The development of Proto-Indo-European local adverbs into Germanic prepositions and verbal elements

Date of Completion

January 2006


Language, Linguistics|Literature, Germanic




It is difficult to give this dissertation a proper title because the PIE adverbials in question have an ambiguous character and, depending on function, may be considered as prepositions, postpositions, and unbound or bound verbal particles. New High German über, for example, displays the following uses: Preposition: Er geht über die Brücke. Postposition: Er geht darüber. Unbound verbal particle: Er setzt das Buch auf den Tisch über. Bound verbal particle: Er übersetzt den Artikel.^ Although it maybe claimed that the function of über in each of these sentences is clear, it will be shown in this dissertation that the original PIE adverbial did not lend itself so easily to interpretation. Its ambiguous nature has required naming it the x-element. The development of this entity is examined in Hittite, Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin in order to better understand its development into Germanic.^ After the investigation into Hittite, Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin, 6 unambiguous Syntactic Structures, ambiguous Syntactic Structures, and 1 composite Syntactic Structure were ascertained: 1 functional assignment; 2 verbal assignment; Ambiguous 2.5 xv; either verbal assignment with optional independent x-element or unbound xv-verb; Ambiguous 3 OxV - assignment by either unbound xv-verb or O-x; 3A unbound xv-verb assignment; 3B O-x (postpositional) assignment; Ambiguous 3.5 x; either functional/verbal assignment with optional independent x-element, unbound xv, or x-O; 4 x-O (prepositional) assignment; 5 bound xv-verb assignment; 6 pleonastic x; more than one form of the same x-element is extant within one clause. ^ It has been traditionally held that in Proto-Indo-European the archaic construction was an independent x-element with no fixed position in the sentence. At some point, the x-element developed a loose connection with the verb though both retained literal meanings. With time, a closer connection with the verb developed, both semantically with figurative usage and syntactically with a change of transitivity. Concomitantly, object proclivity developed in which the x-element became associated with case to yield a postposition and later a preposition. The last structure to emerge was, pleonastic x, in which the x-element displays two or more different functions in the same clause.^