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Passive auxiliaries

Afrikaans passives typically employ word become (cf. (1a)) or is was, were(cf. (1b)) as auxiliaries. The word Word, also an inchoative copula, expresses a durative or activity oriented passive in the present tense, while is expresses a more stative past tense.While is passives may also express the pluperfect tense (cf. (1c)), was was/were, had been is used more specifically for the pluperfect (cf. (1d)). However, under the influence of English, was also competes with is to express the simple past tense (cf. (1e)). Passive auxiliaries also form perfects, viz. geword het for word and gewees het for wees (cf. (1c)). Passive auxiliaries, like other auxiliaries, are placed in the second position in a declarative clause or the first position in yes-no questions, or alternatively at the end of a clause-final verb cluster.

Example 1

a. Die woonstelle word nog gebou.
the flats be.AUX.PASS.PRS still build.PST.PTCP
The flats are still being built.
b. Is die taak toe gister afgehandel?
be.AUX.PASS.PST the job then yesterday complete.PST.PTCP
Was the job completed yesterday?
c. Jou aansoek moes al ingedien gewees het.
yor application must.AUX.MOD.PRT already in.hand.PST.PTCP be.PST.PTCP have.AUX
Your application should have been handed in already.

The main verb in passive clauses is typically transitive or ditransitive, and in the latter case both direct and indirect objects may be promoted to subject.

Example 2

a. Die akteur word fabelagtige bedrae aangebied.
the actor be.AUX.PASS.PRS exorbitant amounts offer.PST.PTCP
The actor is (being) offered exorbitant amounts.
b. Fabelagtige bedrae word die akteur aangebied.
exorbitant amounts be.AUX.PASS.PRS the actor offer.PST.PTCP
Exorbitant amounts are (being) offered to the actor.

Intransitive verbs and verbs with prepositional objects also enter into passive constructions, though the verbs selected are restricted to purposeful human actions:

Example 3

Daar word hard gepraat / *geblaf in die straat.
there be.AUX.PASS.PRS loudly talk.PST.PTCP / *bark.PST.PTCP in the street
There is loud talking / barking in the street.

Passive and copulative clauses may be structurally ambiguous (a) because is may be either auxiliary or copula and (b) because adjectives, which typically feature in copulative constructions, often derive from and resemble past participles. There is also a temporal difference in that is, a present tense copula, signifies past tense in a passive construction. In a present tense context an is clause, such as (4a), would be disambiguated as a copular clause, while explicit reference to an agent would indicate that the clause is a past tense passive, e.g. (4b).

Example 4

a. Die voordeur is op die oomblik gesluit/ toe.
the front.door is on the moment locked.ADJ / shut.ADJ
The front door is locked / shut at the moment.
b. Die voordeur is deur Anna gesluit / *toe.
the front.door be.AUX.PASS.PST by Anna lock.PST.PTCP / shut.ADJ
The the front door was locked / shut by Anna.

In the case of word ambiguity is not excluded but unlikely. Though word is also used as copula, its dynamic characteristic is not compatible with a stative interpretation of a past participle as adjective:

Example 5

?My hart word nou gebreek / gebroke.
my hart become.COP.PRS now broken.ADJ / broken.ADJ
To mean: My heart is now becoming broken.

On the other hand, the copula raak become, which is occasionally used as passive auxiliary, is preferred in copula function:

Example 6

Die leunstoel raak nou erg gebreek / stukkend.
the armchair become.COP.PRS now badly broken.ADJ / broken.ADJ
The armchair is getting badly broken / broken now.

Some past participles are formally recognisable as departicipial adjectives in that they retain the morphology of Dutch strong or weak past participles, e.g. gebroke broken, gewaagd daring, in contrast to their regularised form in purely verbal usage, e.g. gebreek break.PST.PTCP and gewaag dare.PST.PTCP).

Example 7

a. My hart is heeltemal gebroke (*deur Anna).
my heart be.COP.PRS quite broken.ADJ by Anna
My heart is quite broken.
b. Die sprong is (*deur André) uiters gewaagd.
the jump be.COP.PRS by André extremely daring.ADJ
The jump is extremely daring.
[+]Types of passive constructions

All Afrikaans passive constructions are periphrastic and combine auxiliaries with lexical verbs to form passive clauses. The auxiliaries used to form passives are word become for present tense, as in (8a), and is was for past tense, as in (8b). The verb is may sometimes express the pluperfect, as in (8c), while was may be used for an explicit pluperfect, as was geverf had been painted in (8d). In (8e), however, was geverf only has past tense reference. Verb clusters like geverf is/was are sometimes replaced by more extended clusters such as geverf geword het and geverf gewees het in clause-final usage, cf. (8f).

Example 8

a. Die gebou word op die oomblik geverf.
the building be.AUX.PASS.PRS on the moment build.PST.PTCP
The building is being painted at the moment.
b. Die gebou is gister klaar geverf.
the building be.AUX.PASS.PST yesterday finished paint.PST.PTCP
They finished painting the building yesterday.
c. Toe ons daar aankom, is die gebou al geverf.
when.CNJ we there arrive.PRS be.AUX.PASS.PST the building already paint.PST.PTCP
When we arrived there, the building had already been painted.
d. Die gebou was al geverf toe die geld opgeraak het.
the building be.AUX.PASS.PST already paint.PST.PTCP when.CNJ the money run.out.PST.PTCP have.AUX
The building had already been painted when the money ran out.
e. Die gebou was gister geverf terwyl ons toegekyk het.
the building was yesterday paint.PST.PTCP while.CNJ we on.look.PST.PTCP have.AUX
The building was being painted yesterday while we looked on.
f. Die gebou moes gister al geverf gewees het.
the building must.AUX.MOD.PRT yesterday already paint.PST.PTCP be.PST.PTCP have.AUX
The building should have been painted by yesterday.

While passive auxiliaries convert the verbs they select into passive participles (which do not differ in form from past participles), they also combine with two or more base forms of lexical verbs, of which the first may be prefixed by ge-.

Example 9

Die gebou is gister (ge-)laat verf.
the building be.AUX.PASS.PST yesterday let.LINK paint.INF
They let the building be painted yesterday.
Example 10

Die mooi liedjie word ongelukkig deur hulle aan(ge)hou probeer sing.
the beautiful song.DIM be.AUX.PASS.PRS unfortunately by them on.keep.PST.PTCP try.LINK sing.INF
They unfortunately kept trying to sing the beautiful song.

The word and is auxiliaries can be extended to the periphrastic perfects geword het and gewees het, respectively. With geword het the dynamic aspect of the passive is retained in the past tense (see (11a)). Although geword het and gewees het are used much less often than is, one of them must be used in clusters containing modal verbs, as in (11b)(also see (8f) above).

Example 11

a. Die werk het tog voltooi geword.
the work have.AUX nevertheless complete.PST.PTCP become.PST.PTCP
The work was nevertheless completed.
b. Die werk moes al voltooi gewees het.
the work must.AUX.MOD.PRT already complete.PST.PTCP be.PST.PTCP have.AUX
The work must have been completed already.
b.' *Die werk moes al voltooi is.
the work must.AUX.MOD.PRT already complete.PST.PTCP be.AUX.PASS.PST
To mean: The work must have been completed already.

Afrikaans differs from Dutch and is more similar to English, in as far as the indirect rather than the direct object of a ditransitive verb is promoted to subject of a passive clause:

Example 12

a. Hy vertel haar allerhande stories.
he tell her all.kinds stories
He is telling her all kinds of stories.
b. ?Allerhande stories word aan haar vertel.
all.kinds stories be.AUX.PASS.PRS to her tell.PST.PTCP
She is being told all kinds of stories.
c. Sy word allerhande stories vertel.
she be.AUX.PASS.PRS all.kinds stories tell.PST.PTCP
She is being told all kinds of stories.
[+]Passive with intransitives

While passives are usually formed on the basis of transitive verbs, they may also be formed with intransitive verbs (cf. (13a)) or prepositional object verbs (cf. (13b)). These are the so-called impersonal passives are usually employed to express purposeful human actions or enterprises. The action expressed in (cf. (13c)) is human but not purposeful and therefore marked, while (cf. (13d)) is unacceptable because of a non-human agent.

Example 13

a. Daar word gelag en gesels.
there be.AUX.PASS.PRS laugh.PST.PTCP and chat.PST.PTCP
People are laughing and chatting.
b. Daar word getimmer aan die huis.
there be.AUX.PASS.PRS carpenter.PST.PTCP on the house
The house is being carpentered.
c. ?Daar word gesukkel met die werk.
there be.AUX.PASS.PRS struggle.PST.PTCP with the work
They are struggling to do the work.
d. *Daar word vervel deur die slang.
there be.AUX.PASS.PRS shed.skin.PST.PTCP by the snake
To mean: The snake is shedding its skin.

The verb kry to get, which is often employed as an active auxiliary in Afrikaans, as in (14a), is also used in a passive function, as in (14b):

Example 14

a. Hy kry nie die knoppie gedruk nie.
he get not the button press.PST.PTCP PTCL.NEG
He is not managing to press the button.
b. Sy het die werk aangebied gekry.
she have.AUX the job offer.PST.PTCP get.PST.PTCP
She had the job offered to her.
[+]Ordering in passive constructions

Non-lexical verbs, such as modals and auxiliaries, appear at the beginning and end of the clause-final verbal complex. This cluster includes modal particles, lexical verbs (non-main followed by main verb) and auxiliary verbs. In this representation, movement into verb second (and first) positions and leftward movement of participles are assumed not to have taken place.

Table 1: Passive clause-final sequence
sou moes gesing / probeer sing word / geword het / gewees het
-- gesing / probeer sing word / geword het / is / gewees het

Note that a passive with geword het become.PST.PTCP have.AUX as perfect auxiliary retains the dynamic or activity force of a word be.AUX.PASS.PRS passive in the past, while an is be.AUX.PASS.PST or gewees het be.PST.PTCP have.AUX passive is relatively stative in meaning.

The past participle of a main verb, or a set of lexical verbs, may move to the beginning of the clause-final cluster, unless governed by the auxiliary het has, have. Thus in (15a) gesing (or probeer sing) may move, but gewees is inseparable from the auxiliary het.

Example 15

a. <gesing> moes <gesing> gewees het
<sing.PST.PTCP> must.AUX.MOD.PRT <sing.PST.PTCP> be.PST.PTCP have.AUX
had to be sung
b. gesing <*gewees> moes <gewees> het
sing.PST.PTCP <be.PST.PTCP> must.AUX.MOD.PRT <be.PST.PTCP> have.AUX
had to be sung
[+]Structural ambiguity

The following clause is fully ambiguous between a perfect passive with past reference (see 16a), and a copula with a departicipial adjective expressing a state in the present, as predicate (see 16b).

Example 16

a. Die gordyn is geskeur.
the curtain be.AUX.PASS.PST tear.PST.PTCP
The curtain has been / was torn.
b. Die gordyn is geskeur.
the curtain be.COP.PRS torn.ADJ
The curtain is torn.

Disambiguation is possible by adding an adverbial with past tense reference, such as gister yesterday and an agentive, to ensure a passive interpretation, as in (17a), or an adverbial with present tense reference, as in (17b).

Example 17

a. Die gordyn is gister deur 'n gas geskeur.
the curtain be.AUX.PASS.PST yesterday by a guest tear.PST.PTCP
The curtain was torn by a guest yesterday.
b. Nou is die gordyn geskeur (*deur 'n gas).
now is the curtain torn.ADJ by a guest
Now the curtain is torn.

If geskeur in (17b) is a departicipial adjective, it is replaceable by an adjective, as in (18b), while geskeur in (17a) is not, cf. (18a).

Example 18

a. *Die gordyn is gister stukkend deur 'n gas.
the curtain be.PST yesterday damaged.ADJ by a guest
To mean: The curtain was damaged yesterday because of a guest.
b. Nou is die gordyn stukkend.
now be.PRS the curtain damaged.ADJ.
Now the curtan is damaged.

Clusters with word become are, however, not subject to the same ambiguity. Although word can be both passive auxiliary and copula (both present tense), ambiguity does not arise as the activity reading of a word passive would clash with the stative aspect of an adjective, cf. (19a) and (19b). The copula raak become would be used instead, to force an inchoative rather than a passive reading (cf. (20c)). Some speakers use raak as an alternative passive auxiliary (cf. (20d)).

Example 19

a. Die gordyn word deur 'n gas geskeur.
the curtain be.AUX.PASS.PRS by a guest tear.PST.PTCP
The curtain is being torn by a guest.
b. *Die gordyn word stukkend.
the curtain become.PRS damaged.ADJ
To mean: The curtain is falling to pieces.
c. Die gordyn raak stukkend.
the curtain become.COP.PRS damaged.ADJ
The curtain is falling to pieces.
d. Pasop, jy sal geskiet raak!
look.out.IMP you.2SG will.AUX.MOD shoot.PST.PTCP get.INF
Look out, you will get shot.

For some verbs, and in certain usages (e.g. figurative language), Afrikaans distinguishes morphologically between a fully regularised participle in verbal usage, e.g. gebreek broken for the verb breek to break, but gebroke in figurative usage, as in (20), or gewaag dared for waag to dare, but gewaagd risky to express an evaluation of a state of affairs, as in (21). The forms in (20) and (21) are relics of Dutch strong and weak participles, respectively, and are not used as past participles.

Example 20

Haar hart is gisteraand deur iemand gebreek/*gebroke .
her heart be.AUX.PASS.PST yesterday.evening by someone break.PST.PTCP / broken.ADJ
Her heart was broken by somebody last night.
Example 21

a. Baie is gewaag/*gewaagd in die weddenskap.
much be.AUX.PASS.PST wager.PST.PTCP / daring.ADJ in the bet
Much was wagered in the bet.
b. Die toertjie is uiters gewaagd.
the stunt is extremely risky.ADJ
The stunt is extremely risky.

Another example:

Example 22

a. Drank word/is by die konsert verbied.
liquor be.AUX.PASS.PRS / be.AUX.PASS.PST at the concert prohibit.PST.PTCP
Liquor is / has been prohibited at the concert.
b. Drank is by die konsert verbode.
liquor is at the concert prohibited.ADJ
Liquor is prohibited at the concert.
c. Drank sou by die konsert verbied gewees het.
liquor will.AUX.MOD.PRT at the concert prohibited.ADJ/PST.PTCP be.PST.PTCP have.AUX
Liquor would have been prohibited at the concert.
d. Drank sou by die konsert verbode gewees het.
liquor will.AUX.MOD.PRT at the concert prohibited.ADJ be.PST.PTCP have.AUX
Liquor would have been prohibited at the concert.

Disambiguation of the copula is (as in (23a)) and passive is (23b) construction can also be achieved by incorporating dynamicgeword in a complex verb cluster, as in (23c). The latter passive construction is, however, not commonly used.

Example 23

a. Die gordyn is geskeur.
the curtain is torn.ADJ
The curtain is torn.
b. Die gordyn is geskeur.
the curtain be.AUX.PASS.PST tear.PST.PTCP
The curtain was torn.
c. Die gordyn het geskeur geword.
the curtain have.AUX tear.PST.PTCP become.PST.PTCP
The curtain was being torn.
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