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Verbs, Bipositions, and Force Dynamics: How force dynamic strength varies between
Finnish adpositional constructions
Talmy (2000: Ch. 7) argues that force-dynamic (FD) meanings motivate and underlie many linguistic
systems expressing physical interaction but also abstract relationships. FD meanings involve e.g.
the exertion of force and resistance to a force. The participants of a force-dynamic interaction are
a “focal force entity” called the Agonist, and another, opposing force element, the Antagonist. In
our presentation we apply the concept of FD in an analysis of Finnish path adpositions (PAdp)
läpi ‘through’, yli ’over’ and ohi ‘past/by’ and their uses with verbs indicating different degrees of
FD. In the relevant expressions the Agonist is indicated by the grammatical subject and the
Antagonist by the complement of the adposition (e.g. The horse[AGO] broke through the
fence[ANT]). Roughly speaking, the verb (broke) indicates the FD effect of the Agonist and the
Padp (through) that of the Antagonist. We start from the assumption that there are both verbs and
adpositions with varying degrees of FD, and that their uses correlate in actual data. Verbs with a
strong FD include päästä ‘to get [somewhere; through some resistance]’, ‘to pass’, murtautua ’to
break into/through’, tunkeutua ‘to push through’, among others; consider a).
Te+i+n ratkaisu+n viimeise+ssä nousu+ssa ja pääs+i+n Viki+n ohi
Make+PST+SG1 decision+GEN last+INE slope+INE and get+PST+SG1 name+GEN past
‘I made the decision on the last slope and got past Vik’
FD verbs differ from each other with respect to phasal aspect: the FD effect they indicate may be
incipient, ongoing, completed or merely attempted; as an example of an ongoing FD interaction
consider b):
Tuntu+i kuin joku yrittä+isi pääs+tä seinä+n läpi
Feel+PST.3SG like someone try+COND get+INF wall+GEN through
‘It felt like someone was trying to get through the wall’
There are also differences in the degree of the Antagonist’s FD expressed by the PAdp. Finnish
PAdps can be used in three constructions: as prepositions, postpositions or “quasi-adpositions
(QAdp)”. The complements of prepositions and postpositions are in the genitive, but QAdps
take their complement in a local case. For instance, the meaning ‘through the forest’ can be
expressed by 1) a preposition läpi metsä+n [through forest+GEN], 2) a postposition metsä+n läpi
[forest+GEN through], or 3) a QAdp metsä+stä läpi [forest+ELATIVE through]. Our hypothesis
is that such constructions set up a hierarchy reflecting their degree of FD: QAdp > Postp > Prep.
The QAdp indicates the strongest FD, the postposition an intermediate degree of FD, and the
preposition the weakest FD. We argue that these differences follow from the overall meaning of
these constructions. A preposition selects a proximal perspective to its landmark and profiles it
only partially, whereas a postposition selects a distal perspective and profiles the landmark as a
whole (Huumo and Lehismets, 2011). Therefore it is easier to conceptualize the landmark of a
postposition as an obstacle. QAdps are grammatically autonomous: the locative relationship is
indicated by the local case ending of the complement, and the QAdp is then a more autonomous
element highlighting the FD meaning of the expression.
Huumo, Tuomas, Kersten Lehismets (2011). Finnish Path Adpositions: prepositions or postpositions,
subjective or objective motion? In Bierwiaczonek, Boguslaw, Cetnarowska, Bozena and Turula, Anna
(eds.): Syntax in Cognitive Grammar. Czestochowa: Wydawnictwo Wyzszej Szkoly Lingwistycznej, Poland.
Talmy, Leonard 2000. Toward Cognitive Semantics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
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