preposition stranding

Mauro Tosco tosmauro at TN.VILLAGE.IT
Mon Oct 26 16:26:42 UTC 1998

Dear fellow typologists,
I am not convinced by Paul's example:

>je lui ai couru apres

This sentence translates literally in other Romance languages; in my mother
tongues it is:
i l'hai coruje dapress
gli son corso dietro

There are many other similar cases, e.g. Italian: "gli sono andato vicino"
(= him I have gone near, "I approached him")

The point is that French "apres", Italian "dietro, vicino", etc. are not
considered prepositions in traditional (school) grammar, but adverbs - with
a secondary use as prepositions when they occur with a noun (generally with
the preposition "a", etc. That's why French has "je LUI ai couru apres" and
not *"je LE ai couru apres").

Among different Romance languages (dialects?) the boundaries between the
two categories may shift; thus, Paul's second example from French:
"les femmes qu'il a couche' avec"
cannot have a direct translation in Italian (* "le donne che e' stato con"
is not accepted)
but it can in Piedmontese (actually, it is the most common possibility):
"le fomne ch'a l'e' staje ansema"

Piedmontese "ansema" is cognate to Italian "insieme" (and French
"ensemble", "together"), and using the latter a translation in sub-standard
(very sub-!) Italian is possible:
"le donne che (ci) e' stato insieme"
French "avec" ("with") is rightly labelled in any French dictionary as a
preposition AND as an adverb (with the specification "colloquial" in my
dictionary); in French, "with" is possibly encroaching "together"; Italian
keeps the two strictly separated ("insieme" is much more used than its
French cognate), while in Piedmontese (geographically, too, between French
and Italian) "together" has almost completely taken the place of "with".

If all this has any relevance to the present discussion, I don't know. But
if it has, maybe it teaches us something about Somali, too:
Consider the case in which the "adposition/preverb" merges with a pronoun:
wuu      ii    dhiibay
class+he me+to handed
"he handed it to me"
To me, this looks much more like a postposition than like a preverb.

Remembering that the object of 3rd person is zero, you can analyze all the
nouns as extrasentential and the "bare" adpositions as cases of
ninkii  ayaan la        shaqeeyey
man+Art FOC+I zero+with worked
"that man, I worked with (him)", i.e., "I worked with that man" ("Pierre,
j'ai travaille' avec lui").


Mauro Tosco,
Dept. of African and Arab Studies,
Istituto Universitario Orientale,
Naples, Italy

More information about the Lingtyp mailing list