Complex prepositions from Latin to Castilian

with focus on spatial prepositional adverbs

Christian Lehmann

Universität Erfurt

Praepositio enim nec adverbio iungitur nec praepositioni.
(Servius, Comm. in Vergilii Aeneidem VII, 289)
‘For a preposition combines neither with an adverb nor with a preposition.’

1. Introduction

A complex adposition is an adposition consisting of more than one word.

Diagram 1. Grammaticalization of adpositions
adpositional locution > complex adposition > simple adposition > functional adposition


  • describe development of the passage from stage 2 to 3 in the history from Latin to Castilian
  • show that prepositional adverbs are formed by univerbation rather than compounding.

2. Local relations and case relators

  • Spatial region: top vs. bottom, front vs. back, right vs. left side; inside vs. outside, proximity vs. distance.
  • Local relation: essive vs. lative (allative, ablative, perlative).
E1a. Ecce sunt anni quinquaginta et supra que de trans Pado hic me conlocaui (Codici diplomatici Longobardi n° 19 [715], p. 74)
Latin‘Look it is fifty and more years that I have moved here from beyond the Po’
b. Quinquaginta anni sunt quod de Lucana ciuitate hic me collocaui (o.c. p. 76)
‘It is fifty years that I moved here from the town of Lucca’
E2omnia haec mala de intus procedunt (Itala [~300], Codex Corbeiensis II, Mark 7, 23)
Latin‘all these evils come from inside’

3. Prepositional adverbs

A prepositional adverb is a preposition with an optional complement.

E3circa frontem intentae uenae mouentur (Cels. Med. [~30] 2, 2, 3)
Latin‘around the forehead, the veins move tensed’
E4ea quae circa sunt (Cels. Med. [~30] 5, 28, 14e)
Latin‘that which is around [the carcinoma]’

4. Formation of adpositions

  • Compounding is a process of word formation, thus of the language system. It forms a stem by combination of two stems. The underlying rules are oriented towards the target category and sensitive to properties of the component stems, whose combination follows a pattern. Compounds do not originate in syntactic constructions (but may bear paradigmatic relations to them). Example: Engl. goldfinger.
  • Univerbation is a process happening in discourse. It welds two words that are adjacent in discourse into one word, which is lexicalized and thus joins the system. Their union is independent from grammatical structure, i.e. it respects neither the categories of the components nor the syntagmatic relation – if any – between them, but is entirely based on their semantic relatedness and regular adjacency in discourse. Therefore, univerbations presuppose syntactic constructions (but disregard their structure). Example: Engl. nonetheless.

5. Formation of prepositional adverbs

5.1. Optional complements

E5cerca viene el plazo (Cantar de Mío Cid [1140], tirada 11)
Castil.‘the date is coming near’
E6lidiamos cerca Valencia (Cantar de Mío Cid [1140], tirada 143)
Castil.‘we fought near Valencia’

5. Formation of prepositional adverbs

5.2. Relationalization

Diagram 2. Relationalization

[ XAdv YPrim. Prep ]Prep

E7qui voluerit stare in suo horto, et sua almunia foris de illa alcudina (Pactos entre Alfonso el Batallador y los moros de Tudela [1115], §3)
Latin‘he who wants to stay in his garden and his cottage outside the borough’
E8alia terra que dicunt la Toua ante el molino de don Didago (Carta de donación [1127], §29)
Castil.‘another lot called la Tova, in front of the mill of Don Diego’
E9que ante de la mala fecta lo conpró (Fueros de Medinaceli [1129], §35)
Castil.‘that he bought it before the evil dead’

5. Formation of prepositional adverbs

  1. Complex prepositions govern their complement not directly, but by means of a primary preposition which serves as a relationalizer.

  2. The relationalizer de, which is motivated for denominal prepositions, is generalized over secondary prepositions of whatever origin.

Paradigmatic relationship between [Y]Adv and [Y de]Prep

6. Superordinate prepositions

6.1. Prepositional adverb < [primary preposition + prepositional adverb]

6.1.1. Semantosyntactic motivation

Diagram 3. Reinforcement of prepositional adverb

[ XPrim.Prep. YPrep.Adv. ]Prep.Adv.

Diagram 4. Superordinate prepositional construction

[ XPrim.Prep [ YPrep.Adv. ZNP ]PrepP ]

E10hunc ab ante oculis parentis rapuerunt nymphae in gurgite (Gruter, Inscriptiones antiquae totius orbis Romani, 717, 9) [undated]
Latin‘this [child] was robbed before his father’s eyes by nymphs in a whirlpool’

6.1. Prep. adverb < [primary prep. + prep. adverb]

6.1.2. Latin

E11quantum denuo in ante ibant, tantum denuo retro revertebantur (Itin. [384] 7, 3)
Latin‘as much as they went forward again, so much they returned back again’
E12Et ideo ab odie in ante firmamus perpetualiter nostra supra nominata offertione (Cartulario de San Millán [1045])
Latin‘And therefore we grant from today onwards for ever our above-mentioned offer’
E13depost illum ambulat (Pompeius, In artem Donati [~500], Keil V 273, 25)
Latin‘she walks after him’
E14ubi missa facta fuerit de ante Cruce (Itin. [384] 37, 8)
Latin‘when the mass was completed before the Cross’
E15stulti, nonne qui fecit quod de foris est, etiam id quod de intus est fecit? (Vulgate [390] Luke 11, 40)
Latin‘ye fools, did not he who made which is without, make that which is within, too?’

6.1. Prepositional adverb < [primary preposition + prepositional adverb]

6.1.3. Castilian

E16acerca corre Salón (Cantar de Mío Cid [1140] p. 135, §26)
Castil.‘nearby flows the Jalón river’
E17estavan acerca de ellos (Libro de los buenos proverbios que dijeron los filósofos y sabios antiguos [1250], §5)
Castil.‘they stood close to them’

ab ante:

E18de un año in devant vendat sua casa (Fuero de Carcastillo [1129], §1)
Castil.‘one year ahead may he sell his house’
E19dent fidiatore cum testimonias per devant rege, & devant alcaldes (o.c. §3)
Castil.‘let them provide a guarantor with witnesses in front of the king and before the mayors’

6.1. Prepositional adverb < [primary preposition + prepositional adverb]

in ante:

E20en dia de Sancti Michael o el domingo enante. (Fuero de Cáceres [1234-1275], §451)
Castil.‘on St. Michael’s day or the preceding Sunday.’
E21que las desuelen enante de la tela (Abraham de Toledo, Libro de los animales que cazan [1250], folio 32 r)
Castil.‘that they flay them in front of the membrane’
E22ke denante ela sua face gaudioso segamus (Glosas Emilianenses [950], folio 72 r)
Castil.‘that we keep [living] in joy in front of his face’
E23plus denante in ripa una serna (Cartulario de San Millán de la Cogolla [1027], p. 106)
Latin‘further on the river bank, a field’

6.1. Prepositional adverb < [primary preposition + prepositional adverb]


E24ut nullus homo vivens ingrediatur de Pumar delante, (Fueros y privilegios de Santa María del Puerto [1042], §11)
Latin‘that no living man shall enter from Pumar onward,’
E25delante su mugier e de sus fijas querié tener las armas (Cantar de Mío Cid [1140], n° 86)
Castil.‘in front of his wife and his daughters did he want to hold the tournament’
E26et quantum habetis ibi laborato, ẽ adelante poteritis ibi examplare, & laborare, (Fuero de Carcastillo en Navarra [1129], §2)
Latin‘and whatever you have cultivated there, you may extend and cultivate there,’

6.1. Prepositional adverb < [primary preposition + prepositional adverb]

  1. Timeline of prepositions based on ante

1750 2000

in ante


en denante



en adelante

en delante

por delante

ab ante



de ante

6.1. Prepositional adverb < [primary preposition + prepositional adverb]

Latin post ‘after’: in post, de post > de pues, de ex post > después, por después

Latin trans ‘beyond’: ad trans > atrás, de trans > detrás, por detrás.

6.2. Preposition < [ primary preposition + preposition ]


E27invenit unum de ex conservis suis (Itala, Cod. Vindobonensis 1185 [~400], Mt. 18, 28)
Latin‘he found one of his fellow slaves’
E28coniugi karissimae que vixit cum eo de ex die virginitatis sue (CIL 14, 5210 [Late Latin])
Latin‘for his beloved wife who lived with him since her virginity’
E29iuxta limitem vineam de mihi [sic!] Eximino, et de ex alia vinearum multarum ex alios homines, (Monasterio de San Martín de Villariezo, Sale contract [1044])
Latin ‘[a lot] beside the border of the vineyard of Msg. Jimeno, and on the second [side bordering on] many vineyards of other people,’

Castil. des X ‘from X on’: des odie die ‘from today’s date’; desde oy dia ‘from today on’

E30agua pura desde una fuente natural (publicity for mineral water in Costa Rica [2016])
Spanish‘pure water from a natural spring’
E31desde un ángulo distribucional (Company Company & Sobrevilla Moreno 2014: 1345)
Spanish‘from a distributional point of view’

7. Conclusion

  1. Expansion: The combination of an adverbial or prepositional base with a preceding superordinate primary preposition, including de, initially specifies the local relation of the base, but ends up as its category-preserving reinforcement.
  2. Relationalization: The combination of a base with a following primary preposition like de relationalizes the base, converting it into a complex preposition.
  3. Expansions are endocentric and therefore recursive.
  4. Relationalization is exocentric and therefore not recursive.
  5. Historical evidence for a diachronic relation between a syntactic construction X Y and a word XY.
  6. Complex prepositional adverbs in Latin and Castilian are not compounds, but univerbations of erstwhile syntactic constructions.
  7. The univerbation is a symptom of the lexicalization of such syntactic combinations.


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