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3.3.3 Nominative and PP alternations
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In this section alternations between the Nominative or subject of a clause, on the one hand, and Prepositional Phrases(PPs) and some other structures, on the other hand, are discussed. Unstressed daarthereand ditit both have Nominative or subject related functions. But while daar is a preliminary subject anticipating the logical subject of the clause, dit is a PRO-subject or provisional subject.

Daar
In (1a) unstressed daarthere introduces new information. The logical subject, 'n paddaa frog is therefore indefinite. In the absence of daar, the logical subject fills the subject position in (1c). In (1d), the locative PP in die damin the dam would have to fill the first position in the clause if the subject is extraposed.

Example 1

a. Daar spring 'n padda in die dam.
there jump a frog in the dam
A frog is jumping into the dam.
b. *Daar spring die padda in die dam.
there jump the frog in the dam
To mean: The frog is jumping into the dam.
c. 'n Padda spring in die dam.
a frog jump in the dam
A frog is jumping into the dam.
d. ?In die dam spring 'n padda.
in the dam jump a frog
A frog is jumping into the dam.

Dit
Ditit (a) may alternate with NPs which have a variety of semantic roles in subject function, (b) may anticipate a logical subject and (c) may introduce the foregrounded section of a cleft construction.

Dit (a)
In (2a) dit anticipates a subject which is inherent in the PP van die klokkebecause of the bells; die klokke functions as subject in (2b).

Example 2

a. Dit sing in my ore (van die klokke).
it sing in my ears from the bells
My ears are singing (because of the bells).
b. Die klokke sing in my ore.
the bells sing in my ears
The bells are singing in my ears.

Dit (b)
In (3a) dit anticipates the entire infinitival clause om water te bespaarto save water, the logical subject of the clause. In (3b) the clause itself replaces dit in subject position.

Example 3

a. Dit is sinvol om water te bespaar.
it be.COP.PRS meaningful COMP water to save
It is meaningful to save water.
b. Om water te bespaar is sinvol.
COMP water to save be.COP.PRS meaningful
It is meaningful to save water.

Dit (c)
A proposition, such as (4a), may undergo clefting in a couple of ways in order to foreground or focus on a specific constituent. The main clause usually contains the focus element, while the background is expressed by a relative clause. In (4b), where a ditit-cleft is in evidence, and in (4c), where a WH-cleft is employed, the focus is on my buurmanmy neighbour, while in (4c) and (4d) sy proefskrifhis thesis is foregrounded.

Example 4

a. My buurman werk aan sy proefskrif.
my neighbour work on his thesis
My neighbour is working on his thesis.
b. Dit is my buurman wat aan sy proefskrif werk.
it be.COP.PRS my neighbour who on his thesis work
It is my neighbour who is working on his thesis.
c. Wie aan sy proefskrif werk, is my buurman.
who on his thesis work be.COP.PRS my neighbour
Who is working on his thesis is my neighbour.
d. Sy proefskrif is wat my buurman aan werk.
his thesis be.COP.PRS what my neighbour on work
His thesis is what my neighbour is working on.
e. Wat my buurman aan werk, is sy proefskrif.
what my neighbour on work be.COP.PRS his thesis
What my neighbour is working on is his thesis.
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[+] Subject functions of daar and dit

In this section two subject functions will be discussed, that of daarthere and ditit.

Daar
Daarthere, whether stressed or unstressed, may have various functions in a clause.
Afrikaans daar does not have a form like erin Dutch or es in German as a morphological variant, but may reduce phonetically to [da] without dropping [d].
Ponelis (1979:106) distinguishes, inter alia, locative, deictic, existential, impersonal and indefinite variants. The focus here will be on daar as a phonologically unstressed and non-deictic lexical item used as a preliminary subject anticipating the logical subject of the clause. (5a) shows that the logical subject, twee leeustwo lions, cannot be omitted, and is anticipated by daar.(5b) shows that the clause can be complete without daar. As daaris employed to introduce new information, the subject cannot be definite, cf. (5c). The definite article diethe in (5d) refers cataphorically to the relative clause that follows. (5d) is also an instance of existential daar. In (5e) we see a locative PP employed as grammatical filler.

Example 5

a. Daar loop *(twee leeus) deur die bos.
there walk two lions through the bush
Two lions are walking through the bush.
TK
b. Twee leeus loop deur die bos.
two lions walk through the bush
Two lions are walking through the bush.
c. *Daar loop die twee leeus deur die bos.
there walk the two lions through the bush
To mean: The two lions are walking through the bush.
d. Daar is nog net die leeu wat ontsnap het, in die bos.
there be.COP.PRS still only the lion that escape.PST.PTCP have.AUX in the bush
Only the lion that has escaped is still in the bush.
e. Deur die bos loop (daar) twee leeus.
through the bush walk there two lions
Two lions are walking through the bush.

Even in its non-deictic usage daar retains its locative reference. Thus a daar clause with locative reference, such as the PP op die strandon the beach in (6a), alternates with a clause such as (6b), with the NP from the locative PP serving as subject and daar excluded.

Example 6

a. Daar lê oral skulpe (op die strand).
there lie everywhere shells on the beach
Shells are lying everywhere (on the beach).
b. Die strand lê vol skulpe.
the beach lie full shells
The beach is covered with shells.

By comparison, an NP deriving from a temporal PP cannot replace daar in the same way:

Example 7

a. Daar lê soms skulpe (in die winter).
there lie sometimes shells in the winter
Shells are lying there sometimes in winter.
b. *Die winter lê (daar) soms skulpe.
the winter lie there sometimes shells
To mean: Shells are lying there sometimes in winter.

The relationship indicated by (8a) and (8b), as pointed out by Kempen (1984:317), suggests another alternation in which daar may be involved. This will not be pursued any further.

Example 8

a. Daar is rafels aan die rok.
there be.COP.PRS loose.threads on the dress
The dress is frayed.
b. Die rok het rafels aan.
the dress have.AUX loose.threads on
The dress is frayed.

Dit
Ditit has a variety of functions in Afrikaans. Ponelis (1979: 70-80) distinguishes three main types, viz. a referential, vacuous ("empty") or formal, and demonstrative dit (also cf. Van Schoor 1983:197). Three kinds of alternation in which dit as clausal subject or Nominative is involved will be discussed here: (a) dit as subject alternating with PPs having SOURCE, CAUSE, LOCATIVE and other roles, depending on the argument roles available to specific verbs, (b) dit as a particle anticipating the logical subject which follows, and (c) split constructions with the discursive function of foregrounding, i.e. dividing propositions into focus and background sections.

(a) Subject replacements
The subject of a verb such as singto sing, and particularly in its sense of a sensation of 'ringing or buzzing in the ears', is rich in replacement possibilities. The origin, source or causes of the singing may vary considerably, from an internal, physiological cause to external singing or acting or even the lack of sound, and the meaning of the verb may vary from the registration of sounds to the interpretation of words and experiences. Thus in (9a) the subject which replaces dit, viz. die seethe sea, indicates the SOURCE or ORIGIN of the ringing. In a corresponding dit clause the source is indicated by a PP headed by the preposition vanfrom, as a result of, cf. (9b). In (9c) the subject sy orehis ears indicates the LOCUS of the ringing.

Example 9

a. Die see sing in sy ore.
the sea sing in his ears
The sea sings in his ears.
TK
b. Dit sing in sy ore (van die see).
it sing in his ears from the sea
His ears are singing because of the sea.
c. Sy ore sing (van die see).
his ears sing form the sea
His ears are singing because of the sea

The following examples illustrate the use of even more subject roles, such as the possible physiological CAUSES of the ringing in (10a) and (10b), the musical or verbal SOURCES not only of the ringing but also of the concomitant experience in (10c) and (10d), and even the experience of the absence of sound, in (9e).

Example 10

a. haar bloed sing in haar ore
her blood sing in her ears
Her blood sings in her ears.
TK
b. Die adrenalien sing steeds in sy ore
the adrenalin sing still in his ears
The adrenalin is still singing in his ears.
TK
c. Elvis sing in haar ore
Elvis sing in her ears
Elvis sings in her ears.
TK
d. Babs Laker se woorde sing in my ore
Babs Laker 's words sing in my ears
Babs Laker's words sing in my ears.
TK
e. Die stilte sing in haar ore
the silence sing in her ears
The silence sings in her ears.
TK

The subject of most of the above examples would represent an alternation between dit and a full subject, such as haar oreher ears in (11), though not in the case of for instance (12):

Example 11

a. Dit sing in haar ore van die stilte.
it sing in her ears from the silence
Her ears are singing from the silence.
b. Haar ore sing van die stilte.
her ears sing from the silence
Her ears are singing from the silence.
Example 12

a. ?Dit sing in haar ore van haar bloed.
it sing in her ears from her blood
Her ears are singing from her blood.
b. * Haar ore sing van haar bloed.
her ears sing of her blood
To mean: Her ears are singing from her blood.

In (13), dit in subject function, as in (13a), alternates with a LOCATIVE in (13b) and CAUSE in (13c), and in (14) with THEME in (14b) and CAUSE in (14c).

Example 13

a. dit krioel van vreemde bakterieë
it teem from foreign bacteria
It teems with foreign bacteria.
VivA-KP
b. Die Kavango-rivier krioel hier van die tiervis.
the Kavango river teem here from the tiger-fish
The Kavango river teems with tiger fish here.
VivA-KP
c. Koue rillings krioel oor haar vel.
cold shivers crawl across her skin
Cold shivers run across her skin.
VivA-KP
Example 14

a. Dit brand en kriewel in sy keel.
it burn and tickle in his throat
His throat burns and tickles.
VivA-KP
b. Die dokter begin kriewel in sy stoel.
the doctor begin squirm in his chair
The doctor begins to squirm in his chair.
VivA-KP
c. Hoendervleis kriewel oor Rikus se nek.
goose.bumps creep across Rikus 's neck
Goose bumps creep across Rikus's neck.
VivA-KP

(b) Dit-extraposition
A discursive function of dit is to facilitate information processing by moving a clause such as a lengthy logical subject to the end of the main clause through the grammatical process of dit-extraposition. Ditin this function is referred to by Ponelis (1979: 449) as a voorlopige sinsanaforiese ditpreliminary sentence-anaphorical dit. In example (15) the logical subject is a clause introduced by datthat and in (16) an infinitival clause.

Example 15

a. Dit is moontlik dat pryse gaan styg.
it be.COP.PRS possible COMP prices will rise
It is possible that prices are going to rise.
b. Dat pryse gaan styg, is moontlik.
COMP prices go rise be.COP.PRS possible
That prices are going to rise is possible.
Example 16

a. Dit was nie maklik om die skare te beheer nie.
it be.COP.PST not easy COMP the crowd to control NEG.PTCL
It was not easy to control the crowd.
b. Om die skare te beheer, was nie maklik nie.
COMP the crowd to control be.COP.PST not easy NEG.PTCL
To control the crowd wasn't easy.

(c) Cleft constructions
Cleft constructions divide a proposition into two clauses for the purpose of contrastive emphasis, one of which then foregrounds the information in contrast to a background. In both cases the emphasis resides in the main clause and the background is expressed in a relative clause. The relative clause is separated from its antecedent, dit, in (17b), but not in (17c). In the latter case dit is optional and rarely realised. In line with the cleft construction in (17b), the first relative clause in (17d), wat in sy ore sing, will be interpreted as a relative clause following directly after its antecedent, die see, while the second relative clause, wat hom onrustig maak, is duly separated from its antecedent dit.

Example 17

a. Die see sing in sy ore.
the sea sing in his ears
The sea sings in his ears.
b. Dit is die see wat in sy ore sing.
it be.COP.PRS the sea that in his ears sing
It is the sea that sings in his ears.
c. (Dit) wat in sy ore sing, is die see.
it that in his ears sing be.COP.PRS the sea
What is singing in his ears, is the sea.
d. Dit is die see [wat in sy ore sing] [wat hom onrustig maak].
it be.COP.PRS the sea that in his ears sing that him anxious make
It is the sea singing in his ears that makes him anxious.

In (18a), deriving from a proposition such as (18b), the foregrounded section is once again the main clause. In (19a), which would derive from a proposition such as (19b), an INSTRUMENTAL PP, met die buitetrapwith the outside staircase, carries the focus, while the background is expressed by an interrogative clause with an interrogative pronounhoehow as complementiser.

Example 18

a. Dis dié soort praat wat messer Donato begin ontstel het.
it-be.COP.PRS this kind talk that Mr Donato began upset have.AUX
It's this kind of talk that began to upset Mr Donato.
A.H. de Vries, Siënese dagboek (in Eeu), 1996:144
b. Dié soort praat het messer Donato begin ontstel.
this kind talk have.AUX Mr Donato begin.PST.PTCP upset.INF
This kind of talk began to upset Mr Donato.
Example 19

a. Met die buitetrap is hoe Piero in die kamer gekom het.
with the outside-staircase be.COP.PRS how Piero in the room PST.PTCP-come have.AUX
By the outside staircase is how Piero came in the room.
A.H. de Vries, Siënese dagboek (in Eeu), 1996:144, adapted
b. Piero het met die buitetrap in die kamer gekom.
Piero have.AUX with the outside-staircase in the room PST.PTCP-come
Piero came in the room by way of the ouside staircase.
References:
  • Kempen, W1984Voorsetselverbindinge in Afrikaans.Nasou
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse SintaksisVan Schaik
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse SintaksisVan Schaik
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse SintaksisVan Schaik
  • Van Schoor, J.L1983Die grammatika van standaard-Afrikaans.Lex Patria
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