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Finite declarative complement clauses: Syntactic distribution
quickinfo

Finite declarative verb complement clauses in Afrikaans are used in a number of syntactic positions within a matrix clause (usually, but not necessarily, an independent clause). By far the most frequent use is the object complement clause, where the form of the complement clause displays the range of variation discussed in Finite declarative complement clauses: Construction forms, i.e. dat+[SXV], Ø+[SVX] and the nonstandard variant dat+[SVX], as exemplified by (1), (2) and (3).

Example 1

Die ontwikkelaar sê dat die eenhede aansienlik minder kos.
TK, adapted
[(MC) die ontwikkelaar sê [(CC) [(Comp) dat] [[(SBJ) die eenhede] [(ADV) aansienlik minder] [(Vprs) kos]]]]
the developer say COMP the units considerable less cost
The developer says that the units cost considerably less.
Example 2

Die ontwikkelaar sê die eenhede kos aansienlik minder.
TK, adapted
[(MC) die ontwikkelaar sê [(CC) [[(SBJ) die eenhede] [(Vprs) kos] [(ADV) aansienlik minder]]]]
the developer say the units cost considerable less
The developer says the units cost considerably less.
Example 3

Ek dink dat dit is vir my rêrig cool.
PCSA, adapted
[(MC)ek dink [(CC) [(Comp) dat] [[(SBJ) dit] [(Vprs) is] [(PP) vir my] [(ADJ) rêrig cool]]]]
I think COMP it be.PRS for me really cool
I think that to me it is really cool.

The complement clause usually follows the verb of the matrix clause when it is used as object clause, but it is possible for the object clause to be used sentence-initially, as in (4). The matrix clause can also be used as an insert in the complement clause, usually immediately following the first constituent of the complement clause (e.g. subject or topicalised element), as exemplified in (5). If the complement clause itself consists of more than one clause, then the matrix clause is often inserted between the two clauses, as in (6).

Example 4

Dit verander hulle ook op ander maniere, het ek die afgelope naweek besluit.
TK
[(MC) [(CC) dit verander hulle ook op ander maniere] [(Vaux-pst) het] [(SBJ) ek] die afgelope naweek [(Vpst-ptcp) besluit]]]
it change them also on other ways have I the past weekend decide.PST-PTCP
It also changes them in other ways I decided during the past weekend.
Example 5

Plooie, glo sy, pas slegs by mans.
TK, adapted
[(CC) plooie [(MC) glo sy] pas slegs by mans]
wrinkles believe she suit only to men
Wrinkles, she believes, only suit men.
Example 6

Daar was 'n dokument, onthou Walters, wat alles opgesom het.
TK
[(CC) daar was 'n dokument [(MC) onthou Walters] wat alles opgesom het]
there be.PST a document recall Walters which everything up.PST-PTCP.sum have
There was a document, Walters recalls, which summed up everything.

The three positional variants of the declarative complement clause used in the syntactic role of object within the main clause are represented visually in Figure 1. The syntactic structure of the complement clause itself is not represented, but generalised to the variables XY.

Figure 1. Positional variants: Declarative complement claused used as object of matrix clause


Figure 1

[click image to enlarge]

When used as subject clause, the complement clause either occurs in sentence-initial position, as in (7), or, more frequently, the initial position of the matrix clause is occupied by the expletive or anticipatory pronounditit with the complement clause following the verb and the syntactic constituent that functions as subject complement phrase, as in (8) and (9).

Example 7

Dat iemand van Jeffreys se agtergrond nou aan die stuur van daardie koerant staan, moet iets sê oor die mate waartoe ons samelewing aan die verander is.
TK, adapted
[(MC) [(SUBJ) [(CC) Dat iemand van Jeffreys se agtergrond nou aan die stuur van daardie koerant staan]] [(Vaux-mod) moet] iets [(Vinf) sê] oor die mate waartoe ons samelewing aan die verander is]
COMP somebody from Jeffreys GEN background now at the helm of that newspaper stand must something say.INF over the measure which.to our society on the change be.PRS
That somebody with Jeffreys's background is now in control of that paper must say something about the degree to which our society is changing.
Example 8

Dit is geskiedenis dat wisselstroom wel hierdie oorloggie gewen het.
TK
[MC dit is geskiedenis [(SBJ) [(CC) dat wisselstroom wel hierdie oorloggie gewen het]]]
it be.PRS history COMP alternating.current indeed this war-DIM PST.PTCP-win have
It is history that alternating current won this little battle.
Example 9

Dit is ironies dat die Regering in die vroeë 1920's geweier het om tariewe op staal te hef.
TK, adapted
[(MC) dit is ironies [(SBJ) [(CC) dat die Regering in die vroeë 1920's geweier het om tariewe op staal te hef]]]
it be.PRS ironic COMP the government in the early 1920s PSTP.PTCP-refuse have COMP rates on steel to levy.INF
It is ironic that in the early 1920s the government refused to levy rates on steel.

The two major variants of the declarative subject complement clause are represented visually in Figure 2. The verb weesbe varies between present tense, past tense, or various combinations with auxiliary verbs, although the form with the present tense isam/is/are is by far the most frequent variant. The predicate (or subject complement) is abbreviated to PRED.

Figure 2. Positional variants: Declarative complement clause used as subject of matrix clause


Figure 2

[click image to enlarge]

Complement clauses can be used as predicate clauses with copular verbs, where the subject of the main clause is typically an abstract noun phrase in combination with the most frequent copular verb weesbe, as in (10) or subject ditit in combination with another copular verb, e.g. blykseem/appear, as in (11).

Example 10

Die huidige regering se standpunt is dat die individu moet besluit oor sy deelname.
TK, adapted
[(MC) [(SBJ) die huidige regering se standpunt] [(Vprs) is] [(PRED) [(CC) dat die individu moet besluit oor sy deelname]]]
the present government GEN viewpoint be.PRS COMP the individual must decide.INF over his participation
The present government's view is that the individual must decide about his own participation.
Example 11

Dit blyk dat veral seuns onder 13 aan eetstoornisse kan ly.
TK
[(MC) [(SBJ) dit] [(Vprs) blyk] [(PRED) [(CC) dat veral seuns onder 13 aan eetstoornisse kan ly]]]
it appear COMP especially boys under 13 from eating.disorders can suffer.INF
It appears that especially boys under 13 can suffer from eating disorders.

The two major variants of the declarative predicate complement clause are represented visually in Figure 3. As is the case with subject clauses, the verb weesbe varies between present tense, past tense, or various combinations with auxiliary verbs.

Figure 3. Positional variants: Declarative complement clause used as predicate of matrix clause


Figure 3

[click image to enlarge]

Apart from these various types of verb complements, finite declarative complement clauses also function as complements to prepositions, adjectives and nouns, as illustrated by (12), (13) and (14), respectively.

Example 12

En toe, sonder dat haar oë die beweging kan volg, spring die werfbobbejaan tot bo-op die houtkas.
TK, adapted
En toe [(PP) [(Prep) sonder] [(CC) dat haar oë die beweging kan volg]], [MC [(Vprs) spring] [(SUBJ) die werfbobbejaan] [(ADV) tot bo-op die houtkas]]
and then without COMP her eyes the movement can follow jump the yard.baboon to above-on the wood.cupboard
And then, without her eyes being able to follow the movement, the tame baboon jumped on top of the wooden cupboard.
Example 13

En ons is baie bly dat jy nog steeds bereid is om as redaksielid aan te bly.
TK
en ons is [(PRED) [(ADJP) baie bly [(CC) dat jy nog steeds bereid is om as redaksielid aan te bly]]]
and we be.PRS very happy COMP you more still willing be.PRS COMP as editorial.member on to stay.INF
And we are very happy that you are still willing to stay on the editorial staff.
Example 14

...die feit dat jy van hulle afwyk, doen aan hulle algemene geldigheid geen afbreuk nie.
TK
[(SBJ) [(NP) die feit [(CC) dat jy van hulle afwyk]]] doen aan hulle algemene geldigheid geen afbreuk nie
the fact COMP you from them deviate do to their general validity no down.break NEG
... the fact that you deviate from them does not detract from their general validity.
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[+] Overall frequency

Finite declarative complement clauses occur with an overall frequency of slightly more than 13,000 per million words in the Taalkommissiekorpus. Of these, the vast majority (around 10,000 per million words) are object complement clauses, where the complement clause is syntactically embedded as object of the verb of the matrix clause. The other verb complement clauses are embedded as subject or predicate to the verb of the matrix clause, and each of these represents about 1,000 cases of finite declarative complement clauses per million words.

Declarative complement clauses that are embedded in noun phrases account for a further 1,000 cases per million words, while complement clauses embedded in preposition phrases or adjective phrases together account for the remaining 1,000 cases per million words in almost equal measure. Figure 4 represents these findings graphically, and also indicates that the variant of the complement clause without an overt subordinator is a very frequent option in object complement clauses, but quite rare in other syntactic environments, where the form with the overt complementiser datthat is by far the dominant form. For details of the calculations on which this summary is based, see Extra.

Figure 4. Estimate of frequency per million words of complement clauses in different syntactic positions in the Taalkommissiekorpus


Figure 4

[click image to enlarge]
[show extra information]
x Calculations behind Figure 4

The values in Figure 4 were derived from the following calculations. From the version of the Taalkommissiekorpus we used, we excluded study guides, since they represent a disproportionally large subset, and worked with the remainder for the main analysis. In this selection, which consists of 32,430,320 words, the word datthat occurred 217,470 times. We selected a random sample of 5,000 instances and classified them in full in terms of the categories of analysis. During this and other analyses (especially Van Rooy and Kruger 2016), we also identified instances where declarative complement clauses without the overt complementiser were used. We then devised search strategies to estimate the occurrence of these complement clauses and added them to the estimations based on the sample of datthat. We extracted samples from the Taalkommissiekorpus with search strings that could catch all instances of declarative complement clauses, with and without complementisers, and used those percentages to adjust the values obtained from the sample of 5,000 instances classified manually in full.

[+] Object complement clauses

Syntactic variation in the object complement clause relates to a number of dimensions. There is, in the first place, word order variation between the matrix clause and the complement clause, with the matrix clause sometimes following the complement clause or the matrix clause used as an insert in the complement clause. Secondly, if quite infrequently, a dummy object ditit may be used, with the object complement clause itself found at the end of the clause. Object complement clauses can also combine with a number of passive constructions.

[+] Word order variation between matrix clause and complement clause

The most conventional and frequent word order is for the object clause to occur in the position of the direct object of the verb of the matrix clause, as exemplified by (1), (2) and (3). This word order is attested in 95% of all the examples of object complement clauses analysed in the Taalkommissiekorpus, and 88% of the examples in the Ponelis Corpus of Spoken Afrikaans. The syntactic pattern is SBJ-V-OBJclause. As pointed out in the section on construction forms of the finite declarative complement clause, the form of the complement clause in this position displays variability, both in regard to the presence or absence of the complementiser datthat and the word order following the complementiser, when present.

The remaining examples of the object complement clause (5% in the written and 12% in the spoken data) do not follow the matrix clause. One variant has the word order OBJclause-V1-SBJ-X-Vn, where the object clause occurs in sentence-initial position, with the matrix clause following it in 3.5% of the examples in the written corpus and 5% of the spoken corpus. In these cases, the matrix clause displays subject-verb inversion, with the first verb immediately following the object clause, then the subject, and thereafter the remainder of the main clause and all remaining verbs in final position, illustrated in (15), (16) and (17).

Example 15

Van die veld af was hy darem nooit 'n aggressiewe ou nie, voeg hy vinnig by.
TK
[(MC) [(CC) Van die veld af was hy darem nooit 'n aggressiewe ou nie], [(Vprs) voeg] [(SBJ) hy] vinnig by]
From the field off be.PST he though never a aggressive guy NEG add he quickly at
Off the field though he never was an agressive guy, he adds quickly.
Example 16

Hy is arrogant, ongeskik en ongeduldig, sê die Amerikaanse pers.
TK
[(MC) [(CC) Hy is arrogant, ongeskik en ongeduldig], [(Vprs) sê] [(SBJ) die Amerikaanse pers]]
he be.PRS arrogant ill-mannered and impatient say the American press
He is arrogant, ill-mannered and impatient, says the American press.
Example 17

Hy moet die padwerker se naam kry, het hy in sy motor gedink.
TK
[(MC) [(CC) Hy moet die padwerker se naam kry], [(Vaux-pst) het] [(SBJ) hy] in sy motor [(Vpst-ptcp) gedink]]
he must the road.worker GEN name get.INF have he in his car PST.PCTP-think
He must get the roadworker's name, he thought in his car.

An exception to this general pattern occurs in the expression jy weetyou know, as in (18), where in many instances inversion does not take place, but the matrix clause retains the order SBJ-V. This expression does not occur in a sample of 500 instances of the base form weetknow in the Taalkommissiekorpus, but occurs 57 times in the Ponelis Corpus of Spoken Afrikaans, and only twice with the standard word order weet jy, V-SUBJ.

Example 18

Dit was ’n probleem, jy weet.
PCSA
[(MC) [(CC) Dit was 'n probleem], [(SBJ) jy] [(Vprs) weet]]
it be.PST a problem you know
It was a problem, you know.

In the spoken corpus without exception, and in more than 90% of these cases in the written corpus, the object clause occurs without the complementiser datthat as illustrated by (4), as well as in (18), from the spoken corpus.

A very small number of examples are attested in the written corpus where sentence-initial complement clauses are used with an overt complementiser followed by dependent word order, as illustrated by (19).

Example 19

Dat Hein voor die ongeluk ook maar 'n aweregse streep gehad het, verswyg Alida omdat sy Cora nie wil seermaak nie.
TK
[(MC) [(CC) [(COMP) Dat] Hein voor die ongeluk ook maar 'n aweregse streep gehad het], [(Vprs) verswyg] [(SBJ) Alida] omdat sy Cora nie wil seermaak nie]
COMP Hein before the accident also but a reverse stripe PST.PTCP-have have withhold Alida because she Cora NEG will sore.make NEG
That Hein was a bit strange even before the accident, Alida keeps quiet about, because she doesn't want to hurt Cora.

Sentence-initial object complement clauses occur more frequently in spoken language, with the mental verbs weetknow and dinkthink as verbs in the main clause. These main clauses are used in an interpersonal function, and can be regarded as an adverbial from a functional perspective, rather than a matrix clause. When sentence-initial object clauses occur in written language, they are almost exclusively reserved for news reportage and fiction. The matrix-clause verb is usually a communication verb, mainly the high-frequency verb say as in (16), but other communication verbs also occur. These either incorporate manner of saying in their meanings, such as waarskuwarn, biegconfess or skertsjoke, or they provide information about the textual relations between different propositions, such as meedeeltell or byvoegadd in (15).

The other syntactic pattern where the matrix clause does not occupy the initial position is where the matrix clause functions as a parenthetical insert in the complement clause. A number of different parenthetical positions are selected, with the three most frequent ones being after an initial adverbial, as in (20); after the subject of the complement clause, as in (21); or between two clauses, where the complement clause itself is a complex sentence consisting of more than one clause, as in (22).

Example 20

Maar onvergeetlik, dink ek, is seer sekerlik in die eerste plek, die skoolhoof.
PCSA
[(CC) [(ADV) Maar onvergeetlik] [(MC) [(Vprs) dink] [(SBJ) ek]], [(Vprs) is] seer sekerlik in die eerste plek, [(SBJ) die skoolhoof]]
but unforgettable think I be.PRS most certainly in the first place the school.principal
But unforgettable, I think, is most certainly in the first instance the school principal.
Example 21

Plooie, glo sy, pas slegs by mans.
TK, adapted
[(CC) [SBJ) plooie] [(MC) glo sy] [(Vprs) pas] slegs by mans]
wrinkles believe she suit only to men
Wrinkles, she believes, only suit men.
Example 22

Daar was ’n dokument, onthou Walters, wat alles opgesom het.
TK
[(CC) daar was 'n dokument [(MC) onthou Walters] [(RC) wat alles opgesom het]]
there be.PST a document recall Walters which everything up-PST.PCTP-sum have
There was a document, Walters recalls, which summed up everything.

This variant is not very common in writing, and accounts for only about 1.5% of all finite declarative object complement clause constructions. In speech, however, it is more frequent and accounts for about 7% of all object complement clause constructions. The register distribution and the most common verbs used in the construction are very similar to the sentence-initial object clauses. The matrix clause, when used as such a parenthetical insert, displays subject-verb inversion, as exemplified by (20), (21) and (22), except when the subject is the second person singular and the main verb is weetknow, when the word order is typically subject-verb, as illustrated by (23) and (24).

Example 23

Foto’s veral, u weet het ons baie nodig.
PCSA
[(CC) Foto’s veral [(MC) [(SBJ) u] [(Vprs) weet]] het ons baie nodig]
Photos especially you know have we very needed
Photos in particular, you know, we really need.
Example 24

Dan verkoop ons dit maar so onder die mense, jy weet, om vuur te maak.
PCSA
[(CC) dan verkoop ons dit maar so onder die mense [(MC) [(SBJ) jy] [(Vprs) weet]] om vuur te maak]
then sell we it but so under the people you know COMP fire to make.INF
Then we sell it among the people, you know, to make fire.

The word order of the complement clause is not affected by the presence of the interpolated matrix clause. Thus, in a sense, the matrix clause appears to be optional and can be omitted without affecting the flow of discourse, which clearly aligns the parenthetical use of the main clause with the interpersonal function that is also attributed to the object clause without the complementiser, discussed in Finite declarative complement clauses: construction forms. The account of the functional differentiation is developed further in Finite declarative complement clauses: functions.

[+] Anticipatory ditit in object clauses

The object complement clause sometimes, especially in writing, occurs in the sentence-final position with an anticipatory anaphoric pronoun ditit in the syntactic position that would be occupied by a direct object noun phrase (Ponelis 1979:449), as illustrated by (25).

Example 25

Ons het dit beklemtoon dat klubbestuurders en voorsitters vir die dissipline van hul toeskouers verantwoordelik is.
TK
[(MC) Ons het [(OBJ) dit] beklemtoon [(CC) dat klubbestuurders en voorsitters vir die dissipline van hul toeskouers verantwoordelik is]]
we have it emphasise.PST.PTCP COMP club.managers and chairpersons for the discipline of their spectators responsible be.PRS
We emphasised that club managers and chairpersons are responsible for the discipline of their spectators.

This is a very clear sign of subordination of the complement clause to the matrix clause, but occurs quite infrequently with a small set of matrix-clause verbs. The anticipatory pronoun is used more frequently for subject complement clauses. Ponelis (1979:449) points out that anticipatory ditit only occurs with complement clauses whose factivity is presupposed. With a small number of verbs, its use is obligatory (verwelkomwelcome, betreurregret/deplore, goedkeurapprove, waardeerappreciate), as in (26) and (27), although in our judgement, the omission of ditit is not entirely unacceptable, as in (26a') and (27a’). If ditit is used, the complement clause is obligatorily introduced by the complementiser datthat, and the complementiserless form is grammatically unacceptable, as shown in (26a’’) and (27a’’).

Example 26

a. Agri Wes-Kaap betreur dit dat juis seisoenwerkers en hul naasbestaandes nou diep geraak word.
Agri Western-Cape regret it COMP precisely season.workers and their next-of-kin now deep PST.PTCP-touch become.AUX.PASS
Agri Western Cape regrets that it is the seasonal workers and their dependants who are now profoundly affected.
a.' ?Agri Wes-Kaap betreur dat juis seisoenwerkers en hul naasbestaandes nou diep geraak word.
a.'' *Agri Wes-Kaap betreur dit juis seisoenwerkers en hul naasbestaandes word nou diep geraak.
Example 27

a. Sy party verwelkom dit dat salarisse verhoog gaan word.
his party welcome it COMP salaries increase.PST.PTCP go become.AUX.PASS
a.' ?Sy party verwelkom dat salarisse verhoog gaan word.
a.'' *Sy party verwelkom dit salarisse gaan verhoog word.

It does seem as if even for verbs that Ponelis (1979) regards as requiring the dummy object ditit, a small number of cases are observed in the Taalkommissiekorpus where the dummy object is indeed absent, as shown by (28), from the same text as (26).

Example 28

Agri Wes-Kaap betreur dat die feite so verdraai is in 'n poging om die landboubedryf en produsente te diskrediteer.
TK
[(MC) Agri Wes-Kaap betreur [(CC) [(Comp) dat] die feite so verdraai is in 'n poging om die landboubedryf en produsente te diskrediteer]]
Agri Western-Cape regret COMP the facts so twist.PST.PTCP be.AUX.PASS in an attempt COMP the agriculture.industry and producers to discredit.INF
Agri Western Cape regrets that the facts have been twisted like this in an attempt to discredit the agricultural industry and producers.

There is another group of verbs where the use of anticipatory ditit is optional (besefrealise, betwiscontest, duldtolerate, erkenadmit, insienrealise, meldmention, noemname/mention, stelstate), as in (29). When the anticipatory ditit is present, the complementiser datthat is consistently used, as in (29a), but otherwise, the complement clause varies between the forms dat+[SXV] and Ø+[SVX], as in (29b) and (29c).

Example 29

a. Skaars kan hy dit besef dat Claudine in die hande van manne is wat slegs daarop uit is om die naam van Aristo uit te wis.
TK
[(MC) Skaars kan hy [(OBJ) dit] besef [(CC) [(Comp) dat] Claudine in die hande van manne is wat slegs daarop uit is om die naam van Aristo uit te wis]]
barely can he it realise.INF COMP Claudine in the hands of men be.PRS that only it.on out be.PRS COMP the name of Aristo out to wipe.INF
He can barely comprehend that Claudine has fallen into the hands of men who are intent on wiping out the name of Aristo.
b. Solank jy besef dat Malan verreweg nie die laaste woord gespreek het nie.
TK
[(MC) Solank jy besef [(CC) [(Comp) dat] Malan verreweg nie die laaste woord gespreek het nie]]
as.long you realise COMP Malan far.way NEG the last word PST.PTCP-speak have NEG
As long as you realise that Malan hasn't spoken the last word by far.
c. Ek het nie besef dis al so laat nie.
TK
[(MC) Ek het nie besef [(CC) dis al so laat nie]]
I have NEG realised it's already so late NEG
I didn't realise it's this late already.

The anticipatory ditit can also be replaced by an appropriate noun phrase that typically contains an abstract noun referring to verbiage or a thought, as in (30) and (31).

Example 30

Agri Wes-Kaap betreur die berig dat juis seisoenwerkers en hul naasbestaandes nou diep geraak word.
Agri Wes-Kaap betreur [(OBJ) die berig [(CC) [(Comp) dat] juis seisoenwerkers en hul naasbestaandes nou diep geraak word]]
Agri Western-Cape regret the report COMP precisely season.workers and their next-of-kin now deep PST.PTCP-touch become.AUX.PASS
Agri Western Cape regrets the report that it is the seasonal workers and their dependants who are now profoundly affected.
Example 31

Sy party verwelkom die nuus dat salarisse verhoog gaan word.
Sy party verwelkom [(OBJ) die nuus [(CC) [(Comp) dat] salarisse verhoog gaan word]]
his party welcome the news COMP salaries increase go become.AUX.PASS
His party welcomes the news that salaries are going to be increased.

In such cases, the complement clause becomes a noun complement clause and is no longer a verb object clause. This raises an interesting question about the proper analysis of the cases where ditit is present. If it is a substitute for a full noun phrase, used anaphorically, it cannot be regarded simply as a dummy pronoun. It appears to be a case of a gradient phenomenon, from maximally explicit, with an object noun phrase that takes a complement clause as in (30); to a pronoun that is perhaps implicitly anaphoric, as in (26a); to the complete absence of a pronoun, as in (29b) and (29c). This development corresponds to the historical development of complement clauses in Germanic languages, as analysed by Heine and Kuteva (2007) and Givón (2009).

[show extra information]
x Origin of complement clauses in Germanic languages

Van Rooy and Kruger (2015) review previous work on how complement clauses developed in the Germanic languages. According to Givón (2009:62), all embedded clauses originated with two independent clauses, one of which then underwent grammaticalisation to become a dependent clause that is subordinated to the other clause. As far as complement clauses are concerned, Heine and Kuteva (2007:241-242) and Givón (2009:73, 95-96) argue that two independent adjacent clauses developed into the construction, where the first clause had a pronominal object form that eventually developed into a marker of subordination, and the second clause then followed as if it was the object of the first clause, as in (32).

Example 32

She know that, he did it > She know that he did it.
(Givón 2009:73)

The verb in the first clause must have been transitive, to allow for the second clause to become integrated into the first clause analogously to an object (Givón 2009:73, 141). The now embedded clause lost some of the grammatical features that encoded its finiteness (Givón 2009:74), e.g. becoming an infinitive and even losing an overt subject, as exemplified by (33), to correspond to its subordinate status.

Example 33

I want it, to do it > I want to do it.
(Givón 2009:73)
[+] Passive and pseudo-passive constructions

Complement clauses are used together with four different types of constructions in which the verb of the matrix clause is in the passive form:

  • the pseudo-passive with an existential daarthere as subject
  • a passive with empty subject ditit that resembles the subject clause use of the complement clause
  • a passive with an addressee as syntactic subject alongside the object complement clause
  • a subjectless matrix clause with an initial adverbial.

According to Ponelis (1979:452), object complement clauses did not have a true passive form in Afrikaans, but rather a pseudo-passive which is formed with the existential daarthere, as shown in (34).

Example 34

Daar is vir Dalton gesê dat hy in hegtenis geneem word.
TK, adapted
[(EXPL) Daar] is vir Dalton gesê [(CC) [(Comp) dat] hy in hegtenis geneem word]
There be.AUX.PASS to Dalton PST.PTCP-say COMP he in custody PST.PTCP-take become.AUX.PASS
Dalton was told that he is being taken into custody.

Ponelis (1979: 453) notes, however, that a true passive with an anticipatory ditit is in the process of establishing in Afrikaans, which he ascribes to the influence of English, as illustrated by (35).

Example 35

Dit moet genoem word dat daar tot op hede twyfel bestaan het of kloning werklik deur middel van ’n gedifferensieerde liggaamsel bewerk is.
TK
[(EXPL) Dit] moet genoem word [(CC) [(Comp) dat] daar tot op hede twyfel bestaan het of kloning werklik deur middel van ’n gedifferensieerde liggaamsel bewerk is]
it must PST.PTCP-mention become.AUX.PASS COMP there until on present doubt exist have if cloning really through means of a differentiated body.cell PST.PTCP-effect be.AUX.PASS
It must be mentioned that until recently there has been doubt as to whether cloning has really been achieved by means of a differentiated somatic cell.

It emerges from an analysis of the Taalkommissiekorpus that the pseudo-passive with daarthere is the more frequent variant, outnumbering the passive with ditit by 4:1. However, the expansion of the true passive construction can also be seen in the presence of an admittedly very small number of attestations in the corpus where passivisation takes place to the extent that the complement clause functions as the syntactic subject of the passive verb, as in (36).

Example 36

Dat die voorkoms van korrupsie en wetteloosheid in die land hoog is, kan eweneens nie ontken word nie.
TK
[(SUBJ) [(CC) [(Comp) dat] die voorkoms van korrupsie en wetteloosheid in die land hoog is]] kan eweneens nie ontken word nie
COMP the occurrence of corruption and lawlessness in the country high be.PRS can likewise NEG deny.PST.PTCP become.AUX.PASS NEG
That the incidence of corruption and lawlessness in the country is high can likewise not be denied.

Analysis of the data also reveals two more passive constructions, not recorded by Ponelis (1979), where no dummy subject is used, but the matrix verb occurs in the passive form and the complement clause is clearly associated with it. These are a matrix clause with a subject that has the semantic role of addressee relative to the verb, and a matrix clause with an initial adverbial, in both cases then with the complement clause presented as object clause to the verb.

In constructions with communication verbs, the addressee of the verb can be selected as syntactic subject in a passive construction. This has no effect on the object complement clause, which remains in post-verbal position, as in (37a). To show the relations between the verb arguments (Sayer, Addressee and Verbiage in the terminology of Halliday and Matthiessen (2014:302-308)) and their mapping to syntactic positions, this example is rewritten as an active clause in (37a').

Example 37

a. Boere is beskuldig dat hulle te veel vir hul grond vra.
farmers be.AUX.PASS accuse.PST.PTCP COMP they too much for their land charge
Farmers have been accused that they charge too much for their land.
a.' IEMAND het boere beskuldig dat hulle te veel vir hul grond vra.
SOMEBODY accused farmers that they charge too much for their land.

Since Afrikaans is a V2-language, it allows the omission of a dummy subject in cases where there is a clause-initial adverbial in the matrix clause. In (38), the clause-initial position is filled by a prepositional phrase which conveys the manner adverbial, while a locative adverb occupies the initial position in (39).

Example 38

Deur middel van ’n variansie-analise en die bepaling van die effekgrootte van die verskille (d-waarde) is gevind dat daar nie ’n statisties betekenisvolle verskil tussen die belewing van frustrasie van onderwysers in bevoordeelde en benadeelde skole bestaan nie.
TK
[(ADV) Deur middel van ’n variansie-analise en die bepaling van die effekgrootte van die verskille (d-waarde)] [(Vaux-pass) is] [(Vlex) gevind] [(CC) [(COMP) dat] daar nie ’n statisties betekenisvolle verskil tussen die belewing van frustrasie van onderwysers in bevoordeelde en benadeelde skole bestaan nie]
by means of a variance-analysis and the determination of the effect.size of the differences (d-value) be.PASS.AUX PST.PTCP-find COMP there NEG a statistical significant difference between the experience of frustration of teachers in advantaged and disadvantaged schools exist NEG
By means of an analysis of variance and the determination of the effect size of the differences (d-value), it has been found that there isn't a statistically significant difference between the experience of frustration of teachers in advantaged and disadvantaged schools.
Example 39

Hier kan duidelik gesien word dat in die geskiedenis van die Groot Gariep die narratiewe kode van geskiedskrywing oorskry word deur die afwesigheid van ...
TK
[(ADV) Hier] [(Vaux-mod) kan] duidelik [(Vlex) gesien] [(Vaux-pass) word] [(CC) [(Comp) dat] in die geskiedenis van die Groot Gariep die narratiewe kode van geskiedskrywing oorskry word deur die afwesigheid van ... ]
here can clearly seen become.AUX.PASS COMP in the history of the Groot Gariep the narrative code of history.writing exceed.PST.PTCP become.AUX.PASS by the absence of
Here it can clearly be seen that in the history of the Groot Gariep, the narrative code of history writing is transgressed by the absence of...

It is possible and grammatical to rephrase either of these examples with a dummy subject, either daarthere or ditit, as illustrated by (40) from the Taalkommissiekorpus, which is syntactically similar to (38), except for the overt dummy subject.

Example 40

In ander gevalle is daar gespesifiseer dat hulle self mog kies by watter een van die erfgename hulle na die dood van hul eienaar wou bly.
TK
[(ADV) In ander gevalle] [(Vaux-pass) is] [(EXPL) daar] [(Vlex) gespesifiseer] [(CC) [(Comp) dat] hulle self mog kies by watter een van die erfgename hulle na die dood van hul eienaar wou bly]
in other cases be.AUX.PASS there PST.PCTP-specify COMP they selves might choose.INF at which one of the heirs they after the death of their owner would stay
In other cases, it has been specified tha they might choose with which one of the heirs they wanted to stay after the death of their owner.

However, in the data sample analysed, dummy subjects with initial adverbials are extremely rare, so (40) is a clear marginal variant in the data, compared to the type illustrated by (38) and (39), which is almost as frequent as the pseudo-passives with existential daarthere and considerably more frequent than any of the other passive types. The conditioning variables of the syntactic variation have not yet, to our knowledge, been researched.

[+] Subject complement clauses

Subject complement clauses are found only with copular verbs, where the subject is not an agent that is an active force in the state of affairs represented by the verb. There are two main variants of the finite declarative complement clause used as subject clause in Afrikaans: with the complement clause in initial position, or an extraposition construction with the subject clause in sentence-final position (Ponelis 1979:450-452). The more frequent variant (more than 90% of the sample analysed in the Taalkommissiekorpus) is the extraposition form that has a dummy (or expletive) pronoun ditit in the subject position (clause-initially), followed by a verb, the verb complement, and then the subject complement clause after that, as illustrated by (41) and (42).

Example 41

Dit is duidelik dat tekspraktisyns ’n deurleefde kennis van taal, kultuur, norme- en waardepatrone moet hê.
TK, adapted
[(EXPL) Dit] [(Vprs) is] [(PRED) duidelik] [(CC) [(Comp) dat] tekspraktisyns ’n deurleefde kennis van taal, kultuur, norme- en waardepatrone moet hê]
it be.PRS clear COMP text.practitioners a thorough knowledge of language culture norm and value.patters must have.INF
It is clear that text practitioners must have a thorough knowledge of language, culture, norms and value patterns.
Example 42

Dit is noodsaaklik dat sodanige ondersoek wetenskaplik gefundeer moet wees.
TK, adapted
[(EXLP) Dit] [(Vprs) is] [(PRED) noodsaaklik] [(CC) [(Comp) dat] sodanige ondersoek wetenskaplik gefundeer moet wees]
it be.PRS necessary COMP such investigation scientifically grounded must be.INF
It is necessary that such an investigation must be scientifically grounded.

The matrix-verb complement is most frequently a one-word adjective, of which duidelikclear is by far the most frequent variant in the Taalkommissiekorpus (approximately 20% of all extraposition subject clauses have a verb phrase with duidelikclear as its predicate). Other relatively well-attested adjectives (in order of deccreasing frequency) are moontlikpossible, noodsaaklikessential, nodignecessary, waarskynlikprobable/likely, onwaarskynlikimprobable/unlikely, opvallendnoticeable, and bekendknown. Only two patterns with a noun-phrase predicate are sufficiently well attested to be worth mentioning, viz. dit is van ADJ belang datit is of ADJ importance that, and dit is ’n uitgemaakte saak datit is common cause that, exemplified by (43) and (44).

Example 43

Dit is van die opperste belang dat Suid-Afrika uit ’n musikale winterslaap ontwaak.
TK, adapted
[(EXLP) Dit] [(Vprs) is] [(PRED) van die opperste belang] [(CC) [(Comp) dat] Suid-Afrika uit ’n musikale winterslaap ontwaak]
it be.PRS of the utmost importance COMP South-Africa out a musical winter.sleep awake
It is of the utmost importance that South Africa awakes from its musical hiberation.
Example 44

Dit is geen uitgemaakte saak dat Zuma president gaan word nie.
TK, adapted
[(EXLP) Dit] [(V) is] [(PRED) geen uitgemaakte saak] [(CC) [(COMP) dat] Zuma president gaan word nie].
it be.PRS no out.made case COMP Zuma president go become NEG
It is no done deal that Zuma will become president.

The form of the complement clause is usually dat+[SXV]. The variant Ø+[SVX] is attested, but in low frequency, and almost exclusively with the most frequent lexical pattern dit is duidelik + CCit is clear + CC, as illustrated in (45), but exceedingly rarely with other adjectives.

Example 45

Dit is duidelik die kwessie van nasionale simbole is ’n belangrike een.
TK
[(EXPL) Dit] [(Vprs) is] [(PRED) duidelik] [(CC) die kwessie van nasionale simbole is ’n belangrike een]
it be.PRS clear the issue of national symbols be.PRS a important one
It is clear that the issue of national symbols is an important one.

The second variant of the subject complement clause, which occurs much less frequently (accounting for less than 10% in the sample of the Taalkommissiekorpus), is the more formal variant that has the subject clause itself in initial position, followed by the verb and the verb complement. This is illustrated by (46).

Example 46

Dat skinder ’n onmiskenbare sosiale rol in die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing speel, is gewis.
TK
[(SBJ) [(CC) [(Comp) Dat] skinder ’n onmiskenbare sosiale rol in die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing speel]] [(Vprs) is] [(PRED) gewis]
COMP gossip a unmistakable social role in the South-African society play be.PRS certain
That gossiping plays an unmistakable social role in South African society is certain.

Subject clauses are rare in spoken Afrikaans, but when they do occur, the extraposition construction is the one that is usually selected, as exemplified by (47).

Example 47

...dit is belangrik dat ons die bedryf basies op die produksievlak gesond hou.
PCSA
...[(EXPL) dit] [(Vprs) is] [(PRED) belangrik] [(CC) [(Comp) dat] ons die bedryf basies op die produksievlak gesond hou]
it be.PRS important COMP we the industry basically on the production.level healthy keep
...it is important that we keep the industry basically healthy at production level.
[+] Predicate construction

The declarative complement clause can function as predicate to a copular verb in two major construction forms, which serve two different functions (Ponelis 1979:453-454). In both cases, the complement clause variant with overt complementiser, dat+[SXV], is by far the most frequent variant, with the variant Ø+[SVX] rare.

By far the most frequent predicate clause use is where the subject is an abstract noun, such as gevolgconsequence, probleemproblem, redereason, verskildifference, or waarheidtruth, followed by the copular verb weesbe, and then the complement clause. The complement clause functions to spell out the content of the abstract noun, which itself often characterises the piece of information in the complement clause as some move in an argument or a more general piece of verbiage.

The verb weesbe is usually in the present tense form isam/is/are, as in (48), although the past tense form waswas/were is also possible, as in (49).

Example 48

Die probleem is dat mense Suid-Afrikaanse rolprente met Hollywood-flieks vergelyk.
TK, adapted
[(SBJ) Die probleem] [(Vprs) is] [(PRED) [(CC) [(Comp) dat] [mense Suid-Afrikaanse rolprente met Hollywood-flieks vergelyk]]
the problem be.PRS COMP people South-African films with Hollowood-films compare
The problem is that people compare South African films with Hollywood movies.
Example 49

Die rede was dat ek my geheue moes terugplaas na die vyftigerjare toe ek maar self tien jaar oud was.
TK
[(SBJ) Die rede] [(Vpst) was] [(PRED) [(CC) [(Comp) dat] ek my geheue moes terugplaas na die vyftigerjare toe ek maar self tien jaar oud was]]
the reason be.PST COMP I my memory must.PST back.place to the fifties.years when I but self ten year old be.PST
The reason was that I had to transpose my memory to the fifties when I myself was only ten years old.

A small number of extended uses are observed in the data where the copular verb blyremain is used instead of weesbe, as in (50).

Example 50

Feit bly dat Australië nou met sy verlede worstel soos nog nooit vantevore nie.
TK
[(SBJ) Feit] [(Vprs) bly] [(PRED) [(CC) [(Comp) dat] Australië nou met sy verlede worstel soos nog nooit vantevore nie]]
fact remain COMP Australia now with its past struggle like more never before NEG
Fact is that Australia struggles with its past now more than ever.

The other major type of predicate clause construction has an empty subject ditit, followed by the copular verb blykseem/emerge and the predicate clause, as in (51). The construction functions to assert the factivity of the proposition in the complement clause. If any epistemic hedging is required, then a verb other than blykseem/emerge is used, but then the complement clause is interrogative rather than assertive, as explained in the section on the constructions forms of the interrogative complement clause.

Example 51

Dit blyk gou dat dié toestand ook ’n gevaar vir mense inhou.
TK
[(SBJ) [(EXPL) Dit] [(Vprs) blyk] gou [(PRED) [(CC) [(Comp) dat] dié toestand ook ’n gevaar vir mense inhou]]
it emerge soon COMP this state also a danger for people involve
It soon emerges that this situation also poses a danger to people.

An extension of this use is found in a number of cases where the entire construction without the expletive pronoun ditit is embedded as complement of the causative verb laatlet, which allows the user to make the source of the information explicit, as in (52).

Example 52

Die egpaar het nooit laat blyk dat hulle geldelike probleme het nie.
TK, adapted
[(SBJ) Die egpaar] het nooit [(V) laat] [(V) blyk] [(PRED) [(CC) [(Comp) dat] hulle geldelike probleme het nie]]
the marriage.pair have never let appear COMP their monetary problems have NEG
The couple never let on that they had financial troubles.

The verb blykseem/emerge displays a range of variants that are not mentioned in Ponelis (1979). On the one hand, it combines with complement clauses without a complementiser, as in (53), but it also combines (to a more limited degree) with interrogative complement clauses, as in (54), which are discussed in more detail in the section on interrogative complement clauses,, and with infinitive complement clauses, as in (55).

Example 53

Dit blyk Eskom het sowat R85 miljoen verloor weens slordige bestuur.
TK
[(SBJ) [(EXPL) Dit]] [(Vprs) blyk] [(PRED) [(CC) Eskom het sowat R85 miljoen verloor weens slordige bestuur]]
it appear Eskom have approximately R85 million lose.PST.PTCP due.to untidy management
It appears Eskom lost approximately R85 million due to poor management.
Example 54

Dit blyk nie asof hy die erns van die saak teen hom verstaan nie.
TK, adapted
[(SBJ) [(EXPL) Dit]] [(Vprs) blyk] nie [(PRED) [(CC) [(Comp) asof] hy die erns van die saak teen hom verstaan nie]]
it appear NEG as.if he the seriousness of the case against him understand NEG
It doesn't seem as if he understands the seriousness of the case against him
Example 55

Dit blyk nie so belangrik te wees nie.
TK, adapted
[(SBJ) [(EXPL) Dit] [(Vprs) blyk] nie [(PRED) [(CC) so belangrik [(Vinf) te wees]] nie
it appear NEG so important to be.INF NEG
It doesn't appear to be that important.

A very marginal extension that is attested at a frequency of about 1 in 3 million words in the Taalkommissiekorpus is the use of lykseem/appear rather than blykseem/emerge as copular verb with a declarative complement clause, as in (56), although lykseem/appear is far more often used with interrogative complement clauses.

Example 56

Dit lyk dat al wat uit die sepieskrywers kom, is seks, drank en bitterheid.
TK
[(SBJ) [(EXPL) Dit]] [(Vprs) lyk] [(PRED) [(CC) [(Comp) dat] al wat uit die sepieskrywers kom, is seks, drank en bitterheid]]
it appear COMP all that out the soapie.writers com be.PRS sex, drink and bitterness
It seems that all that comes from soapie writers are sex, booze and bitterness.

This use of lykseem/appear as copular verb with a declarative complement clause usually combines with an indication of an experiencer in a preposition phrase with virto, most especially the first person, as in dit lyk vir my dat + CCit seems to me that + CC, as in (57).

Example 57

Dit lyk vir my dat dit wat voorheen onwettig was, nou as wettig aanvaar word: Ons het nie meer nodig om by 'n stopteken te stop nie.
TK
[(SBJ) [(EXPL) Dit]] [(Vprs) lyk] [(EXP) vir my] [(PRED) [(CC) [(Comp) dat] dit wat voorheen onwettig was, nou as wettig aanvaar word: Ons het nie meer nodig om by 'n stopteken te stop nie]]
it appear to me COMP it that before illegal be.PST now as legal accept.PST.PTCP become.AUX.PASS: we have NEG more needed COMP at a stop.sign to stop.INF NEG
It seems to me as if what used to be illegal, is now accepted as legal: We no longer need to stop at a stop sign.
References:
  • Öhman, Sven E. G1967Coarticulation in VCV utterances: spectrographic measurementsJournal of the Acoustical Society of America39151-168
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