all sides on account of his irresponsibility.

Resultative verbs of motion

Transitive verbs of motion such as jaag to chase, dryf to drive, waai to blow and agternasit to chase after can be used with a direct object and a PP predicated of it to form a resultative construction, as illustrated in the examples below.

Example 27

a. Jaag die perde in die kampie en gee hulle voer.
drives the horses in the little.camp and give them fodder
Gather the horses in the pen and give them fodder.
b. Die stormwind het alles uitmekaar gewaai.
the storm.wind have.AUX everything apart blow.PST
The storm wind scattered everything.
c. Hy sit my toe agterna.
he sit me then behind
He then chased after me.

Non-motional resultatives involve verbs which denote a non-motional result reading. The following examples involve a non-motional resultatives, that is the verb in the resultative construction is not a verb of motion:

Example 28

a. Het het homself in 'n koma gedrink.
he have.AUX himself in a coma drink.PST
He drank himself into a stupor.
b. Sy het haarself in 'n hoek gedryf in haar pogings om die gereg te omseil.
she have.AUX herself in a corner drive.PST in her attempts for.COMP the law PTCL.INF circumvent.INF
She painted herself in a corner in her attempts to evade justice

Evidential verbs with asas

PPs participating in an evidential construction are characteristically formed with the word as as, as in the following example, and typically involve a transitive evidential verb.

Example 29

Hulle het haar as 'n heldin op die lughawe verwelkom.
they have.AUX her as a heroine on the airport welcome
They welcomed her as a heroine at the airport.
Example 30

Hulle beskou mekaar as voëls van eenderse vere.
they regard each.other as birds of similar feathers
They regard each other as birds of a feather.

Such verbs may also take AP complements. In the sentence example below, the AP complement is indicated in brackets:

Example 31

Ons beskou dit nie as [verkeerd] nie.
we regard it not as wrong PTCL.NEG
We do not regard it as wrong.

The preposition vir for may also be used like this. It is characteristically used in a rhetorical question. Such examples characteristically occur with verbs of perception used as evidentials:

Example 32

Waarvoor sien jy my aan?
where.for see you me to
What do you take me for?
Example 33

Hulle het die kalf vir 'n groot hond aangesien.
the have.AUX the calf for a big dog to.see.PST
They mistook the calf for a big dog.

This phrase may be used to mean ‘confuse with’, as illustrated below:

Example 34

Sy het my aangesien vir iemand anders.
she have.AUX me to.see.PST for someone else
She confused me with someone else.

Lastly, the verb phrases with as may also be used with negation, as can be seen below:

Example 35

Ons beskou die Venters nie as skinderbekke nie.
We see the Venters not as blabbermouths PTCL.NEG
We do not regard the Venters as blabbermouths.

A supplementive describes a temporary state that receives a simultaneous or conditional interpretation with respect to what is described in the main clause. Supplementives can be classified depending on whether their structure is bare or fully-fledged. The absolute met with construction instantiates a fully-fledged supplementive, since it contains an overt subject. The bare supplementive phrase consists of a predicate without an overt subject within the supplementive phrase.

Bare supplementives

A bare supplementive consists of a PP that is not subcategorised, and which may be viewed therefore as a special kind of adverbial. The supplementive is usually predicated of the subject, and occasionally of the direct object. The as as phrase characteristically occurs as a bare supplementive:

Example 36

As student kan jy goedkoop eet in die kafeteria.
as student can.AUX.MOD you cheaply eat in the cafeteria
As a student you can eat cheaply in the cafeteria.

Other PPs can also be used as supplementives, as illustrated with the examples below:

Example 37

a. Sy het half van haar trollie af by die vergadering ingestorm.
she have.AUX half from her trolley off at the meeting storm.in.PST
She stormed into the meeting, almost out of her senses.
b. Hy het die laaste wedstryd verloor, heeltemal van stryk af.
he have.AUX the last match lost totally from pace off
He lost the last match, totally out of form.

Absolute metwith construction

The absolute met with construction contains a complementiser (the preposition met with), the argument of the predication and the PP predicate:

Example 38

Met Deon in die hospitaal, kan die koor nie nou optree nie.
with Deon in the hospital can.AUX.MOD the choir not now perform PTCL.NEG
With Deon in hospital, the choir cannot perform now.

In the previous example, the met construction has a causative function, while in the next, the construction functions as an adverbial phrase, determining the activity denoted by the predicate.

Example 39

Met 'n nare gevoel op die krop van haar maag gaan sy terug na haar sitplek toe.
with a queasy feeling on the pit of her stomach go she back to her seat to
Feeling queasy on the pit of her stomach, she goes back to her seat.
[+]Apposition and postmodification

The term apposition with reference to PPs is normally used when the appositive phrase directly follows the nominal argument of which it is predicated, as in the following example:

Example 40

Die Springbokke, uitgeput ná die lang vlug, het vroeg gaan inkruip.
the Springboks, exhausted after the long flight, have.AUX early gone crawl.in
The Springboks, exhausted after the long flight, went to bed early.

The appositive phrase in the previous example is introduced by an adjective, and represents a reduction of a relative clause wat uitgeput was ná die lang vlug who were exhausted after the long flight.

In addition to relative clauses, PPs may also function as postmodifiers of NPs, as in this example, in which the postmodification phrase is bracketed:

Example 41

Ons het die mense [anderkant die rivier] baie goed geken.
we have.AUX the people [across the river] very well know.PST
We knew the people across the river very well.

Types of postmodification

Adposition phrases, amongst others, are often used as postmodifiers of noun phrases. Semantically, postmodification may be categorised as locatives, measurement expressions, temporal expressions, etc. (Ponelis 1979:150). Some examples of these categories, with the PP bracketed, are presented below:


Adposition phrases used as locative expressions are introduced by an appropriate preposition, depending on the location intended:

Example 42

a. die velle papier [op die tafel]
the skins paper on the table
the sheets of paper on the table
b. verskeie bome [langsaan]
various trees adjacent
various trees alongside
c. die vrugte [aan die bome]
the fruits on the trees
the fruit on the trees

Measurement expressions

Adposition phrases used as measurement expressions are normally introduced by the preposition van of, as exemplified below:

Example 43

a. daardie boek [van tweehonderd rand]
that book of two hundred rand
b. 'n baba [van drie kilo]
a baby of three kilo
a baby of three kilogrammes
c. 'n konferensie [van drie weke]
a conference of three weeks.
d. 'n winsmarge [van vyftien persent]
a profit.margin of fifteen percent
a profit margin of fifteen percent

Temporal expressions

Adposition phrases used as temporal expressions are introduced by a preposition relating to the demarcation of time, as exemplified below:

Example 44

a. die gebeure [van die afgelope tyd]
the events of the past time
recent events
b. alle vooruitgang [sedert die eeuwisseling]
all progress since the century.change
all progress since the turn of the century
[+]PPs as arguments

PPs can be the subject of a predication, as in these examples:

Example 45

a. [Tussen vyfuur en sesuur] sal my uitstekend pas.
between five.hour and six.hour will.AUX.MOD me excellently suit
Between five o'clock and six o'clock will suit me perfectly.
b. [In Tokio] is waar ek moet wees.
in Tokyo be.PRT where I must.AUX.MOD be
In Tokyo is where I must be.
c. Van Kaapstad tot Durban is maklik twee dae se ry.
from Cape.Town to Durban is easily two days PTCL.GEN drive
Driving from Cape Town to Durban will easily take two days.
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
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