RE: prepositions

From: Joe A. Friberg (
Date: Thu Aug 05 1999 - 20:58:25 EDT

> -----Original Message-----
> From: jacob cohen []
> Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 1999 10:25 PM
> As I am examine how a preposition is being used in a sentance what
> should I be asking myself about how to find out if the preposition is
> modifing the verb or a noun. For example Wallace points out that most
> preps. that take a dative or accusative function adverbally, this is
> also the case with genitives with EK and APO.

This is an interesting point, and one I had not heard before. My first
reaction to this is to ask to what extent it is true, and, if trully
general, why?

In general, I would expect most prepositional phrases (PPs) to function
adverbially, so it would be no surprise that whole classes of PPs would
function that way. Why would PPs which take the Gen. be different?

My only thought would be (and in this I may be speaking far better than I
know, but I have heard) that the presence of prepositions in the PPs is a
secondary development--that the older usage within Indo-European (and even
w/in Homeric Gk) was to simply employ cases which had certain case
functions. With the reduction in available morphological cases, the
prepositions came to be employed to disambiguate the case functions.

Since the Gen. case is used most frequently as a modifier within a Noun
Phrase (NP), it stands to reason that with the addition of Prepositions, PPs
that employ the Gen. would more frequently modify Nouns than Verbs.
Conversely, Datives and Accusatives would be generally used only in PPs that
modify a Verb. Hence, the phenomena noted by Wallace would simply be a
residual from an historical process.

Is this plausible?? Please, anyone, straighten me out if this is way off

> Anyone care to comment on some of these; Jn.1:10 EN TWi KOSMWi HN
> He was in the world. What am I missing here ? I can see it both ways;
> that "he" is being modified; he was in this location. And I could see
> it the other way. That is "was" is being modified by EN.

On this particular instance, I find it hard to discern a lot of
logical/propositional difference between the alternatives, but suppose it
would be something like this:
     "The-[light]-in-the-world was." vs.
     "He was in the world."
The first would pick up on the identity of the light as that which was
coming into the world (v9), presopose its arrival into the world, and simply
affirm its existence.
The second would indicate the arrival into the world was completed, as
indicated by the state/residence of the light in the world, before
proceeding to comment on his relationship to the world.
The context seems to justify the latter.

Joe Friberg
Arlington, TX

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