domingo, 8 de novembro de 2015

On the so-called complex prepositions in Kriol


Hildo Honório do Couto
University of Brasília, Brazil

This essay has a three-fold purpose. First, I try to show that, from an ecolinguistic perspective, prepositions in general are not "empty words" having no relation to the extra-linguistic world. This makes it necessary to briefly present the new discipline ecolinguistics. Second, I give additional arguments in favor of the thesis that the basic meaning of prepositions is spatial. Temporality and notion (or abstract relation) are reducible to it. The basic spatial positions are represented in what I call the Ecology of Spatial Relations. The third purpose is the most important, i.e., to defend the thesis that there are arguments to prove that the so-called "complex prepositions" are not complex prepositions, but constructions of the type "in + NOUN + of".

1. Introduction
Although the number of prepositions in any language is very low, besides the fact that they do not refer to things in the world, but to the relationships between and among these things, they play a very important role in the mastering of language in general. We could even say that languages differ more from one another where preposition use is concerned. In fact, they present a big problem to L2 learners. Cases like the bear is in the hills, they live on the island and John is on bus sound very queer to Portuguese speakers. I myself wrote this essay in my Brazilian L2 version of English. When I gave it to native speakers of English for corrections, most of my errors turned out to be in the domain of prepositions. What is more, even native speakers of Brazilian Portuguese are not hundred percent sure about the use of certain prepositions, as is the case with a literatura no Brasil x a literatura do Brasil (lit. 'the literature in Brazil' x 'the literature of Brazil'). There is certainly a difference in meaning. However, this difference does not come so easily and stantaneously to the mind of speakers. 
As we will see below, I hope, this does not mean that the meaning of prepositions is erratic, following no principle. At least in the realm of spatial prepositions, departing from Pottier's model reproduced in figure 1 as well from the Ecology of Spatial Relations, figure 2, practically all such apparent deviations can be explained. Speakers of the several languages have approximately the same type of experience with the world. In this case, they see the same types of relations that obtain between and among the several aspects of it. That is to say, everybody share the cognition of these relations. What happens with the apparently erratic use of prepositions is that speakers of each language see roughly the same things in the world, as well as the same type or inter-relations that take place between or among them, from their respective point of view. This means that, at least in principle, if they regarded them from the same optic, probably they would use approximately the same type of preposition for each specific relation. 
Not only normative grammars but also most linguists consider a construction like in back of as a complex, or compound, prepositions. Another assumption commonly found is that prepositions are "empty words", as can be seen in the works of the Chinese grammarians as well as, more recently, in those of the Danish structuralist linguist Louis Hjelmslev, to mention just two sources.
This essay has three main purposes. First, to try to show that prepositions are not empty words because they represent relations that take place between/among the several phenomena of the world. Second, we will see that the basic meaning of prepositions is spatial, or is reducible to it. Third, I defend the thesis that so-called "complex prepositions" look more like constructions made up of a preposition like in, a noun-like word and another preposition like of. The English example I have given in the last paragraph is a case in point. We will see that it indicates precisely the position of object B that is in the back side of object A.
In setting up the list of Kriol prepositions I resorted to published studies, such as Scantamburlo (1981, 1999, 2002), Doneux & Rougé (1988), Kihm (1994) and Couto (1994). Additionally, I looked up for prepositions in 466 proverbs, 28 fables and 99 poems. Proverbs and fables tend to be written in a conservative variety of the language, whereas the poems are written by learned speakers.

2. Language and environment
The environment of language is the extra-linguistic world. Sometimes I use "territory" instead of world. The subject comes up especially in the philosophical (or semiotic) study of reference, where the relationship between word and thing is investigated. 
The topic "language and environment" is the subject of the new discipline ecolinguistics, which has been defined as the study of the interrelationships that obtain between language and its environment. However, there is not just one environment of language, as most forerunners of ecolinguistics have implied. Haugen (1972) related language only to the social environment. Sapir (1972) admitted, additionally, a natural environment. Generative grammar, as is widely known, considers language basically as a mental phenomenon. The fact is that language is related to all these three environments, namely, the social, the mental and the natural one. Before exploring them in relative detail, it is important to remember that the term environment belongs to ecological studies, which are part of biology. In ecology, environment is part of an ecosystem, which consists of a population of organisms and their interrelationships with the habitat/niche (or biotope or territory) or among themselves. The ecolinguistic equivalent of ecosystem is the Linguistic Ecosystem, which consists, as common sense tells us, of a people (P), living in its territory (T) and speaking its own language (L). This ecosystem constitutes what has been called the Natural Ecosystem of Language (PTL), inside which we have the Natural Environment of Language, namely, the people and its territory (PT). The Natural Ecosystem of Language has also been called Fundamental Ecosystem of Language, and the respective environment, the Fundamental Environment of Language. As will become clear, I hope, in section 3 and especially in section 4, the relations indicated by prepositions belong to this ecosystem.
For the sake of completeness, let me at least mention the other two environments of language. The Mental Ecosystem of Language is constituted by the neural connections that obtain in the brain/mind. It is here that language is formed, stored and processed, as Chomsky always empahasizes. Inside this ecosystem, it is the brain/mind or, more precisely, the neural connections, that constitute the Mental Environment of Language. Finally, we have the Social Ecosystem of Language, made up of the totality of the members of P, which is nothing more than society. Society, in this sense, is the Social Environment of Language.
In this connection, language (L) is the linguistic equivalent of the interrelations that take place among the members of the population (P). As we see, it is seen as interaction, as the way they communicate. Therefore, when ecolinguists talk about the relationships that obtain between language and its environments they are not reifying it. L is not a thing. It is the way the members of P communicate verbally. This includes sign language. In order to be successful, interaction must be based on rules of interaction. This means that the interactional view of language includes grammar, whereas a formal view like generative grammar excludes interaction.
Of course there is an intimate and intricate interrelationship among all three enviroments of language. This is not the appropriate place to discuss them in detail. The subject has already been discussed in Couto (2007a, b), as well as in Couto (to appear), among other publications. In these publications we have many additional references.
In general, we think that only content words refer to aspects of the extra-linguistic world (the environment of language) as is the case with words like "man", "tree", "river", "mountain", "wind" and "sun" as well as the actions performed by them. Grammar and grammamtical words like prepositions would be exclusively formal entities without any relation to the extralinguistic world. They would have only syntactic function. My contention is that so-called function words (or grammatical words) also have to do with the world outside of language or, more precisely, with the relations that obtain among its several aspects. In the Grammaire génerale et raisonnée de Port-Royal (1660: 6), for example, it is said that prepositions are used "to indicate the relations that those things have one with the other." For the authors of this work (Arnauld and Lancelot) language is a mirror of the world. For more discussion, see my works mentioned in the two preceding paragraphs.

3. Prepositions and environment
Before entering the proper subject of this essay, it is important to discuss the question of spatiality, or spatiotemporality. One of the background ideas of the present essay is that, originally, all prepositions were spatial, since they were formed as a reflex of the relationships that obtain between/among the things and phenomena of the world. The structuralist linguist Bernard Pottier defended the idea that prepositions can be used in three domains, namely, his dimensions of space, time and notion. Some of them can be used in the three dimensions, as Spanish en (in, at, on), used in phrases like en el jarro (in the jug/pot), en dos días (in two days) and en diciendo (by saying). According to Pottier, spatial meaning is basic. This can be seen in the representation of figure 1 below.
de(s)di, disna
antis di
dipus di
bas di
riba di
for a di
na, dentru di
pabia di
Fig. 1
All prepositions shown in figure 2 below are locative. However, those in figure 1 are not only (static) locative. They indicate direction or source. In English we have examples like to/at/from, on to/on/off and into/in/out of, respectively. The first of each triple belongs to the left side of the figure and the third to the right side of it. As to the middle ones (at, on, in), they should more properly be placed on or above the central vertical line (se na) because, at least apparently, they do not indicate either directionality or source, although in Latin and Brazilian Portuguese we have constructions like eo in Romam (I go to Rome) and eu vou em Roma (I go to Rome), respectively, where the equivalents of at, on and in have a directional function, not a source one. In the next sections we will see some reasons for this apparent incongruence. 
It is difficult to understand why bas di (under) and fora di (outside of) point towards something whereas riba di (on, above) indicates movement away from something. The same could be said of ku (with) and sin (without). According to Pottier, many other categories of words enter on one or the other side of figure 1. For example, the indefinite article (a, an), the masculine gender, the accusative etc. belong to the left side of the vertical line, whereas the definite article (the), the feminine gender, the nominative etc. belong to the right side of it. In the end, the best contribution of the author to the study of prepositions is the fact that he recognized that spatiality is the basis of the meaning of any preposition, and of prefixes, in Romances languages.
There is no doubt about the basic spatiality of the preposition in, and its equivalents in other languages. Doubts are raised when we come to prepositions like with and of, for example. Are they really spatial, do they have a spatial interpretation or do they indicate purely abstract relation? John Lyons says the following about with: "what John is with Peter means is John is where Peter is" (Lyons 1977: 693). This implies that its opposite (without) is also spatial, since it revolves around the same axis. In the case of of, it seems to indicate only abstract relation, namely, that of ownership. However, in a Kriol phrase like libru di Maria, (Mary's book), it indicates that the book is associated to Mary, it belongs to her, therefore, it is usually where she is. This is also recognized by John Lyons. In a French construction like je parle de Jean (I am talking about John), it is implied that my talk has John as its source. The Portuguese equivalent of this sentence (eu falo sobre João 'I'm talking about John') is even more eloquent in this regard. In fact, the original meaning of sobre is squarely spatial, i.e., "on."
Practically everything that have been said of simple prepositions applies to so-called "complex prepositions" as well. For example, the "complex" equivalent of Portuguese sobre (on, about) is a respeito de (lit. 'in respect of'). Leaving the noun "respeito" (respect) aside, this construction begins with the locative preposition a (on, at, in) and ends with the preposition de (of, from).  
Besides locative, directional and source prepositions, there are also path prepositions like through, across, around and along. I would like to note that no one of them appears as "simple" preposition in Kriol. Their equivalents in this language are always "complex."

4. The ecology of spatial relations
Bernard Pottier was not the first to emphasize the spatiality of prepositions. John Wilkins did this as early as 1668, as was pointed out in Couto (2007b: 492), where we can see an appraisal of Wilkins' study. In order to substantiate the claim that prepositions reflect the interrelationships that obtain among the several aspects of the world, let us present what has been called the Ecology of Spatial Relations. As we will see below, there are other spatial terms. My contention is that all these relations are intuitively known not only by humans but also by many other species.
In dealing with spatiality in language, there are some parameters that must be observed. The first is the vertical versus horizontal orientation, what is probably due to the force of gravity as well as the upright position of humans and of trees, as compared to their lying down position. Secondly, if we place, let us say, a cubic object A in front of an observer, every object B could be, for this observer: a) vertically: on or under it; b) horizontally: before or after; to the left or to the right of it. However, there is a position which is independent of these parameters, that is, interiority and exteriority. In this case, object B could be inside or outside of A. The former is codified in English by prepositions like in, inside of etc. The latter is represented by outside of, for instance. These relations are shown in figure 2, with Portuguese examples.
                                                           Fig. 2
(English equivalents: ante ‘before’; após ‘after’; sobre ‘on’; em ‘in, at, on’; à direita de ‘to the right of’;  à esquerda de ‘to the left of’).
Apparently, the prepositions in figure 2 would have a very different meaning from those shown in figure 1 because the latter are source/directional, whereas the former are locative (static). To begin with, all prepositions on the left side of figure 1 could be placed on the left side of figure 2 as well, namely, between the cube and the observer. Those on the right side of it could be placed on the right side of the cube, therefore, after the observer. Even path prepositions could be included here. In other words, all Pottier's relations shown in figure 1 could also be included in figure 2. For example, across could be represented by an arrow going from the right to the left side of the surface of the cube. As to through, it would be an arrow crossing the middle of the cube. And so on. 
The relation of interiority (in, inside of) is the unmarked or universal position, because it is independent of an observer, as is the case with a stone (B) inside a fruit (A). This could happen even to a fruit floating in outer space. The relation of superiority/inferiority (on/under) is also independent of an observer. However, it presupposes, additionally, the surface of the earth. One example could be a small stone on/under a bigger one. Anteriority/posteriority would come next, because, besides A and B, it presupposes an observer. In fact, object B can be before/after of object A only in relation to the observer.
Apparently, to the right/left of is the most marked relation, not because of requiring more parameters, but because it has to do with the knowledge of which is the most/least skillful hand. This means that it requires knowledge of psychosocial values. In summary, the scale of markedness would be something like the following, from less to more marked: in/out of > on/under > before/after > to the right/left of. See Couto (2007b) for more discussion on this subject.

5. Overview of Kriol prepositions
Not all relations involved in the Ecology of Spatial Relations have simple equivalents in Kriol. As a matter of fact, the only Kriol equivalent here is na. In order to fill the remaining positions we have to resort to so-called "complex prepositions." In (1) we can see the remaining Kriol equivalents of the English spatial prepositions shown in figure 1.
in = na, dentru di
on = riba di
under = bas di 
before = antis di
after = dipus di, tras di
to the right of = na ladu diritu di
to the left of = na ladu skerdu di
Although not indicated in figure 1, there is another locative spatial preposition that could be included in it, namely, na metadi di (between). It has something in common with na/dentru di. This can be explained from at least three perspectives inside the Ecology of Spatial Relations. In the vertical direction, na metadi di is a surrogate of na/dentru di if placed between riba di and bas di, giving the sequence riba di - na metadi di - bas di. In the horizontal dimension it has roughly the same function if placed between antis di and dipus di, that is, antis di - na metadi di - dipus di, or between na ladu skerdu di (to the left of) and na ladu diritu di (to the right of), i. e., na ladu skerdu di - na metadi di - na ladu diritu di.  In summary, na metadi di is the substitute for na when pairs of these adjacent relations are implied. Here we have a straightforward explanation for the affinities existing between na/dentru di (in/at/on) and na metadi di (between).
Although it has no simple equivalent in Kriol, English among also shares some features with in and between. Its specificity lies in the fact that it requires more than two parameters (positions). In other words, among indicates interiority surrounded by: a) before, after, under; b) before, after, on, under; c) before, after, on, under, to the right of; d) before, after, on, under, to the right of, to the left of. As we can see, this preposition is semantically very complex, once it presupposes more parameters than both in and between. It does not have any simple equivalent in Kriol either. Its meaning is also rendered by na metadi di.
In relation to the Kriol equivalents of to right/left of, no one of them occured in my data. However, Doneux & Rougé (1988: 18), give the forms na direta / na mon direta (in the right hand) and  na skerda / (in the left [hand]). Unfortunately the authors do not provide any example or explanation. What I have already seen elsewhere is the forms na ladu diritu di / na ladu skerdu di (on the right side of / on the left side of), or na ladu di si mon diritu /skerdu (on the side of his/her right/left hand). The form na ladu iskerdu is given by Scantamburlo (2002).
Some Kriol prepositions are present only in acrolectal varieties of the language, whereas a few others tend to occur only in the basilect. For this reason, it is advisable to establish two inventories of Kriol prespositions, namely, a minimalist and a maximalist one (see section 5). Let us see some of the remaining spatial prepositions of Kriol.
In (2) we can see some Kriol equivalents to English directional (a) and source (b) prepositions.
(a) to = pa; without = sin; until/up to = te
(b) from = di; since/as of = dedi/disna                                                  
In view of the fact that in Latin and Brazilian Portuguese the equivalents of in can indicate directionality, their placing on the right side of figure 1 seems strange. However, we should remember that na (in) is the preposition par excellence (Kihm 1994: 69), above all because it indicates the unmarked location, namely, interiority. Therefore it can, in principle, replace any surrounding function. To the point that in Kriol we have constructions like (3).
(3) lebri sai na si koba (lit. 'the rabbit came out in its burrow') 'the rabbit came out of its burrow'
It is true that the construction lebri sai di si koba is also possible, although probably due to the influence of Portuguese. In order to accommodate the apparently strange use of na in (3) to our way of thinking, we could imagine something like "the rabbit was in its burrow and came out of it." 
There is another na, which functions as a TMA particle, as illustrated in (4).
Jon na fuma
Jonh IMP smoke
'John is smoking'
We could say that in (4) we have  roughly the same na, in this case indicating that John is in ("inside") the act of smoking. As Claire Lefebvre appropriately said about similar morphemes of Haitian Creole, na is a multifunctional morpheme (Lefebvre 1998). In fact, not only the preposition proper but also the "verbal particle" (4) come from the combination of the Portuguese em (in, at, on) and the feminine definite article a (the), i. e., na (in the). Therefore, I think it would not be far-fetched to interpret the first as preposition with noun, the second as "preposition" with verb. In Couto (2007b) this subject is discussed in more detail.

5.1. Simpole prepositions
Before entering the study of "compound" or "complex" prepositions proper, it is advisable to give an overview of "simple" prepositions, if for no other reason because my thesis is that "complex prepositions" are, in the end, a construction made up of "simple prepositions" plus a noun, an adjective or an adverb, as the case may be. According to Kihm (1994: 67), Kriol has simple prepositions, as those in (5). The list in (5a) includes only prepositions found in basilectal varieties of the language. In (5b) we have those that occur in more acrolectal varieties of the language. In this case (5a) would be the minimalist inventory of Kriol "simple" prepositions. Taking the two (5a-b) together, we have the maximalist inventory of Kriol "simple" prepositions. 
(a) di 'of, from', entremetadi 'between', ku 'with', na 'in, at, on, to', pa(r) 'for, by, toward', sin 'without', suma 'as', (a)te 'until', disna 'since', de(s)di 'since'
(b) a 'to', entri 'between', anti 'before', sugundu 'according to', kontra 'against', kunformu 'according to', peranti 'in front of, before', sobri 'on, about'
Let us see some statistics of these "simple" prepositions in order to better undestand their behavior. Out of a total of 2,143 prepositions, I came to the following figures: 
Number of occurrence
Table 1
Theoretically, na should be the most frequent, since it encodes the unmarked location, that is, interiority. However, as already seen above, there is another na, apparently non-prepositional, although it can be considered a variant of prepositional na. As I tried to show in Couto (2003) na-preposition proper and na-TMA particle (i na studa 'he is studying) are one and the same multifunctional particle. The number of occurences of the former is roughly the same as that of the latter. Taking these two functions of na together, the figure would amount to more than 1,194 occurrences, i. e., much more than the number of occurrences of di.
As to di, its high frequency probably has to do with its polysemy. Let us see a statics of its main functions, out of a total of 319 occurrences:
Functions of di
Number of occurrence
libru di Jon
na X di
na metadi di
V di
gosta di
di li pa La
Fixed expressions
di dia/noti
Table 2
(English translation: libru di Jon = John’s book; na metadi di = between; gosta di = to like [lit. ‘to like of’]; di li pa la = from here to there; di dia/noti = by day/night)
In this table we can see why di is more frequent than na (na-preposition only) in spite of the fact that the latter has been called the Kriol preposition par excellence. It occurs in a least six functions. We will also see that na is frequently ommitted, whereas di only exceptionally does not occur.
In spite of all the discrepancies in the use of the prepositions seen above, we have seen that there is a common core of prepositional meanings whose basis can be seen in the Ecology of Spatial Relations, as well as in Pottier's model (fig. 1). It is this common core that permits us to understand the apparent deviations in the use of prepositions in the languages of the world. To the  point that, as early as the 17th century, the compilers of the Grammaire gnénérale et raisonnée de Port-Royal said, referring to the relations among things indicated by prepositions, that "Ce sont presque les mêmes rapports dans toutes les langues, que son marqués par les prepositions."
In this essay, I will not deal with simple prepositions. I have already investigated them in Couto (2007b), so that potentially interested readers can refer to that publication. My main objective here is the so-called "complex prepositions." 

5.2. So-called "complex prepositions"
Using the same criteria that was applied in setting up the inventory of "simple" prepositions, that is, including basilectal as well as acrolectal varieties, we arrive at the minimalist inventory in (6a). The examples in (6b) are used exclusively by learned speakers. Still parallel to what happened in the case of simple prepositions, (6a) plus (6b) form the maximalist inventory of Kriol "complex prepositions."
(a) (na) banda di 'about, close to', ba(s) di 'under, below', dentru di 'inside', dianti di 'before, in front of', di(s)pus di 'after', des(di)/dedi 'since', disna di 'since', filadu di 'in front of, across', fora di 'outside, out of', juntu di 'near', lungu di 'along', lunju di 'far from', na metadi di 'between', na roda di (around), pabia di 'because of', riba di 'on, above', pertu di 'near', tras di 'behind',
(b) fora di 'outside of', antis di 'before', pa/por kauza di 'because', na frenti di ‘in front of’
As was done with "simple" prepositions, let us take a look at the frequency of occurrence of Kriol "complex prepositions." The results are shown in Table 3 (disna 'since' did not occur in my texts, but it is used by monolingual speakers of Kriol). Na roda di (along, around)  did not occur in my data too, although we know that it is not infrequent elsewhere, especially in basilectal varietes of the language.
“Complex preposition”
Number of occorrence
(na) riba di
(na) dentru di
(na) ba(s) di
tra(s) di
(na)pertu di
na metadi di
(na) dianti di
(na) lungu di
anti(s) di
di(s)pus di
disna di
fora di
                                                                       Table 3
Before entering the interpretation of these "complex prepositions", some comments on their form are in order. First of all, we can see that tras di, bas di, antis di and di(s)pus di also occur without the "s". Secondly, some constructions are preceded by na. At least one of them (na metadi di) tends to occur only beginning with na. However, even this phrase presents variants. In a count of 115 occurrences, the following variants appeared: a) na metadi, 35; b) na metadi di, 33; c) metadi, 27; d) na se metadi 'among them', 14; e) metadi di, 6. Form (c) is the regular noun meaning "half, middle", although sometimes it may replace the full expression na metadi di. In regard do form (a), the most frequent, it is a case of haplology, in which case, it would be the same full expression (b). Doneux & Rougé (1988: 18) represent it as na mita di. The form metadi di (without preceding na) would be in the same case as (na)riba di, (na)dentru di, (na)bas di etc., in which na may be absent. Tra(s) di did not occur preceded by na, but I found the interesting case of na kil tra di kasa (lit. 'in that behind of house), a further argument in favor of the semantic independence of the middle component of these constructions.
Besides the simple and "complex prepositions" already mentioned, there are other constructions in Kriol that, even if not being directly prepositions, they do have something in common with prepositions proper. Some of these constructions are shown in (7).
(a) Maria bai na si tras 'Mary goes at his back, Mary goes behind him'
(b) Maria sta na si dianti 'Mary is in his front, Mary is in front of him'
(c) Jugude bua na si ladu 'the vulture flew at his side, the vulture flew along him'
(d) Jon sinta na si ladu skerdu 'John sat at his/her left' (not very common)
(e) Fatima bai na si ladu diritu 'Fatima went at his/her right' (not very common)
(f) kabesa dita na se metadi 'the head laid among them'
Besides their affinity with prepositions,  and with "complex prepositions" as the case may be, the constructions in (7) show additionally that the morpheme that appears between na and di in so-called "complex prepositions" are effectively referential nouns because they are preceded by a determiner, the possessive pronoun si/se 'his(her)/their'. Kihm (1994: 68) notes that (7a) and (7b) cannot be replaced by *na tras d-el and *na dianti d-el, with a pronoun following di. When it is followed by a noun, the construction is grammatical, as in na tras di Jon (lit. 'in the back of John').
Apparently, de(s)di would be another example of "complex preposition" ended by di. However, it comes in totum from Portuguese desde (since), so that it is indivisible, in spite of the fact that its Latin etymology contains the preposition de. Perhaps for this reason, sometimes Kriol speakers seem to feel that there is haplology here too, as if it the full form were *de(s)di di.

6. Are so-called "complex prepositions really prepositions?
Alain Kihm devides Kriol prepositions into simple and "complex" or "compound" prepositions. This practice is a kind of standard procedure among grammarians and linguists, apparently in all languages of the world. However, it is a practical division, but hardly a unanimous one. As Kihm himself remarked, "all complex prepositions are made up of di preceded by an element which may be an adjective (lunju 'far', juntu 'close, similar'), an adverb (bas as in i sta la bas 's/he's over there below', dentru 'inside', disna 'long ago', filadu 'in front', fora 'outside', lungu 'alongside', riba 'above'), or a noun (banda 'edge', diyanti, tras)" (Kihm 1994: 67-68).
If we consider that, in fact, lunju and juntu are not adjectives properly, but adverbs, we can analyse the so-called "complex prepositions" as a construction containing an adverb according to the scheme Adv+di, as is the case with lunju di, juntu di, bas di, dentru di, filadu di, fora di, lungu di, riba di and disna di. Those containing a noun belong to the scheme na+N+di. The first preposition (na) indicates location of something in the denotatum of the noun, whereas the second (di) indicates to whom or to which thing this denotatum belongs. Genitivity is  the main function of di, as we saw in table 2.
The "complex prepositions" made up of adverb plus di would, at least apparently, present a different structure, namely, the Adv+di structure seen above. However, it is well-known since as early as the times of the Grammaire générale et raisonnée de Por-Royal that adverbs are made up of a preposition plus a noun. Thus, Latin sapienter (wisely) is an equivalent of cum sapientia (with wisdom), hodie (today) is, underlyingly and etymologically, in hoc die (in this day), and so on.  Therefore, it is perfectly legitimate to consider dentru di, for instance, as equivalent to "in (the) interior of", as the variant na dentru di suggests. If this analysis is valid, constructions that seem to have the structure Adv+di do have, in fact, the structure na+N+di. In fact, in several constructions the idea of location indicated by na is conflated with the following noun. All apparently "complex prepositions" turn out to be phrases that begin with na and end with di. This implies that all constructions of this type contain additional instances of these two simple prepositions.
It is true that these constructions (so-called "complex prepositions") are relatively lexicalized. To the point that dentru di (inside of) is an alternative for the simple form na (in, on, at, inside of). However, there are constructions of this type that we may not consider prepositional. One example is na tempu di [fomi] (in the time of [hunger/famine]). We cannot say that it is a (complex) preposition. It is similar to na tempu di cuba (in the time of rain), na tempu di friu (in the time of cold) and so on. There are several phrases that have the same structure, like na kau di Jon (at John's place), na kau di sinta (at the place of sitting), na [tudu] koldadi di limaria (in [all] types of animal). The form na metadi di (between) means, literally, "in [the] middle of", i. e., in the middle of the space where two objects (A, B) are located. There are several syntactic constructions that are parallel to the ones at issue here. For example, kamalion pega na rabu di lubu (lit. "the chameleon grasped in [the] tail of [the] wolf"). What happens is that constructions like na metadi di occur more frequently than the others mentioned here. Their higher frequency gives the impression that they form a unit. In summary, what we have here are the prepositions na and di, according to the formula na+N+di. The cases of Adv + di belong to a more general tendency in Kriol towards conflation of na with the following noun, as is the case with metadi di instead of na metadi di.
In English there are similar constructions, like "in the heart of Paris" and "in the heart of the matter." French "au sein de" and Portuguese "no seio de" have the same meaning. I think that nobody would consider them as complex prepositions.
Another argument in favor of this interpretion is the fact that in some cases the N part of these constructions occurs alone and with roughly the same meaning. In (7), the nouns are preceded by a determiner. This implies that the constructions cannot be considered prepositional. Practically all the forms surrounded by na and di discussed in 5.2 are plainly nouns. We have seen that metadi can occur as preposition even if not preceded by na or followed by di. In (8) we can see additional examples showing that the main component of "complex prepositions" has its independent meaning:
(a) lubu padi na kil tra di baga-baga 'the wolf gave birth to her cub behind the termites'
(b) omi bai te na metadi di kamiñu 'the man went up to the middle of the road'
In (8a) tra is preceded by a determiner (kil 'the'), although before it we can see the na that heads most complex prepositions. In (8b) na metadi di cannot be considered the "complex preposition" equivalent to English "between." Here, metadi means literally "the middle." This is reinforced by the presence of te (up to) preceding it.
Maybe the term "complex preposition" could be applied to Portuguese prepositions like perante (before, in front of), composed of por/per (by, around) plus ante (before), although most grammarians seem to consider it as a "simple" preposition. Other cases would include por sobre (for/to + on 'above') and para com (for/to + with 'towards'). The last one is used in phrases like "ele não tem consideração para com Maria" (approx. 'he is rude to Mary'). In English we have examples like from under/above, until after/before and so on. We have already seen the examples of into, onto and out of, above. However, in this case we have two "simple" prepositions used one after the other, each one retaining its respective meaning. The same happens in the case of other sequences of prepositions. Each component retains its individual meaning, so that na metadi di is literally "in the middle of."
In (9) we can see three interesting examples of apparently "complex preposition" in which either na or di, or both, may be absent, always with pertu as the middle term.
(a) i pertu ja riu 'it was already near the river'
(b) serpenti na pertu elis 'the serpent is near them'
(c) minjer garandi na pertu elis 'the old woman is near them'
Here pertu has a verbal function. As we have seen above, na is also a verbal particle, so that na pertu is better rendered as "is approaching." By the way, it is frequently difficult to tell whether a word is a verb or an adjective (noun) in Kriol, whose categories are sometimes different from those of Indo-European languages. In any case, both adjective and verb have the feature [+V], namely, verb is [+V, -N], and adjective is [+V, +N]. In summary, none of the so-called "complex prepositions" could be so considered without restrictions.
In summary, the fact is that so-called "complex prepositions" are not complex prepositions, as unitary entities. Using a semantic criterion, which is a surer one in dubious cases, a sentence like libru i riba di mesa (the book is on the table) means literally "the book is on the top [superior surface] of the table", as it could be in the internal part of it (the drawer), and so on.
7. Concluding remarks
Of course, so-called "complex prepositions" tend towards some type of lexicalization, maybe due to their relatively high frequency. However, high frequency is no decisive argument in favor of the "complex preposition" interpretation of constructions belonging to the scheme na + N + di.
In what we have seen above, it becomes clear that syntax is not enough to decide whether certain word groups belong to one or another category. First of all comes semantics. Therefore, if the individual components of these expressions retain their original meaning, we are not allowed to consider the whole as if it were a unit. The fact that na dentru di (or simply dentru di) can be replaced by na in most cases is no sufficient argument for considering both as representing the same meaning. Something similar happens to in and in (the) interior of, as in John is in the house x John is in the interior of the house. In the latter the idea of interiority is emphasized by being represented by a noun, whereas in the former this does not happen. The syntactic representation of the two sentences is different from one another as can be seen in (10a) for in and in (10b) for in the interior of, respectively.
(a) [CP [TP  John [T’ Tis [PP [DP John ] [P’ Pin [DP the house]]]]]
(b) [PP [DP  John] [P’ Pin [DP the [NPNinterior [PP Pof [DP [the house]]]]]]]  
In other words, in the interior of has more semantic content than in because, among other things, it has three additional lexemes.
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[This paper was published in the Révue roumaine de linguistique v. LIV, n. 3-4, p. 279-294, 2009.
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